Blackjack is a card game that pits the dealer against you in an attempt to get a hand that comes closer to 21 than the dealer’s. If your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s, you win and the bet you made wins one-and-a-half times its amount. If your hand goes over 21, it’s busted and you lose the bet. You also lose the bet if the dealer has a blackjack, which is an Ace plus a 10 or picture card.
Before the game starts, you can opt to buy insurance or surrender your hand. After all players have placed their wagers, the dealer will check the hole card and, if it is a 10, pays everyone who bought insurance two to one on their initial bets. Otherwise, she will sweep all the side bets and the game will start like it normally would.
Novice players play their hands too conservatively and are afraid to take the risk of splitting or doubling down as often as they should. They miss out on many opportunities to win big hands, such as a pair of 6s against a dealer’s 4. Expert players play more offensively and will split pairs more frequently or double down more often when the odds are favorable. They will also hit their 16 against a dealer’s 7 or their 2 against the dealer’s 4 and, as a result, will bust less often.
The best strategy for winning at blackjack is based on mathematical calculations, known as basic strategy. This set of rules is derived from millions of hands played in the long run and determines how you should play any given situation. This strategy is not foolproof, however, because the cards in a deck are not completely random. As the cards are dealt, new information becomes available and your strategy needs to be adjusted accordingly.
In addition to basic strategy, you need to know the house rules for your casino. These can change the probabilities for different situations, and they can make or break a player’s chance of beating the dealer. In particular, you need to know if the dealer must stand on soft 17 and what the payout for a blackjack is.
A good rule of thumb is to always play on tables that pay 3:2 for blackjacks. Some casinos have reduced the payout to 6:5 or even money, which increases the house edge and makes it harder for players to beat the dealer. Fortunately, most casinos still pay the higher payout, so this is not an issue for most players.