Blackjack is one of the easiest games to play, but mastering it requires a solid understanding of the game’s nuances and casino protocol. In addition, smart and disciplined players can use strategy to beat the casino, reducing its edge significantly. In fact, a player’s ability to count cards can help him or her win more often than the dealer.
In blackjack, each player and the dealer receive two cards. The goal is to get a total card value of 21 or to come closer to it, without going over, than the dealer. Aces are worth either 1 or 11, face cards are worth 10, and the rest of the cards are valued at their index value. Suits are irrelevant. If a player has a total of 21 in the first two cards dealt, it is called a “blackjack” or a “natural.” A blackjack pays 3:2 on the bet.
Before the dealers reveal their faces down card, a player may buy insurance or surrender. Insurance is equal to the bet made and paid back if the dealer has blackjack, while surrender returns your original bet. Insurance is not recommended since it gives the dealer an advantage of about 6% over the player.
Once the cards are dealt, a player may hit (request more cards) or stand (end the hand). The dealer can also draw additional cards to build a better hand. The dealer’s hand is compared to the player’s to determine which one is closest to 21, and the player who has a hand closer to 21 wins. If a player and dealer have the same total, it is a push, and no bets are exchanged.
A player’s strategy depends on the specific rules of the game, including whether or not splitting is allowed, and the dealer’s up-card. Generally, a player should split if the dealer has a 10 or an ace. Otherwise, the dealer will probably be able to beat the player’s hand by simply drawing another card.
After a player has made his or her decision, the dealer will reveal their own up-card. The dealer will then pay out winning bets and take losing ones away. The dealer will also collect the cards from the table and reshuffle the deck.
Card counting is a method of improving the player’s edge at blackjack by keeping track of the cards that have been played. It is a legal, mathematically accurate way to gain information about the deck that can help in making decisions during the game. Arnold Snyder’s articles in Blackjack Forum magazine were the first to make shuffle tracking available to the general public, and his book, The Shuffle Tracker’s Cookbook, was the first to mathematically analyze the player edge that can be gained by this method based on the size of the tracked shuffle. Other legal methods of gaining an edge at blackjack include a variety of techniques for obtaining information about the dealer’s hole-card or the next card to be dealt.