The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is a game that involves both luck and skill. The skill part has to do with learning the rules and understanding when to hit, stand, split or double down. The luck part has to do with the cards you are dealt. The goal is to get your hand closer to 21 than the dealer’s. If your hand is 21 or better, you win 3:2 unless the dealer also has a blackjack in which case you push (tie) and your bets are returned to you.

There are several rules that must be memorized when playing blackjack:

Card Values: Each of the cards in a standard 52 card deck has a particular value. Numbered cards have their face value, the King, Queen and Jack are each worth 10, and the Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11, depending on which value benefits the player.

Dealers’ Rules: The rules of the game vary slightly from casino to casino. Some use single decks while others have 4, 6, 8, or more decks in the shoe. The game rules also differ in how the dealer deals the cards, whether or not the dealer must stand on a soft 17, and whether the players may take insurance.

Table Rules: When playing blackjack there are certain rules that must be followed to minimize the house edge. These rules include table limits, splitting pairs, and when to surrender. Often times additional side bets are offered on the game, such as the dealer matching your cards or the ace of spades being an ace.

Novices Miss Golden Opportunities

Novices do not understand the rules of blackjack as well as the experts do. They will play too conservatively, missing out on potential winning hands because they fear losing. This means that novices will hesitate to hit their 16 against a dealer’s 7, or they will fail to split pairs or double down when the odds are in their favor. The result is that they give up a large amount of their money to the house, as they lose more hands than they win.

Those that understand the rules of blackjack know to play aggressively, maximizing their opportunities to win. Experts will split and double down more often than novices, hitting their strong hands and failing to bust as much as they would with a weak one. In the long run this gives them a significant advantage over the novices.

Basic Strategy: The simplest way to reduce the house edge in blackjack is to learn and memorize basic strategy. This is a predetermined mathematical approach to each situation when you are dealt two cards and the dealers up card. Of all the possible decisions you can make to hit, stand, split, double, or surrender, one will always be the best choice based on the rule set and counting system you are using.

Card Counting: The science of counting cards in blackjack was developed by Edward O. Thorp, a man who can be considered the father of blackjack advantage. He studied the game thoroughly, and through programming and millions of simulated deals found that the removal of specific cards in a deck was advantageous to the player. He then created charts and rules to help the average blackjack player maximize their gains when using card counting.