The Basics of Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack is a card game played by one or more players against a dealer. It is often considered to be a game of chance, but the fact is that there is a significant amount of skill involved in making good decisions at the blackjack table. Proper application of some basic strategy techniques can greatly improve a player’s odds of winning.

The game is played on a semicircular table that can accommodate varying numbers of players (or “spots”). Each player is dealt two cards and the dealer also receives two, but he or she only looks at his own face. A hand is complete when either the player or the dealer has a value of 21 or more from their first two cards. The player then decides whether to draw more cards, stand, double down or surrender, as the situation dictates.

There are a few key rules of blackjack that should be followed at all times to maximize a player’s chances of winning. First, a player should always hit when his or her first two cards add up to 11 or less. It is almost impossible to bust at this point, so hitting is a good option. On the other hand, a player should stand when holding any combination of cards that is worse than 17 or when the dealer shows a seven or higher.

Double down is a player’s option when his or her first two cards add up together to 17. This requires another bet equal to the original stake and ends the player’s turn. When available, the player may also choose to split a pair of cards of the same denomination in order to create two separate hands. This, too, requires an additional bet of the same amount as the initial stake. Finally, a player may take insurance when the dealer’s exposed card is an Ace. This bet pays 2-1 if the dealer has blackjack, so it can be a very good strategy to consider when playing this game.

A player should also know when to surrender, which is the act of forfeiting the hand for half of the initial bet amount. This is an important option to have in the arsenal of any blackjack player, as it can save a lot of money in the long run.

Lastly, players should practice keeping a running count of the cards as they are dealt out. A simple way to do this is to use a single deck of cards and simply turn over the cards one by one, adding their values up as they are revealed. This will help you develop an accurate counting system that will work in any casino where this game is offered. This will give you a huge advantage over the unknowing players who simply play by instinct. A good count can easily reduce the house edge to under 2%, so it is well worth taking the time to learn how to do it.