Learn the Best Way to Beat the House Edge in Blackjack

Blackjack is a casino game where the object is to beat the dealer’s hand by having a total higher than his or hers or by not going bust. The game is played on a semicircular table that can accommodate varying numbers of players (the most common tables have seven seats, but there are also tables that can have up to 12). Players place their chips in the betting areas marked on the table and the dealer deals two cards, face up. Each player then decides whether to hit, stand, or double down (increase their original bet by up to two times).

When a player’s first two cards add up to 21 (an ace and a ten-card), this is called a “natural” or “blackjack.” This is one of the few situations in which the player actually wins money from the dealer. If a player has a natural, they win 1 and a half times their bet. If the dealer has a natural, they collect all bets that do not have a natural and then return those bets to their owners.

The house edge of blackjack can be brought down to under 1% if the player follows a defined strategy. Computer analysis shows that for every possible combination of a player’s hand and the dealer’s card, there is one play that results in the highest probability of winning.

To learn the blackjack strategy, you can practice with a single deck of cards. Start by keeping a running count, adding up the value of each card as it is dealt. You can also keep a true count, which takes into account the number of cards left in the deck (though casinos are wise to this and will often deal from several decks at once).

Once the players have made their playing decisions, the dealer will check her hole card. If it has a ten underneath, the dealer has a blackjack and the players who bought insurance will get paid 2 to 1. If she does not have a ten, the game continues as normal.

Splitting is an option when your starting two cards are a pair, such as two nines or two threes. Then you place a second bet equal to your original bet and turn each card into a separate hand, hitting until you want to stay or you bust.

Doubling down is an option when you feel confident that your total will beat the dealer’s. You can increase your bet by up to two times the original amount, though casinos may limit the number of times you can double down. It is a risky move, but can be very profitable if done correctly.

After the dealer checks her hole card, she will pay out any players who have blackjack hands and then shuffle and deal the cards again. If the dealer has a blackjack, all of the player’s bets lose, except for those placed on the side bet. This is a push, and the player gets their original bet back.