Basic Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games. It is played on a semicircular table with a dealer and varying numbers of players. The game has a number of rules and etiquette that must be followed, in addition to the strategy involved. A good understanding of the game and how to play it can help players increase their chances of winning.

Like all casino games, blackjack has a statistical advantage for the house. However, unlike many other casino games, blackjack offers the player the ability to reduce this advantage to a small percentage through proper playing technique and practice. The use of basic strategy is a proven method to do this.

Before the game begins, each player is dealt two cards. The dealer is also dealt two cards, one face up and one face down. The goal of the player is to get as close to 21 as possible without going bust. To do this, he must determine the current value of his hand and the value of the dealer’s up card. He may also decide to double his bet, “split a pair,” or surrender before the dealer checks for blackjack.

The most important thing for a player to remember when playing blackjack is that the dealer is not trying to beat the player, but rather is trying to win against the players. This is reflected in the fact that the dealer must make a 17 or better nearly 80 percent of the time to win against a player holding a hand of 16 or less.

A good blackjack player will learn to take advantage of this situation. He will stand only when he is sure that the next card will not cause him to go bust, or when his current hand has enough value to beat the dealer’s. A player who stands will never ask for another card, which is known as “sticking” or “staying.”

There are some times when a stick is not the right play, though. For example, if the dealer has a 7 or higher showing on his up card and you have a hand of 16, you should draw a second card. This will decrease your chance of going bust to around 5 percent and give you a much greater chance of beating the dealer’s hand than if you had simply stood.

Some players will choose to purchase insurance, which is a side bet of up to half the original bet that pays 2:1 if the dealer has a blackjack. This bet is a poor choice for the player, as there is no way to know or estimate the dealer’s hole card in order to determine whether it is a 10, Jack, Queen, or King, and therefore the expected return on this bet is negative. However, some dealers will unintentionally help players by allowing them to see the dealer’s hole card for a moment before it is revealed. This is known as peeking.