Basic Strategy in Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular card games in casino floors around the world. Often played in small groups, the game is simple to learn and requires only a small amount of money to play. In the right hands, a winning streak can turn this popular card game into a lucrative casino experience. Math might be frightening when you’re taking a high school exam but it can make the difference between victory and defeat in a game like blackjack. It’s all about strategy, not luck.

Basic strategy in blackjack was developed in the 1950s by a quartet of US Army engineers. They used simple adding machines to find the optimal playing strategy and this approach has been refined by computer analysis of millions of blackjack hands. This mathematically correct strategy dictates exactly how a player should hit, stand, split and double down to maximize the chances of a winning hand.

If a player’s first two cards add up to 21 or more, they win the hand. This is a “blackjack” or a “natural,” and it beats any dealer hand that does not have a blackjack, which is an Ace plus a 10 valued card.

When a player has a better total than the dealer, they can choose to “stand.” This means they don’t want another card and will let their hand remain as is. In most cases, this is the best option as it will not only prevent the player from busting their hand but also reduce the dealer’s likelihood of getting a blackjack.

If the dealer has a face up card that is an Ace, players are offered the opportunity to place an insurance bet. This side bet is generally half of the initial stake and pays out if the dealer has blackjack. However, if the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, and the player’s hand is equal to 21, the hand results in a push and neither the dealer nor the player wins the round.

In some casinos, the dealer’s face down card is turned over after the first two players have stood and before they do the same. Then, the players can elect to hit, double down or surrender. Generally speaking, players should double down on any hard 11, and they should never split eights or aces.

When a player wants an additional card, they simply tap on the table. This signals to the dealer that they would like an extra card and, if it’s appropriate, the dealer will give them the desired card. A player can also “surrender” if they have an inferior hand to the dealer’s. This is a great option when the dealer shows an Ace and is offering an insurance bet, as the player can forfeit half of their original stake and still walk away with some money in their pocket.