How to Play Blackjack
Blackjack, or 21, is the most widely-played casino game in the world. Each player is dealt two cards, one card face down and one face up. The player’s basic choices are to hit, be dealt one more card, or to stand, keep only his two initial cards. The player wins if his full hand sums to closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand without going over.
Types of Bets in Blackjack
Hit- Player receives one more card.
Stand- Player stays with his two initial cards.
Split- If two cards match (e.g. both are 8s), player can split them up to form two hands that are each dealt one more card and played separately.
Double Down- Player is dealt one additional card and his bet is doubled. No further hits can be made.
Surrender- Player forfeits his cards and receives half his bet back.
Odds and Payouts in Blackjack
Blackjack is the most player-friendly game in the casino! If a player follows Basic Strategy exactly, he can reduce the house advantage to, in some cases, under 0.5%, meaning the casino only keeps $0.50 of every $100 you bet. This is the lowest house advantage you will find in the casino and this is why blackjack is so popular. The house advantage stems only from the fact that the dealer plays last, so you have a chance to bust before he gets to play.
Sucker Bets in Blackjack
Many casinos offer a blackjack bet called “buying Insurance” when the dealer is showing an ace as his up-card. Buying insurance means the player is “insuring himself from the dealer having blackjack (a natural 21).” Insurance pays 2:1, so for every $1 of insurance you buy, you would receive $2. Insurance bets are side bets so do not influence your regular bet.
Buying insurance is a sucker bet! Do not ever buy insurance. The dealer is likely to draw a natural 21 less than 5% of the time, and even with an ace showing the probability of his hole card being a 10, Jack, Queen, or King is tiny. This actual probability depends on the number of decks in the shoe and the number of players at the table, but no matter what, it is tiny. Insurance is a sucker’s bet!
Best Bets in Blackjack
One of the most important things to keep in mind when playing blackjack is the fact that your choice to hit, stand, split, double down, or surrender depends just as much on your own hand as it does on the up-card the dealer is showing. Your best bet when playing blackjack is to follow basic strategy. This is a method that has been statistically proven to maximally reduce the house advantage. For a full chart detailing basic strategy click here.
A player can actually even further reduce the house’s advantage to even go so far as to gain a positive advantage over the house by using a technique called counting cards. Counting cards is much easier than you may think and is not at all just for math prodigies. The hi-lo count is explained on this page here.