Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games around, and for a good reason! It's easy to learn, fast-paced, and full of suspense. Plus, with a little practice, you can bring the house edge down to nearly zero! In this guide, we'll show you everything you need to know about blackjack, from the basics all the way up to advanced strategy. So grab your chips and get ready to play blackjack like a pro!
Starting off with: The Basics of Blackjack
Blackjack is a card game that pits you against the dealer in a race for 21 points.
Points are earned by adding up the values of the cards in your hand; numbered cards are worth their face value, while picture cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings) are each worth 10 points.
An Ace can be worth either 1 point or 11 points, depending on what's best for your hand. The goal of blackjack is to have a higher point total than the dealer without going over 21. Easy enough, right?
How is Blackjack Played?
Now let's talk about how blackjack is played. Blackjack is usually played with six or eight decks of standard playing cards.
After everyone has placed their bets, each player and the dealer are dealt two cards each.
All of the player's cards are dealt face up so that everyone can see them, but only one of the dealer's cards is dealt face up; the other remains hidden until later in the game.
Based on what's in their hand and what they can see of the dealer's cards, players must decide whether to "hit" (take another card), "stand" (keep their current hand), "double down" (double their bet and take one more card), "split" (if they have two matching cards, they can split their bet and play two separate hands), or "surrender" (give up half their bet and end the game).
Play then proceeds clockwise around the table until all players have either chosen to stand or gone bust (gotten too close to 21).
Once all the players have had their turn, it's finally time for that hidden dealer card to be revealed!
If the dealer has less than 17 points, they must hit; if they have between 17 and 21 points, they may choose to hit or stand. If the dealer goes over 21 points ("busts"), all players who haven't already gone bust win automatically.
Otherwise, anyone that is closer to 21, without going over, wins!
Now that you know the basics of blackjack, it's time to start thinking about strategy. The first thing you need to know is that there is no one perfect way to play blackjack; every situation is different and requires its own set of calculations. That said, there are some general guidelines that can help increase your chances of winning.
Here are the 6 “If’s” you should keep in mind:
- If your hand totals between 12 and 16 points and the dealer's face-up card are seven or higher, you should hit.
- If your hand totals between 12 and 16 points and the dealer's face-up card are six or lower, you should stand.
- If your hand totals 17 points or higher, you should always stand.
- If your first two cards are matching number cards (two eights, for example), you should always split them into two separate hands unless the dealer has an Ace showing—in which case you should hit instead.
- If you have a soft hand (a hand containing an Ace that can be worth either one point or 11 points), always stand if your total is 18 points or higher.
- If your total is between 13 and 17 points inclusive, hit if the dealer has six or lower showings but stands if they have seven or higher showings.
All that's just a taste of what blackjack strategy entails! If you really want to start racking up those winnings, we recommend reading one of our favourite books on blackjack strategy: Edward O Thorp's Beat The Dealer.
This book walks you through everything you need to know about playing blackjack like a pro—including how casinos stack the deck against you! If books aren't your thing, there are plenty of online resources that can help you refine your strategies and get ahead in the game. That way, you can even learn slowly and on your own before ever hitting the tables.
Once you're confident that you've gotten the hang of everything, get out there and try to even the odds and turn the house's edge in your favor!
The Bottom Line
Blackjack is easy enough for anyone to learn, but it takes a lifetime to master. With a little bit of practice, you can bring down the house edge significantly. Follow our little guide here and remember these simple tips, and you'll be playing like pros in no time!
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