Blackjack is one of the few casino games where the player can reduce the house edge to less than a 5% advantage with simple skill and discipline. This is possible because the game has a number of rules that allow players to choose their action based on their hand and the dealer’s visible card. In addition, the game allows players to double and split hands when the odds favor these choices. There are several important rules that you should understand before playing blackjack.
When you play blackjack, the dealer will give each player two cards face up and the player will then decide whether to ask for another card (hit) or stand with his current hand. If you hit, you may continue to hit until your hand totals more than 21 or bust. A bust means you lose the hand to the dealer.
The dealer must stand with a soft 17 if the dealer is showing a face card or an Ace, and must hit with a hard 17. In some variants of the game, the dealer must stand with a ten-valued card, but this does not significantly affect the player’s odds.
Among the most significant differences between blackjack and other casino games are the options available to players, such as buying insurance and surrendering. Buying insurance protects the player’s bet against the dealer’s blackjack, but it only pays off if the dealer has a ten-valued card in the hole. Surrendering gives up the hand and recovers half of the player’s bet, but it should only be used when it is highly likely that the dealer has a blackjack.
There are many different blackjack games, each with slight variations in rules and strategy. Some casinos offer multiple versions of the game with different side bets, some require the dealer to stand on a soft 17, and others have special rules regarding splitting or the count of aces. In general, the more a game changes from the standard version of blackjack, the lower the player’s odds will be.
Novice players often play their hands too conservatively, sacrificing wins to minimize losses. They will hesitate to hit 16 against a dealer’s 7, for example, and they won’t double down or split pairs as often as they should. In contrast, expert players will take advantage of every opportunity to maximize their winnings. They will be more likely to hit a double and a split, and they will also avoid doubling down when the dealer is showing a face or an ace.
Using blackjack charts can help you determine the right play in each situation. There are a lot of charts to remember, but if you start with basic strategy and learn it well, the few mistakes you make won’t cost you much. The best way to memorize the charts is to use a flashcard program or an app. You can find lots of these programs online. They usually have pre-made charts for different games, and you can even find some that are based on the specific rules of your local casino.