How to Beat the House Edge at Blackjack

Blackjack: The card game for intellectuals, mathematicians and people who like a real chance at beating the house

Unlike dice-based games such as craps that have become the most popular casino attractions, blackjack is a game of skill. A player can minimize the house edge by utilizing simple strategies and card counting techniques.

Blackjack is played on a semicircular table that accommodates varying numbers of players (known as “spots”). Each player places their bets in one or more betting areas of the table. The dealer, who is responsible for shuffling and dealing the cards, stands behind the table and chip rack.

The dealer then deals each player two cards face up, while the dealer holds his or her own cards in a boxlike device called a shoe. The players can then decide to draw more cards (hit) or stick with their current hands and not ask for any more cards (stand). If a player’s first two cards add up to 21—an ace and a card valued at 10—this is known as a “natural” and it pays 3:2 in most casinos.

In some games, the dealer shows a single card, which is called an “upcard.” If this card is a 10, 11, or 2, 3, or 4, the player can choose to hit; if it is a 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10, the player can stand. The dealer then draws another card for his or her hand. If the dealer has a natural, the player loses their bet; otherwise, they push and the player gets back their original bet.

A player can also make an insurance bet by placing a bet of up to half of their current bet on the “insurance bar” above their cards. If the dealer has a blackjack, the insurance bet wins and is paid off immediately. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, the player must wait to see what their own hand is before they can decide to pay off their insurance bet.

To play optimally, a player must have a basic understanding of the rules of blackjack. These rules include the following: