Basic Blackjack Strategy


Blackjack is a card game that pits the player against the dealer. The objective is to beat the dealer’s hand by having a total higher than his or hers, without going over 21. Players have several playing options, including surrendering, splitting pairs, doubling down, and hitting or standing. The rules of blackjack are constantly evolving, but basic strategy minimizes the house edge to less than 1% (rules dependent).

Casino blackjack is played with one to eight 52-card decks. Each player makes a wager in a betting circle on the table. In most casinos, cash is not used for bets; players must use casino chips, called checks. The dealer will convert them to chips for the player, usually before his or her turn.

The dealer has several duties in the game of blackjack, which must be fulfilled under strict regulations. The dealer is responsible for maintaining a fair game, and must be impartial and courteous to all players. The dealer must also deal out the cards in a timely manner, and must shuffle after each round. In addition, the dealer must remain alert to other gaming activities at the table and make sure that players are not stealing. The dealer is responsible for the safety of the player’s money.

Depending on the type of table, some casinos allow the player to place side wagers in addition to their main bet. These bets include insurance against the dealer’s ace, bets on whether the dealer has a blackjack, bets on whether the player’s hand will make a particular poker hand, and bets on the number of cards the dealer has in his or her hand. Most side bets require the player to place a bet equal to or greater than his or her blackjack wager.

In some casinos, dealers may assist players in calculating the value of their hands. They may help a player count the cards in his or her hand, and advise them when it is appropriate to hit or stand. This type of assistance is referred to as “coaching.” In general, the more information a player has at his or her disposal, the better decision he or she will be able to make.

Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and James McDermott, known as the Four Horsemen of Aberdeen, developed the first reasonably accurate basic playing strategy for blackjack. Their work, published in 1956, was the foundation for all modern blackjack strategy. The Four Horsemen were pioneers in using hand calculators, and their work was the first to demonstrate that blackjack offered the best odds of winning if the player followed a specific set of playing rules. These rules, now known as basic strategy, are easier to remember than perfect blackjack play, and will almost always result in a winning hand compared to the dealer’s. Moreover, they are much easier to practice, and even the few mistakes made in following them will not cost the player very much money.

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