How to Win at Blackjack

Blackjack is a card game played by two or more players against the dealer. The objective of the game is to have a hand value closer to 21 than the dealer’s without going over. The player may also request additional cards to improve their hand. The rules of blackjack vary slightly from one casino to another, but basic strategy is universal. The game is usually played on a semicircular table that can accommodate varying numbers of players (known as “spots”). Players place their bets in the betting areas on the table.

Each player begins a round with two cards. The dealer has one face up and one hidden, or “hole” card. The dealer’s hole card will be revealed after all the players have finished their turn. After the initial cards are dealt, the player must decide whether to stand (“stick”) or hit (“request” another card). The decision to hit or stand is based on the value of the player’s hand and the dealer’s showing card. If the initial hand is a blackjack (an ace and a card valued at 10), the player wins immediately. If the player has a total of 21 on their first two cards, they are known as “naturals” or “blackjacks.”

The dealer then draws a card for his or her hand. If the dealer has a blackjack, the player’s bets push. Otherwise, if the dealer has a hand value closer to 21 than the player’s, the player wins. If the dealer’s hand is a blackjack, the player is paid out 3 to 2 on their bet.

In addition to hitting, standing, and splitting, there are a number of side bets available in blackjack. Insurance is the most common, but other bets like “Dealer Match” pay when the dealer’s up card matches the player’s. These side bets require the player to make a separate wager at the same time as their main stake.

To maximize the odds of winning at blackjack, it’s important to practice keeping a running count of the decks in play. To do this, start with a single deck and add up the values of all the cards as you draw them. This number, called the true count, will give you a better idea of how many cards are left in the deck and how much of an advantage you have over the dealer.

In general, the higher the true count is, the lower the house edge will be. To increase your chances of winning, you’ll want to bet more when the true count is high and less when it’s low. Practicing this technique will help you master the basic strategy of the game and cut the house edge to under 0.5%.