When it comes to classic casino card games, few appeal as much as blackjack . Widely regarded as one of the best ways to win, where players can get an edge by improving their skills and understanding of the game, it continues to be widely played in casinos around the world, both online and land-based.

Understanding the basics is quite easy, with simple rules that you can easily get by with. But being a blackjack master is much more of a challenge and even making sure you apply basic strategy well takes a lot of practice.

In the following basic strategy guide, we’ll take a look at the rules of blackjack and how to start playing, before delving into some advanced plays and side bets that you can integrate into your game.

Blackjack Rules

To begin with, it is important to note that blackjack is played between the player and the house, represented by the dealer . While it is common to see several players around the same blackjack table at the same time, each player is actually playing their own hand against the house, rather than the other players. The return rate is set by the rules of the game, unlike for example Texas Hold’em where players are invariably paid 3/2 for winning hands.

The game begins by dealing the player 2 cards, as well as the dealer, and is made up of one or more decks of 52 cards , which the most clever will take into account for their mathematical calculations in card counting (something that we’ll come back later), although it’s not a strategy for the faint of heart.

Objective of Blackjack

The goal is to get 21 or as close to that number as possible with the cards you are dealt, where making a total of 21 with two cards is known as “blackjack”. It is possible to receive additional cards that complement your starting hand and get closer to 21; improve the dealer’s total and your hand will have won.

Card Values ​​and Busting

Cards are assigned values ​​depending on their face value from 2 to 10, where Aces can be worth 1 or 11. Jacks, Queens and Kings are given a value of 10 points .

However, if you go over 21, you will have “busted” your hand and automatically become a loser. The same rules apply to the dealer ‘s hand , but players can gain an advantage if they hit 21 with two cards and the dealer hits 21 with three or more.

Hit, stand, double down and split

The dealer is forced to hit more cards until they reach 16, and is forced to stand on 17. Players must decide how to continue, with the option to stand (keep the hand as it is, assuming you will beat the dealer’s hand). ), hit (receiving another card), split (where a pair of any value is split into two hands and a new card is dealt to each hand), or double down (doubling the bet and receiving a single additional card).

Safe

You also have the option to bet with “insurance” , in the event that the dealer shows an ace. At the cost of half the original bet, insurance pays if you lose your hand to the dealer at blackjack, thus acting as an insurance policy, as the name suggests.

Each hand is played in rounds , where players compete against a single dealer hand. Bets can be won, lost or tied, and are returned in the event of a tied hand with the dealer.

Number of decks

Blackjack is usually played with four, six, or eight complete decks of separate cards . This means that there are several repeating cards that can be dealt during each game, designed to make card counting more complex.

If there was only a single deck , once you saw four aces you would know there were no more left in the deck and you could bet accordingly.

But when there are 32 aces , as in the case of having 8 decks, it becomes much more difficult to keep track of which cards have been played, effectively reducing the advantage of card counting.

Advanced plays

“Basic strategy” is the term given to the optimal plays in any blackjack hand (thanks to the good data available, the best decision in each circumstance can be calculated mathematically).

Learning basic strategy requires a process of memorizing these optimal moves, to the extent that you can remember what the best move is with each hand based on its value, and the value of the house hand.

This is a skill that should not be underestimated, as it requires significant diligence and dedication to master. You’ll also need to spend hours practicing your new techniques and making sure you’re able to make the right decision when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are charts you can use to memorize each hand, which makes the challenge slightly more manageable. But be that as it may, learning the basic strategy is a task of memorization.

“Card counting” is the process of keeping a mental count of the cards that have been dealt during the course of the game of blackjack , in order to understand the cards that are still left in the shoe.

This is important because understanding the weight of what is left in the deck can influence whether there are more or fewer high value cards , for example, and affects your ability to read the probability of the next card to be dealt, and the card that will have the dealer’s hand.

The more decks there are in play, the more complex it becomes to keep track of these cards. As a result, many card counting players use other proxy values ​​for a perfect count. One of the ways to do this is to assign the cards a value of 1, 0 or -1, and keep score. Cards from 2 to 6 are given +1, while cards from 7 to 9 are given a value of 0. Cards from 10 onwards are given a value of -1, including the ace.

This total will need to be divided by the number of decks in play to calculate your true total. The more positive the total is, the more aggressive your bet should be, while a low total is a sign that you should be more cautious.

Card counting is between science and art, and it’s a bit controversial; It is no less important to avoid drawing the unwelcome attention of casino managers, who continue to take a suspicious look at card counting practices. But it can be a useful strategy for deciding your bet on any given hand.

Additional bets

There are also a couple of side bets that you are likely to come across in Blackjack, which provide some alternative betting options to the main game. The 21 + 3 bet is a bet on the dealer’s up card in addition to your own two cards; If the third card forms a flush, straight, straight flush, or three of a kind, an increased payout can be won for this bet.

‘Perfect Pair’ is another side bet you might want to consider, which is made at the same time as you place your opening bet, that your hand will make a pair of matching cards. An exact pair of the same suit pays up to 30/1, while an off-color pair pays 5/1.

In summary

While you can go much deeper into blackjack , the basics are covered, enough to tempt you to try your first game of blackjack. However, it is important to realize that without optimizing basic blackjack strategy it will be a challenge for most to get their picks right over and over again.

In short, those who display perfect basic strategy will win more than those who make a new decision every hand, and that is where those who have practiced blackjack more will find the advantage.