How to Beat the House Edge in Blackjack

Blackjack is a casino card game in which players compete against the dealer. The goal is to get a hand value of 21 or come closer than the dealer without going over. The cards have different values depending on the suit, with aces and 10s having the highest value and 2s through 9s having lower value. The game can be played with one to eight 52-card decks. Rules vary from game to game, but the most common variations include splitting pairs of cards and taking insurance bets (up to half the player’s original bet).

After all bets are placed, the dealer deals two cards face up to each player and himself. Each player may then choose to hit, stand, double down, or take insurance. A player’s total of 21 on the first two cards is called a “blackjack” or a “natural,” and beats any hand that does not have a blackjack, including the dealer’s own blackjack.

The casino’s advantage in blackjack is less than 1%, and it can be minimized by following the basic strategy for each situation. A full understanding of the game requires a lot of memorization, but if you can master the basics, you can improve your odds of winning.

To maximize your chances of winning, you should always split your aces and 8s against a dealer’s up card of 7 or higher and hit when your hand value is 12 to 16 and the dealer has a 7 or higher. When you are holding a hand of 17 or higher, always stand unless the dealer has an ace showing. You should also avoid taking the casino’s insurance bet, which pays 2-1 if the dealer has blackjack and loses your initial bet if they don’t.

Many card players use counting systems to gain an edge over the dealer. This involves keeping track of the concentration of aces and 10s in the deck, and increasing your bet size when these are high and decreasing it when they are low. Using this information, you can predict when the dealer is likely to have a blackjack and adjust your bet accordingly.

A good blackjack strategy is a combination of basic strategy and card counting. It is important to remember that each casino has a different setup of rules and tables, and that these differences can have an effect on the house edge. For this reason, it is essential to play at a casino with the best possible rules. In addition, you should always look for a table that offers a 3:2 payout for blackjack. This is the best way to make a profit from this popular casino game. Justin has extensive experience teaching SAT prep and helping students through the college admissions and selection process. He holds a BA in American Studies from Stanford University and is committed to improving equity in education. He is based in San Francisco, California.