Traditionally played with a single deck of cards, blackjack has evolved into a variety of variants, and now can be found in many casinos, both online and in land-based venues. However, while each variation may have its own set of rules, basic strategy does not change. The aim of playing blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21. The best blackjack strategy involves understanding the basic rules and how to use them to improve your chances of winning.
When you start a hand, the player’s first two cards are called “natural”. A natural hand is a total of 21. Other hands, such as a 10 or an Ace, are not considered blackjack. All other cards count at an index value, so if you have a 10-value card, it counts as a soft 21, and if you have an Ace, it counts as either a 1 or an 11. If your two cards add up to 20 or more, you have a hard 21 and win. Similarly, a pair of ten-value cards adds up to 19 when the total is close to 21.
Most blackjack games have a side bet, called insurance. This is an additional bet, made on the dealer’s hand. If the dealer has blackjack, the bet is paid 2 to 1. If the dealer does not have blackjack, the bet is returned to the player. This side bet can be placed as early as the dealer’s upcard is an ace.
Aside from the main wager, players can also place a side bet, called a Super Match. This is an additional bet, made at the start of each hand, that pays out if the first four cards are of the same rank. This is usually a pair of the same value, such as a King and a Queen. Some casinos will limit this bet to pairs of the same rank only.
When a player’s hand contains a pair of aces, the dealer will offer the option of splitting. If the player chooses to split, a second bet is placed next to the original bet. This second bet will allow the player to play two separate hands. The dealer will then flip the first card of the pair over and the second card is slid underneath the first.
When a player has two cards of the same rank, he can split them into two hands, and play each separately. This can be done up to three times. Some casinos will restrict the number of times a player can split.
The player can also stand, and take a hit. If the dealer’s upcard is an aces, the player will be able to stand. Alternatively, the player can hit or double. The dealer will be able to stand if his hand is closer to 21, and will have to hit or stand if his hand is closer to 21 than the player’s. If the dealer busts, the player loses both his bets.