Blackjack is a fun and exciting game, one in which the decisions the player makes actually have an effect on the outcome of the game. You must pay attention, concentrate, and make the right decisions to give yourself the best chance of putting some of the casino’s money in your pocket.
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The rules of the game can be learned fairly quickly and without too much trouble and it is important to be familiar with the rules of the game before you sit down to play. The good news is that you can play online blackjack for free so that you can practice, become more familiar with the game, and learn all of the little nuances before playing with and risking real money.
A Brief Overview of the Rules
In the game of blackjack, also known as 21, the goal of the player is to get as close to a total of 21 as possible without going over. Everyone puts a wager on the table before the cards are dealt and then the players and the dealer each receive two cards. Cards 2 through 10 are equal to their face value. Kings, Queens, and Jacks are known as “face cards” and are equal to 10. An Ace is valued at either 1 or 11, whichever is most beneficial to the player’s hand.
The dealer receives one card face down so that the players cannot see it and one card face up. Most players make their decisions about whether to hit (take another card) or stand (not taking any additional cards) on the assumption that the dealer’s face down card is a 10 (because there are more 10’s and face cards than any other cards in the deck.) The players own hand and the dealer’s up card is the only information the player has to help them make a decision about whether to hit, stand, split pairs, or double down.
After the cards are dealt the player has the option to hit or stand and in some instances to split pairs or double down. If you believe that an additional card may improve your hand, and your chances of winning, you would take a hit and the dealer would give you another card. If the total of your cards exceed 21 this is known as “busting” and when you bust the dealer takes your bet and prepares for the next hand. If you have not gone over 21 and you are satisfied with your hand you would stand and then the dealer would reveal their hole card. If the dealer’s total is less than 17 they are required to hit until they have 17 or greater. Whomever is closest to 21 without going over wins. If the dealer and the player both have the same total this would result in a “push”. In this case, no one wins or loses and the cards are then shuffled and dealt for the next hand.
Read more on Blackjack Rules
Knowing the rules of the game is very important but for the best chances of success it is also important to have a firm grasp of proper basic strategy. Because blackjack is a game in which the player gets to make decisions that will affect the outcome of the game it is important to know which decisions to make in different scenarios. Playing your hand the right way increases your chances of winning. Failing to play the odds properly increases the chances of the casino taking your money.
In the 1960s, Julian Braun of IBM ran millions of computer simulations to determine the correct way to play any hand based on the players hand and the dealers up card. This strategy tells a player the proper way to play any hand to give themselves the best possible odds. Nearly every book on blackjack written since the 1960s includes a chapter on basic strategy. Some authors will add their own twist to basic strategy but it’s pretty much the same in just about any book you will read. It is also easy to find quick reference charts online that tell you how to play your hand the right way.
Learning proper basic strategy takes all of the guesswork out of making the best decisions and playing your hand. You will know exactly when to hit, stay, split pairs, double down, etc. to give yourself the highest probability of winning rather than relying on luck or intuition to make these decisions. The idea behind basic strategy is to give you the best chance of increasing the value of your hand without exceeding 21 or allowing the dealer to bust and taking advantage of situations where that is more likely to occur. Because we only get to see one of the dealer’s cards we have to make our decisions about how to play our hands based on mathematical probabilities and that is exactly what basic strategy is designed to help us with.