Blackjack is a game that involves betting against the dealer. Players are dealt two cards and try to get a total closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. It is a game of chance but there are some strategies that can improve your chances of winning.
The dealer and player each have a hand of two cards that are placed face up. The dealer also has one card that is face down and this is what they call their ‘hole’ card. The dealer then asks if anyone wishes to take an insurance bet. This is an additional side bet that wins if the dealer has a blackjack. If the dealer shows an ace, players can place an insurance bet of up to half their original bet size.
When the players have finished playing their hand they can either stand or hit (request more cards) based on the value of their cards and how close they are to the dealers. The rules of the game state that any card from 2 to 9 counts as its value and Aces count as either 1 or 11 depending on which is more advantageous to the player. If a player has an ace and a card worth 10 they have a ‘blackjack’ and win the hand.
The cards are then shuffled and the dealer deals themselves two more cards. If the dealer has an ace and a card valued at 10 they have a blackjack and win the hand. If they have a hand with a total of 20 or more they stand and the other players must decide whether to stay or hit.
A good blackjack strategy is to always stick with a ‘stay’ decision when your hand is 17 or higher. Hitting at this point is risky because you could bust and lose your money. It is better to stick with a strong hand and hope that the next dealer’s card doesn’t make it worse.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s a number of people were developing systems that helped beat the casino game of blackjack. It was at this time that Stanford professor and author Edward O. Thorp published his book Beat the Dealer. This gave a huge boost to blackjack players as it showed that it was possible to win money playing the game and that the casinos were not immune from being beaten.
Casinos reacted to this and implemented changes. Single-deck games became two and four deck games, dealers no longer dealt the whole stack of cards before reshuffling, and they began to offer the insurance bet. Despite this, many players were not able or willing to be patient enough to practice and refine their counting skills to be a threat to the house edge.
In the last couple of decades, the popularity of blackjack side bets has exploded. These are additional bets made at the same time as a player’s main wager. These bets range from betting on getting a pair as your first two cards to betting that the dealer will have a specific poker hand.