Blackjack is a game of chance, but there are several things you can do to improve your chances of winning. You can use basic strategy to make the right decision for each hand you receive, and learn how to read the dealer’s facial expressions. A good understanding of the cards’ values will also help you make better decisions.
The basic objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer by accumulating card totals closer to 21 than his or her hand without going over. Unlike other table games, in which you compete against the other players at the table, in blackjack you only play against the dealer.
A standard 52-card deck is used for the game. Each player receives two cards, and has the option to take more if they wish. The cards have a value of either their number (the 2 through 10 cards) or face value – i.e. ten for the Jacks, Queens and Kings, and one or 11 for the Ace. The highest card wins the hand.
Once you’ve looked at your cards, it’s time to decide whether or not to hit. If you want another card, you must indicate this to the dealer by making a beckoning gesture with your finger or tapping the table behind your cards lightly with your finger in shoe games. In hand-held games, you can scratch the back of your cards against the felt.
Whenever you can, it’s a good idea to double your bet when the dealer has an Ace. This is a very profitable option because a pair of 10s against an Ace will yield a 21.
When to split is a bit more complicated, but there are some rules of thumb that you can follow. If you have two cards of equal value, such as a pair of 8s, it is usually advantageous to split them. This gets rid of the weak 16 and makes it much easier to get a full 21 on your next card. It’s a good idea to avoid splitting fives and faces, though, because they are weak hands on their own.
Insurance is a popular side bet offered on many blackjack tables, but it’s not always a wise choice. This bet pays out at 1:1 when the dealer has a blackjack, and some players will take it even when they have a strong hand in order to guarantee a profit if the dealer has a blackjack.
There are hundreds of different blackjack side bets on the table, and it’s important to understand which ones are worth placing your money on. While some are simply based on luck, there are others that are well-suited to the game of blackjack and can increase your winnings dramatically if used properly. Insurance is the most famous of these, but there are plenty of other wagers that can improve your winning potential. For instance, betting on a dealer’s bust can pay out up to 5:1 if you’re successful.