Hit. Stand. 21! If you’re hearing these words, you’re probably hanging out near the blackjack table. Blackjack is the most popular casino game in the U.S. partially because the house advantage is relatively low, meaning the odds of you winning are high. In fact, with the right strategies, you can narrow the house advantage to less than 1%. And that’s the other reason blackjack is so popular — basic strategies are relatively easy to learn.
How to play blackjack
Like many casino games, blackjack begins by placing a bet. The dealer then gives each player — and himself — two cards. Player cards are dealt face up, whereas one dealer card remains face down. Add your cards together to get your card total. Number cards are worth their face value and face cards are worth 10. An ace is worth one or 11.
Many would say the goal of blackjack is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. However, this is an oversimplification. In reality, you want to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. This is an important distinction.
If your initial card total is 21, blackjack! You win. If not, the dealer will go around the table, and when he gets to you, you have two primary options: hit or stand. When you choose to stand, you stand, you do not accept new cards. When you hit, the dealer will draw another card, which is added to your card total. If your new card total is under 21, you’re safe. If it reaches 21, you win. If you go over 21, it’s called a bust and you’re out of the game.
Technically, you can continue to hit until you reach 21 (or bust), but that’s not recommended. Because as your card total increases, so does your likelihood of busting. And remember, you only need to get closer to 21 than the dealer, so if he has a 17 and you have an 18, you win.
When to hit or stand
There are a few key things to keep in mind when deciding whether to hit or stand. The first is that the dealer must continue to draw cards (hit) if his card total is 16 or less, and he must stand once he reaches 17. Remember you can initially only see one of the dealer’s cards, so it’s best practice to assume the dealer’s face-down card is a 10.
The most basic blackjack strategy is as follows:
- If the dealer has a two or three, keep hitting until you reach 13 or above.
- If the dealer has a four to six, stop hitting when you reach 12 or above.
- If the dealer has a seven or above, hit until you reach 17 or higher.
Quirks of the game
Most of the game comes down to betting, hitting or standing, but there are a few other options. If you are dealt two cards with the same number (two fives or two queens), you have the option of doubling your original bet and splitting your hand. Each card becomes its own hand and play resumes.
You also have the option to double down — doubling your original bet and getting only one more card. However, some games will only allow you to double down when you have a total of 10 or 11.
Finally, the dealer may offer you insurance, but this is always a bad bet and shouldn’t be taken.
Are you a blackjack aficionado? What is your favorite table game? Let us know in the comment section below!