Lowering the House Edge in Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games, with a house edge that can be brought down to less than 1% by using basic playing strategy. The game has simple rules that can be understood by anyone, and it is easy to find tables where you can play for a low stake. There have been many changes to the game over its history, some subtle and others major, but the core of blackjack remains unchanged.

Blackjack can be played with a standard deck of 52 cards, and the objective is to get a hand value of 21 or closer without going over (bust). The ace card is worth either 1 or 11, depending on the situation, and the other cards are assigned their values according to their rank. Face cards, for example, are worth 10 points.

There are several ways to beat the dealer in blackjack. The most common is to have a total higher than the dealer’s. You can also win by drawing a high value card on your first two cards, or by not having a total higher than the dealer’s when he draws his second card. Ties are a push and you will win the same amount as your initial wager if your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s.

You can lower the house edge even further by counting cards. This technique requires practice, but it can be very effective in lowering the house advantage to below 2%. Counting involves keeping track of how many cards have been dealt, so you need a blackjack table to work from. Practice by taking a single deck of cards and adding up the values of each card as you turn it over, then compare that number to the running count. You can also keep a true count, which takes into account the number of decks remaining in the shoe.

Once you have mastered basic strategy, there are other strategies to consider. These include splitting, doubling down, and surrendering. Choosing the right option is important, and you should stick to your strategy regardless of the other players at the table or whether you have lost or won during previous sessions.

It is a good idea to learn how to split when you have starting pairs such as two nines, two sevens, or two threes. This will give you a chance to make two hands with the same value and increase your odds of getting a strong hand. You should also know when to double down and be ready to do so if the dealer shows an ace.

If you have a hard 17 or higher, it is best to stand. This will protect you from losing to the dealer, and it will give you a much better chance of winning if you can beat his hand. This is especially true if you are playing a game that pays 3 to 2 on blackjack. You should also avoid deviating from your blackjack strategy based on your feelings.