Blackjack is a game of skill and chance, but when you know the right strategy to play, the chances of winning are much higher. A good understanding of math will also help you to improve your game.
Blackjack was first popularized by the book “Beat the Dealer” written by Baldwin, Cantey, Maisel and McDermott in 1956. Their work was the first to describe a mathematically optimal way to play the game of blackjack. Their analysis was completed by playing the game, recording the results and crunching the numbers with an old calculator. Today this sort of analysis is far less demanding, with computer simulations at the touch of a button, but the Horsemen’s work changed the game of blackjack forever.
If you have a pair of 7’s, hit if the dealer has 9 or less and stand if they have 10 or more. This is one of the least favorable hands in the game and hitting will give you a 58% chance of losing while standing will only give you a 2% edge. This is why you should never make the mistake of doubling down with this hand.
The best time to hit a hand is when you have a total of 17 or more points and the dealer is showing a low value card such as a 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8. A natural (Ace plus a picture card or ten) pays out 1 to 1, while a bust by the dealer (taking more cards than they can hold) results in a loss for all players except those with a natural.
Another thing to keep in mind is the house edge. This is a percentage of your total bet that the casino expects to win, or lose, over the course of 10,000 hours of play. The best way to reduce this number is to limit your betting and stick to the basic strategy charts.
Some players try to beat the dealer by keeping track of the cards and predicting the dealer’s moves. This is known as card counting and it can significantly lower the house edge, but only if done correctly. You will need to learn the values of each card and practice keeping a running count by flipping over a single deck and adding up the values as you go. Then you will need to master a true count that takes into account the number of decks in play.
It is important to understand that blackjack is a math game and you must be thinking quite clearly in order to make the right decisions. Avoid drinking before playing, and only play when you can concentrate. This will not only improve your overall odds of winning, but it will also minimize the amount you lose if you happen to have a losing streak. It is also a good idea to walk away from the table if you start to make a profit. Otherwise, you will be tempted to increase your betting to recoup your losses.