How to Win at Blackjack

Blackjack is a card game that involves the player and dealer in a heads-up contest. It is played with one or more 52-card decks. All number cards (2-10) score their value; face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are worth 10 points; and aces are either 1 or 11.

The objective of the game is to finish with a total higher than that of the dealer without going over 21. Winning hands are paid 1-to-1. In the event that the player and dealer have an equal total, this is known as a tie or push and the player retains their bet. The game is usually played in casinos and involves two to seven players.

Using basic strategy, you can reduce the house edge to less than 2%. You can also use card counting techniques to further improve your chances of winning. Keeping a positive mindset is also essential to success at blackjack. This means not allowing your emotions to cloud your judgment, and refusing to make impulsive decisions after losing a hand.

Before playing blackjack, it is important to understand the rules of the game. There are a few rules that are universal, such as always standing on a hand of 17 or higher and never hitting if the dealer has an Ace up. These rules are based on mathematics and have been verified by computer analysis of millions of blackjack hands.

Card counting is a method used by some blackjack players to increase their odds of winning by predicting when the dealer will draw a high card. The basic technique is to keep a running count of the cards that have been dealt, and then a true count once the shoe has been reshuffled. The running count is simply the number of high cards minus the number of low cards, while the true count takes into account the number of decks left in play.

Many blackjack tables offer side bets that can be made by placing a bet equal to your original bet on the chance that the dealer will have a blackjack. This bet is called insurance, and it pays 2-to-1 if the dealer has a blackjack and you do not. However, the dealer must have a blackjack in order to collect the bet.

Some casinos have changed the rules of blackjack to make it more difficult for players to win. For example, some have reduced the payout for blackjacks to 6 to 5 rather than 3 to 2. This change increases the house edge and makes it harder to beat the dealer.

Before you begin playing blackjack, you should practice your basic skills by using a free online blackjack game to get familiar with the rules and strategy. You should also learn the difference between a hard and soft hand. A hard hand is when you draw a card to a total of 11, and a soft hand is when you have a total between 13 and 16. It is important to know the difference because the way that these hands are played is different.