Blackjack is a game of chance, but the smart player can use strategy to reduce the house edge. There are several different sides bets on the table, such as insurance (bet on the dealer having a blackjack) and Four 20s (betting on four aces in a row). Side bets can add to the excitement of the game, but they can also erode your bankroll.

Aside from knowing how to play, the most important thing in blackjack is understanding the game’s basic rules. The player and dealer each get two cards, and if the player’s initial two cards make up 21 (an Ace with a card valued at 10), then the hand is called blackjack and the player is paid out 1.5 times her original bet.

However, the dealer also has a hand, and if it is closer to 21 than the player’s hand, then the player loses. If the dealer’s hand is equal to the player’s, then the hand is a push, and the player just gets her original bet back.

Using a card counting system is a great way to increase your chances of beating the dealer in blackjack, and there are countless systems to choose from. The Hi-Lo method is one popular system, and other methods assign different point values to cards such as aces and fives. Practice with a single deck of cards, and keep track of the total value as you turn over each card. You should eventually be able to count the deck without thinking.

Before you start playing for real money, it’s a good idea to practice your basic strategy with a game of free online blackjack. Most online casinos offer this, and you can choose from a variety of games, including multi-player tables with real dealers. This way, you can learn the game in a comfortable environment without worrying about money or other players.

Once you’ve mastered basic strategy, try playing blackjack at a brick-and-mortar casino. Then you’ll have the advantage of knowing that you can handle a busy table, and you’ll be able to give your full attention to your blackjack strategy. Keep practicing until you can confidently play blackjack without looking at a chart, and you’ll be ready to start playing for money. It may take a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks — everyone is different. Don’t rush, and you’ll be on your way to a winning streak!

How to Beat the House Edge in Blackjack