Card Counting in Blackjack

Blackjack is a game of strategy and chance where the player competes against the dealer. It is the most popular casino game worldwide, and can be played with a single or multiple decks of cards.

Basic strategy gives the player a mathematical advantage of about one percent over the house. This advantage is based on millions of hands of blackjack played over the course of decades.

Card counting is an effective way of reducing the house edge in blackjack by recognizing when cards are missing from the deck. It was introduced in 1962 by Edward Thorp in his book Beat the Dealer.

The key to card counting is to monitor the remaining deck and increase your bets when you see that there are a lot of aces, face cards, and non-face cards left in the deck. This is known as “ten rich,” and it can provide a huge advantage to players who use a card counting system.

There are a number of strategies that are used by card counters, and each has its own pros and cons. However, most of them are based on the same fundamental principles.

A good starting point is to practice at a friendly table with people who know what they’re doing. Ask the dealer or someone else at the table for advice if you are stuck.

In blackjack, the player and dealer are dealt two cards each. The player can stand on their initial hand or take more cards (hit, double, split) until they achieve a total of 21 or less. If they exceed 21, the hand is called a bust and the bets are returned to the player without adjustment.

If the player’s first two cards are an ace and a ten-value card, the hand is a natural blackjack, which pays 3 to 2. In 2003 some casinos reduced the payout on natural blackjacks to 6:5, but this is generally restricted to single-deck games.

Some casinos offer an insurance bet that pays 2:1 when the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. This bet costs 50% of the original wager in addition to the initial bet.

It is important to remember that insurance bets are not profitable if the dealer gets a natural blackjack. Instead, the player should stand on their low total and wait to see if the dealer goes over 21.

The player can also choose to surrender their entire bet if they have a poor hand that is unlikely to win, such as a ten against an ace. This strategy can be useful when a player’s total is very close to 21, or when the dealer has a very bad hand.

Another option is early surrender, which allows the player to forfeit half their bet against a resplitting ace before checking for blackjack. This can be very beneficial if the dealer has an ace or a face card showing, because it allows a player to get out of their bet before the hand is checked for blackjack.