How to Beat the House Edge at Blackjack


Blackjack is a casino card game that pits the dealer against the player. The goal of the player is to have a higher hand total than the dealer’s. A hand of 21 on the first two cards is called a “blackjack” (or a “natural”) and cannot be beat, even if the dealer also has a blackjack. Unlike most casino games, blackjack has a built-in house edge which plays itself out over the long run, but players can significantly reduce this advantage by using basic strategy.

Blackjack dealers must have excellent customer service skills, including active listening and communication. They use these skills when greeting guests as they arrive at the table, explaining the rules of the game and directing them to place their wagers. When customers have questions, blackjack dealers communicate their answers in a clear, concise manner, using nonverbal cues such as nodding and paraphrasing to show that they are listening and understanding what is being said.

During the game, the blackjack dealer must keep track of the remaining cards in the deck and use this information to make adjustments to the strategy of the player’s hand. This is called shuffle tracking, and was popularized by Arnold Snyder in his blackjack articles in Blackjack Forum magazine. Shuffle tracking is a legal method for reducing the house edge, and there are a number of techniques that can be used, all of which rely on the ability to determine when the shuffle has happened.

In addition to shuffle tracking, blackjack dealers also use math to calculate the earnings of winning players quickly and accurately. This mathematical knowledge empowers them to keep the game moving smoothly and prevents delays at the table. Blackjack dealers also use mental math when distributing the cards to customers, which requires them to count the values of each card quickly and accurately.

Blackjack games may be played with up to eight decks, depending on the house rules and the casino’s preference. This saves time, as the dealer would otherwise have to reshuffle every card after each round of play. However, it increases the house edge by about 1.4% over a standard 52-card deck.

The ace of spades and the jack of clubs are both worth 10 points in blackjack, so it’s pretty easy to add up a hand of 21 with the first two cards dealt. But “blackjack” actually refers to a specific combination of an ace and one of the 10 value cards, not simply any two-card total that adds up to 21.

Players can reduce the house edge to less than 1% by playing with basic strategy, which determines when to hit and stand, as well as when to double down or split. However, players who deviate from the basic strategy increase the house edge to about 2%.