The Basics of Blackjack


Blackjack is a casino card game where players compete against the dealer for a high-value hand. Cards are worth their numerical value, face cards are worth 10 and aces are worth one or 11. The player must beat the dealer to win. Various side bets are often available. The game is usually played with one or more 52-card decks.

Players are dealt two cards, and may choose to “hit” for more cards or “stand” if they have a good hand. The dealer also gets two cards and must follow a set of rules for when to hit or stand. If a player has a total of 21 on the first two cards, they have a “blackjack,” and win immediately. In case of a tie, the bets are paid off at a rate equivalent to 3-2.

A dealer handles the game operations at a table, dealing cards and handling the money. The job requires people skills and knowledge of casino procedures, mathematical calculations and gaming regulations. Casino dealers are usually required to be licensed by the state in which they work.

Some casinos offer a side bet on the dealer having a blackjack, known as insurance. The dealer will ask each player if they want to make an insurance bet before they deal their cards. If the dealer has an ace up, players are allowed to place bets of up to half their original wager on insurance. If the dealer has a blackjack, they will pay off the insurance bets at a rate of 2 to 1 and the game continues as normal.

The dealer should stand on a hand valued at 16 or higher, and hit on a hand of 12-16 if the dealer has a face-up card of 7 or higher. The dealer should always split aces and 8s, but never split 10s. The probability that a dealer will have a blackjack at a particular moment is dependent on the future cards, so the probability of hitting is less than the probability of standing.

There are many card counting strategies, but the most basic ones involve tracking the concentration of cards of different values. This is done with a plus-and-minus system, and the most powerful methods track both aces and 10s. Players who count cards must carefully conceal their activity, and should avoid acting suspiciously. Dealers are trained to spot counting, and will look for major changes in bet size, frequent visits to other tables and swift departures.

As the popularity of blackjack has grown, so have the countermeasures of casino management to reduce the house edge. In an effort to keep blackjack profitable, many casinos have whittled off a little of the player’s edge by changing the rules slightly. Some have eliminated the ten-spot cards from the deck, which has made it more difficult to count. Other casinos have reduced the number of decks in use, raised the minimum bet, and added side bets. This has made the game less attractive to professional counters.