Blackjack is a casino game in which players and the dealer are each dealt two cards. The objective is to beat the dealer by getting a hand value of 21 on your first two cards or by having the dealer bust. A winning hand pays out 3:1 on your bet. Other hands pay even money. Insurance and the option to surrender are also available. Blackjack rules vary by table and by house, but basic strategy provides the player with a set of decisions that will result in the best chance of beating the dealer.
While the house has a statistical advantage in blackjack, that advantage will play itself out over the long run, and experienced players can reduce it to a small percentage by playing properly. A good understanding of card counting is required for this, but even a casual player can improve his or her chances by using a simple chart to decide when to hit, stand, double down, and split.
There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about blackjack, but the game is relatively straightforward to understand. A basic strategy chart is available that outlines the optimal action for each situation, and can be consulted before play begins. This chart is based on millions of hands played, and will give the player the best chance to win against the dealer.
In addition to the main hand, the dealer must have a card face up to qualify to deal more cards, and is required to stand on any total of 16 or less. In the event of a tie (or push) between the player and dealer, bets are returned without adjustment.
Most casinos offer side bets in blackjack, including a bet on whether the dealer has a blackjack, and a wager on the player’s own blackjack hand. These bets can significantly increase the house edge, so they should be avoided.
A player may also choose to take insurance on a blackjack hand, although this bet is generally unwise. The reason is that the dealer’s hole card is unknown, and the player has no direct knowledge of it, nor can he or she estimate it through counting cards. This makes the dealer’s insurance bet a loser for the player, paying 2:1 on the blackjack but only returning 1:1 on the original bet. Some casinos have reduced the 3:2 payout on blackjacks to 6:5, which increases the house edge and makes it more difficult for players to beat the dealer.