The Basics of Blackjack
Blackjack is a card game played between the player and dealer. The goal is to have a higher hand total than the dealer without going over 21. The value of a hand is determined by the rank of the cards (Ace, 10, J, Q, K) and the suit. A hand consisting of an ace and a ten-value card is known as a blackjack and wins automatically. Other hands are paid depending on their ranking and suits. In the US some casinos pay 6:5 on blackjacks rather than 3:2, this significantly increases the house edge and makes card counting more difficult.
Players place a bet on the table, generally by placing chips in one of several boxes on the table. The player may then choose to’sit out’ the current hand, take another card, or split their cards into two separate hands. In most games the number of cards dealt is limited to seven, but in some variants of the game more than seven cards may be used.
After each player has either stood or busted their hand, the dealer takes their turn. They must hit if their cards total more than 21, or stand if their hand is not a blackjack. In the event of a tie, all bets are returned to the players.
Some blackjack tables have side bets available to the players, such as insurance against a dealer’s ace and the ability to double after splitting a pair of cards. These side wagers can change the strategy of a hand, but should never be more than about half the size of the player’s initial bet.
A blackjack player’s goal is to beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21. A hand that does not go over 21 is called a ‘push’ or’standoff’ and is a win for the player. A push is a loss for the dealer, and the player’s original bet is returned to them.
Blackjack is normally played on a semicircular table that can accommodate varying numbers of players, usually up to seven people. The dealer stands behind the table and chip rack, facing the players. The table surface is covered with a cloth or felt.
Basic Strategy provides the optimal play for any given situation, based on millions of hands played in the long run. Card counting, which involves keeping track of the points in a deck as they are played, can also give a player an advantage over the dealer.
In blackjack, an ace can count as either a 1 or an 11, depending on which value will help the player’s total more. Some basic strategies call for the player to double down against a dealer showing a high card, while others recommend hitting a soft 17 against a dealer’s up-card of six.
Some blackjack games have rules that allow the dealer to hit on a soft 17, but these are less desirable. They reduce the dealer’s chance of having a blackjack, which gives the player an edge.