Blackjack is a game of strategy and chances. Unlike many casino games where the house always has an advantage that plays itself out in the long run, the smart and disciplined player can cut the dealer’s edge to less than a percent by following a simple set of rules called basic strategy. This is not difficult to understand, but it is a discipline that requires vigilance and practice.
The first step in learning the rules of blackjack is to get a handle on the card values. Cards numbered 2-10 are worth their printed value, and aces can count as either 1 or 11. The goal of the player is to get as close to 21 as possible without busting.
There are some exceptions to the basic rules, but for the most part, players must hit when they can, stand when they must, and double or split when the odds are favorable. Novice players often make costly mistakes by playing too conservatively and failing to take full advantage of the odds in their favor. They hesitate to hit a hand of 16 against the dealer’s 7, for example, and fail to split pairs when they should.
Most blackjack games are played with a single deck of cards, although some casinos offer multiple-deck games. The dealer deals the cards from a shoe, which is a boxlike device that houses the cards. The dealer then shuffles the deck and asks players to cut it. Once the dealer has dealt each player, they turn over their two cards face-up and if they have a blackjack, they win. If they don’t, the dealer takes everyone’s original wagers and pays out insurance bets at 2:1.
In addition to understanding the basic rules of blackjack, a player should learn when it is appropriate to take insurance and when it is not. Insurance is a side bet that the dealer has a ten in his or her hand. When taking insurance, the player places a bet equal to half of his or her original bet on an area of the table marked “insurance.” If the dealer has a ten underneath his or her Ace, he or she has blackjack and wins everyone’s original bets. If the dealer doesn’t have a ten, the dealer will take everyone’s original bets and continue to play the game.
Although some people consider blackjack to be a game of chance, it is actually a very predictable game. There is a mathematically correct way to play each hand that will yield the highest probability of winning. This is called basic strategy, and it is based on the player’s point total and the dealer’s visible card. With a little practice, a player can master this simple technique and beat the dealer almost every time. This is a remarkable feat, and it is one of the reasons that blackjack has become the most popular casino game in the world. It has pushed brawny craps into the background as the casino game of choice for the intelligent and disciplined player.