The Basics of Blackjack


Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in the world. It is a card game where the objective is to beat the dealer by getting a higher point total than him or her without going over 21. There are several variations of the game but the basic rules are the same. The house always has a statistical advantage but players can reduce this to a small percentage by playing smart and following what is known as basic strategy.

The game is played on a semicircular table that can be set up to accommodate varying numbers of players. The most common tables allow for seven players (or “spots”). There are also tables that only seat five or even twelve. The cards are dealt from the dealer’s left and each player must place an initial bet before the cards are shown. Once all bets are placed, the player receives two cards face up and the dealer receives one card face down. The player can then decide to hit or stand.

If the player’s two cards add up to 21 or a close approximation of this number, they win and receive their original bet back. This is called a “blackjack” and is the most common winning hand. If the dealer has a blackjack, they collect all bets from players who don’t have one and pay them one and a half times their wagers.

Some casinos reduce the 3 to 2 payout on blackjacks to 6 to 5 which increases the house edge and takes more money out of the players pockets. This is illegal in some states but is still done at many casinos.

A player may opt to buy insurance, a side bet that pays 2-1 if the dealer has a blackjack. This bet is typically half of the initial bet and may only be made before the dealer shows his or her face up card. Buying insurance is a bad idea for most players unless they have a good knowledge of card counting and know that there’s a high probability that the dealer has a blackjack.

Other side bets available in Blackjack include: putting money on the dealer having a blackjack before dealing his or her first card, doubling after splitting, placing chips behind split aces to improve them, and putting chips on a blackjack before the dealer turns his or her card. Each of these has a different house edge and should be played according to the player’s own risk tolerance. In addition, Blackjack tournaments are becoming increasingly popular. These are typically held over multiple rounds and a player is dropped from the tournament at pre-determined points based on their stack size. The goal is to finish among the top chip holders and win the tournament. The payout is typically a large amount of cash. A good Blackjack strategy is essential for tournament play.