#### The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular card games in casinos. Players compete to have a higher hand total than the dealer, but without going over 21 (also known as busting). The game is usually played with 2-7 players on a semicircular table that can accommodate varying numbers of seats. Each player makes a bet and the dealer then deals two cards to each player and himself (one card face up, the other face down). The players then decide whether to hit, stand, surrender, or double down.

If the initial two cards are a pair of tens or any Ace with a 10 (a blackjack), the player wins immediately and is paid even money on their original bet. Ties are a push. The dealer must hit on all hands with 16 or lower and stand on all others.

When the dealer shows a card with a value of 10, players may place a side bet called insurance that pays 2-1 if the dealer has a blackjack. This bet is not required and is not against house policy, but it gives the player a chance to win some additional money.

A blackjack beats any other hand that does not have a 21 on it, but the player must always be careful to avoid going over 21, or busting. When a player busts, they lose the game. If the dealer busts, they lose all of their bets and the player with the highest hand wins.

Many players use basic strategy to help them make decisions in the game. This method of play is based on simple mathematics and can reduce the house edge to about 1.5%. This is still a large advantage over the player’s opponents, but it does not guarantee victory.

Most casinos now pay out Blackjacks at 3 to 2, but some have reduced this payout to 6 to 5. This increases the house edge and makes the game less profitable for players.

There are many variations on the game of blackjack, but all involve the same basic rules. The game is played with one or more standard 52-card decks. The cards are worth their face value, with a pair of tens worth 10 points and an ace worth either 1 or 11, depending on the situation. The object of the game is to finish with a higher hand total than the dealer’s, without exceeding 21. The dealer acts last and must hit on all hands with 16 or lower, and stand on 17 through 21. Players can choose to hit, stand, or split their hand (if dealt a pair of the same cards, for example a pair of eights). Players can also make side bets such as insurance or the dealer match. These bets are not against house policy, but they are not recommended for new players. The dealer will reveal their card after all players have made their decisions. If the dealer has a blackjack, they will sweep the bets and continue with the next round.