The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most fascinating casino games because it demands both intelligence and imagination from its players. It is a card game played against the dealer, with the goal of reaching 21 or being closer to it than the dealer. Its rules are simple but a player has to have a basic strategy that he can apply in different situations. This requires memorizing the probabilities of certain cards showing for the dealer or in his own hand at a given moment. The game also requires knowing when to hit or stand and how to split pairs of cards.

A player starts the game by choosing a seat at a blackjack table. There are usually five to seven seats at a blackjack table, but some tables have a No-Midshoe Entry policy, meaning that you can’t join the game if it is already in progress (unless there are chips or a coat holding the spot for someone who just stepped away for a minute).

Once everyone has placed their bets the dealer will deal each player two cards. Each player may then decide whether to “hit” and ask for additional cards or to “stand.” In the latter case, he or she will keep the current two-card hand. If a player’s first two cards are an ace and a ten-card (or a picture card or a 10) this is called a “natural” or “blackjack.” The dealer pays out all bets of players who have blackjack and collects all bets from those who don’t.

In some casinos, the dealer can offer a side bet known as insurance. This is an amount of money (up to half the original wager) that a player can place in addition to their initial bet, in the hope that the dealer has a ten underneath his or her ace. If the dealer has a ten underneath his ace, he or she will pay the insured bets at 2 to 1 and continue the game as normal.

In some casinos, a player has the option to double his or her initial bet after being dealt their two cards. However, it is important to remember that this is only true against the dealer – not the other players at the table. A player should always double against a dealer up card of 7 or higher, and never split 10’s, 5’s, or 4’s. In addition, it is always a good idea to double against a dealer’s up card of 2 to 6, and not against a dealer’s ace.