The Basics of Blackjack


Blackjack is one of the most popular casino card games. It is played by 2-7 players on a semicircular table. Each player makes a wager in a betting spot on the table. Cash is not used to make bets, instead casino chips are inserted into the betting areas. Players may place multiple chips in each betting spot. The dealer deals two cards to each player and two cards to himself (1 face up, 1 face down). Players then decide whether to hit, surrender, double down or stand. Players win when their hand total is higher than the dealer’s or they have 21 or less and the dealer busts. Dealers must hit on 16 and under, and stand on 17 through 21.

Blackjack rules vary from one casino to the next, so it is important to understand the specific game rules before you play. Here are some of the most common blackjack rules:

The object of the game is to finish with a hand value closer to 21 than that of the dealer’s without going over 21, which is known as “busting.” The other players at the table are of no concern to the player; his or her hand competes only with the dealer’s hand. A player can double any of his or her cards against the dealer’s up-card, and split aces and 8s. Splitting 8s helps you avoid the worst possible hand (a soft 16). A blackjack is a winning hand that pays 3 to 2. Insurance bets lose money in the long run, and dealers have blackjack less than one-third of the time.

Some casinos now offer a variation of blackjack called Spanish 21, in which all 10s are removed from the deck. This increases the house edge and eliminates much of the advantage of counting cards.

In 1957, the Four Horsemen of Aberdeen introduced a powerful, accurate card-counting system for blackjack that made the New York Times best seller list. Their book, Beat the Dealer, revolutionized blackjack strategy. It is widely accepted that this was the first time a card-counting strategy had been applied to a casino game, and it greatly increased the profitability of playing the game.

There are several different strategies for playing blackjack, and the choice depends on a player’s budget and preferences. Some players prefer to stick with basic strategy, while others use a count system to optimize their chances of winning. The latter technique requires a great deal of discipline and practice, but can result in significant profits.

The word “blackjack” comes from the French card game Vingt-et-Un, which translates to twenty-one. In addition to the basic rule, a player can also choose to insure his or her hand against the dealer’s blackjack by placing an insurance bet of up to half their original bet. If the dealer has a blackjack, the bet is paid off immediately; otherwise, the player gets his or her original bet back. In some casinos, the insurance bet is placed before the dealer deals the cards.