Understanding the Basics of Blackjack


Blackjack is one of the most popular card games in casinos. It is played against a dealer and can be won by players who have a hand totaling 21 or better. Some players also use a system called card counting to give themselves an edge over the dealer. Card counting is a complex strategy that requires practice and the ability to remember card values. However, for a beginner, understanding the basics of the game is important.

In the game of blackjack, cards are numbered from 2 through 10. The face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) count as 10, and the Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11, depending on the player’s preference. A “hard” blackjack hand is any combination of cards that adds up to 21, while a “soft” blackjack hand has no more than 21 and can include any number of ten-value cards.

Before the players place their bets, the dealer deals two cards to each player. The players can then choose to hit (ask for an additional card) until their total exceeds 21 or they decide to stand. The dealer then flips his or her up card and the hand is compared to the players’ hands. A player hand that beats the dealer’s is a winner and pays out 1:1, while a tie is a push and both the dealer’s and the players’ bets are returned without adjustment.

Some casinos offer a side bet called insurance, which is placed alongside the player’s initial bet and pays out 2-1 if the dealer has an ace showing. Some casinos even allow the player to place multiple insurance bets. However, these side bets are usually not worth the money in terms of the house edge they create.

The first thing that players need to understand is that the dealer has a much higher chance of having a blackjack than the players do. This means that, in most cases, the best move for a player is to simply stay with their hand and hope that it beats the dealer’s. The exception to this rule is when the player has a soft blackjack hand, which can be counted and is therefore an advantage.

Aside from knowing when to stay and when to hit, there are other aspects of the game that need to be understood before playing. For example, many players make the mistake of hitting a hand with 16 when the dealer has an up-card of 10, while the fact is that they will lose nearly 80 percent of the time if they do so.

Other factors that can impact a player’s decision are the number of players at the table, which cards are removed from the deck, and how the dealers play their cards. While these factors may seem minor, they can make a significant difference in the odds of winning. For this reason, it is important to always consult the expected probability and probability tables computed on the Blackjack strategy pages of our website before making any decisions at a casino table.