The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino card games. It has simple rules that anyone can learn quickly and plays to a house edge that can be minimized to less than 2% if the player follows a basic strategy. The game is played on a semicircular table that can accommodate different numbers of players (or “spots”). Cash cannot be used to make bets, instead casino chips must be purchased from the dealer before placing a wager.

Each player is dealt two cards face up and decides whether to hit or stand. A “hit” means asking for more cards, and a “stand” is playing your hand as it is. If you have a total of 21 in your two cards, it’s a “blackjack” and wins the round. The dealer will then collect the bets, shuffle the cards and begin a new round.

A player can also split their cards into two separate hands, for example two nines or two threes. When you split your cards, you place a second bet of the same value and then play each hand separately. When you split a pair of nines or eights, for instance, the dealer must reveal his hole card. If he has a ten underneath, you have a push and get your original bet back.

In some casinos, you can purchase insurance for your hand against the dealer’s blackjack. This bet pays out 2 to 1 on the insurance portion of your wager if the dealer has a blackjack. It is not a good idea to buy insurance, however, because it increases the house edge by approximately 4%.

When you have a strong hand, it may be advantageous to ask for another card (hit). You should always hit when your two cards total 11 or less. It is mathematically impossible to bust at this point, so hitting is a very safe option.

If you have a weak hand, it might be beneficial to stay or surrender. This is a risky move because the dealer might have a 10 underneath his ace, but it is sometimes worth the risk in order to keep your money.

You can also take the game a step further by making side bets on the dealer’s hole card or your own blackjack hand. These bets are usually made at the same time you place your main bet and can range from betting on a specific number (such as a ten) to betting on whether or not the dealer will get a blackjack. In the last couple of decades, blackjack side bets have become increasingly popular and can be a profitable addition to your bankroll if you learn how to play them correctly.