The Basics of Blackjack


Blackjack is a card game where players try to beat the dealer by getting a higher point value hand than them. This can be done by a player hitting (taking more cards) or standing (not taking any more cards). The goal is to get a hand value of 21 or closer, or to win the dealer’s bet by having a higher hand value than them when they do not bust. The dealer’s bet is paid out one-half times the original wager of a winning player if they have a blackjack, but only when a player has not placed an insurance bet, which pays 2 to 1.

Blackjack deals are made on semicircular tables that can accommodate varying numbers of players. The table is padded and there are places to place bets in front of each player. There is a dealer who stands behind the table and chip rack. The deck of cards is shuffled manually or mechanically before each deal. The dealer then deals two cards to each player face down and then a third card to themselves face up. The dealers must look at their own card before dealing to make sure it is not an ace, which means the dealer has a blackjack. Players may also buy insurance on the dealer’s up card, which is a good idea because if the dealer has a blackjack they pay players even money, not one-and-a-half times their original wager.

If a player has an ace and a ten-card, or “blackjack,” on their first two cards they are guaranteed to beat the dealer no matter what the dealer does. This is a special situation known as a “natural,” and the player wins automatically. The dealer has to pay the player one-and-a-half times their bet for a natural, so it is not a great deal for them.

Once the players have their hands they can talk to each other and make decisions about their play. They can also ask questions of the dealer, though the dealer must be careful not to reveal any information. Depending on casino policies, the dealer may be able to help new players with correct basic strategy for their situations at the table.

A player who follows a sound blackjack strategy can reduce the house edge to about 4-5%, but many beginners think following a strategy is difficult. In reality, a solid basic strategy is easy to learn and will improve your win rate. Colin S. is a blackjack expert and founder of the online blackjack training site Blackjack Apprenticeship, which offers free video courses for learning how to count cards and run profitable casino games. He has been counting cards for over 15 years and once ran a multi-million dollar blackjack team. He is a featured speaker on the topic of card counting at gaming conferences. You can find his videos on his YouTube channel. He is a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame and a former member of the Hall of Champions.