The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is a casino card game in which the players compete against the dealer. The object of the game is to have a higher point value than the dealer without going over 21. All betting is done against the dealer and not other players. In most varieties of the game aces count as either 1 or 11, face cards as 10, and the rest at their index value. In addition to the main hand, some games offer side bets such as insurance or Dealer Match.

The game is played with a standard 52-card deck, although some casinos use modified rules. For example, some may reduce the 3 to 2 payout on Blackjacks to 6 to 5, increasing the house edge. Some tables also limit the card ranks that can be split or doubled, and some do not allow a player to hit after splitting a pair.

Unlike most casino games, blackjack provides an element of strategy that can be used to decrease the house advantage to a very small percentage. A basic knowledge of the rules and proper play (hitting, standing, splitting, doubling down) is sufficient to significantly improve your odds of winning. The best way to learn the game is by reading a book such as Ken Uston’s Million Dollar Blackjack which teaches basic strategy and a variety of counting systems alongside money management and team play.

If you have two cards of the same rank, you may ask to split them by saying “Split”. The dealer will separate the original cards and deal you one additional card for each. You then play the two hands independently of each other. You may split pairs up to three times, except for Aces which can only be split once. You may also make a second wager on the split hand equal to your original bet.

In the case of a tie, all bets are returned. If you have a total of 21 in your first two cards, this is called a “blackjack” or a “natural” and you immediately win three to two on your bet. If the dealer also has a natural, this is called a push and you do not lose any of your bets.

After all the players have placed their bets, the dealer will check her hole card with a special viewing window in the table. If the dealer has a ten underneath, she has a blackjack and wins all bets, including any players who paid insurance. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, she will take any insurance bets and the game continues as normal.

It is important for dealers to be aware of their actions, and not give information to players that they should not see. This can happen in a number of ways, from physically exposing the dealer’s hole card for an instant to giving away clues based on their reactions. If the dealer gives the players too much information, they will gain an unfair advantage. A well-trained dealer will know how to prevent these problems.