The Basics of Blackjack


Blackjack is a casino game in which players and dealers get two cards each. The goal is to build a hand with a point total as close to 21 as possible without going over. The game is played with one or more standard 52-card decks and the value of each card is determined by its rank: ten for picture cards, jack, queen, king and ace.

The dealer also gets two cards and has the option to stand or hit based on certain rules. In addition to hitting and standing, players can split their cards into pairs or double down on selected hands. Some casinos restrict the rank of cards that can be split and some do not allow players to double after splitting a pair.

Each player’s hand is compared to the dealer’s, and the player that has a higher unbusted hand wins. If a player has an ace and a ten-card (also called a “blackjack”), the hand is known as a natural and the dealer must pay that player one and a half times the original bet amount.

In most casinos the house edge is around 2% and it is in the player’s interest to reduce this as much as possible. The best way to do this is to use basic strategy, which tells the player what action they should take in any situation based on their hand and the dealer’s visible card.

Basic strategy is not complex and can be learned quickly. It is not a magic bullet that will eliminate the house edge but it will significantly increase your chances of winning and is the best approach for those who are serious about playing the game.

There are a number of other strategies that can be used in blackjack, but they tend to require a large bankroll and can lead to big losses if you run into a losing streak. For example, the Martingale System involves doubling your bet after every loss, which can quickly drain a bankroll.

Other strategies include card counting. This is a mathematical process that allows the player to estimate the card count in a deck of cards as they are being dealt out by the dealer and can help a player adjust their bet size accordingly. Card counting is a legitimate strategy and, when coupled with basic strategy, can reduce the house edge to less than one percent.

Other options in blackjack that can be used to increase the chance of winning are surrender and insurance (when available). Surrender allows the player to forfeit their hand before the dealer checks for a blackjack and lose only half of their initial stake. Insurance is a side bet that pays 2:1 when the dealer has an ace up in the hole and can be used to offset some of the losses from splitting and busted hands.