Blackjack is the card game that pits the player against the dealer. The object of the game is to beat the dealer by getting a higher total on your cards than the dealer, without going over 21 (this is called busting). Blackjack is played on a semicircular table that can seat up to seven players (or “spots”). The dealer stands behind the table and chip rack. The players place their bets on the betting areas of the table.
Each player is dealt two cards. If the player’s first two cards add up to 21 (an Ace and a card valued at 10), this is a “blackjack” and the player wins immediately. If the dealer also has a blackjack, the hand ties. Otherwise, the dealer will draw additional cards for a decision. If the dealer has a total of 17 or more, he will stand. If the dealer has an ace, the player may choose to hit (ask for an additional card) until his total is closer to 21 than the dealer’s. An ace may be counted as 1 or 11 depending on the player’s situation.
The rules of blackjack are not set in stone and casinos often change them to increase their house edge. For example, some casinos will reduce the 3 to 2 payout for blackjacks to 6 to 5. This increases the house edge and takes more money out of the player’s pockets. Some players will choose to play in these casinos only because they are better for them than other establishments with standard rules.
Some people are able to beat the dealer in blackjack by learning to count cards. This is a difficult skill to learn, but it can be done. If you’re interested in learning to count cards, there are several online resources available. Many of these sites offer free practice games and tutorials that will help you get started.
Blackjack can be played with one to eight decks of cards. The number of decks used determines the minimum and maximum bet amounts. The game is usually played with the dealer dealing two cards face down and one card face up. The dealer’s hole card and up card are known as his exposed card and the hidden card, respectively. The card values are as follows: number cards (2-7) score their value; face cards (“Jack”, “Queen”, and “King”) count as 10; the ace can be treated as either a 1 or an 11; and tens are worth one point.
In 1962, Edward Thorp wrote a book entitled Beat the Dealer which describes a strategy that can make blackjack an almost even game. This simple strategy involves playing never to bust if the dealer’s up card is between 2 and 6, and mimicking the dealer if it is 7 to ace. Other simple strategies include splitting pairs of 8’s and always splitting against an up card of 2.