Blackjack is a casino card game in which players compete against the dealer. The objective is to have a hand total that is higher than the dealer’s without going over 21. Players have several playing options including splitting, doubling down, and hitting. Each action has a different effect on the outcome of the hand. In addition to basic strategy, a player can also make side bets such as insurance and the Lucky Ladies bonus bet.
Blackjack rules vary from casino to casino. In general, a dealer deals two cards to each player and himself. The player’s hands are dealt face up and the dealer’s face down. Some casinos allow players to look at both their own and the dealer’s hand before making a decision. Others only let players look at their own hand. The dealer then flips over his or her card and completes the hand.
A blackjack, or natural, is a hand consisting of an Ace and any ten-valued card in the first two cards. It is common to split a pair of Aces, for example, if the player receives a 10 as the second card. However, splitting a pair of Aces and drawing a ten-valued card on one of them will not result in a blackjack; it only results in a hand of 21, which is still very strong but does not give the player any additional benefits.
The dealer may offer the option of insurance, which is a side bet that pays 2 to 1 if the dealer has a blackjack. Whether the dealer has a blackjack or not is determined by checking under his or her ace using a special viewing window in the table. Some players, especially new ones to the game, make this bet even though it is mathematically a losing bet in the long run.
Doubling down is an optional move that allows a player to double their initial bet size and only receive one additional card. This is a good strategy when you are confident that an additional card will help you beat the dealer’s hand. In most cases, doubling down is done with hands of 11 or more against the dealer’s upcard of 5 or less.
Some casinos have a rule that reduces the standard 3 to 2 payout on blackjacks to 6 to 5. This greatly increases the house edge and makes counting cards an almost impossible task. This variation is not available at all casinos and should be avoided when possible.
The game of blackjack has changed a lot since Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and James McDermott (sometimes known as the Four Horsemen of Aberdeen) developed a reasonably accurate basic playing strategy for the game in 1956. They were the first to prove that blackjack offered the best odds for a player with a specific set of playing rules. Their work was published in the Journal of the American Statistical Society and later became a classic book, Playing Blackjack to Win.