Blackjack is a casino game played with one or more decks of cards. The objective is to get a hand that totals closer to 21 than the dealer’s without going over. Players receive two cards and may choose to stand (stay with the current hand), hit (request more cards), or split (two hands). The dealer also gets two cards and must take action based on a set of rules.
A player’s hand is considered to be a “blackjack” if it consists of an ace and any face card or number 10 card. A player who has a blackjack automatically wins against the dealer’s hand, except in cases where the dealer also has a blackjack. In those cases, the dealer’s blackjack beats the player’s hand and the bet is a push.
In some casinos, a player can buy insurance against the dealer’s potential blackjack, which pays out 3:2 on the original bet amount. However, the house edge of this bet is quite high and it’s generally a bad idea to buy insurance. In fact, it’s usually recommended to surrender if the player knows they are likely to lose and is not able to estimate the dealer’s hole card through card counting.
Most casinos offer a variety of side bets that can be placed in addition to the main wager. These include insurance, which is available on all blackjack games, and a variety of other bets including betting on whether or not the dealer will bust or match the player’s cards in a poker hand. Some of these side bets are even offered at the same time as the main wager.
Many blackjack players try to minimize the house advantage by using a technique called card counting. This requires good memory and a deep understanding of probability theory. Practicing card counting is not illegal in most casinos and it can give the player a slight edge over the house. However, it is very difficult to master and it’s not a good idea for novice players.
A player can reduce the house’s edge to a small percentage by learning basic strategy and following it consistently. This involves memorizing a chart that tells you what action to take given the value of your hand and the dealer’s visible card. There are a few different charts for hard, soft, and split hands. These charts will help you make the right play most of the time, and they will cost you only a few hands in a long session of play. This is far better than the house edge that would result from simply guessing what to do. You can find a chart for basic strategy online or in books that explain the game. There are a few variations in the rules of basic strategy depending on the type of blackjack being played and the number of decks being used. This makes it important to know the rules of a specific table before you sit down to play.