Blackjack is a card game where players compete against the dealer. The goal is to get a hand that is as close to 21 as possible without going over. Players may ask for another card (hit) or stick with their current hand and not request more cards (stand). The dealer must hit until her cards total 17 or higher. The house has a slight advantage in the game, but it is possible to minimize this advantage by playing smartly.
Before you begin playing, learn some basic blackjack terms. These will help you understand the game and determine the right play in each situation. The following list is in alphabetical order:
Blackjack is played with one or more standard 52-card decks. Each card has a value – the number for cards 2 through 9; 10 for face cards; and 1 or 11 for an ace. Players and dealers each receive two cards. Players can choose to stand (stick with their current hand and not ask for more cards) or hit (request another card). The dealer must draw until she has a total of 17 or higher.
A blackjack dealer must have strong math skills to calculate the point values of her cards. She also needs to be able to read and interpret game rules quickly. In addition, the dealer must be able to assess situations and decide on an appropriate response. A high school diploma or GED is usually required for this career.
Most casinos use multiple decks of cards, which are shuffled frequently. This process makes it very difficult to count cards. Many casinos also limit the maximum bet per hand, which can make it difficult for players to win.
Expert blackjack players will exploit every opportunity to maximize their wins. They will double and split far more often than novices, and they will hit when it is most advantageous to do so. In contrast, novices will tend to play their hands too conservatively and will not be as aggressive as they should be.
Some casinos offer a side bet known as insurance, which pays 2-to-1 if the dealer has a blackjack. This bet is placed in a special area of the table that is marked “Insurance Pays 2 to 1.” If the dealer has a blackjack, she will immediately pay all players their original wagers and collect the insurance wagers.
Some players will attempt to skew the odds of the game by paying for insurance when they think that the dealer has a blackjack. This practice is known as counting cards, and it can give the player an edge over the dealer. However, it is illegal in most jurisdictions and is generally frowned upon by casino management. Some casinos will ban players who try to count cards. The casino will also take steps to prevent players from using computers or other devices to count cards. This is an important part of maintaining the integrity of the game.