Blackjack is a card game where the objective is to beat the dealer. In the simplest form, players win their bets by beating the dealer’s hand value, or getting closer to 21 on their first two cards than the dealer, without going over. The dealer’s hand is a pair of cards and is a bit more complicated than the player’s, as it includes one face up card and one hole card. Typically, a dealer will only check for blackjack when the face up card is an ace. In the event that the dealer has a blackjack, all player hands lose except for another blackjack (also known as a “natural”).
Players place their bets in a circle or designated betting area in front of them, known as the pit. The pit is usually overseen by a stern-looking casino employee called the pit boss.
After placing a bet, the dealer will deal each player two cards. If the cards are of different values, the player may choose to split them, matching their initial wager and playing two separate hands. Alternatively, the player may decide to keep both cards and continue with their original wager.
Once the dealer has revealed their face down card, the players may choose to buy insurance or surrender. Insurance is a side bet that pays out 2-1 in the event that the dealer has a blackjack. This bet is generally less than half the player’s initial bet, so it should only be taken in cases where the player is certain that the dealer has a blackjack.
Novice blackjack players will often play their hands too conservatively, missing opportunities to maximize their wins. For example, they might hesitate to hit a 16 against the dealer’s 7, or fail to double down on pairs of 2s against a dealer’s 4. This results in giving up too much money to the house, while expert blackjack players exploit every opportunity to increase their winnings.
Side bets are also common in blackjack and can be quite lucrative. These bets include the insurance bet mentioned above, as well as bets on whether the dealer will bust, on the dealer’s first card being a ten or an ace, and more. Most of these bets are placed at the same time as the player’s main wager.
A blackjack player must know when to walk away. A table is likely to go cold if there are too many losing bets, or if the shoe, which contains all of the dealer’s cards, is spewing out poor ones. Knowing when to abandon a table is vital, and separating your gaming funds from your day-to-day living expenses can help you avoid this pitfall.