How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is a game of chance, but it also requires analytical thinking, composure and tenacity. A player’s goal is to get a hand that totals as close to 21 as possible without going over. If the player’s hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s, they win a sum equal to their bet.

If the player’s hand is a natural (two cards of the same value), they win 3:2 as long as the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack too. A dealer’s blackjack is a one-card hand that totals either an ace or a ten. The dealer’s blackjack beats all other hands in the game and is therefore referred to as “the house edge”.

In the United States, casino players must place their bets on a semicircular table that can accommodate varying numbers of players. A dealer is assigned to each table and stands behind a chip rack. Players sit on the opposite side of the table.

Before dealing the first card to the player, the dealer will ask for insurance bets. An insurance bet is equal to half the player’s original wager. If the dealer has an ace showing, the dealer will then check their hole card using a special viewing window in the table. If the ace has a value of 10, then the dealer has a blackjack and all insurance bets will pay 2 to 1. If not, the player’s original wager remains in play as normal.

Once the player receives their two cards, they may choose to “split” them into separate hands. Each of the two new hands will then receive an additional card and be played out independently of each other. However, you can only split if your initial two cards are of the same value. If you split two ten-value cards, the combined hand is not considered a blackjack (although it is a strong soft total).

If a player has a pair of aces, they can choose to “split” them up to three times. Each split will create two new hands, with each hand having its own independent bet. You can then hit each of your two new hands as you wish, but you cannot double after splitting a pair. A pair of aces that are split can be re-split up to three times, but you should not hit them more than once.

Some players use a strategy known as card counting to improve their odds of winning. This involves keeping track of the cards that have been played since the shuffle. This can be done by hand or with specialized software programs. There are also several methods of card counting, including point count systems that do not require the player to remember all the cards that have been played. The most popular card counting system is the Hi-Lo, which is a simple, easy to learn method that can significantly reduce a player’s house edge.