Blackjack is a card game that pits a player against the dealer. The object of the game is to build a hand with a value of 21 or as close as possible without going bust. The game is played with one or more standard 52-card decks in which the suits are irrelevant and the ace can count as either 1 or 11. The dealer also has two cards and must stand if they have a total of 17 through 21 or if they are showing an ace (which would indicate they have a blackjack). If a player has a higher hand total than the dealer’s, they win. If both the player and dealer have the same total, it is a push and neither wins or loses.
Before the dealing begins, the dealer will burn a card to the side. This makes it impossible for the players to see the card and thus affect how they bet on their hands. When the deal starts, each player is dealt two cards face up and the dealer receives a single card face down. If the first two cards are of equal value, a player may choose to split them by placing an additional bet equal to their original bet on each hand. If they do so, each hand is then played independently of the other. The resulting hands are paid out at 1:1 odds.
A player can also ask for another card from the dealer if they think that their current hand will not go bust or if they wish to increase their odds of hitting a 21. This is called doubling down. Players should only do this when they are sure that the next card will not cause them to bust, or if they are willing to risk losing their entire wager.
If a player has a pair of aces or tens and the dealer shows an ace, the player can also take Insurance. This bet pays 2:1, but it should only be made if the player has direct knowledge or an estimation (through card counting) that the dealer has a blackjack. Otherwise, it is a bad bet that will lose money over the long run.
Once all the players have placed their bets, the dealer will check her hole card to see if she has a blackjack. If she does, everyone who bought insurance will get paid their original bets back. The game then continues normally.
There are many different side bets available at Blackjack tables, including insurance, which is a popular option for players who wish to decrease the house edge. These side bets include betting on a player’s or dealer’s blackjack, making a poker hand with the dealer’s up-card and the player’s two cards, and predicting whether the dealer will bust. In the last 2 decades or so, Blackjack side bets have become very popular and are a major part of beating the game for proficient card counters.