Blackjack is a card game where players try to get a total of 21 or close to it without going over, and to do better than the dealer. The game is played with one or more standard 52-card decks, and suits do not matter. Cards 2 through 10 count at their face value, and Aces can be counted as either 1 or 11 unless that would produce a point total in excess of 21, in which case they are counted as 1. A player’s hand is completed by adding up the values of the cards. If the player’s first two cards are an Ace and a ten-valued card, the player has a Blackjack (also called a Natural) and wins immediately; the dealer pays the player based on posted table limits and removes his or her cards from play.
After each player has received their two cards, they may decide whether to stand (stop drawing cards) or to hit (request more cards). The dealer then deals himself a card face up. The dealer will then compare his or her final total to the player’s. If the dealer busts, all of the remaining players win their bets. If the dealer does not bust, he or she will pay all winning bets and collect losing bets.
Side bets in Blackjack are a popular way to add additional excitement to the game. These bets are placed at the same time as a player’s initial wager and can include betting on a pair of matching cards, whether or not the dealer has a blackjack, whether or not the dealer will hit a specific number, etc. While these bets can add some variety to a blackjack session, they are not necessary to enjoy the game, and in fact are detrimental to your bankroll if you make them a regular part of your strategy.
Novice players often lose money in Blackjack because they don’t put the time and effort into understanding the game. Expert players understand the game inside and out, and know how to handle situations that rarely occur, but are still able to beat the dealer when they do come up.
A good place to start is by studying basic strategy, which has been proven by computer analysis to be the best way for a player to play a given hand against a particular dealer’s up-card. Basic strategy is the result of millions of blackjack hands being analyzed by computer, and it identifies the one play that will lead to the highest probability of winning for every situation. It makes the decision of whether to hit or stand much simpler!