Blackjack is a card game that pits the player against the dealer. The goal is to get a hand that totals as close to 21 as possible without going over. The game is played with one or more 52-card decks. Each player is dealt two cards face down and can choose to “hit” (request more cards) or “stand” based on a set of rules. The dealer is also dealt two cards but they are hidden from the players. The dealer’s choice of hitting, standing and splitting is determined by a combination of the rules and their knowledge or estimation of the other cards in the hand (known as card counting).
There are many different blackjack games including Spanish 21, which has much better rules for players than traditional blackjack (including allowing doubling after splitting aces and letting aces count as 1 or 11). But most blackjack games on the felt these days have hundreds of side bets. Typically you place these bets at the same time you place your main wager and they are designed to make money from a player’s inexperience or lack of discipline.
As with all casino games, the house has a statistical advantage in blackjack that will play itself out over time. But if the players use math and strategy, they can reduce this edge to almost nothing. A team of U.S. Army mathematicians published a paper in 1956 that described for the first time a mathematically correct set of rules for blackjack. This approach, known as basic strategy, determines when a player should hit or stand and when it is appropriate to split or double down.
A good blackjack player knows the differences between a’soft’ and a ‘hard’ hand. A soft hand includes an ace, while a hard hand does not. The difference is important because some hands are so weak that the dealer can easily beat them, but if you draw an ace against a dealer’s 6 then you have a strong chance of winning.
Another aspect of the game that can be confusing for a newcomer is the variety of ways to play the hand. There are different strategies that players use, some of which are more aggressive than others. Some players choose to always take insurance even though it is a very bad bet for them (unless they can count the dealer’s hole card). Other players like to re-double their aces after splitting, which increases the likelihood that they will win against a hard hand. This can be risky, but it can also be very profitable. Other variations on the game include removing the tens from the deck, which can change the probability of a dealer having a blackjack. But most of these different variations are not played in the casinos. They are mostly found in private circles and barracks.