The Basics of Blackjack


Blackjack is a casino card game in which players attempt to form a hand of cards that totals closer to 21 than the dealer’s. The game is played with one or more standard 52-card decks. Each card has a value of either its number (number cards) or face (aces, royals, and tens). The objective is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. A player who makes a blackjack is paid 3:2 on their bet. However, in 2003 some casinos started paying only 6:5 on blackjacks, reducing the advantage of a skilled player.

Players sit around a blackjack table and place their bets using chips, which can be exchanged for cash at the casino cashier. Players may choose to buy insurance or surrender their hand before the dealer reveals his or her face up card. Insurance is a side bet that pays 2 to 1 if the dealer has a blackjack.

The blackjack table is semicircular and can accommodate a number of players, usually five to seven. Players are seated on the left of the dealer. Guests are welcome to join games in progress, unless the seat is held by an existing player, or a chip or coat marks it as a No-Midshoe Entry spot.

After the shuffle, each player is dealt two cards. The dealer also gets two cards, but they are hidden from the players. The game is then played out as described in the rules of each particular game.

In most cases, the game is played with six or eight decks of cards. In some games, the shuffle is not mandatory and the dealer holds the cards in his or her hands, while in others, the cards are dealt from a shoe—a boxlike device that houses the cards.

Once the players have their two cards, they decide whether to stand or hit (request more cards). Depending on their hand and the dealer’s visible card, the player can also double down or split. A double down means the player’s current bet is increased by one, and a split involves splitting one of the original cards into two identical hands.

As with all casino games, the house has an advantage in blackjack, but a knowledgeable and skilled player can reduce that edge to a small percentage by following basic strategy, which determines when it is best to hit, stand, double down, or surrender.

A professional blackjack dealer must understand all of the rules of the game, be able to count cards, and know how to handle mistakes that may occur at the table. In addition, a good dealer is also on the lookout for cheaters and other suspicious players.

For those interested in becoming a blackjack dealer, many community colleges offer courses that teach the basics of the game, as well as how to count cards and deal efficiently. Students often learn through on-the-job training at a local casino. Some schools even offer an internship program, where students work with experienced dealers.