How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is a game of cards where players act against a dealer. The goal is to beat the dealer by making a hand with a value higher than 21. The player can make a hand by hitting, standing, splitting, or surrendering. The game is played on a semicircular table that can seat a variety of numbers of players (or “spots”). Cash is not used to make bets; instead, casino chips are used. The dealer will convert your cash into chips for you, or you can ask for them yourself. Once you have your chips, place them in the betting areas of the table.

The dealer then deals two cards to the players and two to himself, one face up and the other face down. The player must then decide whether to hit, stand, split, or double down. The dealer must hit on 16 or less and stand on 17 or more. If the player’s unbusted hand is higher than the dealer’s, the player wins and is paid 1 to 1. If the dealer has a Blackjack, all players automatically lose their bets.

During the course of play, the dealer will ask players if they want to buy insurance. This is a side bet that the dealer has a blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, the player’s insurance bet pays 2 to 1. If not, the player loses his or her original bet and the insurance bet is lost.

The game can be played with as few as two decks, but most casinos use 6 or 8 decks of cards. The cards are shuffled and dealt by the dealer from a shoe, a boxlike device that houses the cards. Each player places a bet in the betting area of the table.

If the dealer has an ace showing, she will usually offer players “even money.” This is a side bet that says the dealer has a blackjack and will pay out 1 to 1 on your original bet. If the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you lose your initial bet but win your insurance bet.

When you have made your decision, the dealer will check her hole card with a special viewing window on the table. If she has a ten underneath, she has a blackjack and all players lose their bets. If she doesn’t, she will pay off any insurance bets and continue playing the game as usual.

Perfect blackjack strategy will give you an edge over the dealer and help you win more often. It’s not always possible to follow perfect strategy, but you can minimize the casino’s advantage by following it as closely as possible. The charts below outline the basic strategy for various situations, with the columns in the left and right column indicating what you should do depending on the value of your hand and the dealer’s up card. The charts are easy to memorize and can help you reduce the house’s edge to less than 1%.