The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is a casino card game that requires two players and a dealer to make decisions. The goal of the game is to accumulate cards that total as close to 21 without going over. The game can be played with cash or casino chips, known as checks, and is available in most casinos.

The basic rules of blackjack are fairly simple. Players receive two cards and must decide whether to hit (receive more cards), stand (stop drawing), or double down (increase the original bet). The dealer also gets two cards and must decide based on the rules of the game which action to take.

In most games, the dealer’s card is face up and the player’s is face down; the dealer’s hand must be closer to 21 than the player’s to win. The player’s hand can be a natural (a two-card 21) or a blackjack; a blackjack beats any other hand and wins the game if it has a value of 21.

Some games allow players to place a side bet called insurance, which pays when the dealer’s face up card is an ace. The bet is paid at a rate of 2 to 1 and has a negative expected value for the player. However, this bet can be profitable if the dealer’s card is an ace and you have a high count of 13 or lower.


In tournaments, players begin with an equal number of chips; the goal is to finish among the top chip-holders. One tournament format, Elimination Blackjack, drops the lowest-stacked player from the table at pre-determined points in the tournament.

Depending on the number of players, tournaments may be held over several rounds. The player’s goal is to beat the dealer’s hand by obtaining a higher count of 17 or less than the dealer’s hand.

There are several variations of blackjack, including French and German variants which do not include splitting aces. Other variants, such as Chinese and Spanish versions, have different rules.

Most American and European games of blackjack are dealt from one or more decks. The values of the cards are usually determined by their faces, with a value of 10 for face cards and one or 11 for aces.

The house advantage in blackjack is generally greater than 1%, but can be reduced to a small percentage by playing what is known as basic strategy. This strategy is based on the player’s point total and the dealer’s visible card, and can reduce the house advantage to as little as 0.13%.

Another popular strategy is card counting, which uses an ace-counting system to predict when the deck will be complete. It reduces the house edge by about 0.5 percent, but it also involves considerable memory work.

In addition to card counting, some casinos allow players to use a “point” system which tracks the points on the dealer’s card. This is used to predict when the deck will be complete, and the player can make larger bets during those times.