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The Basics of Blackjack

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Blackjack is a gambling card game played between the dealer and the player. The goal is to get a hand total of 21 or closer, without going over, than the dealer. Players may also place side bets, such as the insurance bet that pays out if the dealer has an ace up. The rules of blackjack vary by casino, but most games use a single deck. The cards are dealt face up, and the dealer has one card up and one down, so the player can see the value of his or her hand. Suits are irrelevant.

A hand of 21 on the first two cards is called a “blackjack” or a “natural,” and automatically wins the bet unless the dealer has a blackjack as well. The player is then paid out 3:2 on his or her bet. This payout was reduced in 2003 to 6:5 for some casinos, a move decried by longtime blackjack players as unfair.

The game can be won by playing with good basic strategy, which determines when the player should hit or stand. This strategy is based on the dealer’s visible card, as well as the player’s point total and the number of cards in his or her hand. A good basic strategy will reduce the house’s advantage to less than 1%.

In most casino blackjack games, the player must act before the dealer shows his or her second card. The most common action is to “split” the two cards, which divides the initial bet into two separate hands. The player will then receive a second card for each of the split hands, which are played independently. Splitting is allowed only when the two original cards are of the same rank, such as two aces or two tens.

Other popular actions are to double down, which increases the initial bet by one, and to take insurance, which is a side bet that pays out if the dealer’s up card is an ace. Insurance bets can cost as much as half the player’s initial bet, and they usually lose money over time. The dealer has a blackjack less than one-third of the time, so taking insurance is rarely a profitable option.

In tournament blackjack, players start with equal amounts of chips and aim to finish among the top chip holders at the end of a round of play. Some tournaments use an elimination format, in which the lowest-ranked player is dropped from the table after a set number of deals. Other tournament formats include a progression format in which a player advances through a series of rounds until one final winner is declared. A blackjack tournament can be a fun and rewarding way to test your skills against other players. Just be sure to follow the rules and have fun!