Blackjack is a casino card game in which players compete against the dealer to have a higher total value hand than the dealer without going bust. The rules of the game vary from place to place but most games use one or more 52-card decks and are played in a table with a dealer and one or more other players. Players are dealt two cards each and must decide whether to stand (stop taking more cards) or hit (request more cards) based on the value of their hand and the dealer’s up-card. The game was invented in the United States in the early 20th century and it soon became a popular pastime in casinos, hotels, and restaurants.
Blackjack has become extremely popular and there are now many different varieties of the game, some more complicated than others. A game of blackjack can be very intense and exciting especially when a player has the opportunity to beat the dealer by getting a blackjack or a natural. During the last 2 decades or so, Blackjack side bets have also become very popular. These are bets that are placed at the same time as your main wager on your hand and they can range from betting on a pair as your initial two cards to betting on your hand making a poker hand with the dealer’s up-card, etc. Side bets can add a lot of excitement to the game but in most cases they will not improve your chances of beating the dealer’s hand.
If you have an initial two-card total of 21 (Ace with a 10, Jack, or King) you will have a Blackjack or a “natural”. This is a very good hand and it will usually pay 3 to 2. It is important not to confuse a Blackjack with a Straight, which is a five-card hand that includes a pair of 5’s. Straights will always lose to a Blackjack.
The rules of blackjack can differ from place to place and the minimum bet per hand is shown on a placard or digital sign on the Blackjack table. Generally, the minimum bet is $5 and the maximum bet is $500.
Some blackjack tables offer insurance bets which are a side bet against the dealer that pays out if the dealer has a blackjack. These bets are not worth placing and they cost the player money in the long run.
Some players count the cards as they are dealt and only play when the count is in their favor. This is called “counting” and it reduces the player’s bet spread as they only play in favourable situations but it is a difficult technique to master and casinos are now aware of it and watch for players who “hang around”. Colin is the founder of Blackjack Apprenticeship and has been counting cards since he was 15. He has appeared in Holy Rollers, CNN, and The Colbert Report and is the author of The Black Belt Approach to Blackjack.