# The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is a game played with one or more 52-card decks. The goal is to get a total card value of 21 or close to it without going over, by comparing your hand against the dealer’s. All betting is done against the dealer, not other players at the table. Cards count at their face value, aces at either 1 or 11, and 10s are counted as 10. Suits do not matter.

To begin the game, you and the dealer place bets in the betting circle. You each then receive two cards. If the first two cards in your hand are an ace and a ten-card (face or picture), this is called a “Blackjack” or a “natural”. The dealer pays you your bet based on posted limits and then removes your cards.

You can then decide whether to’stand’ or ‘hit’. In a hit, you ask for another card; in a stand, you do not. You can also split pairs, receiving one additional card for each of the original two cards. A pair of aces may only be split once, and you cannot hit each hand more than once. You must always double down if your first two cards add up to 11 or more, and you should never split 5’s or 10’s.

If you choose to stand, the dealer then checks his or her card for a Blackjack. If the dealer has a Blackjack, you lose your first bet but win your side bet of up to half your original bet amount. If the dealer does not have a Blackjack, you push and your original bet is returned to you.

Then, the dealer deals himself or herself a card face up. If the dealer has a Blackjack, all of the players who have not busted lose their bets. If the dealer has any other hand that is less than 21 or higher than 21, the players who have not busted win. If the dealer has a hand equal to a player’s, they tie and their original bet is returned to them.

Blackjack is a game that relies heavily on mathematics, so it is important to know the correct strategy for each situation. Computer analysis of dealer and player hands shows that for each possible combination of cards, there is a precise play (hit or stand, double down or split) that will give the best result. Use the Blackjack Basic Strategy Engine to learn what these plays are. Then, practice them at a casino or on your own to master the game. With the right strategy, you can decrease the house edge to a very low level. But beware, if you are not careful, you can also increase the house edge dramatically by making unwise decisions. Even a little bit of knowledge can make a huge difference.