# The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is a card game in which the object is to get a higher hand value than the dealer without going over 21. Players are dealt two cards each and can choose to “hit” (request more cards) or “stand” (stop drawing cards). The dealer also receives two cards. The cards are valued at their face value, with aces counting as either one or 11 and picture cards counting as 10. Suits are irrelevant. A player’s first two cards forming a count of 21 (an ace and a 10 or a picture card) are known as a natural or blackjack and win the player immediately, unless the dealer has a blackjack as well. If the dealer has a blackjack, the player’s bet is paid out at a rate of one and a half to one.

Aside from the standard rules of blackjack, many casinos offer variations on the game. These include side bets such as insurance, which pays out if the dealer has a blackjack; and player-versus-dealer games where the player can choose whether to split, double or stand. These variations can make the game more interesting and challenging, but they also affect the player’s chances of winning.

In most card games, the player’s goal is to beat the dealer. This can be accomplished by getting a higher hand value than the dealer’s or, more commonly, by beating the dealer’s hand value when the dealer does not have a high hand. In blackjack, the highest hand is called a blackjack, and it is generally paid out at a rate of one and one-half to one.

Some players believe that the dealers always win in blackjack, but this is a myth. While it is true that the odds of a dealer having blackjack are very low, a player can overcome this by using a strategy which reduces the house edge to zero. This method of playing is known as card-counting, and it requires a good memory and knowledge of probability theory.

After the players have placed their bets, the dealer will deal each of them two cards face up. The players then decide to hit or stand according to predetermined rules. Once all the players have decided, the dealer will reveal her own card. If she has a ten underneath, the players can take insurance bets which pay out at a ratio of 2 to 1 if the dealer has a blackjack.

There are a variety of blackjack betting strategies which are based on card-counting. Some of these are more complex than others, but all involve keeping track of the concentration of aces and tens in the deck. The more accurate a card-counting system is, the greater its advantage over the dealer will be. One popular technique is the plus-and-minus system, which tracks aces and tens and allows players to increase their bets when the deck is favorable to them and decrease them when the deck is unfavorable for them. A more advanced method is the Thorp strategy, which was developed by Edward O. Thorp, an American mathematician who wrote the book Beat the Dealer.