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The Basics of Blackjack

Black Jack

Blackjack, the classic casino game, has a long history of popularity that dates back to the time when gambling parlors were a rarity. The game was introduced in 1854 and quickly became a popular pastime, especially in Nevada City, where it was referred to as “the woman dealer”.

Blackjack is played with a deck of 52 cards. The cards are ranked from Ace to King and each card is worth its index value, except for the ten-value card. The goal is to get a total card value that is closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. The player may hit (take more cards) or stand (not take any more cards).

Before the dealer starts dealing, the players make bets on what they believe their hands will be. The dealer will then place a second card face up on the table. If the dealer’s face up card is an ace, this is called a Blackjack. This hand beats all other hands unless the dealer also has a Blackjack, in which case it is a push and no exchange of bets occurs.

When a player has a Blackjack, they win 3:2 on their original bet. If the dealer has a Blackjack, they win 1:3 on their bet. In 2003 some casinos reduced the payout on a Blackjack to 6:5; this change was widely decried by longtime blackjack players.

Basic Strategy

Those who practice the rules of basic strategy, a set of mathematical rules for hitting and standing based on the dealer’s up-card versus the player’s hand, can greatly reduce the house edge in blackjack. These strategies require a large degree of patience and mathematical precision, but it is a rewarding and exciting experience for players who have the time and desire to learn them.

Early Surrender

In some variations of the game, a player may forfeit half their wager before the dealer checks for Blackjack. This is a useful feature for players with weak or unlikely hands, and it can be particularly helpful in games where the dealer shows an ace as the lowest card possible.

Resplitting Cards

In many variations of the game, a player who has a pair of identical cards can split them, receive a second card for each, and play each of the pairs independently. This allows them to avoid getting a terrible total if the dealer has a high card.


In most variations of the game, a player who is dealt an Ace or a 10 can choose to place an Insurance bet. This is a side bet which wins if the dealer has a Blackjack.

The Insurance bet is not tied to the final outcome of the round and it is not subject to the same betting limits as the main blackjack bet. It is an optional bet that can be placed in the Blackjack area next to the main wager.

Blackjack has a relatively low house edge in most casino settings, due to the fact that the dealer does not have a lot of information about the player’s hand. However, some strategies, such as counting cards and doubling down when a player has a natural, can reduce the house edge to lower than one percent.