Blackjack is a game of skill and strategy that requires analytical thinking, composure, and tenacity. Some people mistakenly believe that it’s a pure game of chance, but the truth is that you can learn to play and beat the house. If you’re interested in pursuing this rewarding career, consider enrolling in a blackjack dealer school. This type of training usually takes between eight and 12 weeks to complete and can give you the hands-on experience and skills necessary for a successful blackjack career.
Before the game begins, players select their seats at the blackjack table. Seats are generally numbered and can accommodate anywhere from five to seven players. If you see an open seat, feel free to take it (unless chips or a coat are holding the spot for someone who hasn’t yet arrived). Some casinos have “No-Midshoe Entry” policies, which may be marked by signs at the table and indicate that you need to wait until the shuffle is completed before joining the game.
Once everyone has placed their bets, the dealer shuffles the cards and then cuts them. If you’re playing a single- or two-deck game, the dealer will deal your hand. In most blackjack games today, however, the cards are dealt from a shoe, which is a boxlike device that holds the cards and allows the dealers to keep track of them. The dealer then deals each player two cards face up from the shoe.
If a player’s first two cards are an ace and a ten-value card, they have a natural (or blackjack) and are automatically paid one and a half times their bet. This is different from the way that other casino games pay blackjacks; for example, in some games, a dealer’s blackjack pays 3:2 rather than the standard 1:1.
The game of blackjack features several side bets, including insurance, a specialized form of double down and the ability to split aces. These side bets can make the game more exciting, but they also can increase the house’s edge over the player.
A good blackjack player can reduce the casino’s advantage to less than one percent by practicing basic strategy, which determines when to hit, stand, double down, or split based on the dealer’s visible card and the player’s point total. Basic strategy also provides specific instructions on when to double down and split aces.
Unlike other casino games, blackjack has an element of player choice that can significantly improve the odds of winning. In addition to basic strategy, some players use card counting, a method of keeping track of the number of cards that have been played to improve the chances of winning by anticipating the next move of the dealer. While card counting is difficult for beginners, it can be mastered with practice and can result in an advantage of up to 1.5% over the house.