# Understanding the Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games. It’s more engaging than a slot machine and less complex than poker. But, like many casino games, there are some misconceptions about the game that could cost you money.

Blackjack’s objective is simple: to beat the dealer by drawing a hand value that goes over 21. However, the game can be complicated by rules that alter how you play your cards and when. In addition, the varying rules in different casinos add to the confusion.

For instance, some casinos allow players to split any two cards of the same suit or count an ace as either a 1 or a 11, depending on which value helps your hand the most. This changes the basic strategy and increases your winning chances. Other casinos allow you to take a ‘insurance’ bet, which is half your original bet and pays 2-1 if the dealer has a blackjack. This decreases the house edge by 0.624 percent.

In the past, smart, disciplined players were able to beat blackjack with an understanding of basic strategy. This shook the casino industry, but the initial panic mellowed as casino managers realized that not all players are as smart and disciplined as they’d like to believe.

A mathematically correct strategy can make your blackjack experience much more profitable, but it takes some practice. Fortunately, there are a number of great online blackjack sites that offer free practice tables and software to help you develop your skills. You can also visit the MIT Blackjack Lab for more information about the game and strategies.

Blackjack is played on a semicircular table that can accommodate varying numbers of players (or ’spots’). After the player and dealer have placed their bets, they are each dealt two cards. The player can then choose to hit (ask for another card), stand, or double his or her bet.

The goal of the dealer is to draw more cards to a total of 17 or greater than the player. A player can win by beating the dealer in this way, or by obtaining a hand value of 21 on his or her first two cards.

The dealer has to have a face-up card of at least 10 in order to qualify as a blackjack. A player should always double down when he or she has a hand value of 11 or more and the dealer’s up-card is a 10. It is best to never split aces, but do not hesitate to double against any other card other than a 10. Remember that doubling is only possible after the dealer has checked for blackjack. A player can take a surrender when his or her hand is 16 or more against the dealer’s up-card. The house will lose more hands than it wins if you stand against a dealer showing a 10, so don’t be afraid to surrender.