The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is a card game in which players try to accumulate cards that total closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. The game is played using one or more 52-card decks. The values of the cards are as follows: face cards worth 10, numbered cards worth their printed value, and aces counting as either 1 or 11. The game is played on a semicircular table that can accommodate different numbers of players (or “spots”). Players sit at one end of the table facing the dealer who stands behind a chip rack and a box of cards.

A player may draw additional cards to his or her hand until the card total reaches the desired amount, or the player busts (goes over 21). When the player wants to draw another card, he or she signals this by extending the palm near the cards and “scratching” the table as though scratching an itchy arm. This indicates to the dealer that the player wants another card, and the dealer deals a single card from the shoe and places it next to the original two cards in the player’s hand. The player then has the option to “stand” or “hit” again.

Many blackjack players use a strategy to increase their chances of winning. For example, many people play 16 and stand no matter what the dealer’s up card is because a 17 or higher will beat the dealer nearly 80 percent of the time. However, playing a 16 can still result in a loss if the dealer has a 10-value card showing. This is why it’s important to practice mental math and develop the ability to follow a sequence of steps.

When a player has a blackjack, the dealer will often offer “even money.” This is a payout of the player’s original bet (minus any insurance wagers) if the dealer has a ten-value card up. However, it is unwise for a player to take this bet because the dealer’s hole card is usually an ace, which makes even money less likely to win than a blackjack.

Occasionally, dealers give away tells that can help players make more informed decisions about their hands. These tells are not as valuable as knowing the dealer’s hole card, but they can provide a significant advantage for a player who is skilled at reading them. Two key factors to look for in a dealer’s tells are how long the dealer takes to look at his or her face-down card and how much the dealer bends the card when looking at it.

If you want to be a blackjack dealer, you can find a school that offers training in the field. A high school diploma is typically enough to gain entrance into these programs, which can last anywhere from eight to 12 weeks. During this time, you will learn the basics of dealing and develop your ability to follow a sequence of steps. After finishing the course, you can apply your skills at a casino.