# The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is a game of card counting, strategy and skill. The aim is to beat the dealer by drawing a hand total higher than his or hers without going over 21. It is played on a semicircular table that can accommodate varying numbers of players. The most common tables accommodate seven players (or 7 “spots”) but we have seen some that only seat five or even 12. The dealer stands behind the table and chip rack and the players sit on the other side of the table.

Before the cards are dealt, each player places their bets. Minimum and maximum bets are usually posted on the table. Once all bets are placed, the dealer will deal two cards to each player, face up. The player must then decide to hit and receive additional cards or stand and keep his or her current hand.

The player may also choose to double down, which increases the player’s original bet by up to 2 times. If the player is confident that he or she has a good hand, doubling down can be one of the most profitable decisions at the table. However, the player must remember that a 10-6 is a hard hand and should be played differently than a 10-A (which is a soft hand).

Once all players have decided whether to hit or stand, the dealer will reveal his or her face-down card. The dealer will then hit or stand according to predetermined rules and determine the winner. If the dealer busts, all players win. If neither the player nor the dealer busts, the person with the highest hand value wins.

Many people have misconceptions about the game of blackjack. For example, some players think that any two-card combination can be called a blackjack. In actuality, a blackjack only occurs when the player’s first two cards consist of an ace and a 10-value card such as a queen, king or jack.

If the dealer has a blackjack, all players lose their bets except for those who have a blackjack as well. If the dealer and a player both have blackjack, the hand is a push and each player gets their original bet back.

While some players will make mistakes, experienced players know the best strategy for every situation. In fact, mathematical analysis of a hand shows that for every possible decision the player can make in blackjack, there is always a best play that will maximize the chance of winning. Unfortunately, novice players often miss golden opportunities to increase their odds of winning. They will often hesitate to hit when they should, or will fail to double or split pairs as frequently as they should. This gives the house a substantial edge over the player. In contrast, expert players will exploit every opportunity to maximize their wins and will often hit and double far more often than novices. They will not only win more often, but they will also lose less money to the house than novices.