Blackjack is a casino game that involves two or more decks of cards. Each card has a value (either one or nine for face cards, or 10 for an ace). The object of the game is to get your hand as close to 21 as possible without going over. Unlike most casino games, blackjack allows players to make side bets in addition to their primary wagers. These side bets can include a bet on the dealer having a blackjack, doubling down after splitting, or insurance. These side bets can be very profitable if you know what you’re doing.
While all casino games have a house advantage that will play itself out in the long run, blackjack is unique amongst these games because it allows players to reduce the house edge to almost nothing by following a set of rules known as basic strategy. These rules determine when a player should hit or stand, as well as whether to double down or split. These rules are based on the player’s point total and the dealer’s visible card, and while they may differ slightly from casino to casino, following them will almost always lead to a better outcome than random chance.
Many casinos have changed the rules of blackjack over the years, some making them more favorable to the player, and others less so. For example, some casinos have reduced the payout for blackjacks from 3 to 2 to 6 to 5, which increases the house edge. Other changes include allowing players to double after splitting aces, which can be advantageous if the dealer has a weak card.
In addition, dealers can unwittingly give players information that they shouldn’t have access to. This can occur in several ways, such as exposing the dealer’s hole card for an instant before placing it down on the table, or letting players see the dealer’s reaction to the card, which can reveal important information. In general, it’s best to avoid any eye contact with the cards and only glance at the dealer’s hole card when you have to.
Another way that casinos can hurt players is by offering side bets that don’t have a positive expected value. One such bet is insurance, which pays out 2:1 when the dealer has a blackjack. However, the dealer has a blackjack only about one-third of the time. This makes the insurance bet a bad bet for players, even when they have no direct knowledge or estimate (e.g. through card counting) of the dealer’s ten-valued hole card.
Other casino-based side bets include a match-up bet, a perfect pair bet, and bets on the dealer having a particular number of busts. While most of these bets don’t involve the dealer’s hole card, a few do. This is why it’s important to be familiar with the rules of each game before you start playing. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the dealer about the rules of each game if you have questions.