Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games. It has an element of player choice and a low house edge relative to other casino games. However, as with all casino games the house has a statistical advantage that will play itself out over time. However, savvy players can reduce the house edge to less than 1% by playing a strategy that determines when to hit and when to stand.
Most casinos use a six-deck shoe for blackjack, and players make wagers using casino chips. Cash is not allowed to be used to make bets. To purchase chips, players must first place their cash on the table, wait for the dealer to finish the current hand, and then ask the dealer for chips. The dealer will then exchange the cash for chips and stack them neatly on the table in front of the player.
The goal of the game is to beat the dealer by having a higher, unbusted hand than the dealer. A player’s total of 21 on the first two cards is a “blackjack” and wins immediately (as long as the dealer does not also have a blackjack). If the player or dealer has a tie, it is a push and no bets are exchanged.
A player may also place a side bet on the dealer’s hidden card. This bet pays out if the dealer has a blackjack and loses if the dealer does not have a blackjack. Generally, these side bets pay even money. Some casinos allow the player to double his bet after he has received his initial two cards. Doubling down is a risky proposition, as it increases the odds of losing.
Players can also take insurance on a dealer’s exposed card, but this bet is usually unprofitable in the long run. The dealer has a blackjack less than a third of the time, and the insurance bet loses about a fifth of its original value.
Some casinos offer additional side bets, such as a match bet that pays when the player’s first two cards match the dealer’s up card. These bets are not mathematically sound, but can help a player to make more profitable decisions.
The popularity of blackjack has increased despite the fact that many casinos have attempted to limit its profitability. This is especially true on the Las Vegas Strip, where competition from baccarat and slot machines has reduced blackjack’s share of the action. In addition, antsy casino managers have frequently tampered with the rules of blackjack to increase their own profits. These changes include changing the payout on blackjacks from 3:2 to 6:5, which increases the house edge by nearly two percent. In a game where the house edge is already low, these changes are significant.