Blackjack is a card game where the goal is to have a hand value that is closer to 21 than that of the dealer, without going over. Players compete against the dealer and not other players at the table, and mathematical analysis reveals that luck plays a smaller role than strategy in winning hands. The basic rules of the game are simple, but there are many nuances that can make a difference in the profitability of a hand.

In a basic game of blackjack, each player is dealt two cards and can choose to stand (stop drawing cards), hit (request more cards), or double down (increase the size of the original bet by up to 2 times). The dealer also receives two cards and must act according to certain rules.

The game is played on a semi-circular table that can be configured to accommodate different numbers of players, with most tables accommodating seven players (or “spots”). Each player places their chips in the circle or “betting circle”, and the dealer stands behind it with a chip rack.

There are several side bets that can be placed on blackjack, including insurance, which is offered when the dealer’s up card is an ace, and Lucky Ladies, which pays high additional winnings if the first two cards of the player’s hand total 20. While these bets can add to the enjoyment of the game, they should be avoided by serious players because they increase the house edge over time.

When a player has a total of 21 in their first two cards, they are said to have a “blackjack”, or “natural”. However, it is important to remember that only an Ace and a ten-valued card can make a blackjack, and the cards must be dealt in the order that they are dealt. In the event of a tie, or a push, bets are returned without adjustment.

Blackjack is usually played with a standard 52-card deck. The values of cards are as follows: face cards are worth 10 each; number cards are worth their numerical value; and aces can be valued at either 1 or 11, depending on what will help the hand the most.

The dealer must ask the players if they want to buy insurance, and once all of the bets are placed, she will check her hole card for a ten underneath. If she does have a blackjack, all players who bought insurance will be paid out (2 to 1) before the game continues. Otherwise, the dealer will ignore the insurance bets and play the game normally. This is why it’s important to know the odds of getting a blackjack before purchasing insurance.

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