# The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is a game in which players compete against the dealer to acquire cards that total as close as possible to 21 without going over. It is often referred to as the “king of casino games,” and is popular among all types of gamblers. Although the game may seem like a simple luck-based affair, it actually has a number of mathematical elements that can influence the outcome. For this reason, blackjack is regarded as a game of skill and strategy rather than just chance. In fact, it was mathematicians Julian Braun and John Scarne who first discovered how to predict the probability of obtaining a blackjack hand from a freshly-shuffled deck of cards. Their discoveries have opened up the game to many more players, as they understand that blackjack is a game of odds and probability.

The basic rules of blackjack require that a player must stand (refuse to ask for more cards) or hit (request more cards) based on certain circumstances. The dealer also has the option of hitting or standing, but the probability of getting a blackjack is much lower when the dealer hits.

Hitting a hand of 12 against the dealer’s 3 is not a good idea, even though basic strategy calls for this. There is a 58% chance of losing and only a 2% chance of a push in this situation. A better play would be to surrender. Surrendering allows the player to give up their hand and lose half of their original bet, but it will save them money in the long run.

A blackjack player’s chances of winning are greatly improved when they split two identical cards. This is known as splitting pairs and can be done by placing a second bet equal to the original amount on each hand. Each hand is then played independently. If a player has two aces, they are usually advised to double down, as the card will have the value of either 1 or 11, depending on what other cards are dealt.

It is generally advisable to stay when a player has an opening hand of 17 or higher. The dealer is more likely to bust on a value of 17 or higher, so it’s safer for the player to stay and hope that their next card will be better than the dealer’s.

Buying blackjack insurance is an option that can be taken by players who believe they have a favorable situation with the dealer. This is a risky bet and will not make the player rich overnight, but it can reduce the house edge. However, the casino will most likely have ways to counteract this advantage, such as using multiple decks or video machines that shuffle after each hand. Nonetheless, it is worth trying to beat the dealer in certain situations if you have the time and resources to do so. The odds of beating the dealer’s natural 21 increase as the true count increases, but it is not a guarantee that you will win.