Blackjack is a card game that involves betting against the dealer. Players aim to get a higher hand value than the dealer without going over 21. The game is played with one or more 52-card decks. Each card has a value based on its number and face (face cards count as 10, numbers as their respective values, and aces as 1 or 11).
The game is characterized by a high house edge, but there are ways to decrease the house advantage. The most important thing is to play smartly, and this means avoiding stupid mistakes like playing too conservatively or missing opportunities to double down and split pairs when the odds favor doing so. Novices tend to make these mistakes because they don’t understand the game as well as expert players do.
In addition, novices don’t invest enough time studying the game and end up with a fuzzy understanding of some parts of it. Experts understand the game inside and out because they’ve spent long hours studying it. This gives them the tools they need to exploit the exceptions that arise infrequently but can turn the tables on the casino.
Another reason why novices lose is that they don’t know when to hit or stand. They often hit their hands too early, and they’ll hesitate to split a pair of 2s against a dealer’s 4 or hit their 16 against a dealer’s 7. They give up a lot of money on these misplays because they aren’t as aggressive as they should be.
A final mistake that many novices make is placing too much emphasis on side bets. While these bets can help you win some money, they shouldn’t be a major part of your overall strategy. They also can distract you from the main game, making it hard to focus on what you should be doing.
Side bets include things such as insurance, a bet that the dealer will have a blackjack, and a bet that your hand will beat the dealer’s. These bets are offered at most blackjack tables and usually require that you place a bet alongside your regular wager. While these bets can increase your winnings, they can also hurt your chances of beating the dealer.
Once all the players have placed their bets, the dealer will check her hole card by looking at a special window in the table. If she has a ten underneath, she has a blackjack and wins everyone’s original bets (including the side bets). However, if she doesn’t have a blackjack, then the bets push and the players receive their original bets back.
The best way to learn the game of blackjack is to practice at home with a free online blackjack calculator. This will allow you to see how much you should be betting per hand and will help you find the right times to double down. It’s also a good idea to read up on strategies for different situations in the game and practice using them. You can also try a blackjack simulator to improve your skills.