Blackjack is a game of chance, but it can also be played with skill. It is a popular casino game and it has a house edge of about 1.4%. However, by playing a basic strategy, blackjack players can lower this edge to less than 1% (rules vary). History of Blackjack The game of blackjack was introduced in legalized casinos in Las Vegas in 1931. In the early days, it was dealt with a single deck of cards. The dealer manually shuffled the cards and pitched them to players face down. A player must choose whether to stand, hit, or surrender based on his first two cards and any additional cards that may be dealt. The player must also choose to double down or split his hand. When a player receives a total of 21 on his first two cards, he wins immediately. Unless the dealer also has a total of 21, then the hand ties. This is called a “natural” or “blackjack.” A natural beats any hand that is not a blackjack. A player who has a natural is paid one and a half times the amount of their bet. Insurance When the dealer’s up card is an ace, players can make an insurance bet against the dealer getting a blackjack. This is a separate bet from the original wager and is completely independent of the outcome of the main bet. The odds of winning the insurance bet are about 1 and 3 percent, but this is much better than losing your original bet. This is because the dealer must have a blackjack less than three out of every thirteen times that he shows an ace. Rules of Play In the basic game of blackjack, the dealer deals two cards to each player and one card to himself. The dealer stands on soft 17, and hits on 16 or less. The dealer must also stand on 17 through 21, and must hit on any hand that is not a natural. A blackjack is a hand consisting of an ace and any 10-valued card, making a count of 21 in two cards. It beats any other hand with a value of 21, including dealer’s hands. It is possible for the dealer to have a blackjack without offering insurance or even money, though this practice is discouraged by longtime blackjack players. If the dealer has a ten up, she will check her hole card before anyone else at the table can play their hands. There is a side bet called “Dealer Match” which pays when the player’s cards match the dealer’s up card. This side bet is not always offered and should only be made when a player is confident that they have an edge in the hand. Using a basic playing strategy, blackjack players can reduce the house edge to about 1% (rules vary). In 2003 some casinos started paying only 6:5 on blackjacks. This was decried by longtime players as a way to take advantage of the fact that most players do not use basic strategy and are therefore susceptible to a larger house edge.