Blackjack is the most popular casino card game in the world. Often referred to as the game of 21, blackjack is played between a dealer and a player with one, two, four, six or eight decks of cards.
In single and double deck games, the dealer holds the cards and deals them out. In multi-deck games, the cards are dealt out by a shoe. In handheld games, the cards are dealt face down and the player picks up his cards. In a shoe game, the cards are dealt face up and the player cannot touch the cards.
The objective of the game is to beat the dealer. The suits of the cards do not matter, only their numeric values. Cards 2-10 are counted at face value. Kings, Queens, and Jacks have a value of 10. An Ace can count as either 1 or 11.
If the total value of your cards is higher than the dealer’s cards without going over 21, you win. If your hand goes over 21, you “bust” and automatically lose. If the dealer busts, you win.
If the player and dealer have the same point total, this is called a “push” and the player does not win or lose money on that hand.
Starting the game
Blackjack is played by five to seven players on a semi-circle table. To place a bet, move your chips to the betting box in front of you. After all players have placed their bets, the round begins.
Each player is dealt an initial hand of two cards. The dealer also gets two cards – one card face up and one card face down, also known as the hole card.
Looking at your cards, calculate their total by adding up their numeric values. A king and a five would equal 15. An ace and a five would total either 6 or 16. Players have the option of taking additional cards to bring their total value to 21, or as close as possible without busting.
A hand that does not have an ace is referred to as a Hard Hand because it has only one value. If you have an ace, you have a Soft Hand because the value of your total can change.
If you or the dealer is dealt an ace and a 10, you have a blackjack. If you get a blackjack, you will be paid 3 to 2 for your bet providing the dealer does not get one at the same time. If you and the dealer both have blackjacks, it is a push. If only the dealer has a blackjack, all players will lose.
How to play a hand of blackjack
After the cards are dealt, the player can do one of four things: hit, stand, double down, or split. Some games give the player a fifth option called “surrender”. Each move has a corresponding hand signal.
To take a hit means that you want to draw another card. To signal the dealer for a hit, scrape your cards against the table on a handheld game, or tap the table or wave your hand towards your body in a shoe game.
If you are already satisfied with your first two cards or after hitting, you signal the dealer that you wish to stand. This is done by sliding your cards under the chips (handheld) or waving your hand over the top of your cards (shoe).
If you want to double your bet after receiving your first two cards, place additional chips beside the original bet and point with one finger. When you double down, you are allowed to increase the initial bet by up to 100% and take one additional card.
If your first two cards have the same value, you can split them into two separate hands. Place a second bet that’s equal to the first on an area outside the betting box and signal the dealer with two fingers spread into a V formation. The dealer will separate the cards and draw a second card for each hand. Playing each hand one at a time, decide whether to hit or stand. Some casinos will allow you to double down on your first two cards after splitting.
If the dealer’s up card is an ace, the dealer will offer insurance. If you feel that the dealer’s hole card is a 10, you can make this side bet which is half your original bet. If the dealer has a blackjack, you are paid 2 to 1. You would then lose your original bet but win the insurance bet, which works out to being a push of your starting bet. If you have a blackjack and the dealer has an ace you will be asked if you would like even money for your blackjack instead of 3 to 2. If do not take the even money you will have a push if the dealer has a blackjack.
Some games offer the option to surrender your hand and give up half your bet on your first two cards after the dealer checks for a blackjack. This terminates the player’s interest in the hand. In the absence of a standard hand signal for surrendering, the request is usually made verbally.
Blackjack can be the best card game with the lowest house edge if you play your hands right. However, if you play by hunch, it can be also be one of the worst games to play in a casino.
Let’s look at this Simple Blackjack strategy for beginners. Note that a “stiff” hand refers to a hand that can be busted with a hit.
If your first two cards total 12-16, you have a stiff hand.
If your total is 17 or better, it is a pat hand and you stand.
If the dealer’s up card is 2-6, it is a “stiff” hand.
If the dealer’s up card is 7-Ace, it is a pat hand.
If you have a stiff and the dealer has a stiff you STAND.
If you have a stiff and the dealer has a pat hand you HIT.
This is just a simple strategy for your first few games. Make the effort to learn the Multi-Deck Strategy Chart which is readily available online. It may look complicated at first but it will get easier as you familiarize yourself with the game of blackjack.
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