How to play BlackJack
Blackjack, also known as Twenty-one, is the most widely played casino game in the world. The object of the game is to get a hand that is valued higher than the dealer's hand without going over 21 (the best hand you can have), which is called busting or breaking.
Blackjack table layout
Below is a typical blackjack table layout showing the various player positions, the dealer position along with items players would find at a blackjack table. In Casino Blackjack, the dealer faces one to seven players from behind an half-round table. Even if other players might be present at the table, the dealer is your only opponent in the game. Players play their hands independently against the dealer. This creates quite a friendly atmosphere amongst players.
When you sit down you must buy chips from the dealer or bring them from another table. At the beginning of each round, the player places a bet in the betting square in front of him. Only chips put in the betting area count as bet. After all bets are made the game begins.
Basic Black Jack RulesEach player is dealt two cards face up. The dealer receives one card face-up card called the upcard and one card face-down called the hole card (in European Blackjack, the dealer's hole card is not actually dealt until all players have played their hands). After the cards are dealt the dealer will ask each player in turn to make their decision starting with the player to the left of the dealer. This position is known as first base. The position of the last player to act is called third base. Depending on the dealer's up card (you don't know the value of the other one) and the two cards that you were dealt you will choose one from the following options.
Blackjack game play options
After receiving your initial two cards you have the following decisions available:
- Hitting - You hit your hand when deciding to take additional cards from the dealer. If your cards total value is less than twenty-one, you may draw more cards until you either 1.) have a BlackJack (an Ace and a ten-valued card) 2.) reach a better hand still less than 21 points that you feel comfortable with 3.) or exceed the value of 21 and lose.
- Standing - You stand when you stop taking cards and keep the total you currently have.
- Splitting -You split two cards that are of the same rank, meaning two cards of the same value (a pair) into two playable hands by putting up another bet for the new hand. The dealer gives you a new card on each of the new split hands. You then play with two separate hands.
- Doubling down - After you have received your initial two cards you have the option to double down. This means you double your initial bet by moving a second bet equal to the first into the betting box next to the original bet. This also means that you can only get one more card from the dealer. No matter what the additional card is, you can't ask for more cards.
Sometimes, depending on the casino rules, players are allowed to double down for less by placing an amount less than the original bet next to it in the betting box. However, as you should only double in favorable situations it makes more sense to bet the maximum amount (the value of your original bet) rather than betting less.
- Insurance - A commonly available rule for Blackjack is the option to take up Insurance if the dealers up-card is an Ace. Insurance bets can be made by betting up to half your original bet. This so called side bet is placed on a special portion of the table, usually marked Insurance Pays 2:1. The idea is that the dealer's second card might be ten-valued, giving the dealer a Blackjack and almost certainly results in a loss for the player. If the dealer actually has a 10-value card underneath his Ace, your winning insurance bet will be paid out at 2:1. You'll still lose your original bet (unless you also have a Blackjack), but the net effect is that you'll break even (providing you bet the full amount allowable on insurance). However, if the dealer doesn't have Blackjack, you'll lose the insurance bet, but still can win or lose on your original bet by playing out your hand.
- Surrendering - You surrender by forfeiting half of your bet and ending your hand immediately.
The dealer's turnIn terms of making decisions the dealer has much less flexibility and is more restricted than the player. The dealer plays according to a strict set of rules. These rules state that the dealer must take another card if his hand totals 16 or less and that the dealer must stand (not take any more cards) if his hand totals 17 or more. However, if it is a soft 17 (a hand including an ace valued 11 points, such Ace+Six or Ace+Two+Four) the dealer follows the casino rules printed on the blackjack table, either to "hit soft 17" or to "stand on all 17's."
Blackjack card valuesIn terms of cards and their value an important thing to point out is that in Blackjack suit doesn't matter. The only thing that matters at the blackjack table is the point value of each card and of each hand. The standard game is played with one or more Anglo-American decks containing 52 cards.
The Ace can be worth either 1 or 11 points, whichever is most advantageous to the player. Suppose you have a hand comprising an ace, which counts as an 11, and a card valued 6 points. This would give you a hand worth 17 points. If you now drew a third card that brought your total count higher than 21, such as a 7, you would lose. However, in that case the ace would now count as just 1 instead of 11 and you have nothing to worry about. Such a hand is called a "soft hand". The soft hand gives you an advantage in terms of card options. The decision to add a third card to a soft hand is not that hard to make. If you take a hit, you will almost never go bust because you always have the option that the ace will be counted as 1 instead of 11.
All Face Cards (Jack, Queen, and King) are worth 10 points each.
All other cards in the deck are worth whatever the numeric value of each card is.
- Your total is closer to 21 than the dealer's total ► a winning hand pays even money.
- The Dealer goes over 21 or "busts" (provided you have not previously busted yourself already). You get paid even money.
- You are the only one that has been dealt a BlackJack (a two hand total of 21). Remember, it doesn't matter what the other players have - you only play against the dealer. This usually pays out at 3:2, but sometimes also at 6 to 5.
- You go over 21 OR the Dealer's total is greater than yours (but still less than 21) ► a losing hand results in a loss for the player.
- Your total is the same as the Dealer's total, also refered to as "stand-off" or "push". In this case the player's bet simply is returned.
These Blackjack rules remain largely unchanged (with some minor variations) depending whether you play online or sit at a table in a brick and mortar casino.