Some players call the game blackjack and some call it twenty-one. No matter what you call it, the object of the game is to beat the dealer!
Blackjack is played 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 of a shoe. The basic play for either game is the same.
As stated above, the objective of the game is to beat the dealer. If your cards total higher than the dealer’s cards without going over 21 you win. You are not trying to get close to 21, you are just trying to get a better hand than the dealer. If your hand goes over 21 you “bust.” The player acts first, so if you bust you lose whether the dealer goes on to bust or not.
Cards 2 – 10 are counted at face value without regards to their suit. All face cards have a value of ten. An ace can count as either one or eleven. A queen and a five would equal 15. An ace and a five would total either 6 or 16.
Blackjack is dealt on a special table that is shaped as a semi-circle. There is a separate circle or square for each player. When you sit down you must buy chips from the dealer or bring them from another table.
For this example we will assume you are playing a multi-deck game and the cards are being dealt from a shoe. Each player is dealt two cards face up. The dealer receives one card face up and one card face down known as the hole card. After the cards are dealt the dealer will ask each player in turn to make their decision. The player to the left of the dealer acts first. This position is known as first base. The position of the last person to act is called third base. You will make your decision about how to play your hand based on the dealer’s up card and the two cards that you were dealt. A rule of thumb for the beginner is to assume the dealer has a ten in the hole. (This is not always the case but it makes it easier to base your decision on this premise.) You will use hand signal to make your decisions known. This keeps the game moving and it also helps insure there are no verbal misunderstandings.
Blackjack – If you or the dealer is dealt an Ace and a ten-value card you have 21 known as 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 have blackjack it is a push. If only the dealer has blackjack all players will lose.
Hitting – To take a hit means that you want to draw another card. To signal the dealer for a hit you will tap the table in front of you or make a beckoning motion with your hand. If you wish another card after the first you would motion in the same manner.
Standing – Once you are satisfied with either your fist two cards or after hitting, you signal the dealer that you wish to stand. This is done by waving your hand over the top of your cards.
Doubling Down – When you double down you are allowed to double your bet after receiving your first two cards. You then receive one card only on your hand. Most casinos will allow you to double down on any two cards. To signal that you are doubling down you will place an additional bet next to your original bet. Most casinos will let you double down for less than your original bet providing it meets the table minimum.
Splitting – If you are dealt a pair (two cards of the same rank) you can split these into two separate hands. You must make an additional bet equal to your starting bet. You signal the dealer that you are splitting by placing your second bet next to your first bet in the betting circle. You will now play each hand one at a time. The dealer will give you a second card to go with the first split card. You will then decide to hit or stand. After you play out this hand and stand you will move on to the next split card and the process will be repeated.
Insurance – If the dealer’s up card is an ace the dealer will offer insurance. You are not really insuring a hand. This is a side bet you make wagering half your original bet that the dealer has a ten in the hole. If you make the bet and he has the ten 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 original 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.
As you can see, there are many decisions that you must make when playing blackjack. If you play your hand properly you can reduce the house edge to less than one percent. To do this you must learn basic strategy which is a mathematically proven method to determine when to hit and stand.
A Simple Strategy:
Here is a simple strategy to get you started.
If your first cards total 12-16 you have a “Stiff” hand. (one than can be busted with a hit.)
If the dealer’s up card is a 2 – 6, it is a “Stiff” hand for the dealer.
If you have 17 or better it is a Pat hand and you stand.
If the dealer shows a 7 -Ace, you consider it 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
Although this simple strategy will get you by for the first time you play the game, you really should make the effort to learn basic strategy.
Blackjack can be the best game in the casino with the lowest house edge if you play properly, however if you play by hunch it can be one of the worst games to play.