Blackjack has become one of the most popular table games inside of casinos. Blackjack has become so popular because it is fun to play, easy to learn, and the house advantage is small compared to other table games. There are also many things that you can do, legally, that can help you gain an advantage over the house. All of these factors make blackjack a great option for players of all skill levels.
The rules of blackjack are fairly simply. The goal of the game is have a value of your cards that is closer to 21, without going over, than the dealer does. The other players at the table do not matter; it is a game where each player completes against the dealer independently.
The first step to learning blackjack is learning the value of the cards. Any card with a face value between 2 and 10 will have a value equal to the cards value. This means the 5 of spades is worth 5 and the 6 of hearts is worth 6. All face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) are always worth 10. So if you are dealt the 8 of clubs and the Jack of diamonds your total would be 18 (8+10). An Ace can worth either 1 or 11, depending on the situation, and that can make things a little more difficult.
When you are dealt an Ace you do not need to declare if you want it to be either a 1 or an 11. Instead it is assumed to be the value that creates the best hand, and can change in value as new cards are dealt. For instance, if you are dealt an Ace and a 6, your total could be either 7 or 17. This hand is often referred to as a “soft 17.” A “soft” hand is any instance where you can count the Ace as 1 or 11 without going over 21. Going back to our last hand, Ace and six, if your third card is a King your total would then be 17 (1 + 6 +10). If instead of a King your third card was a 4 your total would be 21 (11 +6 + 4).
In a casino environment the dealer will begin his deal after all players have placed their wager, starting at his or her left. The dealer will deal each player two cards, one at a time, face up. The dealers cards will be face down, but will flip over one card before the game starts. Starting with the player on the dealers left they will decide how they wish to play their hand.
Playing a hand involves two major moves. A player can either hit, receive and additional card, or stay with the total that they currently have. A player with a low hand will generally want to hit to increase their total. A player with a higher total will generally wish to stand to avoid the chances of going over 21. If you go over 21 you “bust” and your hand automatically loses, no matter what the dealer does.
There is a variation on the hit known as the double down. Doubling down is one of the more exciting, and potentially profitable hands in the game. A player can only double down when they have a two card hand, such as after the initial deal. If a player has already taken a hit, or additional card, they are ineligible for the double down bet. When a player doubles down they make an additional bet and receive only one additional card. The most common bet is a straight double of your original wager, but most casinos will allow you to wager any increment up to your original bet. If you learn the more optimal times to double down, you can truly beat the house. The best time to double down is generally when you have a 10 or 11 and the dealer is showing a 5 or a 6.
The third option available to players is splitting their cards. This is only available when you’re dealt a pair of cards as your initial hand, such as two 8s. When you split your pair you make another bet in the same amount as your original bet, and receive two separate hands. So if you are splitting your 8s, you will have two hands, each of them with a value of 8. Each of your separate hands will receive an additional card so you are back to a normal starting position, and then you can hit, double down, split again or stay separately on each hand. Aces are treated slightly different when it comes to splitting pairs. When you split aces you will only receive a single card on each new hand, you will not have the option to get additional cards. Even with this restriction it is a good idea to always split Aces.
While you have the option of hitting, staying, doubling, or splitting pairs the dealer’s choices are more limited. The dealer will be required to continue to hit until he or she has a score of at least 17. Once the dealer has a score of 18 they must stay, no matter your score. This structure allows the player to make choices knowing, or assuming, the moves the dealer will make.
Deciding a winner in blackjack is simple. If your hand busted, or went over 21, you lost. If your hand was under 21 and the dealer busted then you automatically win. If both you and the dealer did not bust, than the player who has the highest total, and therefore closer to 21, will win
A winning bet will pay out the same amount as your original bet.. If you are dealt a natural 21, or a blackjack, in your first two cards your wager will usually pay 3:2. It is also possible to tie or “push” in blackjack if you and the dealer have the same total. In the case of a push the dealer will return your original bet.