Blackjack is one of the most popular casino card games in the world and one that is available in multiple variations across hundreds of online and landbased casinos. However, the game’s popularity is no coincidence. Not only is blackjack very easy to play but it also offers some of the best odds you can possibly find in a casino.
The following guide will be instrumental in introducing you to the basic rules of play in blackjack.
The Rules and Your Objective as a Blackjack Player
Blackjack is a game of dependent events (i.e. previous outcomes affect the probability of future outcomes) that utilizes one to eight full decks of cards depending on the variation. The game is played against the house and the objective of the player is to crush the casino’s dealer in one of the three following ways – the player obtains a higher hand total than the dealer’s, the player receives a natural aka blackjack (an ace and a ten-value card) on the initial deal but the dealer does not, or the dealer busts, i.e. draws over 21.
Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value. The numeric value of all face cards (Queens, Jacks, and Kings) is always 10. The single most special card in the game of blackjack is the ace, which is dualistic because it can be worth either 1 or 11, depending on which value the player prefers.
Hands containing an ace that can be counted as 1 or 11 without going over 21 are called “soft”. Receiving a soft hand is beneficial to players because they cannot bust by drawing a third card, no matter what their starting soft total was.
After the shuffle and cut of the deck(s), each player, including the casino’s dealer, receives a starting hand of two cards. Players’ cards are normally dealt face up whereas only one of the dealer’s two cards is exposed.
Once starting hands are dealt to everyone at the table, players assess the strength of their two-card totals and have a choice from several decisions we have defined below:
• The player can hit their hand, i.e. draw as many cards as they like as long as the hand total does not go over 21
• The player can choose to stand on a pat hand without drawing any additional cards
• They can also double down by placing an additional bet equal to the original one to receive only one extra card on their starting hand
• If a starting hand consists of cards of equal numerical value, for example, two Queens, the pair can be split if the player doubles their initial stake. The dealer would draw an additional card to each of the split cards. The two hands are then played one after another and players again have a choice from hitting, standing, and doubling down. Some blackjack variations allow for resplitting to up to four hands although the resplitting of aces is not permitted at some blackjack tables.
• Surrendering is sometimes also an option, with players forfeiting half of their wagers and folding two-card hands they do not wish to play.
• When the dealer’s exposed card is an ace, they would offer players insurance before peeking for a blackjack. Insurance is a side bet equal to half of the player’s initial wager. If the player accepts insurance and the dealer really has a blackjack, the insurance bet will return at odds of 2 to 1 but the initial wager is lost. If not, the insurance bet is lost and play continues as usual with the player hitting, standing, doubling or splitting.
Blackjacks offer the highest return of 3 to 2 whereas all other winning hands pay even money. If the player and the dealer both have the same totals, they push and no money changes hands.
Unlike players, the dealer has no flexibility when it comes to acting on a hand. The dealer would play out their hand according to the rules of Blackjack as stipulated by the house and do so after all players have acted on their own hands. Remember favorable blackjack tables require the dealer to hit their hand until its total reaches 16 and stand on all 17s.
Advice for Blackjack Newbies
Rookie players should not step into a casino before they memorize a basic strategy chart for blackjack that shows them the optimal way to play every conceivable two-card hand against all possible dealer upcards. In effect, this will reduce the casino’s advantage from 2% to around 0.50%, sometimes even less depending on the particular variation.
We would like to finish off with one last piece of advice – if interested in playing blackjack, you should never do so at tables where blackjacks return at odds of 6 to 5. These payouts are grossly reduced to give the house a bigger advantage over you.