For those of you who are new to the game of blackjack and have never sat at a blackjack table in a casino, the following will teach you the how the game is played, from table etiquette, to the basic rules of the game.
The blackjack table in a casino is generally set up with seven betting spots, although some games have as few as five. A dealer acts for the house and stands behind the table to distribute the cards.
When you’ve decided upon the game you want to play by examining the sign that announces the minimum and maximum wagers, you will buy in for chips. Do not place your money in the betting circle, however. Instead, set it to one side and wait for the dealer to convert it into chips.
After you receive your chips place your bet in the circle in front of your seat. The blackjack dealer shuffles the cards, and if he’s dealing more than two decks, he’ll place the shuffled cards in a box known as a “shoe.” After he shuffles, he’ll ask a player to “cut” the deck, by using a colored card, known as the cut card. The player simply slides the colored card into the deck at any point. The dealer divides the deck at the cut point, and takes the cut card and places it about two-thirds the way into the deck. This deck “penetration” varies from casino to casino, and sometimes even from table to table.
The dealer then places the cards into the shoe, or arranges them in his hand (for two or less decks). The dealer will then discard-“burn”-the first card, and check to make sure that all players have their bets in the right place and in the right amount. He begins distributing the cards to the players from the front of the shoe or the top of the deck.He’ll begin with the player farthest to his left-known as “first base”-and then proceed to give one card to each player, including the dealer’s “upcard.” He’ll repeat the motion until every player has two cards. He completes the deal by sliding his “hole card” under his upcard.
In some casinos, the players are allowed to handle the cards. In this situation, the players receive their cards face down, and pick them up with their hands. If you’re playing this type of game, do not use two hands to pick the cards up. Pick them up with one hand and hold them over the table. Never remove them from the table or shield them in any manner from the dealer’s view. The dealer is responsible for the security of the cards, and must prevent them from being replaced by other cards or otherwise tampered with.
In other casinos, the players’ cards are dealt face up, and the players are prohibited from touching them. The dealer handles all the cards and chips.
The object of blackjack is to beat the dealer. The winner is whoever has closest to a total of 21. You reach 21 by adding up the values of the cards. Tens and face cards are worth ten points, the other cards count as their numerical values, and Aces are worth one or 11, at the discretion of the player.
For example, a six of spades and a eight of hearts is 14. A Queen of spades and a Jack of diamonds counts as 20. An Ace of spades and a six of hearts can count as 17 or seven.
You determine the valuation of the Ace, and can decide the change it in mid-hand. In the last example, for instance, say you draw an Eight to the Ace and six. That would “bust” your hand if the Ace was counted as 11, so you drop it to a one. In that situation, you count it as one, and you’ve got a 15.
A “soft hand” is a hand that contains an Ace which is counted as 11. A “hard hand” is a one that does not contain an Ace or a hand where the Ace can only be counted as one point.
After the dealer gives each player two cards, he’ll return to first-base and start acting on each hand individually. He will point to your cards when it is your turn.
If you want another card-a “hit”-you indicate by scratching the table with your hand. The dealer will not accept a verbal command because the hand signal must be given so that the security cameras can see exactly what you want to do with that hand. If you want to “stand”-take no cards-you indicate by waving your hand, palm down. You use that motion when you’ve decided to stop taking additional cards, as well.
In the hand-held game, you scrape the table with the edge of your cards to indicate you want to hit. When you’re satisfied with your hand, you slide your cards under your chips in the betting circle.
If you take a hit and that card puts your total over 21, you lose automatically. The dealer removes your cards and your chips.In the hand-held game, turn your cards over immediately if you’ve exceeded 21, so the dealer can finish your hand.
At the end of the hand, if the totals of your cards are closer to 21, you win! If the dealer’s hand is closer to 21, you lose. And if you tie the dealer-called a “push”-no one wins or loses. If the dealer hasn’t busted, he will pay the winners and take the loser’s chips. If you have pushed, the dealer will rap the table with his knuckles and leave the chips where they stand. You are then allowed to increase, decrease or remove the bet.
The rules the dealer must play by are very simple. If the dealer’s hand is 16 or less, he/she must take a card. If the dealer’s hand is 17 or more, he/she must stand. Note that some casinos allow the dealer to hit on soft 17 which gives the house a very small additional advantage. The dealer’s strategy is fixed and what you and the other players have is immaterial to him/her as far as hitting and standing is concerned.
There is one way to win automatically, and that is to receive a total of 21 in the first two cards. That requires a ten-value card and an Ace. This is called a “natural” or a “blackjack.”
When a player receives a blackjack, he wins a bonus. Normally, all bets are paid off at even money when playing blackjack,but when you get a blackjack, you receive a three-to-two payoff. If you’ve bet $10, you’ll get paid $15, for example.
If you’re playing the hand-held game, you should turn your cards over immediately to get paid.
The only time a player can receive a blackjack and not get paid immediately is if the dealer also has an blackjack. In this case, it’s a push, and no one gets paid. You can protect yourself by taking “insurance.” If the dealer has an Ace showing he will ask all players if they would like insurance. The insurance bet is a side bet in which you can wager half of your original bet. To place an insurance bet place chips in the amount of half your original wager on the table in front of your original bet. If the dealer does have blackjack your insurance bet will be payed at 2-1 and you will lose your original bet. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack you will lose your insurance bet but continue play with your original bet. In general, the insurance bet is NOT a good bet unless you are counting cards and you have determined that there is a high probability of the dealer having blackjack. If you aren’t counting cards DO NOT take the insurance bet.
One of the nice things about blackjack is the ability to increase your bets in mid-hand if you feel you have a good opportunity to win. When you have the chance to make these bets, you should take advantage of them.
One of the circumstances in which you may increase your bet is called doubling down. This means the casino will allow you to make a second bet equal in size to your first bet. In return for this right, you agree to accept only one more card for your hand. You can double down only after looking at your first two cards. You cannot take a hit and double down.
Many casinos allow you to double down for less than the amount of your original bet. This should be avoided because if the situation is worth doubling down, it is worth betting as much as you can, which is the amount of your original bet.
To tell the dealer you want to double down, you slide a second wager next to your original wager in the betting circle. Do not place the additional bet on top of the original wager, because the dealer may think you are trying to cheat by increasing your bet illegally. No hand signal is necessary. The dealer will see your double-down bet and give you one card, generally placed horizontally across the first two cards. In the hand-held game, the dealer will place the card under your chips in the betting circle. You may pick up the card to see what you’ve been given, but you’ll get more respect if you wait until the dealer settles all bets to expose your hand.
If you win your bet, you’ll be paid even money for the two bets, and receive double your original wager. If you lose, of course, both bets are taken away. In the event of a push, you keep both bets, but are not paid.
Another way of increasing your bet mid-hand is splitting. If the two original cards dealt to you are a pair, such as a seven of clubs and a seven of hearts, you can then split your hand if you wish, thus giving you 2 separate hands to play. To do this a wager equal to your original bet must be placed along side your initial wager.
If you have a pair that you want to split and your cards are dealt face down, turn them over and place them a few inches apart. If your cards were dealt face up, point to your cards and say “split” when the dealer prompts you for a card. The original bet will go with one card and you will have to place an equal amount of chips in the betting box near the other card. You are now playing two hands, each as though they were regular hands with the exception being that if you have just split two aces. In that case, you only get one card which will hopefully be a 10. If it is a ten, that hand’s total is now 21 but the hand isn’t considered a BlackJack. That is, you are paid 1:1 and not 1:1.5 as for a natural (BlackJack).
After splitting your cards the dealer will deal cards to your 1st hand until you decide to stand. He will then deal cards to your next hand. Keep in mind that stand, hit, split, and double-down rules apply to each new hand being dealt. Casino rules vary on how many times a player can split his cards. For example, if you draw a pair of eights, split them, and are dealt another eight, most casinos will allow to you split again and start a third hand. Ask the dealer what the split rules are if you do not know them.
So that’s how blackjack is played. But there is much more to learn if you want to be a successful blackjack player. You must know when to split your cards, when to double, when to take a hit, and when not to. The rules behind this are called basic strategy.