Rules of Blackjack
At its core, Blackjack, also known as 21, is one of the simpler table games at casinos. The main goal is to have a higher card total than the dealer. The rules can be outlined as follows:
- Before the game begins, you will make a bet that you will have a higher card total than the dealer.
- You and the dealer are each dealt two cards. One of the dealer cards, known as the "hole card," begins face down.
- Face cards are valued at 10, Aces can be valued as either an 11 or a 1, and everything else is valued as it appears on the card. Aces are valued at 11 until the player with the ace exceeds 21, where at that moment the ace would be reduced to a value of 1.
- You will take the sum of your first two cards. The best possible sum in Blackjack is 21. Anything higher than that is known as a "bust," or in other words, a loss.
Depending on which two cards you are dealt, you have the following options:
- Hit: The dealer gives you another card. This card is added your card total. For example, if your first two cards are a 2 and a 6, and you receive a 5, your new card total is 2 + 6 + 5 = 13. Hitting is motioned by tapping the table one to two times with your fingers.
- Stand: If you are satisfied with your card total, you can choose to stand. At this point, you are done with your hand. Standing is motioned by waving your hand from right to left while keeping your palm facing the table.
- Double Down: When you are dealt a good hand, you can choose to Double Down. When this is done, you will be given one more card to add to your card total, and your turn is over. Doubling down is typically done when you have a decent potential to hit close to 21 on your next card.
- Split: If your first card and your second card have the same value, you will be given the option to split. By splitting, you create two separate hands from your first two cards. Splitting is done by placing the same amount of chips as your original bet next to your original bet.
- Surrender: If you feel like you are going to lose the hand, some casinos will give you the option to surrender. Should you choose to surrender, you only lose half of your original bet and get to keep the other half.
- Insurance: If the dealer's upcard is an ace, you will be given the option to take insurance. Insurance is considered a side bet where you bet that the dealer will have a blackjack, or a 21 card total. Unless you are an advanced blackjack player who knows how to count cards, insurance should never be taken.
If your final card total is 21 or less and greater than the dealer's card total, you win. If your card total is over 21 or less than the dealers, you lose. If you and the dealer both have the same card total, you tie, which is known in Blackjack as a "push."
You Versus the Dealer
In general, blackjack can be categorized into two game types: "Dealer Hits on Soft 17" and the "Dealer Stands on Soft 17". Soft 17 means that the dealer has a card total of 17 with an ace valued as an 11. No matter what any of the players at the table have, the dealer will always hit until they incur a card total of 17 or more. Many beginning blackjack players have the misconception that they should always try to get as close to 21 as possible. This isn't true. Depending on the dealer's card total, it may be in your best interest to stand, even though you have a card total of only 12. This strategy is known as Basic Strategy and is explained in detail in the "Hone Your Strategy" page.
The following are some of the rule variations that are commonly seen throughout the casinos:
- Soft 17: As mentioned above, the dealer will either hit or stand on Soft 17. The majority of Blackjack tables will display this rule on the middle of the table. If you have the choice, choose a table where the dealer stands on Soft 17 because this will give you a greater chance of winning.
- Number of Decks: The number of decks in the "shoe", which is the cartridge that holds the cards, can range from 1 deck to 8 decks. With everything else held constant, increasing the number of decks generally decreases your chances of winning.
- Surrender Allowed: "Surrendering" is an important aspect of Blackjack. Though it may seem like a loss, surrendering can significantly reduce the amount of money you will lose over a long period of time. Finding a table that allows for the "surrender" option will reduce the amount of money you will lose.