How to play Blackjack - Blackjack rules Explained
Rules for Blackjack
- Blackjack starts with players making bets.
- Dealer deals 2 cards to the players and two to himself (1 card face up, the other face down).
- Blackjack card values: All cards count their face value in blackjack. Picture cards count as 10 and the ace can count as either 1 or 11. Card suits have no meaning in blackjack. The total of any hand is the sum of the card values in the hand
- Players must decide whether to stand, hit, surrender, double down, or split.
- The dealer acts last and must hit on 16 or less and stand on 17 through 21.
- Players win when their hand totals higher than dealer’s hand, or they have 21 or less when the dealer busts (i.e., exceeds 21).
The objective of blackjack is: to beat the dealer’s hand by either
- having a total that exceeds the dealer’s total
- by not going over 21 when the dealer does.
As mentioned at the top, all cards count their face value in blackjack. Picture cards count as 10 and the ace can count as either 1 or 11. Card suits have no meaning in blackjack. The total of any hand is the sum of the card values in the hand. A hand containing a 4-5-8 totals 17. Another containing a queen-5 totals 15. It is always assumed that the ace counts as 11 unless so doing would make your hand total exceed 21, in which case the ace reverts to a value of 1
Hard or Soft Hand
A hard hand is any hand that either does not contain an ace, of if it does, counts the ace as 1. For example, 10-8 is a hard 18; 5-A-10-2 is a hard 18. Any hand that contains an ace that counts as 11 is known as a soft hand. For example A-5 is a soft 16; A-2-5 is a soft 18; and 3-2-A-3 is a soft 19. When you receive your first two cards and one of them is an ace, count the ace as 11. Often when you are dealt a soft hand and draw more cards your hand will convert to a hard hand. For example, suppose a player is dealt a 5-A which is a soft 16, and he draws another card. Suppose the draw card was a 6. The player now has a hard 12 (i.e., you can never bust when you draw to a soft hand). The reason you need to know the difference between a hard and soft hand in blackjack is because the playing strategy is often different even though the total of the hand is the same. For example, a 10-6 (hard 16) is played differently than an A-5 (soft 16).
Before the cards are shared, all players must bet by placing chips in their respective betting boxes. Each player and dealer gets two cards. One of the dealer's cards (known as the dealer's card) is always handed up so players can see the value. The other of the dealer's card, called dealer card or hole card, is not visible.
When the player looks at his first two cards and sees the value of one of the dealer's two cards, the player must make a game decision.
This means you want the dealer to give another card to your hand. In shoe games, indicate to the dealer that you want a hit by making a beckoning motion with your finger or tapping the table behind your cards with your finger. In hand-held games, scratch the edges of the cards in your hand lightly on the felt.
This means you are satisfied with the total of the hand and want to stand with the cards you have. In shoe games, indicate that you want to stand by waving your hand over the cards, palm down. In hand-held games, tuck your cards under the chips that you have in the betting box.
If you have two like cards (e.g., a pair of 6s or aces), you could exercise the option to split them. When you split, you must make another bet equal to your original bet, just place your chip next to the original chip bet on the hand. When you pair split, you are playing each card as a separate hand and you can draw as many cards as you like to each hand, except split aces; most casinos will allow only one draw card to each ace. For example, if you were dealt a pair of 8s, and split, you would have two separate hands with a count of 8 in each hand. You are required to play out one of the split hands (on your right) first to completion before the other. In shoe games, you indicate that you want to split by placing another chip next to the original chip. For hand-held games, toss the two cards you want to split face up on the layout and then make the secondary wager. Most casinos will also allow players to split any 10-value cards such as a jack-ten or queen-king, although, as you will soon learn about pair splitting, this is not a recommended playing strategy.
This playing option allows you to double your initial bet in return for receiving one (and only one) draw card. In most casinos, you can only double down after you receive your first two cards and before drawing another card. To signal the dealer that you want to double down in shoe-dealt games, just place your chip next to the original chip bet on the hand. In hand-held games, toss your cards on the table face-up and then make the secondary bet.
This playing option is sometimes permitted. It allows a player to forfeit the hand immediately with an automatic loss of half the original bet. In most venues, players can surrender their initial two-card hand only after the dealer has checked his cards and ascertained that he doesn’t have a blackjack (known as late surrender). Once a player draws a card, the surrender option is no longer available. If the dealer has a blackjack hand, then surrender is not available.
When the dealer’s upcard is an ace, she will ask players if they want to make the insurance wager, which is a side bet in which players are betting that the dealer’s hole card will be a ten-value card. Players can make an insurance bet less than or equal to one-half of the initial bet made on the hand. To make the insurance bet, simply place your chips on the insurance line, which is located right above the player’s betting spot. You win your insurance bet if the dealer has a ten-value card in the hole. A winning insurance bet pays off at 2 to 1 odds.
When the player has a blackjack hand and the dealer has an ace showing, the dealer will ask the player if he wants “even money.” Even money means the dealer will automatically give you a 1 to 1 (or even money) payoff on your bet before she checks her downcard for a potential blackjack. Taking even money yields the same result as making an insurance bet on your blackjack hand.
The dealer's rules of the game
Unlike players, the dealer in blackjack has no playing options. Casino rules specify that a dealer must draw if her hand totals less than 17 and stand when the total is 17 to 21. In some casinos, dealers must stand on soft 17 and in others they must hit. It’s better for the player if the rules specify the dealer must stand on soft 17.
Fortunately, everything is not equal when playing blackjack. Players have certain benefits and options that are not available to the dealer. These include:
- Receive a 3 to 2 bonus on blackjack, while the dealer gets paid only 1 to 1 on their winning blackjack.
- To double their bet (ie doubling) in favorable situations (like pulling two cards 11), while the dealer can not double.
- Being able to share pairs, while the dealer can not split.
- Players can stay at a total of 12-16, while a dealer must always beat a total of 16 or lower.
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