Learn to Play Blackjack

Playing Basic Blackjack

Learn how to play blackjack

Blackjack originated in France sometime during the 18th century, and it has become probably the most popular of all casino card games. The aim is to get as close as possible to 21 without going over, and beating the dealer’s hand. Both parts are necessary to win in blackjack – the total of your hand must beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21. Face cards (kings, queens, and jacks) are worth 10; aces can count as either 1 or 11; and the other numbered cards are worth their face value.

You place your bet, and the dealer deals three cards face up, two to you and one to the dealer. A fourth card (the hole card) is then dealt face down to the dealer. After seeing your cards, you need to decide whether to hit (take another card) or stay/stand (refusing another card). If you hit, the dealer deals you one more card, and asks again if you want to hit or stand. You may continue to hit until you’re satisfied with your total or you bust (total over 21). The dealer must continue to deal cards to his hand until he reaches a total of 17 or more. In most games, the dealer has to stand on 17, and twist on all 16’s.

You bust if your hand totals more than 21, and you automatically lose your bet. If the dealer busts and you don’t, you automatically win the bet. If neither hand exceeds 21, the highest value hand wins the round. When both hand totals are the same, you tie (also called draw or push) and your bet amount is returned to you. This is true no matter how many cards are drawn.

Be aware of some basic rules in blackjack. The first rule is that a “blackjack” consists of an ace and a ten or a face card. (This is also called a “natural.”) Unless the dealer also has a blackjack, you are an automatic winner. If both of you have blackjack, unfortunately that counts as a tie and only your original bet amount is returned to you. If do win, your win is paid at 3 to 2 of your bet amount. So, if you bet $2 you get $3!.

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If it’s appropriate you can either “double down” or “split.” If the dealer is showing a 4, 5, or 6, and your hand totals 10 or 11, you can double down your bet by doubling the amount of the bet. Those dealer cards are considered weak, and he has a good chance of busting his hand. If you double, the dealer deals you one more card, and you hope that it will get you near 21. Remember that you only get one card and your bet is double. The risk is that you might get dealt a low card (say, a 4) and spend the rest of the hand hoping that the dealer will bust.

When you are dealt two identical cards, you have the option of “splitting.” In splitting the cards are separated, and treated as individual hands. In some casinos, if the next round of cards produces a hand that also has two identical cards, you may split again. There are special rules for splitting aces. You only receive one card for each hand, and if you do get a ten-count card it counts as a winning hand, but not a blackjack. You only get even odds on these hands. I always split aces, and I advise you to follow suit.

Another option is insurance. If the dealer has an ace showing, you may place half your original as “insurance” (for instance, a $10 bet means that you may bet $5 on insurance). If the dealer does have a blackjack, you lose your original $10 bet, but win $10 on the insurance bet. But if the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you lose the $5 insurance bet and the rest of the hand is played according to normal blackjack rules. Use insurance carefully.

The number of decks in blackjack isn’t set. Casinos can use a single deck or multiple decks (8, 12, or more). Regardless of how many decks are used, the top card is always discarded (burned) after shuffling.

Casinos also differ in their blackjack rules. In some the dealer stands soft when he has a total of 17. Some allow a player to double down on any two cards that are dealt first. Others allow players to double down on any number of cards. A casino might also allow you to double down on split pairs. There are enough variations that you should check the rules of whatever casino you’re playing blackjack in.

If this seems confusing, don’t worry. You’ll soon get the hang of it. Download the free software from any of the casinos on this site and practice until you’re comfortable with it. It’s a great free way to get familiar with the game before you risk your own money!

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