Rules and Strategy

How to play Blackjack ?

When you are first starting out at Blackjack as a novice, understanding the basics of the game and learning the strategy behind different hands before going up against the house makes a big difference. This article outlines the rules of this popular casino game and how those rules affect the state of play in Blackjack.

The game is played using either a single deck or up to 8 decks of cards, with single and double decks being dealt by a dealer and multiple decks of cards being dealt from a special box called a shoe. Most land based casinos employ an automatic card shuffling system which also serves to deter the activity of card counting. In dealer dealt games the cards are dealt face down to the player and they are allowed to pick them up, whilst in multi card or ‘shoe’ games they are dealt face up to the player though the rest of the game is the same for either version.

Object of the Game

Blackjack (or 21) is very simple in essence; to win you have to beat the value of the dealer’s hand without exceeding a score of 21 or ‘going bust’. If at the same time the dealer busts (goes over 21) then you win as long as you do not go bust. If you go bust you lose regardless of whether the dealer goes bust or not.

Card Values

The suits of the cards have no impact on the game. Cards 2 through to 10 are counted at face value. An ace can count as either 11 or 1 and the face cards i.e. the Jack, Queen and King count as 10 in value.

Playing Basics

In a standard single or double deck version of blackjack the game starts and you are dealt two cards face down, the dealer also is dealt two cards, with one of them face down and one face up. After all the cards are dealt the dealer will ask each player their decision. The player directly left of the dealer (known as first base) gives his decision first while the last player (known as third base) will be the last to give his decision.

You will either make a decision to ‘stay’ i.e. not take an additional card or be ‘hit’ i.e. given an additional card based on your current hand in order to reach 21 or as close as possible. The weight of this decision has many factors, most notably the dealers card that is visible to you. It is wise to always assume the dealer has a card which is worth 10 that is not visible to you in order to come to a balanced decision on what to do next. In a multi deck game the cards are all dealt face up and there are instantly more probabilities and risks.

Blackjack can be played by up to 7 players per table. The best total score is of course 21, with the toughest hand to beat being a two card draw of 21. If at this point the dealer also draws 21 via two cards then the hand is tied and the original bet is returned. Even if the dealer goes on to make 21 from 3 or more cards you would still win with a 2 card hand of 21 even though the dealer matched your score. Winning by a 21 pays out 3-2 whilst beating the dealer with any other score ensures an even odds pay out.

Special Hands and Circumstances

During the start of the hand it’s possible to ‘double down’ on your initial bet and you will receive only one additional card with which to beat the dealer’s hand.

If the dealer deals two cards of the same value, this is called ‘a pair’. From this pair you have the ability to create two separate playable hands. To complete each hand, you will receive two new cards and you must submit a bet equal to the initial bet for the second hand.

Finally if the dealers face up card is an ace you are permitted to take ‘insurance’ which is a bet that the dealer has a card worth 10 in value as his face down card to complete what is called a Natural Blackjack. Insurance costs half the original stake and pays 2-1 if the dealer hits a natural Blackjack.

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