Blackjack, also known as Twenty-One, is one of the most popular casino card games. It is probably originated in the 17th century from a game called "Vingt-Un". It is an exciting game, that comes in several types, which slightly change the way it is played. Its popularity mainly rises from the fact, that the chances of winning are higher, compared to other card games, and its simplicity. Blackjack is a casino banked game, meaning, players compete against the house rather than each other. So the objective is to beat the dealer. If you are already familiar with the basic rules, go an check out our post about The Basic Blackjack Strategy for beating the dealer.
Blackjack is most often played with 4, 6 or 8 standard 52-card decks, but it basically can be played with 1 to 8 decks. For beginners it is recommended to start playing at a table where only 1 deck is played, as your chances of winning are higher. The more decks in a game, the lower your advantage and the lower your chances of winning.
All cards count their face value, picture cards each count 10 and aces may be used as either 1 or 11. An ace is always considered to count as 11, except when this would mean exceeding 21. Then it is counted as 1. The colors of the cards don’t matter. In Blackjack we distinguish between a soft hand and a hard hand. A hard hand is any hand that does not contain an ace or contains an ace with the value of 1. For example, suppose a player is dealt an ace and a 9, this would be called a soft 20. If the player draws another card, and the sum exceeds 21, the value of the ace is reduced to 1, and it is now called a hard hand. If you reach 21 points within your first 2 cards, this is called “blackjack” and is the strongest hand in the game.
The objective in Blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand by either exceeding the dealer’s hand without going over 21 or staying below 22 while the dealer exceeds 21. Unlike other casino games, the dealer is your only opponent, even if multiple players are playing.
The game is usually played at a semi-circular table with places for a maximum of 7 players. The play begins by placing a chip or chips in the respective betting box. After all bets have been placed, each player and the dealer are given two cards. Depending on the type of Blackjack, the players cards are either dealt face-up, and the players are not allowed to touch their cards, or the cards are dealt face-down, and players may pick them up. Either way, the 1st dealer’s card is turned face-up and the 2nd card is turned face-down.
Once the cards have been dealt, players decide in turn how to play out their hands. After all players have finished playing their hand, the dealer plays according to set rules. If the dealer busts all non-busted player hands are automatically winners.
Playing options for players
Hitting means, you want the dealer to give you another card. You can signal that by either tapping the table behind your cards (for face-up games) or by scratching the table lightly with your cards (for face-down games). Verbal calls to hit are not accepted.
If a player exceeds 21 after hitting, the player is said to “bust” and loses the bet.
If you are happy with the points you have been dealt, you can decide to stand. No more cards are dealt to you and it’s the next players turn. This action can be taken after any other action, as long as your hand is not higher than 21. If the total is 21, the hand automatically stands. To indicate that you want to stand wave your hand over the cards, palm down or tuck your cards under the chips in the betting box (for face-down games)
If you are dealt a pair (regarding the points), you can decide to place an additional bet equal to your original by splitting the cards into two hands. The amount of the original bet then goes on one of the cards, and an equal amount must be placed as a bet on the other card.
The dealer gives you another card, to one hand, which is played first. After you either win or bust, the other hand is played. If either hand receives a second card of matching rank, you may be offered the option to split again. The rules on how many times you can split the cards, which ranks you can split and if you are allowed to double after a split, depend on the particular game and casino. Some casinos restrict splitting ten value cards to pairs of the same rank (e.g. two kings).
A player who splits Aces is usually only allowed to receive a single additional card on each hand. It should be noted, that in any case splitting 10s or aces is a poor action for the player. If aces are split and the player draws a 10 or if 10s are split and the player draws and Ace, the resulting hand does not count as blackjack, but only as an ordinary 21. Meaning, the player’s two-card 21 is worth a tie with the dealer’s 21 in three or more cards.
To signal a split, place another chip next to your original chip for face-up games. For face-down games, toss the two cards you want to split face up on the table (in the respective place) and then make the secondary bet.
Doubling your initial bet in return for receiving exactly one more card is called double down. You are then forced to stand, regardless of the total. This option is only available on your original two cards. Some casinos/game variations restrict which starting hand totals can be doubled and if doubling is allowed after splitting a hand. To signal the dealer that you want to double down, place your chip(s) next to your original bet (for face-up games) or toss your cards face-up on the table and make the secondary bet (for face-down games).
Casinos usually allow to double down for less than your original wager, but that’s normally not a good decision.
If you don’t like your initial hand, you have the option of giving up in exchange for half your original bet. However, this playing option is permitted by most casinos. In most casinos where this move is allowed, a player can only surrender, after the dealer has checked his cards and determined that he doesn’t have a blackjack (also known as late surrender). If players are allowed to surrender before the dealer checks his hand for a blackjack, this is called early surrender. To signal a surrender, draw an imaginary line across the table behind your bet from left to right with your finger. To be safe, always verbalize the word "surrender” to the dealer and then make the signal.
Blackjack Dealer’s playing Rules
The dealer must draw, if his hand totals less than 17 and stand on any total of 17 or more. In some casinos, dealers must stand on soft 17 and in others they must hit.
If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, you may take an insurance. An insurance is a side bet in which players are betting, that the dealer’s face-down card has a value of 10. The wager can be less than or equal to the half of your initial bet made. If the dealer has blackjack, you win this bet. Winning an insurance bet pays of at 2 to 1 odds. For example, if you place a € 5 insurance bet and the dealer has blackjack, you get paid € 15. So you win € 10.
When a player has blackjack and the dealer has an ace showing, the dealer will offer the player even money. If you agree you will be payed a 1 to 1 payoff, no matter whether the dealer has blackjack. For example, if you place an initial bet of € 10, you have blackjack and the dealer’s face-up card is an ace you are now offered even money. If you agree, you get paid € 20 (€ 10 winnings). If you don’t take the offer and the dealer also has blackjack, you get paid € 10 (€ 0 winnings). If you decline and the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you get paid € 25 (€ 15 winnings).
If a player wins, she is usually payed at 1 to 1 odds. For example, if you wager a total of € 10, you are paid € 20. So, you won € 10. If a player wins with blackjack, the payout increases to a 3 to 2. Meaning, if you win with blackjack and wagered a total of € 10, you are paid € 25. So, you won € 15. If the player and the dealer have the same total, this is called a tie or push, and the player gets back is bet.