Casino blackjack is currently among the leading casino table games in the world! Blackjack draws its popularity by being simple, straight-forward and intuitive card game, that doesn’t require paying much attention (unlike poker). This is of course just a generalization, and I don’t advise anyone to play Blackjack without having learned the basic rules behind this fantastic game first!
The goal of each player is to have more points (sum total value) than the dealer without going over 21. At the beginning of each round, both the player and the dealer are handed two cards. The player keeps his cards face-up, while the dealer has one card face-up and the other face-down. The player then chooses whether or not he wants any additional cards based on the cards in his hand. If a player scores exactly 21 points on his original hand*, this is called a “blackjack”, and it means an automatic victory for the player (or for the dealer if it is his hand). In this guide, we are going to discuss some general rules that every blackjack table in the world adheres to.
And without further adieu, let’s begin by introducing the Deck.
Blackjack is played using a standard 52 card deck; and there could be up to 8 different decks in play at the same time. There are of course the usual 4 suits – Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds, and 14 denominations, ranging from Ace, 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,Jack, Queen to King. An Ace can be either 1 or 11. Each number card gives the amount written on the card. For example, if you have a 2 and an 8; 2 + 8 = 10, you have a 10. Each face card (Jack, Queen, King), gives exactly 10 points. So a Jack and a 5 would result in your having a total of 15 in your hand. The only way you can get a blackjack right away, is if you draw an ace and a face card or a 10 – (11+10 = 21; blackjack).
There are a few rules that a player must follow strictly and to the point. First of all, a player is prohibited from touching his (or anyone else’s) cards. The dealer will be more than happy to deal your cards for you. Second, there is absolutely no paper money on the table! It is your obligation to purchase chips (checks) from the casino floor. A player signals his moves (more on that later) by using hand gestures. Ever since digital surveillance became mandatory in all licensed casinos, players are now obligated to make all hand gestures near their respective betting areas. This way there couldn’t be a dispute over who called what and when, thus technical/human errors can be corrected promptly, if need be. Each table holds its own ‘minimum and maximum’ bet restrictions (this information should be written on the table itself), A blackjack pays 3 to 2 in most casinos; where as a non-blackjack win pays even money.
Now that we have cleared the do’s and don’ts when engaging a Blackjack table, let’s talk about the actual rules of the game. There are many variations of casino blackjack, but for the sake of players who are not very familiar with the game, we are only going to talk about the standard “shoe” game. It is called a ‘shoe’ because the card dispenser the dealer uses somewhat looks like a shoe. But a ‘shoe’ game refers more to a game, where the player is in full view of his cards (have both cards facing up), and there are multiple decks in play (up to 8). Players will be handed out their cards and the game will begin.
A hit is when the player asks the dealer for one more card. A player can draw as many cards as he likes, as long as he doesn’t go over 21. Some casinos have the “five-card Charlie” rule; where if a player has 5 cards, and didn’t *bust, he wins automatically. Signalling that you want a hit should be done by scratching or tapping your finger on the table; preferably behind the bet. If you are a newcomer, you can tell the dealer to hit you, but you still must make the hand-gestures for the cameras.
When a player hits and draws a card, there are two possible things that could happen: either the player will win (have a natural/blackjack) or bust. A bust means that the player had drawn one too many cards, and have gone over the 21 mark. Let’s say you have a 9 and a 5; 9 + 5 = 14. This number is not quite 21, so the player might ask for one additional card. If he draws anything over 7 -8, 9, 10 etc. he will bust, or otherwise lose his bet. The only time when this rule doesn’t apply, is when a player has an Ace, because remember: an Ace could be either 1 or 11. So if you have 14, and you draw an Ace (14+1=15), and not 14+11=25.
According to the rules of blackjack, you are not obligated to hit (unlike the dealer*) and could just stand if that is your choice. Players usually stand when they have 16 or above. Of course the most important thing when deciding whether to hit or stand, is the dealer’s face-up card and its value. Usually if the dealer has a 10 card or an Ace, a ‘good’ player would prefer to stand safe. To signal that you wish to stand, simply wave your hand near the betting area like you would with a lit candle. A couple of inches off the table is fine.
A double, or doubling down, is when you ask the dealer to double your wager, but receive only one card in return. After the player had finished supplying the necessary chips, the dealer will place one card – horizontally over the other two cards. If a player wins, he gets his winnings doubled; if he loses, he loses all. This action is requested by holding one finger down, like you are pointing something at the table. This will tell the dealer that you need only ‘one’ additional card. (note that the dealer won’t comply until you had placed the additional chips).
Splitting your hand, or a split, refers to a player who either has a pair (two of a kind) or two 10 cards (10, Jack, Queen or King), and decides to play two hands at the same time (doubling the bet as well). The dealer will then separate his two initial cards and assign an additional card to both of them. Each hand is then treated differently and is virtually separate from the other. You can still hit, stand, double and split again (depending on the rules of each individual casino); several times if need be. If you lose one hand, you still get to play the other. The signal for a split is a ‘reverse peace sign’, or you hold your fist near the betting zone, extending your index and middle finger to make an upside-down ‘V’.
*Note that when a player splits, he can no longer have a “blackjack”. Even if he has two Aces and two 10s, and the sum total of both hands is 21, the house won’t pay him 3 to 2 – just even money.
A player can surrender if he wants to -t his way he loses only half his bet, instead of the whole thing. Players surrender when they don’t think they could beat the dealer (like if the dealer has an Ace or a 10 showing). You can only surrender after the hand has been dealt, and before you draw additional cards. The hand-gesture for this is draw a straight line right below your bet. It is still a good idea to say “I surrender”, just in case the dealer had misread your signal.
Like I mentioned earlier in order to beat the game, you must beat the dealer. Well to be honest, beating the dealer is not an accurate description of what you are doing. The dealer himself has very little to do with decision making. Unlike the players who get to call their own hits; a dealer must either hit or stand on 17, depending on the house rules. Also a good thing to keep in mind is that the dealer is the last person to turn over his cards (also making the dealer the last person to lose). As we know, when a player goes over 21 he busts and the house takes his wager – even if the dealer busts as well! This gives the dealer, and the house, a considerable advantage over the players.
Hit on soft 17
A common house rule states, that the dealer must hit whenever he has an Ace and one/more cards that add up to 17. This is referred to as ‘soft 17’, because even if the dealer draws a card that would normally bust (anything above 4), he can substitute his 11 (Ace) for a 1 – 1+3+3=7. He must then draw again, until he can no longer substitute 11s for 1s (and reaches 17 respectively). A hard hand would be any number above 11 that doesn’t have an Ace. It is called hard because there is a chance for a bust (no Aces to save the day).
Stand on All 17s
This rule states that the dealer must stand on all 17s; meaning that once the dealer has 17 (soft or otherwise) or over, he must stand down. Players are advised to play by this model as well, although it is not mandated.
A push is when the player and the dealer both have the same sum total in their hands. Basically it is like a draw; and both the player and the dealer get to keep their wage.
When a dealer has an Ace showing, there is a 1/3 chance that the other card is a 10 card (10, Jack, Queen, King). He will peak at his face-down card, but wont announce the results until the game is over. You can wager whether or not he has a blackjack, and place your bet on that. You can only wager half your original bet, and the bet itself is treated separately as it is a side bet. If the dealer has a blackjack, the house will pay you even money. You still get to play your original hand against the dealer; so the result can be either a bust or a push. And if the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you lose your insurance bet, but keep playing your original hand us usual.
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