Blackjack is a favorite among gamblers around the world, partly because it is mathematically beatable and players feel the odds are less random than the spin of a roulette wheel, or the pull of a slot machine handle. Some claim Blackjack was invented in French casinos in the early 1700s where it was called “vingt-et-un” (“twenty-one”). It has been played in the U.S. since the 1800’s. Blackjack is so-called because if a player held a Jack of Spades and an Ace of Spades as the first two cards, the player was paid out extra. The black suit ‘spades’ plus the winning Jack brought about the name ‘Blackjack’. Blackjack actually has very simple rules and can be learnt easily, however there are a number of strategies you can learn to increase your winning odds. Blackjack uses a standard set of 52 playing cards and players compete against the dealer, not each other.
Values of cards
King, Queen, Jack, 10 = 10
2-9 = Face value
Aces = 11 or 1
The player wins when the total value of cards in his hand is closer to 21 than those held by the dealer, without exceeding 21. A hand with a value over 21 is called a “bust,” and is an automatic loser. If you and the dealer have the same card total (17 and up) neither of you wins and your bet is returned to you in a “push”. The player wins one and a half times his bet if his first two cards total 21 – a natural Blackjack. The only way two cards can have a value of 21 is if one of them is an Ace, and the other is a 10-value card. (e.g. An ace and a king, and an ace and a queen are both blackjacks.) A blackjack beats all other hands except for another blackjack. If you have a blackjack, and the dealer has 3 cards that add up to 21, you still win the hand even though you both have hands valued at 21.
The Value of Winning payouts
Winning Hand 1 to 1
Insurance 2 to 1
Blackjack 3 to 2
If you lose a hand, you lose the amount you originally bet – no more, no less.
The steps of the game follow the same formula each time:
1. Between one and seven players can take part in any hand of Blackjack. The players put an initial wager forward and two cards are dealt to each player (one at a time) with the dealer dealing him/herself last with one card face down.
2. You assess your cards total value and decide whether you need to take another card (hit) to increase your total or keep the tally you already have and hope others will ‘bust’. There is no limit on the number of hits a player can take (however, a practiced player has a sense of when to stop).
3. When you draw an ace, you can decide whether it counts as 1 or 11.
4. When all the players ‘stand’ (choose not to take any more cards), the dealer reveals his hand by flipping over the face down card. The dealer must ‘hit’ (add another card) until the total is 17 or above. If the dealer’s hand is between 17 and 21, the dealer is NOT allowed to take additional hits. He MUST stand. On the other hand, if the dealer’s hand is 16 or under, the dealer MUST take additional hits until the dealer’s hand has a value of 17 or higher. If the dealer goes over 21 while taking additional cards, he “busts,” and automatically loses. If the dealer busts, all players that are still in the game win. Between the players and the dealer, whoever is closer to 21 without going over wins.
5. Winnings are calculated on the amount of the bet for a winning hand (see the ‘winning payouts’ table above). The only way you can lose with a blackjack hand is if the dealer has one too.
If your first two cards have the same point value, you may split them into two separate hands by placing a second bet equal to the original bet. You then proceed to draw cards. You are able to draw as many cards as you like on each split hand, but if you split two aces, you receive only one additional card for each ace. If you split two aces and one of your hands totals 21, it is counted as 21 and not blackjack. Any two ten value cards can be split, for instance a 10 and queen, however we virtually never recommend splitting ten value cards. Two aces can, and should be, split. Normally the casino will also allow you to re-split after the original split. For example, you split two eight’s and now are dealt again an eight as the second card of one of those two hands. You can split this hand again and now play three hands. Some casinos have limits on re-splitting aces and if the player is unsure of the casino house rules he should ask the dealer. We recommend to always split Aces and 8s.
After you are dealt two cards, and think that another card will allow you to beat the dealer’s hand, you can increase your bet by an amount up to your original bet or double your bet. This is also known as ‘doubling down’. Once you decide to ‘double down’ you are allowed to receive just one more card. You cannot stand on your original hand or take more than 1 additional card. For example, you may be dealt a 5 and a 6 for a total of 11. You can now double down, hoping to get a 10 value card (the most frequent value card in an unplayed deck). The casino house rules vary for doubling down. For example some allow only doubling down on 10 and 11 totals while others allow on any two card total. Some casinos allow it only on original hands and not split hands, while others allow doubling down after splitting. Be sure to know the rules of your casino before starting to play.
Insurance is designed to protect you when you think that the dealer may have blackjack. When buying insurance, you place ½ of your initial bet by pressing the ‘Insurance’ Button. If the dealer does have blackjack, you are paid 2 to 1 on your insurance bet. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you lose your insurance bet