How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is a simple, popular casino game played against the house. The object of the game is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. The player may take as many cards as he wishes to reach this goal. Unlike other games, the player has the ability to make decisions that affect his chances of winning.

The basic concept is pretty simple but there are a variety of betting options that can confuse new players. If you read these rules and practice a little online blackjack first, you’ll soon be able to walk into the casino and head straight to the blackjack tables with confidence.

Object of the Game

Your goal in blackjack is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. Several people can play at a single blackjack table at the same time but they don’t affect each other in any way. Each player plays an individual game against the dealer during each hand.

Face cards in blackjack are worth 10 points each. Number cards (2-10) are worth face value. Aces can be worth either 1 or 11, whichever is more beneficial to the player’s hand.

The Setup

Each hand in blackjack begins with each player placing a wager on the hand. The dealer then deals two cards to each player and two cards to himself. Both of the players’ cards are dealt face up but only one of the dealer’s cards is dealt face up.

The Play

The player to the left of the dealer begins by choosing to receive another card (hit) or to not receive another card (stand). The option to hit or stand then continues to the left around the table. Each player may receive as many or as few cards as he wishes.

After the players have finished, the dealer then reveals his hidden card and plays his hand out according to the dealer rules. In most casinos, the dealer is required to hit on all totals of soft 17 or lower. The word “soft” means the hand includes an Ace and therefore has two different possible totals.

Showdown Rules

After the dealer finishes his hand, the dealer’s hand is compared to each player’s hand. Payouts are given to the players who win and the bets are collected from the players who lose. The following list shows the possible outcomes in a hand:

  • The player has a higher total than the dealer without going over 21. The player wins even money on the bet.
  • The dealer has a higher total than the player without going over 21. The dealer collects the player’s bet.
  • The player and dealer have the same score. The bet is a push.
  • The player has a “blackjack,” which is a points total of 21 on the first two cards. The player wins 3:2 on his bet, unless the dealer also has a blackjack. In that case, the bet is a tie and no money changes hands.
  • The dealer “busts” by having a points total greater than 21. Any player who did not also bust receives even money on the bet.
  • The player busts. The player loses the bet.

Blackjack Betting Options

The following betting options are completely optional for all players. After you get the basics down, feel free to experiment with these different betting options. As you become more experienced in blackjack, you’ll find that there are better times than others to use the following betting options.

Double Down – If you like the looks of your first two cards, you may double your original bet. The catch is that after you double down, you must receive exactly one more card.

Split – If you are dealt a pair (two cards of the same rank), you can split the cards and place an additional bet. You will now play those cards as two separate hands.

Surrender – Some casinos allow you to surrender, which is to forfeit half your bet and leave the hand. This option comes in handy if you don’t like the way your hand looks. There are two different types of surrender: early and late.

Early surrender allows you to surrender before the dealer checks for blackjack. This is the best one out of the two. Late surrender lets the dealer check for blackjack before you have the option to surrender. If the dealer has a blackjack, you will not be allowed to surrender.

Insurance – Insurance allows you to place a hedge bet if the dealer’s up card is an ace. The insurance bet is equal to half the size of the original bet. If the dealer has blackjack, your insurance bet is paid off at 2:1 odds. In all other cases, the insurance bet is lost. Insurance is generally considered a sucker’s bet because of its high house advantage.

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