Black Jack Rules
The object of black jack is to get a total value of cards as close to 21 as possible without going over and beat the dealer’s total. Numbered cards are worth their face value. Face cards — Kings, Queens and Jacks — are each worth 10. Aces are worth either 1 or 11, whichever is better in the circumstances.
If the total value of your cards exceeds 21, you “bust”, which means you lose. If your total is less than or equal to 21 and the dealer’s total is over 21, then the dealer busts and you win. If neither your total or the dealer’s total exceeds 21, then the higher total wins. In the event of a tie, no one wins and no one loses. A tie is called a “push”.
You start the game by placing your bet. Next the dealer deals two cards to you and one to himself. Usually these cards are dealt face-up. Then the dealer gives himself a second card face-down. This is called the hole card. Now you have to make a decision: do you take another card (“hit”) or pass to the dealer (“stand” or “stay”). If you hit, the dealer gives you another card and again asks if you want to hit or stand. You keep hitting until you are satisfied with your total or you bust. The dealer must keep taking cards until he has 17 or more.
So when should you hit and when should you stand? Check out our black jack strategies page.
Here are a few other basic black jack rules you’ll need to know.
black jack – If the first two cards dealt to you or the dealer are an Ace and a ten-count card (10, Jack, Queen or King), that is “black jack”. If you have black jack, you win automatically, unless the dealer also has black jack, in which case it is a push (tie). black jack pays higher than an ordinary win, which pays even money. black jack pays 3 to 2, meaning you win 3 dollars for every 2 you bet. black jack is sometimes called “a natural”.
Doubling down – After you receive your first two cards, you may have the option to “double down”. This means you can double your original bet. Most casino only allow you to double down when the value of the first 2 cards is 9, 10 or 11. If you double down, the dealer will give you only one more card and then draw the cards needed to complete his own hand.
Splitting pairs – When your first two cards have the same value (for example, a pair of sevens), you have the option to “split”. To split, you have to place another bet equal to your original bet. Then the two cards are split and you play them as separate hands. Some casinos allow you to “resplit” if you get another same-value card.
Special black jack rules apply when you choose to split Aces. When you split Aces, you only receive one more card on each hand and if you get 21, it is not considered black jack.
Insurance – When the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, some casinos will ask if you want “insurance”. The cost of insurance is half your original bet. Your insurance bet pays 2 to 1 if the dealer gets black jack, which will equal the amount you lose on the original bet. For example, say your original bet was $10. The dealer has an Ace showing and you decide to place an insurance bet for $5. If the dealer gets black jack, you lose your original $10 bet but win $10 on the insurance bet so you are even. If the dealer does not have black jack you lose your $5 insurance bet and play the hand by normal black jack rules.
Number of decks – Casinos deal black jack from a single deck or from multiple decks. It’s traditional for the dealer to “burn” or discard the top card after shuffling.
Black Jack rule variations – black jack rules may vary from casino to casino. Here are a few rules variations you may encounter
Dealer stands on soft 17.
Player may double down on any first two cards.
Player may double down on any number of cards.
Player may double down on split pairs.
Player may “surrender” his hand after the first two cards and lose half his bet.
Atlantic City Rules
Dealer must draw to all totals of 16 or less, and stand on all totals of 17 to 21. Players may double down on any initial hand and split any initial pair. Doubling after a split is allowed but re-splitting is not. black jacks pay 1 1/2 to 1 and insurance on a dealer Ace pays 2 to 1.
Spanish 21 Rules
Spanish 21 uses six or eight Spanish decks, each deck consisting of 48 cards — the regular 52 cards less the four tens. Any card counter can tell you that removing any 10-point card from the cards moves the odds in favor of the dealer. To make up for this Spanish 21 gives to the player a host of bonuses and favorable rules. The rules are based on liberal 6-8 deck black jack rules, including double after split, late surrender, and re-splitting aces.
Las Vegas Strip Rules
Dealer must draw to all totals of 16 or less and stand on all totals of 17 to 21. Players may double down on any initial hand and split any pair. Pairs may be re-split and drawn to like an initial hand, except for Aces. Players get only 1 card on each of the split Aces. Doubling after a split is not always permitted. black jacks pay 1 1/2 to 1 and insurance on a dealer Ace pays 2 to 1.
Downtown Las Vegas Rules
These are the same as the above LV Strip rules except that the dealer draws to a soft 17.
European black jack
European black jack is normally played with only 2 packs of cards, does not offer surrender and only permits doubling on hands of 9, 10 or 11. Whilst you can split your cards, you will not be permitted to re-split them and nor can you double down on cards that have already been split.