Blackjack is a table card game played against the dealer, when playing the pictures have a value of ten and the ace can be either 1 or 11 (a hand with an ace counting as 1 or 11 is called soft otherwise the hand will have a hard total), all other cards have their face value.
You must first place your wager and then the dealer will deal two cards to each player and two cards to himself, one face down and one face up, the aim of the game is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over (known as busting), if you bust you lose your wager, if you draw with the dealer you will not win or lose, but if you beat the dealer you get paid at even money. Although the player can stand or hit on any value the dealer must play by one simple rule, 17 or greater he will stand 16 or lower he will hit.
When playing blackjack a number of other options will become available to the player as follows:
Blackjack – when the player has a total of 21 with two cards this is called blackjack and will be paid at 3-2 if he beats the dealer.
Double – the player may place a bet equal to his initial wager but will only be able to draw one more card.
Splitting – when the player has two cards of equal value he may place a second bet equal to his first and the two cards are split and another card drawn to each card creating two separate hands, these hands are then played as normal.
Insurance – when the dealer is showing an ace the player may make a bet up to half his initial wager, if the dealer gets blackjack the insurance bet will be paid at 2-1, otherwise it will lose.
Surrender – If the player feels he has a bad hand he may surrender his hand and half his bet.
Blackjack probably has more rule variations than any other casino table game and so you must find out which rules are in action at the table you want to play at before placing your first bet. Some of the rule variations are as follows:
Blackjack – a few rare casinos will pay 2-1 for a blackjack.
Double – some casinos will restrict the totals which you can double with, only doubling with a hard total of 9,10 or 11 is a fairly common rule.
Splitting – a casino may not allow you to split ten value cards or may not allow more than one card to be drawn to split ace’s, also some casino will limit the number of times you can split a single hand and whether or not you can double a split hand.
Insurance – some casinos only allow you to take insurance if you are holding a blackjack.
Surrender – many casinos do not give this option but when available it is normally a variation called late surrender, this is when the dealer checks his card to see if he has blackjack before allowing players to surrender. Early surrender is very rare and is done before the dealer checks for blackjack.
Hit soft 17 – in some casinos the dealer will take a card when he has a soft total of 17.
No hole card – some casinos will only give the dealer one card to start with, he will then draw his second card after all the players have completed their hands.
As an example here are the rules used in all casinos in the United Kingdom.
Blackjack – pays 3-2.
Doubling – only on two cards with hard totals of 9,10 or 11.
Splitting – you may not split 4’s, 5’s or ten value cards, only one card is drawn to ace’s but there is no limit to the number of splits (even with ace’s) and you may double split hands.
Insurance – only when the player has blackjack and the dealer has an ace.
Surrender – NO surrender.
Hit soft 17? – NO
Hole card? – dealer has no hole card.
There are also some major variations on blackjack, one of these is called double exposure blackjack and another is called Spanish 21. Double exposure shows both of the dealers cards before the player plays his hand – but this does not come cheap, blackjack is only paid at even money and the dealer wins all hands which would normally stand (except for blackjack). Spanish 21 give’s a number of bonuses such as 3-1 for three sevens or 3-2 for a five card 21 – to compensate for this all tens (not face cards) are removed from the deck.
Blackjack is a game of skill. You can be a good Blackjack player, you can also be a bad Blackjack player.
The first step to becoming a good Blackjack player is to learn the Basic Strategy. The Basic Strategy is a list of moves to make, depending upon the situation.
If you look at the charts on this page, you see a column on the left side. That column shows various possible cards (and card totals) that you may have in your hand. Across the top of the chart are the possible cards that the dealer may be showing.
Simply find where the dealers up card and your hand cards meet on the chart. Then follow the advice you find there.
Use of Basic Strategy does not mean you will win every hand. In fact, you will lose more hands than you will win. But, by using Basic Strategy, over the long term, you will reduce the house advantage significantly.
When playing Blackjack, do expect short term streaks, both winning and losing, to occur.
For online Blackjack playing, I suggest you simply print out the charts on this page to use for reference while you play at your favorite casino.
Before using the charts on this page, find out how many decks of cards will be used in the Blackjack game at the casino. If you are unsure, use the Mulitple Deck chart.
More specific optimal play charts exist for different online casino software packages. If you know the brand of software your favorite casino uses, check this site to see if there is a chart for that brand. If there is, use that chart for optimal play.
Once again, use of Basic Strategy does not guarantee you will win. It does provide the player with the play that will give him/her the best odds of winning the hand.
Here is a legend of the two tables above:
H – Hit
S – Stand
D – Double if allowed, otherwise hit
Ds – Double if allowed, otherwise stand
P – Split
H/P – Split if allowed to double after a split, otherwise hit
H/R – Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit