BlackJack is one of the most simple card games in the Casino and has been around for a long time under other names such as “Pontoon” or “Vingt et un”. The rules may be slightly different from the former games but the principle remains the same. Some will say that the objective is to get cards with a points total as close as possible to 21 without going over 21. We have a slightly different approach to this in that the real objective is to have more points than the dealer without going over 21. This might be a subtle difference but it might help you win a little more often.
As usual in casino games there are a number of variants but the principle of the game remains the same. In an actual Casino players (usually 5 or 6) sit around one table and play in turn against the dealer. It is normally possible for one player to occupy more than one seat at the table and therefore play more than one hand. This may not be possible if tables are busy. In Online Casino’s it is more usual for you to play on your own against the dealer.
The tables for Blackjack can have a slightly different layout between Casinos but it should be fairly obvious even to a beginner where to place your bet and where your cards will be. A typical layout is shown here.
The game is normally played with multiple decks of cards, each deck containing 52 cards (in other words no jokers). The reason for playing with so many cards is that it makes it much harder to forecast what cards might be coming next based upon what has gone before. This is made even more difficult when the packs are shuffled long before all cards in the packs are used. A shuffle after only 20% of the cards have been used is not unusual.
The cards themselves each have a value in points. The cards 2 through 9 carry a point value equal to the value of the card; ie- a 2 has a 2 point value, a six has a six point value.
A 10, a Jack, a Queen and a King all carry a point value of 10. An Ace carries a point value of 1 or 11. As a player you can choose whether an ace is worth 1 or 11 at any time in the game. The dealer can have a little less choice but more of that later. The suit or colour of the cards has no significance in Black Jack.
Each Casino has its own graphics and methods of placing bets so we recommend that you read the instructions for the particular casino in which you wish to play. The basic principles however remain the same. Most Casinos have a “Free Play” option that will enable you to practise placing bets.
First select the stake that you wish your chips to represent, then place your chip or chips on the table to indicate how much you want to bet in that particular hand. Each hand is played independently so you can vary your stake each hand if you so wish.
Once all players have placed their bets the dealer will deal two cards to each player FACE UP and two cards to himself. (It may be a herself in an actual Casino but as we talking on line Casinos we shall simply use himself to remove the Lady Luck factor). The first card that the dealer deals to himself will be FACE UP but the second card will be FACE DOWN.
Before we go any further we need to have a couple of definitions out of the way.
• Blackjack is two cards of which one is an ace and the other is a 10 point card (10, Jack, Queen or King)
• To HIT is to take another card to add to your hand.
• To STAND is to not take another card and play your hand as it is.
• A Soft Total is a hand containing an ace that is being counted as 11 (for example a hand containing 2, 5, Ace is a soft 18). The hand is Soft because the Ace could also be counted as 1 which in the example would make the hand count 8
• A Hard Total is a hand containing an ace that is being counted as 1 because counting it as 11 would take the total to over 21. (For example a hand containing Jack, Ace, 4 is a hard 15). It is hard because the hand cannot be counted any other way. If the player holding the Soft example above (2, 5, Ace) Hits and receives a 9 he now has a HARD 17.
Hard and Soft totals are only important on some tables. There are rules for when a Dealer HITS or STANDS. It is important for you to know what the Dealer is going to do with any given cards. The rules stating what the Dealer will do are shown on the table on which you are playing.
A Dealer will always HIT if his points total is less than 17 and will always STAND if his points total is more than 17. The discrepancy arises when his points total is exactly 17.
If it is stated on the table “Dealer Stands on all 17” or words to that effect it means that the Dealer will STAND on 17 regardless of whether it is a HARD or a SOFT 17.
If it is stated on the table “Dealer must hit soft 17” or words to that effect it means that if the Dealer has a HARD 17 he will STAND but if he has a SOFT 17 he will HIT.
It is generally accepted that allowing the Dealer to Hit a soft 17 is a slight disadvantage to the player.
As already stated, the objective is to beat the Dealer so what you do next will be determined by the cards that you have and by the one card that the dealer has exposed. If you end up with the same points total as the dealer it is considered a draw (more commonly known as a PUSH) and you get your stake back.
If you are lucky enough to have 21 with your first 2 cards (an Ace plus a 10 point card) you have what is called a BLACKJACK and you win automatically one and a half times your stake unless of course the dealer also has a BLACK JACK in which case it is a Push.
Apart from having a Black Jack you must decide whether to Hit or Stand. You can Stand on any total under 21 and you can Hit as many times as you like as long as you do not go over 21. The dealer must play to the rules stated on the table.
If you go over 21 you are said to be Bust and you lose immediately regardless of what happens to the dealer. The dealer may also go bust but you have already lost.
If the dealer goes bust and you have cards on which you have chosen to stand, you win regardless of your total points.
The object therefore is to look at the one exposed card that the dealer has and assess what you may need to with your hand to beat him. Other cards that have been played since the last shuffle should also be taken into account although as stated previously the use of multi decks and frequent shuffles make this more difficult.
Double Down : This enables the Player to double the stake having seen their first 2 cards. You must Hit one additional card and you cannot Hit more than one. Some tables allow Double Down only on cards with a total of 10 or 11, some allow Double Down after SPLITTING (See Below) others do not so check the table rules that you are playing.
Splitting : If your first two cards are of equal value this allows you to play two hands separately using the equal value cards as the first card of each hand. You have to place a bet on each hand equal to the original bet placed. Each hand is then played as normal.
Watchpoint: If you end up with Blackjack after splitting some Casinos will only count it as 21 not Blackjack. Check the rules.
Insurance : This is a side bet (usually 50% of your stake) which you can make if the dealer has an Ace as the face up card. If the dealer ends up with a Black Jack you win at 2:1 odds; if the dealer does not end up with Black Jack you lose your side bet. This all happens independently from your actual hand which you can continue to play as normal.
Even Money : An option that occurs when a player has Black Jack and the dealer is showing an ace as the visible card. The player can opt to take winnings at 1:1 against his Black Jack instead of waiting to see whether the dealer has Black Jack or not.
Surrender : With this option you give up your hand and lose half your stake. Usually this option is only available if the dealer is showing an ace as the visible card.