Learn How to Play 21 - Blackjack Rules: Tips & Best Practices

Learn How to Play 21 - Blackjack Rules: Tips & Best Practices

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The North American game of Blackjack, also known as 21, has been one of the most popular casino games of the last hundred years and has spread throughout the world. In the 21st century it has been overtaken in popularity by Slots (slot machine games), but it remains one of the most popular casino card games and is available in almost all casinos both on and offline.

Blackjack is a casino banked game, meaning that players compete against the house rather than each other. The objective is to get a hand total of closer to 21 than the dealer without going over 21 (busting).

Basic Blackjack Rules:

  • The goal of blackjack is to beat the dealer's hand without going over 21.
  • Face cards are worth 10. Aces are worth 1 or 11, whichever makes a better hand.
  • Each player starts with two cards, one of the dealer's cards is hidden until the end.
  • To 'Hit' is to ask for another card. To 'Stand' is to hold your total and end your turn.
  • If you go over 21 you bust, and the dealer wins regardless of the dealer's hand.
  • If you are dealt 21 from the start (Ace & 10), you got a blackjack.
  • Blackjack usually means you win 1.5 the amount of your bet. Depends on the casino.
  • Dealer will hit until his/her cards total 17 or higher.
  • Doubling is like a hit, only the bet is doubled and you only get one more card.
  • Split can be done when you have two of the same card - the pair is split into two hands.
  • Splitting also doubles the bet, because each new hand is worth the original bet.
  • You can only double/split on the first move, or first move of a hand created by a split.
  • You cannot play on two aces after they are split.
  • You can double on a hand resulting from a split, tripling or quadrupling you bet.

Card Values

numeral cards 2 to 10

their face values

Jacks, Queens and Kings

10

Aces

1 or 11

Equipment

The Blackjack table is usually, though not always, semi-circular in shape with a green felt surface. The dealer is seated at the straight side of the table with the chip tray in front of the dealer, the dealing shoe to dealer's left and the discard tray to dealer's right. Around the curved side of the table are betting circles at which the players sit.

Learn How to Play 21 - Blackjack Rules: Tips & Best Practices-1

The betting chips come in multiple denominations that vary from casino to casino and sometimes from table to table depending on the betting limits offered by the table. As a standard rule, white chips are worth 1 currency unit, red chips are worth 5 units, green 25, black 100 and purple 500.

Blackjack is played with a standard international deck of cards with the Jokers removed, leaving 52 cards. Originally the game was played with a single deck. However, as a counter measure to card counting, casinos introduced multi-deck games, based on the false assumption that if there were more cards in play it would be harder for the card counter to keep track of them all. As a result, Blackjack is now usually offered in either single deck, double deck, 4 deck, 6 deck or 8 deck variants. It should be noted that there are exceptions in online casinos where far larger numbers of decks can be used than would be practical to manage offline.

Aside from the cards, the game requires a table, chips, a discard tray, cut card and a shoe.

After the dealer has shuffled a player will be selected at random and asked to take the cut card – a coloured plastic card matching the playing cards in size – and place it at a random position within stack of cards. The dealer will then move the cards above the cut card to the back of the stack. This technique is intended to demonstrate to the players that the dealer cannot have rigged the deck. The cut card is then reinserted into the stack of cards by the dealer at a pre-defined position and when this card is reached this indicates the final deal of the game before the cards are shuffled.

Where multiple decks are used, after the shuffle the cards will be placed into a dispenser called a shoe. This piece of equipment has two purposes: to hold large stacks of cards in multi-deck games and make the practice of hole carding (cheating by catching a glimpse of the dealer’s hole card) more difficult. In fact hole carding is not illegal in the vast majority of jurisdictions. If the dealer is poorly trained or sloppy enough to fail to protect their down card from being seen by a player at the table this is not the player's fault and the player is not obliged to look away to prevent themselves seeing the down card. If however the player uses any form of device, for instance a metal lighter to observe the reflection in, or an accomplice off table signals the information to them, this is cheating. Hole carding is only legal where the player can see the card naturally from one of the player positions at the table.

Learn How to Play 21 - Blackjack Rules: Tips & Best Practices-2

BLACKJACK BASIC TABLE RULES

When you play the house, you play against the casino, which is represented by the dealer. The dealer deals one card face up to each player, from left to right, with the last card going to the house’s hand, which is face down. The dealer will then deal one card facing up to each player and then the house.

After the initial deal, the blackjack rules indicate that the dealer will ask each player, in succession, if he/she needs one or more cards. As the player, you can ask for one or more cards(called a “hit”)until you either go over 21 (“bust”), or you think you have the best possible hand.

Once you have all the cards you need, you “stay” or “stand”; meaning you signal to the dealer that you don’t want any more cards. Each subsequent player then decides whether to hit or stand.

Learn How to Play 21 - Blackjack Rules: Tips & Best Practices-3

After all the players have completed their hands or gone bust, the dealer reveals his or her down card. Depending on the cards in the dealer’s hand, the blackjack rules at the table will dictate whether the dealer will hit or stand.

Once the dealer’s final hand is established, all players who did not go bust compare their scores to the dealer’s hand. Those who beat the dealer win, while the rest lose—unless they tied, which is called a “push.”

A push is considered “no action,” and refunds the player’s bet. Some casinos, though, might declare a push to be either a loss or a win for the player. The casino’s 21 rules should say exactly how they handle such ties with players.

BLACKJACK BONUS PAYOUTS

While playing blackjack, as soon as a player is dealt a winning hand, the house pays out immediately. The only time the player will not receive an immediate payout on a blackjack 21 hand is when the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, or any card worth 10 points.

The reason for this is that if the dealer also holds a blackjack hand, then the round is considered to be a draw or a “push.”

In the case of a push, the player gets his or her bet back, and the game is declared “no action.” Some casinos, though, will boost their advantage by giving the house an automatic win whenever it has a blackjack 21 score, even if the player does, too.

These games are the most unfavorable to the player and should be avoided. That makes it very important to ensure you know the house blackjack rules before you begin gambling.

Learn How to Play 21 - Blackjack Rules: Tips & Best Practices-4

BASIC STRATEGY

Winning tactics in Blackjack require that the player play each hand in the optimum way, and such strategy always takes into account what the dealer's upcard is. When the dealer's upcard is a good one, a 7, 8, 9, 10-card, or ace for example, the player should not stop drawing until a total of 17 or more is reached. When the dealer's upcard is a poor one, 4, 5, or 6, the player should stop drawing as soon as he gets a total of 12 or higher. The strategy here is never to take a card if there is any chance of going bust. The desire with this poor holding is to let the dealer hit and hopefully go over 21. Finally, when the dealer's up card is a fair one, 2 or 3, the player should stop with a total of 13 or higher.

With a soft hand, the general strategy is to keep hitting until a total of at least 18 is reached. Thus, with an ace and a six (7 or 17), the player would not stop at 17, but would hit.

The basic strategy for doubling down is as follows: With a total of 11, the player should always double down. With a total of 10, he should double down unless the dealer shows a ten-card or an ace. With a total of 9, the player should double down only if the dealer's card is fair or poor (2 through 6).

For splitting, the player should always split a pair of aces or 8s; identical ten-cards should not be split, and neither should a pair of 5s, since two 5s are a total of 10, which can be used more effectively in doubling down. A pair of 4s should not be split either, as a total of 8 is a good number to draw to. Generally, 2s, 3s, or 7s can be split unless the dealer has an 8, 9, ten-card, or ace. Finally, 6s should not be split unless the dealer's card is poor (2 through 6).

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