Blackjack, being one of the most popular casino games of all time, has been the subject of many studies, as well as the beginning of many players’ journey through the casino world.
This elegant card game has straightforward rules and allows the player to increase the odds of winning by learning the fundamentals of the game. Here’s what you need to know as a blackjack beginner.
Understand the Game Objective
Even though it generally believed that the goal of blackjack is to get a hand total of 21, in practice the main aim of the game is to get as close as you can to this result and beat the dealer.
You can do this in a few different ways. The player beats the dealer when he or she draws a hand value that is higher than the dealer’s hand value and does not go over the 21 mark.
The player also wins if the dealer draws a hand higher than 21, which is called “busting”. Ultimately, the player can win by drawing a natural blackjack, a hand value of precisely 21 on the first two cards, provided that the dealer does not get the same result.
Learn to Read a Hand’s Total Value
Before engaging in a round of blackjack, one needs to understand the values of the cards in the game. Blackjack is played with a conventional deck of 52 playing cards and suits have no significance.
Cards from 2 through 10 count at their face value. This means that 4 is a 4, and 9 is 9. No mystery there. Face cards J, Q and K count as 10. Ace has a twofold value – it can count as either 1 or 11, depending on which value contributes to the best hand value in any individual situation.
A blackjack table normally accommodates 7 players. Every table comes with an indicator that specifies what the minimum and maximum betting limits are. The table can be divided into two imaginary parts – one for the dealer and the other for the participants. Remember that no matter how many players join the table, the game is played between you and the dealer.
The table contains areas for players’ chips and special areas for bets, while the part where the cards are shuffled and dealt is considered the part of the dealer. The most conventional game of blackjack is dealt out of a 6-deck or 8-deck “shoe” (which is a plastic, card-dispensing device).
The Round Proceedings
Before the round kick-starts, you need to choose the chips you wish to wager. There are various coloured chips offered, each representing a different value. You place a bet by dragging the chips to the betting area, leaving them in their respective betting boxes. Now that the bets are placed, the dealing of the cards can begin.
Every player and the dealer will receive two cards. The two player cards can be dealt either face-up, or face down. One of the dealer’s cards (known as the dealer’s upcard) is always dealt face-up so that players can see its value. The other dealer’s card, known as the hole card or dealer’s downcard, remains unseen.
Now you must decide how to play your hand. First, add the card values together to get a hand total anywhere from 4 to 21. Obviously, if you are dealt a ten-value card and an Ace, you’ve got blackjack and you win. If this is not the case, you are left with several options:
- Stand – You wish to retain your cards and the dealer will move on to the next player.
- Hit – This means you require another card, hoping to get closer to 21. There is no limit on the number of cards you can take, but if you go over 21 you will “bust”.
- Double down – You choose to double down your initial bet and receive one additional card.
- Split – In the case of your first cards being of the same value, you can make a second bet equal to your first and split the pair, using each card as the first card in a separate hand.
- Surrender – If you are not satisfied with your initial hand, you have the option of surrendering it in exchange for half your original bet.
- Insurance – This option becomes available when the dealer’s upcard is an Ace. You will be betting on the dealer’s hand having also a 10-value card and therefore a complete blackjack. Insurance costs half the initial bet.
Provided that you haven’t busted and you didn’t pick surrender, the round continues with the dealer playing their hand. Action such as doubling, splitting and surrender are not available to the dealer. Depending on the specific game, the dealer needs to meet certain restrictions when going about playing their hand.
Once both are done, the player and the dealer, playing their hand the round ends with a simple battle of who has the higher hand, unless the dealer has busted.
If the player and the dealer have the same hand-total, it’s considered a “push” (bets are not paid, but not lost either). The natural blackjack hand, otherwise known as the 2-card blackjack ranks the highest and pays the best of all other winning situations.
Most blackjack tables will have a blackjack payout of 3:2. There are tables that pay 6:5 for blackjack, but you should avoid them as they improve the house edge.
Insurance side bets deliver a payout rate of 2:1.