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How to play blackjack?

Blackjack Basics

Blackjack is one of most popular card games played in casinos – both real and virtual. Its popularity dates back to the early 20th century and is a game that is still strong even today. Traditionally blackjack is played by one to 8 players sitting at an octagonal table against a dealer. In the virtual world, however it is one player against the dealer i.e. it is a one on one system. The cards are not dealt by hand but with the help of a special box called the shoe. The number of decks that are used to play one round of blackjack can vary from 1 to 8, depending on the number of players and the cards are shuffled after every round of play.

The Blackjack Table

The table that the players play blackjack on is distinctive in shape and color. Traditionally it is covered in green felt that provides a perfect backdrop for the colorful cards and chips that dot the table when play is in progress. The following is a schematic representation of a traditional blackjack table. It provides all the information about how the table is segregated during play time.

Blackjack Table

It is important to note that while green is the default choice of cover for the table, nowadays blackjack tables with red and blue felt covers are also seen. The rules of the game are clearly laid out on the surface of the table and are visible to all players. It is normal for the players to be seated around the bend of the table while the dealer is always on the straight side. This gives the dealer easy access to both the shoe and the money chips.

Before learning more basics about blackjack, it is vital that the players understand the dynamics of the table when the play is on. A blackjack table is visually divided into two specific regions – the player’s zone and the dealer’s zone. The player’s zone is the area where the players place their cards, money chips and maybe drinks and can be entered into by the dealer when either calling a marker or placing newly drawn cards. The players convey their intentions during play either through signs or verbally only to the dealer. The dealer’s zone is however sacrosanct and no player is allowed into it. The dealer has total control over that side and he is the one who handles the distribution of cards, draws and money always.

Blackjack Chips and their significance

Winning money at blackjack is dependent upon how much one is willing to risk and place a bet. To place a bet it is necessary to use chips provided by the casino. The chips that are used in a game of blackjack are representative of the amount of money that is being bet when a play is on. There are chips of varying colors and each color has a monetary value attached to it.

(peach) – $0.25 (blue) – $10 (purple) – $500
(white) – $0.50 – $1 (yellow) – $20 (orange) – $1,000
(pink) – $2.50 (green) – $25 (grey) – $5,000
(red) – $5 (black) – $100  
Blackjack Cards and their values

The goal of blackjack is to arrive at a total of 21 before any of the other players or the dealer does it. This magic number is calculated by counting the number on the cards and assigning it value.The special values are then used to calculate the hand total. All small cards from 2 to 9 are valued according to the rank. For example, 4 is valued as 4 points and 6 as 6 points. All high cards – 10s, Jacks, Queens and Kings are valued as 10 points. Ace in Blackjack has a special value. It can be valued as either 1 or 11, taking into account what the other cards are valued at and how the hand will play out. Therefore an ace can either be 1 or 11 depending on how it will help the other cards to total 21. So, then the cards at blackjack table are valued as follows:

clubs-2diamonds-3hearts-4spades-5.diamonds-6clubs-7hearts-8 spades-9
= 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9

hearts-10clubs-jspades-qdiamonds-k
= 10

clubs-ace
= 1 or 11

Sometimes the value of the cards may differ if the players are following a card counting strategy to see which cards remain in play.

Possible blackjack hands

The different hands that are possible in a game of blackjack are

clubs-aceclubs-ace
=21 , Blackjack or Natural

A hand of two cards with an Ace and any 10 valued card are called Blackjack or Natural. This hand is an automatic win¬ner un¬less the deal¬er has a set of cards which total to a Natural too. The last case is a tie, or a push and all the bets are re¬turned.

diamondsaceclubs4
=15 Soft Hand

A hand of two or more cards with an Ace counted as 11 is called a soft hand.

diamondsaceclubs4diamondsqueen
=15 Hard Hand

A hand of two or more cards with an Ace counted as 1 is called a hard hand.

Playing Blackjack –some basic rules to follow

  1. The game starts after players make their bets which are based on and may be limited by the table betting limits. The dealer makes two passes as he deals two cards to each player face up (according to some blackjack rules, as in Pontoon, cards may be dealt face down), after that he deals two cards to himself: one face up and the other face down (the Hole card).
  2. After all the players have been dealt their cards, it is time for them to decide how to play them. The dealer goes from one player to another and they choose whether to Hit (take another card) or to Stand (take no more cards). In addition, players can choose to Double down or Split – explained in detail further along
  3. The dealer plays his hand after the players have chosen what it is that they want to do. Each dealer follows strict blackjack rules when making a decision. The rule for blackjack dealers concerns a hand value of 17. This rule means that the dealer should take a card when his hand is 16 or less and stand on 17 or higher. Most of the time this rule is seen written on the blackjack table which might say “Dealer Stands on All 17’s”.
  4. The most important ground rule to understand and remember when playing blackjack is that the player’s hand is compared only to the dealer’s hand as the player plays only against the dealer. Therefore, other players’ and the cards they draw are not important unless the player is counting cards. All the blackjack myths that tell you other player’s game can influence yours are exactly that- myths.
  5. The dealer wins when the player go bust or gets a hand lower than the dealer. In case the dealer wins, the player loses everything. If the player wins, the dealer pays out even money. Blackjack pays 3 to 2. When the dealer wins the player loses all the bets (with the exception of side bets) made on this hand and a fresh bet has to be placed if he wants to continue.

Player Options

Hit

After having been dealt with two cards, a player has to add his card’s value and decide if he wants to draw another card or wait for the next round. If he decides to call for a card, then it is known as Hit. Players can hit as many times until he either reaches the target of 21 or goes bust.

Stand

If a player does not want to hit anymore, then he is said to be standing. The dealer will now have to compare the value of the player’s cards with those that he is holding. Players choose to stand only when they are marginally sure that their cards carry more value than the dealer and are closer to 21.

Double Down

Doubling down happens when the player asks for just one more card and doubles the bet he had earlier placed. Once the player chooses the double down option, he has to stand following the one card being draw.

Split

In case first two cards dealt a player are a pair of cards of the same value, the player may choose to split those forming two hands and thus doubling the bet. After this the player decides how to play each hand separately as the dealer deals the second card. The perfect choice of when to split concerns splitting Aces and 8’s. Reading up on blackjack strategy will teach you more about splitting.

Other important options when playing Blackjack

Besides the basic blackjack options detailed above, most casinos offer the players extra blackjack options. These are :

  1. Insurance bet
  2. Even Money bet and
  3. Surrender option

The first ones, Insurance and Even Money, are found in all types of blackjack games, while the Surrender option is extremely rare to come across.

Insurance

Insurance is an extra bet offered to the player when the dealer shows an Ace. This bet costs half the original bet and protects the player in case the dealer has a Natural. After the Insurance bet has been taken or passed, the dealer checks his Hole card. If the dealer has a Natural, the player loses the original bet but wins the insurance bets 2-to-1. If the dealer does not have a Natural, the Insurance bets are lost and the players continue playing their hands.

Even Money

In case the player has a Natural (Blackjack) and the dealer’s up card is an Ace, the player is offered an Even Money bet. This bet protects player from a push in case the dealer also has Blackjack. This bet equals half of the original bet as the Insurance and if the dealer has Blackjack, the player gets their initial bet back and gets the Even Money bet 2 to 1.

Surrender

The surrender option is not found in many casinos. This option provides a chance to surrender half of the original bet in cases where players think that they have a losing hand. This bet is made before any decisions like Hit or Stand are taken and allows the players to save half of the original bet.

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