How To Play Blackjack

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013     Posted by Roger
Online Blackjack
Blackjack is a game of skill. This is the most important concept you'll need to wrap your head around to become a good blackjack player. To get started though, you'll need to read the basics of game-play and blackjack rules.

Blackjack is a card game commonly played against the house. This means that multiple people can participate, but they are not competing against one another, everybody is competing against the house, or dealer. The object of the game is to beat the dealer's hand. In doing so, you are not allowed to exceed a total of 21 with your cards.

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Card values are defined as follows. Low cards are worth their face value, so a 3 is worth 3 and a 10 is worth 10. Face cards are worth ten with the exception of the Ace, which is worth either 1 or 11, whichever is better for your hand.

When you sit down to a game of blackjack, the rules are the same whether you're playing online or at a land-based casino. You start by placing your wager in the betting area in front of you. If you're unsure of where to place your bet, rest assured the dealer will let you know, and playing online, the software will let you know.

Once the bets are made, blackjack rules dictate that the dealer starts with the player closest to their left and deals a single card to everyone, ending with themselves. They then deal a second card to everyone. One of the dealer's cards will be visible to you (the up-card) and one will remain hidden from you (the hole-card). Depending on the style of play, your cards will either both be face up or both be face down. At this point you have all of the information in front of you that you need to make your decisions.

If the goal is the beat the dealers hand without exceeding 21 yourself, you need to gauge what you have in your hand, what you think taking another card (the act of 'hitting') might do to your chances, and what you think the dealer may have based on their up-card.

The options you have open to you include: hitting, standing, splitting, doubling down, and taking insurance.

The only case in which you don't have to choose an option, is when you are dealt what is known as a 'natural blackjack'. Most blackjack rules indicate a disproportionate payout for this hand, usually 3 to 2.

The dealer plays their hand only after all of the players have made their decisions and completed their final hand. At this point the dealer turns over their hole-card and plays out their hand according to these rules. If the initial two-card total was 16 or less, the dealer must take additional cards until the total is 17 or more. If the dealer's two-card hand totals 17 to 21, they must stand. The dealer will also bust if his additional cards cause his card total to go over 21.

Hitting in Blackjack

To hit is to ask for an additional card on your hand. If you were dealt two fives as your first two cards, you would certainly want to hit, since your total is quite far from 21, you have no chance of going over 21 with one more card, and a total of ten is a weak hand.

To hit when playing at an online casino, there should be an obvious hit button presented whenever it is an available option. In a land-based casino, when you want to hit you should both ask for it out-loud with the word 'hit', and indicated a hit with your hand. To indicate a hit with your hand scratch the table felt lightly towards you with your finger. If you are playing a game where the cards are dealt face down, use the corner of your cards to scrape the table.

You should hit until you are satisfied with your hand, at which point you indicate to the dealer that you wish to stand.

Standing in Blackjack

To stand is to refuse any further cards or any further action towards your hand. If you choose to stand you will not receive any more opportunities to alter your given hand.

To stand when playing at an online casino simply choose the stand option when it is presented to you, as it will only be presented when there is an option to stand. To stand in a land-based casino say the word 'stand' out-loud while waving an open palm, face down, over your hand. This will indicate to the dealer that you do not want any more cards.

Doubling Down in Blackjack

The action of doubling down is one of the most important parts of blackjack. It is the rare opportunity to increase your bet part-way through your hand. Doubling down is literally doubling your original bet when you see an opportunity. Most casinos will only allow you to double down on your first two cards. If those two cards put you in a position where one additional card will likely give you a hand stronger than the dealers, you should double down.

Your best opportunity to double down will come when you recognize the dealer as showing 'busting cards'. The concept of busting cards and their importance is covered completely in our advanced blackjack strategy section.

To double down simply place another stack of chips equal to your original bet down right beside your original bet, so that the stacks are side by side, just about touching each other. This will indicate to the dealer that you wish to double your bet. When you double down you will only be presented with one more card. This means if you double down on 10, and receive a 2, your hand is stuck at 12, and you wont get another chance to improve it.

Splitting in Blackjack

When your initial two-card hand is made up of a pair, you have the option to split. Say you were dealt two 8's as your first two cards. Your total is 16, which is sometimes difficult to know what to do with. It isn't a strong hand, but it's risky to hit on, since it's close to 21. Since both cards are 8's, you can 'split' them into two different hands. To do so place a new bet equal to your original, beside your original bet, but with a few inches between (if it were placed directly beside it, it would mean you want to double down). At the same time tell the dealer you wish to split, and the dealer will separate your cards.

Each 8 is now the first card on a new hand. So you see how smart it was to split your pair? Now you have a decent chance of having two strong hands. Of course, if you were dealt two 4's as your first cards, splitting would have been silly.

Taking Insurance in Blackjack

When the dealer's up-card is an Ace, before they ask the players for their decisions the dealer will ask if anybody would like insurance. What does this mean? It means that you can 'buy insurance' against the dealer having blackjack. You need to put up half of your original bet for insurance. If the dealer does have blackjack you will lose your original bet, but win your insurance bet. In the end you have lost nothing and gained nothing. Statistically, although it may seem like a good idea at the time, it's never smart to take insurance.
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