The basic premise of Blackjack is simple and probably the major reason that the game represents the most popular casino card game in the world. Using one or more 52 card decks, you compete against the dealer (only) in accumulating cards with numerical values to a total of 21, or as close to 21 as possible, without tipping above this point (Busting).
The following is a guide aimed at players who have a minimal understanding and will help novice players gain confidence in their Blackjack skills.
Card values in Blackjack are standard. All face cards, Kings, Queens, Jacks are valued at 10 with no priority order. In other words, the Jack is worth no less than the King should you hold the Jack and dealer a Queen or visa versa. The Ace can represent 1 or 11 points, assuming the hand can accommodate 11 without busting.
A busted hand automatically loses.
Before the dealing of cards the player must place a wager. At this point the player or players are dealt 2 cards face up. In the event a player is dealt an Ace and 10 (Blackjack) on the first two cards, this is an automatic player win at 1.5 to 1, unless the house ties. In this event it is a push and no one wins. You will receive your bet back.
The dealer will have dealt themselves 2 cards but one will remain face down until all players have either “stood” on, or less than 21, or busted. A player may stand at any time on values less than 21. When all the players are done, the dealer turns up the down card. By rule, on counts of 17 or higher, the dealer must stay or “stick.” On counts of 16 or lower, the dealer must draw another card.
Players with a higher count than the dealer win an amount equal to their bet. Players with a lower count than the dealer lose their bet. If the dealer busts, all the remaining players win.
So that is Blackjack 101, if you like a “no frills” introduction into the most basic rules of the game. The following section will detail some terminology and further elements of the game and the betting options that you will have in various scenarios.
- Insurance: side bet up to half the initial bet against the dealer having a natural 21 – allowed only when the dealer’s showing card is an Ace. If the dealer has a 10 face down and makes a blackjack, insurance pays at 2-1 odds, but loses if the dealer does not.
- Surrender: giving up your hand to lose only half the bet.
- Early Surrender: surrender allowed before the dealer checks for blackjack.
- Late Surrender: the dealer first checks to see if he has blackjack. If he does, surrender is not permitted.
- Double Down: double your initial bet following the initial two-card deal, but you can hit one card only.
- A good bet if the player is in a strong situation. Most casinos will allow you to double down on any two cards. Some casinos will let you to double down after splitting and some will limit your doubling down to hands that total ten or eleven. However, there is one condition: When you double down, you must take one additional card and you cannot receive more than one.
- Even Money: cashing in your bet immediately at a 1:1 payout ratio when you are dealt a natural blackjack and the dealer’s showing card is an Ace.
- Split Hand: split the initial two-card hand into two and play them separately- allowed only when the two first cards are of equal value. Use each card as the start to a separate hand and place a second bet equal to the first.
- Hard Hand: A hand without an Ace, or with an Ace valued at 1 is said to be Hard in that it can only be given one value, unlike a Soft Hand. (You can value an Ace 1 or 11 to suit you).
- Soft Hand: A hand that contains an Ace counted as 11 is called a Soft Hand.
Your cards will obviously always dictate your strategy and it is important to players who aim to win (and who doesn’t) to have an idea on how they are approaching any given situation. Take a look at our Blackjack Strategies page to gain an understanding of basic strategies that will help increase your chances of beating the dealer (house).