Blackjack Rules, Game Basics, Player Moves, and Blackjack Options

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Blackjack, also known as 21 or vingt-et-un (meaning "twenty one" in French) is the most popular casino table game in the world. Here you will get comprehensive information on the game of blackjack or blackjack online, including blackjack rules, player game options, blackjack basics, and everything you need to know in order to start playing. If you are new to the game I recommend that you read through all the sections below. If you are already familiar with the game and want clarification on a certain subject then you can click on the relevant subject from the content table below.
Although I refer to bets below in dollars ($), everything written below applies to any currency such as GBP (£), Euro (€), etc.

Blackjack: Contents

  1. You’re in the Casino, Now What?
    1. Select Where You Want to Sit and Play
    2. Got Chips?
    3. Placing Bets
    4. Show Me the Money
  2. Blackjack Basics
    1. Blackjack goals
    2. Cards and their values
    3. Game progress
    4. Dealer’s moves
    5. Blackjack!
  3. Player Moves
    1. Surrender
    2. Hit
    3. Stand
    4. Double Down
    5. Split
    6. Insurance – a game within a game
  4. Conclusion
  5. Blackjack Strategy Table

1. You’re in the Casino, Now What?

a. Select where you want to sit and play
First things first. When you’re in a casino for the first time you’ll need to know which table to choose from. There are several things you’ll need to remember. Read the table details on the small plaque that’s usually on the table next to the dealer (sometimes it’s on the wall or elsewhere). The table details include the minimum and maximum table bets. Pick one that suits you and follow the rule of thumb of “never bet money you can’t afford to lose either financially or emotionally”. If you’re a novice pick the table with the lowest limits (usually $2 to $5). These tables are often the fullest so you might need to wait a little for a seat to become available. In several casinos (mostly in Las Vegas) the tables’ plaques are colored in the same colors as their respective minimum betting levels game chips: $5 is red, $25 is green, and $100 is black. The next thing you’ll need to verify is that the game you’re playing is traditional blackjack and not a blackjack variation such as Spanish blackjack, double exposure blackjack, double attack blackjack, blackjack switch, or blackjack pays 6-to-5. This is because most of the blackjack variants offer much lower winning odds for players. The next thing you should pay attention to in the table rules is the number of decks in the “shoe” (which is the apparatus on the table from which the cards are dealt). In general the numbers of decks used are 1, 2, 4, 6, 8. As a new player you should play with 6 or 8 decks since the cards are dealt face up to each player and the dealer is usually more helpful and will answer your questions. As you become more experienced in blackjack, you would be better off playing blackjack with fewer decks since the casino edge is lower as the number of decks decreases (the best place to play is in downtown Las Vegas where there are many 1 or 2 decks blackjack games with good deck penetration).


b. Got chips?
In order to win you need something to bet with. You’ll need to change money for chips. You do this by placing some bills on the table felt (usually green or blue) and in return you’ll receive the equivalent amount in game chips (you might need to wait for an ongoing game to finish before getting your chips). Depending on the table limits you should buy approximately 15-20 times the minimum table bet (considering that your average bet is the table minimum). For example, if you’re playing at a $5 minimum bet table and usually place $5 bets, you should buy in for $75-$100. Game chips colors are uniform in casinos and most poker games:
$5 – red chip
$25 – green chip
$100 – black chip

Other chips are also used, the most common are:
$0.25 – quarter (coin)
$1 – white or silver
$2.50 – pink
$500 – purple
Above $500 – usually a large rectangle chip with varying colors

Don’t forget to ask the dealer if there is ANYTHING you don’t understand.


c. Placing bets
Blackjack tables usually have 7 positions, one for each player, and each position has an empty round or square box for placing bets (some blackjack tables have more than seven positions and some have more than one betting box per position (usually in Europe).
Each round begins with players placing bets in their boxes. Make sure you place your desired bet in one neat chip stack, not scattered chips all around. The chip stack is built with the highest valued chips at the bottom and the lowest valued chips at the top of the stack.
After placing your bet the cards are dealt. Once cards are dealt you are not allowed to touch your bets on the table. The dealer will ask you whether you want (based on your cards) to hit, double, split, etc. After all the players have made their plays the dealer will turn over his cards (or draw a second card for himself if he has only one initial card) and either stand or hit another card until he has 17 (soft or hard, depending on the table rules) or until he busts (goes over 21).
Based on what the dealer has he will collect bets from losing players or pay winning players. If you’ve won, once the dealer has paid you, you can remove your chips from the table and make another bet. Of course you can also leave your initial bet plus your winnings and play them both on the next hand if you don’t pass the table’s maximum bet.


d. Show me the money
After you’ve finished playing you’d want to take your casino chips and exchange them at the casino cashier for cash. If you have many chips of low denominations you’d probably feel more comfortable converting them to higher denomination chips (called “color up”). This way you’ll have fewer higher denomination chips which are easier to carry. Take your chips to another table and continue playing or change them for money and call it a day.