Blackjack Rules - Basics of Blackjack


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Blackjack Basics:

  1. Blackjack goals
  2. Cards and their values
  3. Game progress
  4. Dealer’s moves
  5. Blackjack!

a. Blackjack goals
The main goal in blackjack is to reach a hand value that’s as close as possible to 21 without busting (going over 21). The only concern a player has is to have a hand that’s better than the dealer’s. Other players at the table have no effect whatsoever. Blackjack has very precise rules and there’s no option for the dealer to deviate from them. If the game is played with several decks of cards the dealer will deal the cards face-up so every player can see what cards the other players have. Dealers will happy to help you if you have any question or need clarification.

b. Cards and their values
Cards in blackjack are valued at face value from 2 to 10, Aces are valued 1 or 11, and the “royal family” – Jack, Queen, and King – are each valued at 10. Cards suits are inconsequential in blackjack. Example: a player’s hand contains K,2,A. The point total of the hand is 13 since the Ace is valued at 1 and not 11 (Ace cannot be valued at 11 if the hand’s point total goes over 21). Another example: a player has Ace,2. Therefore his hand’s point total can be either 3 or 13. In this case the player can hit another card without worrying of busing his hand. Let’s say the player hit another card and received an 8. Now the player’s hand is Ace,2,8 which is either 11 or 21. Of course the player considers his hand as 21 and stands. A hand containing an Ace where the Ace can be counted as 11 is called Soft Hand, while a hand containing an Ace where the Ace must be counted as 1 is called Hard Hand.

c. Game progress
After all players have placed their bets the game begins starting with the first player at the dealer’s left. The dealer will give one card to each player (including himself – face up) and then make another pass and give a second card to each player (the dealer will usually have 2 cards as well, except in Europe and in several other places, where he will take his 2nd card at the end of the game round. This is known as the “European No Hole Card” rule). In multiple deck blackjack games the players’ cards are dealt face-up and players are not allowed to touch the cards. In 1 deck blackjack games the cards are dealt face down and players are allowed to handle them. Bear in mind that you can only use one hand to handle the cards, you cannot take the cards off the table, and you cannot touch additional cards dealt to you.

After cards are dealt players can make their moves, starting at the first player to the left of the dealer (this position is called “first base”. The last player, on the dealer’s right, is called “anchor”). Each player can choose to stand, hit, double down, or split, according to the table rules and his cards. After all the players have made their decisions it is the dealer’s turn to play, and then either pay the winners or collect their losses. As mentioned above, in casinos that have the No Hole Card rule the dealer will have only one initial card and will deal himself the 2nd card after all the players have played their moves. The only difference between this and the regular rules is that the dealer can have Blackjack after the players have played (i.e. an Ace and a 10-valued card). With the no hold card rule players should modify their game slightly only if the dealer is showing an Ace or a 10-valued card (in some casinos that have this rule the casino will refund a player’s double-down or split bets if the dealer receives a Blackjack at the end of the round).

d. Dealer’s moves
The dealer’s moves are dictated by the rules of blackjack. The dealer has no options to choose from (he cannot double down or split), he must follow the black jack table and game rules. There are basically two blackjack variations the dealer can play according to:


  • Dealer Must Hit Soft 17 – This rule means that if the dealer has a soft hand (a hand with an Ace) with a point total of 7 or less (considering the Ace as 1) he must draw another card until he has at least 17 (hard total). Such hands are: Ace,6 / Ace,Ace,5 / Ace,2,4 etc. The dealer must stand on any hand with point total higher than 18 (hard or soft). In this variation the house edge is a little higher.
  • Dealer Stands on All 17’s – The full rule description is “Dealer Must Draw to 16 and Stand on All 17’s”. This is a common rule in which the dealer must stand whenever he has a point total of 17 or higher, even if the hand is soft like Ace,6. If the dealer has less than 17 he must hit another card. For example, the dealer has Ace,4 (5 or 15) so he hits and receives an Ace. Now he has 6 or 16 and he hits again, getting a 10. His hand now is 16 and he must hit again. He hits and gets a 3 which gives him a point total of 19. His final hand is: Ace,4,Ace,10,3.


e. Blackjack!
A “Blackjack” is also called a “natural” and means that the hand’s point total is 21 with only 2 cards: a ten-valued card and an Ace, both dealt in the initial deal. Reaching 21 with 3 or more cards, or splitting Aces and receiving a 10-valued card on either split are not considered as Blackjacks. Blackjack has a unique attribute – getting a natural Blackjack grants the player a winning payoff of 3 to 2 (and not 1 to 1). This means that an initial bet of $10 for a player that has a Blackjack will grant the player $15 in winnings. The only hand that can stop a player’s Blackjack is a dealer’s Blackjack. Even then, the player doesn’t lose his hand, but reaches a tie with the dealer (also called a “push”). If the dealer doesn’t have a Blackjack he will pay the player’s winning immediately (without waiting for other players to finish their moves). In European rules, if the dealer’s upcard is an Ace or a 10-valued card, the player will have to wait for the end of the round to see if the dealer has a Blackjack too. If you have a Blackjack and the dealer is showing an Ace he will most likely offer you “Even Money”, which means you’ll get 1 to 1 on your bet (instead of 3 to 2). By taking even money you’re not risking a tie with the dealer, but you’re getting much less than what you could’ve received.
In general, taking even money is a bad move since it increases the casino’s edge over the player.

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