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Blackjack About Blackjack
Blackjack Blackjack Blackjack Blackjack Blackjack

Blackjack rules and how to play:

The basics

The object of the blackjack game is to accumulate cards with point totals as close to 21 without going over 21. Face cards (Jacks, Queens and Kings) are worth 10 points. Aces are worth 1 or 11, whichever is preferable. Other cards are represented by their number.

If player and the House tie, it is a push and no one wins. Ace and 10 (Blackjack) on the first two cards dealt is an automatic player win at 1.5 to 1, unless the house ties. A player may stand at any time.

Playing blackjack

To win you need to beat the dealer without busting. You bust when your cards total to more than 21 and you lose automatically. The winner is whoever has closest to a total of 21. You reach 21 by adding up the values of the cards.

The blackjack table seats about 6 players. Either six or eight decks of cards are used and are shuffled together by the dealer and placed in a card dispensing box called 'Shoe'.

Before receiving any cards players must place a wager. Then the players are dealt two cards face up. The dealer gets one face up, one face down. Each player in turn either stays or takes more cards to try and get closer to 21 without busting. Players who do not bust wait for the dealer's turn. 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; on counts of 16 or lower the dealer must draw.

If you make a total of 21 with the first two cards (a 10 or a face and an Ace), you win automatically. This is called 'Blackjack'. If you have Blackjack, you will win one and one-half times your bet unless the dealer also has Blackjack, in which case it is a Push or a Tie (or a Stand-off) and you get your bet back.

The remaining 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. There are other betting options namely Insurance, Surrender, Double Down, Even Money and Split.

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 and 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.

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.

House advantage (approximate, may vary with different rules)
Without basic strategy 7% average.
With basic strategy 0.5% or less.
Card counting can reverse the advantage up to 1% to the player.

Some blackjack variations

Using different number of decks: all other conditions being the same, as a general rule the fewer the decks, the better for the player.

Allowing the dealer to hit a soft 17: a disadvantage to the player. It gives the dealer a chance to improve.

Allowing a double down after splitting pairs: can be advantageous to the player if used wisely.

Allowing re-splitting of Aces: a clear advantage to the player.

No dealer hole card: common on cruise ships, this variation is a disadvantage to the player. The dealer does not deal himself a second card until the players have played and they can lose the doubles and splits.

Las Vegas and Atlantic City variants

Las Vegas blackjack:
Las Vegas games are played with two decks and the House must hit on hands less than soft 17 (17 involving an Ace) and must stand on hands of 17 or greater.

Atlantic City blackjack:
Atlantic City games are played with four decks and the House must hit on 16 and stand all 17's.

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