Table games have been a favourite among gamblers since their introduction in land-based casinos in the early 1800s. Blackjack is one such table game and arguably one of the most played table games worldwide. Only poker is just as widespread. I’m sure you must already be wondering, “How do you play Blackjack?”
Blackjack, unlike roulette which is purely a game of luck, is a game of strategy, intuition and skill, and in this article, we’ll be going over the Blackjack rules.
What is Blackjack
Blackjack has a long history ranging to the early 1600s when the first record of the vingt-et-un game, which means 21, was recorded. A book called “Rinconete y Cortadillo” was found, which recorded some of the rules used in modern-day Blackjack. Modern-day Blackjack is the American variant of the French Vingt-Un that was introduced in Britain and the United States.
The goal of Blackjack is simple. Beat the dealer. Unlike most table games like poker, where you play against other players, you are playing against the house represented by the dealer. This means that all players may win.
How do you beat the dealer? There are a few outcomes that indicate that you have beaten the dealer in a round:
- The dealer’s card goes above 21
- You draw a higher card than the dealer (not exceeding 21)
- You draw a Blackjack on your first two cards.
Once you understand that the objective of Blackjack is a face-off against the house and not the other players, it will help you better understand the game and make you focus enough to notice subtle details that will elevate your game to the next level. If you want more understanding of how does Blackjack work, read deeper into the piece.
Blackjack Card Values
Blackjack uses a standard card pack of 52. 13 cards each for Spade, Diamond, Club and Heart. The numbered cards have the same equivalent as the numbers on them irrespective of the type of playing cards, i.e. cards numbered 2-10 have the same Blackjack card values as the number on them. The Kings, Queens and Jokers have values of 10 as well. The Aces in the card have values of 1 or 11.
The value of the Ace card is one of the wildcards available in the Blackjack game, making it exciting. It can be given values of 1 or 11, depending on which is more beneficial to you as a player. If you are dealt an ace and a 5. The count is called a soft 16, meaning the total count could be 6 or 16. All other cards are called hard cards if they don’t include an Ace. If the ace adds their total count to above 17, it must stand for dealers. If it adds up to 17, it may stand or not, depending on the casino.
Blackjack is played on a semicircular table to accommodate a high number of players, usually between 2 and 7. Some tables may even accommodate as many as 12 players! The players stay on the curved part of the table, where they are dealt their cards.
The dealer sits at the other end of the table, where the shoe (a plastic container holding the deck of cards) is also. The far right of the table (the dealer’s left-hand side) is called the first base, and the far left of the table (the dealer’s right-hand side) is called the third base. Cards are dealt clockwise from the first base to the third base.
One of the rules of Blackjack is the card deck it uses. The most common variety of Blackjack uses a 6 or 8 deck of 52 cards each. Before this, single and double-deck games were popular. The 6 or 8 decks are adopted to reduce or eliminate the counting of cards significantly, giving players an added advantage on whether to stand or hit. You may be wondering what I mean by that.
No worries, just follow along, and it will be explained later on. The use of a 6 or 8 deck reduces the predictability of cards remaining due to an increased number of cards. There’s also the Blackjack Rules UK of cutting, which takes place when the cards have been brought out from the shoe. About half of the cards are returned to the shoe when you cut. Since no one knows the undealt cards, basic card counting is reduced.
Depending on what casino you go to, there may be some varying rules, like if they stand or hit on a “soft 17.” Varying rules may also be applied to side bets like insurance, doubling down and splitting.
The objective of Blackjack is to beat the dealer while making sure you don’t go over a total card count of 21. When you are dealt a total card count of 21 on your first two cards, you automatically beat the dealer with a natural or Blackjack, except the dealer also has a natural, which leads to a “push” or “standoff.” These are some basic rules of Blackjack.
Blackjack Dealer Rules
The dealer in the game of Blackjack is a representative of the house, and they adhere to some general and casino-specific rules that are exclusive only to them, like the fact that they can only deal with games clockwise from the first base to the third base.
Some dealer rules in Blackjack change depending on the casino. Some casinos allow the deal to hit on soft 17 (an ace card and a 6), while some allow the dealer to stand on hit. The general rule is that the dealer must hit if he has a count of 16 or under and stand if it is 17 or higher. However, some casinos allow dealers to hit on soft 17s, while for some other casinos, once a dealer gets an ace, it automatically brings the total count to 17 or more and not over 21, it must stand.
When dealing the cards, the dealer gives each player two cards facing upwards but deals himself/herself one card facing upward and the other face down. The dealer cannot check his/her face-down card unless he/she has an ace or 10 cards facing upward.
The dealer plays Last. Until the dealer has gone around and the remaining players on the table have decided to stand on their remaining card count, the dealer may not reveal his cards. The implication of this is that if the dealer busted (goes above 21) and you also busted, you cannot return to the table, and the dealer already won you in that round. The dealer rules in Blackjack are automatic and are already set according to the set of rules that guide their play.
How to Play Blackjack
The game of Blackjack just didn’t get popular because they had a good PR. It is quite easy to understand and requires some amount of skill. It is good to understand that Blackjack may take some time to master and fully implement good strategies. How to play Blackjack cards? We’ll be looking at some basic strategies and skills that are needed to get better and make better decisions at Blackjack, and who knows, you might be a Blackjack pro in a few weeks!
How to Place Blackjack Bets
If you happen to be Blackjack at a land-based casino, the first thing you may want to do is get some casino chips in exchange for cash. Casinos do not allow players to carry cash around the casino anymore. Unlike roulette, there’s no need to exchange your regular casino chips for Blackjack-specific chips, so all you need to do is grab a seat at the next round of Blackjack and join the table!
Wait. Not yet, don’t just grab any random seat; make sure you don’t sit at third base, and try as much as possible to get a table in the middle or closer to first base. “Why?” you may ask. Usually, players at third base are criticized if the dealer pulls a good card, which may affect the player psychologically, especially if they are beginners. Of course, the cards pulled are completely random, but there’s no need to put yourself under unnecessary pressure before the dealer reveals his/her card.
Now, how do you play Blackjack? Once you are seated, you place your bets, and the cards are dealt. This should be quite obvious, but no matter how lucky you may be feeling, do not bet half of your pot on a single play. Nobody wants to see half of their pot suddenly get busted.
After the cards are dealt, surrender if you need to! Most people surrender a hard 17 or 18, and rightly so. There’s a high chance of getting busted on your next card, and having a 17 or 18 isn’t exactly enough insurance to beat the dealer, especially if the dealer has an ace facing up and the casino allows the dealer to hit on soft 17s.
Always split your 8s and Aces. Holding two 8s gives you the dreaded 16. Split it. Doing this gives you a higher chance to beat the house through different plays. Split your Aces as well. Not like you have much choice. Holding two aces can be counted as 12 or 22. 22 is a bust, and 12 is a waste of Aces.
Best to split them to give yourself a higher chance of hitting a total count closer to 21. Never split your 10s! This is a mistake lots of people make, especially rookies. While some people may be looking for the Blackjack, holding a 20 is a very good hand. Best to stand on it and hope the dealer doesn’t hit Blackjack!
Understand card counting. Although this has been hampered by the use of 6 or 8-deck shoes, there are counting methods that can be used to track a group of cards instead of the whole deck. If card counting is employed properly, you’ll be able to make better decisions and significantly reduce the house edge.
Something you may not hear often is that you should try as much as possible not to engage in side bets. Side bets include Insurance and doubling down. The house wants you to engage in side betting. Their vigorish on such bets is unusually high. Except you have calculated to have a very good chance of winning, avoid side bets.
There’s no need to make any sound at the casino table. Of course, you may want to, but it’s advisable to remain unnoticed and just blend into the crowd. You can make some hand signals to indicate if you want to stand, hit, split, surrender or double down.
If you would like to hit, simply scratch the edge of your card against the table. Some casinos do not allow gamblers to touch their cards. In such casinos, you can indicate you want to hit by tapping the table with a finger or two. You can stand by placing your chips on your cards and wave your palm face down over the cards. For doubling down, place another chip and point at your cards.
Betting Options in Blackjack
The first in the unofficial rule book of Blackjack is deciding whether to bet on your hand or the dealer’s hand. Of course, you may do both, which is the ideal option and what Blackjack Cheat Sheets are based on. When betting on the dealer’s hand, you always assume the dealer has a 10.
This will help you make better decisions on deciding if to hit or stand. The casino already has the biggest advantage in making the players play first before revealing the dealer’s hand. Added with the house edge, there’s no harm. If the dealer has a 6 facing up and you have a hard 16, stand. According to the Blackjack rules, the dealer will surely have to hit, except they had an Ace.
Standing in Blackjack is deciding not to receive an additional card if you think you have a good chance of busting or you think the card with you is good enough to beat the dealer. You can stand by placing your chips on your cards and then waving your palm face down horizontally on the cards.
The rules of Blackjack won’t tell you when to stand, but there are a few scenarios when you should stand. The first of them is when you’re dealt double 10s. While some are tempted to split a pair of 10s, holding a hard 20 has a very good chance of beating the dealer.
By analyzing the card the dealer may have and the card you have, you can properly decide on when to stand. If the dealer has 6 or 7 facing up, stand. Especially if the casinos stand soft 17s.
Similar to folding in Poker, you can surrender in Blackjack, although you only lose half of your bet. Surrender is not the best option except if the dealer has a 9, 10 or Ace facing up and you have 5-7 or hard 12-16. It is almost impossible not to bust at this point, and the dealer has a very good hand.
There are two kinds of surrender; early and late surrender. When the dealer has an Ace facing up, and you surrender before he checks for a Blackjack, it’s called an early surrender. Any surrender after the dealer checks if he/she has a Blackjack is called a late surrender.
What is Insurance in Blackjack
Insurance on Blackjack is a side bet that involves betting on if the dealer has a Blackjack or not. It has a payout of 2/1. The opportunity to bet on insurance is only open if the dealer has an Ace facing up.
If you win your insurance bet, you automatically lose your other bet placed, which is meant to pay 1/1, which changes the total payout to 3/2. We hope that will answer any question you may have on “What is Blackjack insurance?”
Blackjack Strategies for Beginners and Advanced Players
Blackjack involves various strategies and simple skills that beginners may employ and other strategies well suited for advanced players like the Blackjack Cheat Sheet. You may check here for those blackjack strategies.