Blackjack is the workhorse game of a casino. It is easy to learn, quick to play and by mastering set-in-stone simple strategies it returns 99% of the player’s money. Skilled players employing mental gymnastics to count cards can even tip the game in the player’s favour.
There are dozens of blackjack variants available to play based on the game rules that can bring players a greater advantage against the dealer. Read the rules of each blackjack variation to see if they fit your style of play. These variants can make blackjack hands more exciting and may even appear more profitable – but remember all games of 21 are still contested with a built-in advantage for the house.
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How To Play Blackjack
The simple rules of blackjack make the game a casino favourite and the most appealing to lure timid slots gamblers over to the fast action of the table games. Blackjack is played against the dealer and not other players, as many as seven of whom can sit in on a hand. Bets are placed prior to the deal and two cards are delivered face-up to each player in turn. The first card to the dealer is face-up but the second is not revealed. The dealer checks the hole card and if the result is a blackjack all players lose. If not, the hand is on. At this point the object for the player is to defeat the dealer which can be done three ways. If the player’s two cards total 21 with an ace (that counts as eleven or one) and a ten (either a ten-spot card or a face card that counts as ten) it is an automatic win providing the dealer does not also have a 21. This “blackjack” (regardless of suit) traditionally pays 3-2 although some casinos have been scaling that payout back to as little as 6-5 in recent years.
If the player does not have a blackjack after the deal additional cards can be drawn from the dealer (hits) up until the time the player exceeds 21 and “busts” or decides to stop drawing cards (stands) with a total less than 21. If that final total exceeds the dealer’s total the player wins and doubles the amount of the original stake. The dealer is required to take cards until the total reaches 17 or more points. If the dealer exceeds a point total of 21 when being forced to draw between 12 and 16 the player also wins. If the player and dealer have identical totals of either 18, 19 or 20 the hand is “pushed” with no bet declared.
After the two cards are dealt the player can decide to “double down” on the initial wager which increases the bet by 100%. This awards the player only one more card before a mandatory stand, a ploy often used when the first two cards total ten or eleven. In European rules players can ONLY double down on a ten or eleven. A player may also choose to “split” after the deal if both cards have the same value, creating two separate hands that are played against the dealer. Additional splits can be made from subsequent matching cards. Some casinos require identical ranks to split such as king-king and not king-jack although other casinos allow splits on value only.
Player options during the hand can include “insurance” which is a separate side wager available when the dealer’s upcard is an ace. The player then bets with the dealer’s hand. If the dealer has a blackjack the side bet pays 2-1. At some blackjack games an option to “surrender” is given to the player after any deal when the position against the dealer in not advantageous. A surrender takes the player out of the hand and costs one-half on the original bet.