Blackjack, also known as Black Jack, is a very popular casino games. It is played against the house, not against other players, and you are allowed to make decisions regarding your hand during the game that impacts the result. This means that blackjack isn’t a game of pure chance; it is a game where skill is a factor.
When you play blackjack, your objective is to get a hand that is better than the dealer’s hand. The best possible hand is a hand consisting of an ace + a 10 point card (this hand is called blackjack). The second best hand is any other hand worth 21 points. The third best hand is any hand worth 20 points, and so on.
A hand worth 22 points or more is automatically a lost hand. So, the tricky thing about playing blackjack is trying to get close to 21 points without going over 21 points.
Blackjack is usually played with six or eight standard 52 card decks mixed together, but there are other options as well. It is for instance not at all uncommon for casinos to have at least one blackjack table where you can play Single Deck Blackjack, i.e. blackjack played with just one standard 52 card deck.
You can find blackjack in most casinos. This does not mean that all casinos are a good choice if you want to play blackjack. Some casinos are a much better choice then others if you want to play blackJack. Avoid casinos that do not count blackjack bets toward the wager requirement.
The point system for Blackjack
|Ace||1 point or 11 points, depending on what’s best for the hand|
As you can see, all the numerical cards in the 2 – 10 range are worth their numerical value. A five is worth 5 points, the ten is worth 10 points, and so on. The Jack, Queen and King are worth 10 points each. That means that there is a total of twelve cards in a standard deck worth 10 points.
The ace is worth 1 point or 11 points, depending on what’s best for the hand.
Example: Your start hand consists of an ace + a four, it will count as 15 points, since 15 points is better than 5 points. However, if you decide to take another card and that card turns out to be a seven, your hand will not count as 22 points (because that would mean automatic forfeit of the hand). Instead, the ace will count as 1 point, and your hand will be worth 1 point + 4 points + 7 points = 13 points.
When is a hand a blackjack?
Blackjack is not just the name of this game, it is also then name of the best possible hand. If your start hand is an ace + any 10 point card, you have a blackjack. It doesn’t matter if the ace is the first card or the second card.
A blackjack outranks any other hand worth 21 points.
All blackjacks are of equal value. Ace + King is not better than Ace + Queen, and so on.
When you win with a blackjack, you are paid 3:2. (When you win with any other hand, you are paid 1:1.)
Your wager is $100 and you win with a 20 point hand. You are paid $100 and have $200 in total.
Your wager is $100 and you win with a blackjack. You are paid $150 and have $250 in total.
- You start by making your bet. If there are empty boxes at the blackjack table, you are allowed to play more than one box.
- When all players at the table have placed their bets, the dealer will start dealing out start hands. Each box gets a start hand consisting of two cards, dealt face up.The exact procedure for dealing the start hands vary from casino to casino. A common method is to give the dealer one face-up card, and then give each box a full start hand.
- The player sitting to the left of the dealer is the first to act. If you are this player, you signal to the dealer if you want another card or if you want to stop. (There are also situations where it is possible to split or double. You can read more about these options further below in this article.)
As long as the point value of your hand has not reached 21 points, you are allowed to continue to ask for more cards and receive them.
If your hand reaches 22 points or more, you will immediately lose your wager and the dealer will remove your cards. This is known as “going over”.
- When the first box is finished, the dealer will shift her attention to the next box. Each box at the table will be dealt with, from left to right.
- When all the players have acted, it is time for the dealer to give herself a second face-up card.
- What happens now depends on the two cards in front of the dealers. Unlike the players, the dealer is not allowed to make decisions regarding her hand. She must follow strict rules about when to stop and when to give herself an addition card. The rules are often printed on the blackjack table cloth.“Dealer must draw 16 and stand on all 17s” is a rule printed on many blackjack tables. This means that as long as the dealer’s hand is 16 points or less, she MUST give herself another card. It also means that as soon as the dealer’s hand reaches 17 points, she MUST stop. She must stop even if it would be risk free for her to take another card, e.g. a hand comprised of ace + two + four.
- If the dealer’s hand reaches 22 points or more, all the boxes that are still in play win and the dealer will pay them all.If the dealer’s hand doesn’t go over (i.e. if the dealer’s hand is 17 points – 21 points) the dealer will compare each individual box to her hand. If your hand is higher than the dealer’s, you will get paid 1:1 on your bet. If your hand is lower than the dealer’s hand, you will lose your wager. If you and the dealer tie, you get to keep your wager but will not win anything. (There are casinos where you lose your wager if there is a tie below 20 points. This is a very bad set up for the player and such blackjack tables should be avoided.)
Some blackjack tables will allow you to split a hand consisting of cards of identical value, e.g. eight + eight or ten + king.
You tell the dealer that you wish to split, and makes a new bet that is identical in size to your initial bet.
Example: You have bet $20. You get eight + eight. You tell the dealer that you wish to split, and puts $20 (no more and no less) in chips next to your initial wager.
The dealer will separate your eights and put a new card on the first eight. You then play it like an ordinary hand. When that hand is finished, the dealer will put a card on your second eight, and you will play that hand like an ordinary hand.
In some casinos, splitting a hand that has already been split is not allowed.
In some casinos, doubling after splitting is not allowed.
In some casinos, you are allowed to double your bet when you have seen your start hand. In some casinos, doubling is allowed on all start hands. In others, doubling is only allowed on certain start hands, e.g. start hands worth 9 points, 10 points or 11 points.
You double by telling the dealer that you wish to double, and place a new wager identical in size to your original wager next to your original wager.
You will now automatically receive one more card on that hand. You can’t double and then refuse to accept the card. Once you have received this mandatory card, you will not receive any other card on the hand – not even if you want to. A doubled hand will always consist of three cards when it is finished.
If the dealer’s first card is an ace, she will immediately offer you to buy insurance.
If you elect to insure a hand, you pay an amount equal to 50% of your initial wager on that hand.
Example: You have bet $20 and wish to insure that hand. You must pay $10 for insurance.
- If you have insured a hand and the dealer gets a blackjack, you get to keep your wager + the insurance premium.
- If you have insured a hand and the dealer does not get a blackjack, you lose your insurance premium. What happens to the wager depends on if you hand is higher, lower or equal to the dealer’s hand, just as normal.
Nowadays, it is quite rare to find a blackjack table that offers surrender but they do exist. When a blackjack table allows surrender, it means that you can elect to give up your start hand and receive half of your wager in return. So, if you determine that you are likely to lose this round, you can limit your loss by opting for surrender instead of playing the hand.
The name Blackjack is from North America, but the game has its roots in a European game known as 21. This game was played in Europe as early as the 1600s. In the book Novelas Ejemplares by famous author Miguel de Cervantes, there is a story named Rinconete y Cortadillo in which the main protagonists are professional card cheaters playing a game called ventiuna in Seville, Spain. Ventiuna is Spanish for twenty-one, and the game is described as one where the object is to reach 21 points without going over, and where the ace can be worth 1 point or 11 points. It is played with a Spanish Baraja deck of cards, without any eights, nines or tens. The book Novelas Ejemplares was written in 1601 – 1602.
When Europeans migrated to North America, they brought the game 21 with them. It became a popular pass time in saloons in the United States, where saloon managers added various perks and gimmicks to the rule book to make the game even more appealing. In order to attract customers, it was common to offer special bonus payments for certain hands, e.g. seven times your wager if you won with a hand consisting of 7 – 7 – 7. One of these bonus payments was a 10x payment given to anyone who won with a hand consisting of ace of spades + a black jack (i.e. jack of spades or jack of clubs). This hand became known as the Black Jack hand. Eventually, people started calling the game Black Jack rather than 21.
Today, virtually all casinos will recognize any hand consisting of an ace + a 10 point card as a blackjack. Also, they will not pay you ten times your wager; you’ll have to make do with 1.5 times your wager.