Blackjack (aka 21) is the most heavily favored casino card game, known for its simplicity and low house edge. It is an easy game to play, even with a developed strategy, and even easier to learn. The only tool one requires to become well versed in the game of Blackjack is basic mathematics.
The object in Blackjack is to develop a hand that is as close as possible to a sum of 21, without going over. Each player is competing only with the dealer’s hand, thus the player’s hand must be closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand in order to win.
Card Decks and Values
Casino Blackjack can be played with one deck, or multiple decks of up to eight. The fewer decks that are used, the lower the house edge generally becomes. There are no jokers, but all other cards remain in play. The value of each card is as follows:
Aces = 1 or 11
10s and Face Cards = 10
2-9 = Face Value
The Ace is valued at 1 or 11, whichever adds up to the closest number to 21 without going over. For example, A+8 would equal 9 or 19, in this case 19 because it is closer to 21. If the hand is A+5+7 the total is 13 or 23, and would become 13 so as not to exceed 21.
What is a Natural Blackjack?
A Blackjack, or Natural Blackjack, occurs when a player has only two cards that equal 21. This is done by combining an Ace with a 10 or Face Card. A natural blackjack usually pays 3:2. When three or more cards add up to 21, or if a player splits their hand and is then dealt a two-card hand of 21, it is not a natural blackjack and only pays even money at 1:1.
A bet is first placed, then the cards are dealt. Each player receives two cards, as does the dealer. The dealer’s cards are dealt one face down, one face up. If the player has Blackjack, it is revealed and automatically wins, unless the dealer has a blackjack, in which case it’s a tie, or push. Otherwise, the player is then able to choose from the following options.
Stand: Keep the current total and end the player’s turn.
Hit: Take another card.
Split: If the two cards are the same, they can be split into two hands. A new second card is given to each hand and both are played out accordingly.
Double: Add another bet of equal size and take one card, ending the player’s turn.
Bust: If a hand exceeds 21 at any time, it is a Bust. Dealer wins.
Once the player’s turn is over, it is the dealer’s turn. The dealer will turn up his cards and is forced to take specific action depending on his total.
16 or Below: Dealer must Hit
17 – 21: Dealer must Stand.
Soft 17: A Soft 17 occurs when the hand consists of an Ace that is valued at 11. Blackjack rules vary from one casino to the next, but when the Soft 17 Rule is in place, the dealer must hit.
Bust: If the dealer busts, all players with a hand of 21 or below win their bets, paid at even odds of 1:1. Natural Blackjack pays 3:2.
There are many forms of casino blackjack with slight variations to the rules and/or payouts. The fundamental knowledge required to start playing blackjack has been provided. Once you’ve become comfortable with its traditional rules, feel free to explore other variations of the game.