Blackjack Rules

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Published: 08/04/2012

Many variations of Blackjack exist nowadays, but the most popular version, also called “21,” follows standard rules developed in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is played with one or more decks of 52 playing cards by one to seven players and a dealer who represents the House and acts as the banker for the game. Most casinos feature tables with special Blackjack layouts with a “shoe” used to hold multiple decks of cards and a separate tray for discards (cards already used in play).

The object of the game is to win by drawing cards with combined values higher than those of the dealer, but without exceeding a total of twenty-one points. Cards numbered 2~10 are counted at face value. The King, Queen and Jack—so-called “face cards,” “court cards” or “picture cards”—are worth ten points apiece. The Ace can be counted as either one point or eleven points, so a hand containing an Ace and a 6, for example, can be counted as either seven or seventeen points.

The House determines each Blackjack table’s betting limits, both minimum and maximum. Betting is conducted by placing chips in the betting area, usually a circle just a little larger than the cards themselves, which appears on the table surface in front of each player.

No matter how much is wagered. When the player’s hand wins it pays out at odds of 1-to-1 or “even money. The sole exception to this the payout of 3-to-2 for a natural “blackjack”—exactly twenty-one points on the first two cards. In games which allow “surrender” (abandoning the hand before play concludes), half of the original wager is returned.

The game begins with the dealer shuffling the decks together and offering one of the players the opportunity to “cut” the stack of mixed cards by inserting a faceless marker anywhere in the middle of decks. The dealer then moves all of the cards in front of the marker to the back of the stack and puts all of the decks into the shoe. Next, several cards are drawn from the front of the deck and “burned” by placing them face down in the discard tray.

Before any cards are dealt, players must stake their initial wagers. Once all bets have been made, the dealer will distribute cards to each player, one at a time clockwise, beginning with the player seated to the dealer’s immediate left. In single- or double-deck Blackjack games, the cards are usually dealt face down. In multideck games with a shoe, they are most often dealt face up for all to see. The dealer’s own cards, however, are dealt face down.

When every player has received two cards, the dealer pauses to turn over one of his/her own cards for everyone to see. This is known as the dealer’s “up card.” The remaining concealed card is referred to as the dealer’s “hole card.”

If the up card’s value is exactly ten, the dealer will take a peek at the hole card without showing it to the players. If it is an Ace, the dealer has a blackjack and will immediately reveal hole card. In this case, the players’ hands all lose automatically, with the exception of a blackjack held by a player, which results in a tie or “push,” with no winner or loser.

If the up card is an Ace, players may be offered “insurance.” By making an additional bet equal to half of the amount wagered initially, the player’s hand can be insured against the dealer’s hole card being a ten or a face card, resulting in a natural blackjack. Insured bets and natural blackjacks are not lost when the dealer has twenty-one, but all other bets are forfeited. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, the amounts wagered for insurance are lost and play resumes.

If the dealer’s up card is not a ten or an Ace, or if it is a ten but the hole card is not an Ace, play continues. Starting on the dealer’s left, each player is given four options: to draw another card or “hit”; to stay with the cards dealt or “stand”; to divide a pair of equal cards into two new hands or “split”; and to increase the wager two-fold or “double down.” In the latter event, just one more card is dealt; the player must stand, no matter what the total may be, and drawing again is not permitted.

A special situation occurs when the dealer’s up card is an Ace and the player holds a natural blackjack. Instead of taking insurance, the player may request “even money,” an automatic payout of 1-to-1 payout, regardless of whether the dealer’s hole card is valued at ten or not.

In most case, it is appropriate for the player to continue to draw cards until reaching a total of 17 points or higher. This is exactly the way the dealer is required to play his/her own hand. Should the dealer show a low-value up card (i.e., 2~6), it is to the player’s advantage to stand when holding a total of 12~16, anticipating that the dealer must draw at least one more card and may exceed twenty-one and “bust.” Among other best practices for players are to always split pairs of Aces or 8s, to never split 5s, and usually to double down on totals of ten or eleven.

Published on: 08/04/2012

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