If you have ever played ‘Pontoon‘ or ‘21‘, then the basic principles of Blackjack will not be new to you. What makes Blackjack different from these other games is the incomparable casino atmosphere in which it is played and the addition of several playing and betting options, which are explained here.
How to play blackjack
Blackjack is played between you and the dealer. The object is to draw cards with a value totalling 21, or as near as possible to 21 without going over the top, ‘going bust’ and losing.
The first ace of a hand counts as eleven, picture cards ten and other cards, their numbered value. However, where a hand contains an ace and the addition of further cards would bust the hand, the ace is counted as one.
Four packs of playing cards are shuffled by the dealer, who acts as banker, and then cut by one of the participating players before being placed in a dealing box, known as a ‘shoe’. You make your bet by placing your cash chip in the nearest of the boxes to where you are sitting. Some players like to play two or more boxes simultaneously.
A card is dealt face up to each player in turn and one to the dealer. A second card is then dealt, again face up, but only to the players. It is at this stage that your skill is drawn into play.
Getting to know the rules of blackjack
Never forget you are playing against the dealer, and you need to assess the chances of his hand exceeding 21. The dealer must continue taking cards up to a total of 16, and cannot take any more cards once his hand has reached 17 or more. The skill factor comes in judging when to stick with your own hand. You may take additional cards, at your option, up to a total of 21 before the dealer takes his second or subsequent cards.
If your hand exceeds 21, then you have lost your bet and you take no further part in the hand, even if the dealer subsequently exceeds 21 as well.
The same score is a tie and counts as a ‘stand off’. You neither win nor lose.
If you have a Blackjack – which is an Ace together with a picture card or 10, you win one and a half times your stake, unless the dealer also has a Blackjack, in which case, the bet is a ‘stand off’.
There are several options you may take in Blackjack after you have been dealt your first two cards.
You may double your original stake on your fist two cards and only one further card is dealt to your hand.
If your first two cards make a pair, you may split them into separate hands but must repeat your original stake on the second hand. If the next card dealt to any split hands also makes a pair, then these subsequent hands may not be split.
If the dealer’s first card is an Ace and your first two cards total 21 (i.e. a Blackjack), then you have an option to take out insurance against the dealer’s second card also giving him a Blackjack, which would produce a ‘stand-off’.
You may in these circumstances place up to half of your original stake on the insurance line which becomes a second bet. If the dealer draws a Blackjack then the insurance bet wins at 2 to 1 and your original bet is a stand-off. If the dealer fails to produce a Blackjack then you forfeit the insurance stake but your original stake will win at 3 to 2.
A more practised method of handling this is to accept the dealer’s invitation to take even money on your original bet before his second card is drawn, as this has the same effect, irrespective of whether the dealer obtains a Blackjack or not.