How to Play Blackjack by

Blackjack is one of the oldest and easiest casino card games to learn in the casino.  The game can be described in one sentence.  Players try and be closer to 21 than the dealer, without going over.  That simpleness is why Blackjack is the most popular table game in the world.  Over 60% of all table games are Blackjack tables, with the rest of the tables being split between other games like Three Card Poker, Craps, Roulette, Pai Gow Poker and many more.

Getting Started

To start with, the dealer will deal one card to each player at the table that has placed a wager in the betting circle, starting from left and going right and then giving himself a card.  At most casinos, the player’s cards will be face up, while the dealer’s first card will start face down.  The dealer will then deal a second card to each player from left to right, followed by a second card to himself.  Once the dealer has the second card, the first card will be flipped over, face up, on top of the face down second card.  Now all players have two cards face up and the dealer has one card face up, on top of one card face down.

Card Rankings

All cards have a value assigned to them.  Cards with the numbers two through ten have the value of their number.  For example,  a six is worth six points toward to goal of getting closest to 21 without going over.  An eight would be worth eight points.  Face cards or royalty cards are cards with letters on them instead of numbers.  The letter J is short for Jack, Q for Queen and K for King.  These cards are all worth ten points, just like a numbered ten.  The final card is an Ace.  This card has an A on it.  It is somewhat of a wild card.  While it can’t be any number of the players choosing, it can be either a value of eleven or one, depending on which one help the player get closer to 21 without going over.  If the card were to make the players total go over 21 by using it as an eleven, it will always revert back to a value of one.

Playing the Game

Now we know all players have two cards face up and we know the value assigned to each card.  Now it’s time to play.  From left to right again, the dealer will allow players, in order, to decide if they like their two card total or if they would like an additional card.  Additional cards are called a “hit” or “hitting”.  Players will make hand signals to signify to the dealer what their choice of action will be.  Hand signals are given so there is no confusion with possible language differences between the dealer and players, noise in the casino that could prohibit a dealer from hearing a player correctly and so that the surveillance  team, that watches all action in the casino, can tell what the players requested without having to read their lips. Any players that goes over 21 “bust”.  Their cards are picked up and they are out of the game for the rest of the hand.  Once all players have decided their action, it is then the dealers time to play.  The dealer will now turn over the card that was face down.  Now both of the dealer’s cards are face up.  Unlike players who can decide to hit or stay anytime they wish, dealers have specific rules that all dealers at that same casino follow at all times.  At most casinos this would be that if they have a total of 17 or higher they must stay.  If they have 16 or lower, they must hit.  The only exception to this rule is if the 17 includes one Ace, the dealer will hit.  If the total of 17 does not include an Ace, the dealer will always :stand” or stay.

Additional Play Options

In addition to hitting, standing and busting, there are a couple of other basic choices  players can  make.  If players get any first two cards of the same value, the cards can be split into two separate hands.  This is done by matching the original bet.  The player now has two hands with only one card, each of the same value.  The dealer will now deal a second card to the first split hand and play for that hand will be played as normal.  Once that hand is complete, the dealer will move to the next hand.  Most casinos will allow there to be a total of four hands should additional hands  during the split receive a second card with the same value as the first.  Remember, a blackjack can only be made if the first two cards equal 21.  Once cards are split, these are not the first two cards of the hand for a player and anyone getting a total of 21 just has a 21, not a blackjack.  Players may also double on any first two cards they are dealt.  When doubling, players match their original bet and get one and only one additional card for their hand.  Winning players that double will receive two winning payments and losers will lose the original and double wager.

Resolving the Hands

Players that got a total of 21 on the first two cards are an automatic winner.  This is called a “blackjack”.  A blackjack can only be made on the first two cards.  A total of 21 with any combination of three of more cards is not a blackjack.  It is just a 21 and is not an automatic winner.  Blackjacks are paid when it is the players turn to act as the dealer goes from left to right.  Once the blackjack is paid, the player’s cards are removed from the table.  To resolve bets, the dealer will start from the right side of the table this time and one by one resolve all hands that did not bust or were not a blackjack. Anyone with a higher total than the dealer without going over 21 wins an even amount to what was wagered.  Players who have a lower total than the dealer without the dealer going over 21 lose the amount wagered.  Players with the sane total as the dealer without going over 21 are considered a tie or “push”.  No money is one or lost on ties.

Proper Hand Signals

As mentioned above, hand signals are used to communicate with the dealer.  The most common hand signals used are:

•    Hit – Scratching toward yourself on the felt with your finger(s), tapping the table or waving your hand toward yourself as if to be saying “come here”.
•    Stand – Waiving one hand over the wager with a horizontal movement over the betting circle.
•    Split – Placing your hand on or just above the table and using your index and middle finger to make a scissors type look.  Fingers apart signifying a desire to split the cards.
•    Double – Placing your hand on or just above the table and extending only your index finger.

There are a few additional hand signals, but they will be covered in a more advanced article on playing Blackjack, along with a few other play options as well.  The above describes the basic play of Blackjack.  Keep an eye out for many more articles in this series and have fun playing!