Blackjack, also known as twenty-one, is played on a table that is shaped as a semi-circle where the dealer stands at the center and the players are positioned around the circumference. On the blackjack table in front of each player’s position is a betting circleto place bets for a round of game. The player puts all his chips outside of this circle.

The game is played with two to eight decks of cards where a dealer holds the cards and deals them out. Depending on how the cards are delivered to the players, the cards may be dealt face down where the player is allowed to pick up his cards, or they may be dealt face up in which case the player is not allowed to touch them. In either case the rules of the game are the same.

Blackjack Card Values

Cards 2 – 10 are counted at face value whatever their suit. All face cards have a value of ten. An ace can count as either one or eleven. For example, a King and a 2 would equal 12, an ace and a 2 would total either 3 or 13. If a hand has an ace, it is referred to as a Soft Hand since its value can change. A hand without an ace it is a Hard Hand since it has only one value.

Blackjack Game Basics

A round of game starts by first each player placing his/her bets in his/her betting circle. Only chips put in the betting circle count as bets. When all bets are made the game begins by dealing two cards for each player. The dealer also receives two cards, one card face up and the other face down known as the hole card. After the cards are dealt the dealer will ask each player in turn to make their decision starting from the player to the left of the dealer. This position is known as first base. The position of the last person to act is called third base.

The objective of the game is to beat the dealer’s card without going over 21. There are several actions that the player can make at this point based on his/her cards and the dealer’s face up card. The two basic ones are either to stand or to hit. If a player gets ablackjack (that is, 21) with the first two cards, then no decision is necessary, he/she will be paid one and a half times the bet at the end of the round as long as the dealer doesn’t get blackjack too.

Standing means that you are satisfied with your cards and do not want to take any action. And hitting is asking for a card. You can hit, one at a time, as many times as you wish, until you are satisfied and choose to stand, or until you bust. You bust when your cards go over 21, and consequently, you lose all your bets. For instance, if your cards are a Jack and a 9, you certainly would select to stand. If you have a 2 and a 4, then you would hit. If then you get a 9, your total will be 15. Here is where experience, luck, the dealer’s card, the decisions of the other players all come into play. If you hit again, you may bust since there are several cards valued at 10 in the deck. If you stand, there will be only a slim chance of beating the dealer unless he busts. You don’t know what the dealer would have since you can see only one of his cards. As a beginner you may assume that he has a 10 valued card face down and make your decision based on that.

If your first cards total 12-16, it is said that you have a Stiff hand since you can be busted with a hit. If you have 17 or better it is a Pat hand. If the dealer’s up card is a 2 – 6, it is a Stiff dealer’s hand; if he has Ace or any card over 7, then he has a Pat hand.

Note that the decisions made by the players are communicated to the dealer by signals. Standing is signaled by waving your hand over the top of your cards. To signal the dealer for a hit you will tap the table in front of you or make a beckoning motion with your hand.

After all the players have made their plays, it will be the dealer’s turn to play. First, he turns over his face down card. Then if his total is less than 17 he hits. He continues hitting until his cards sum up to 17 or over, or until he busts. The dealer has to stand 17 or over. There are three scenarios now: 1. the dealer busts, 2. the dealer stands between 17 and 20, and 3. the dealer has a blackjack.

For the time being, let us not consider the more advanced plays that we will see shortly, and see the consequences of the three scenarios.

  • If the dealer busts, all players who chose to stand under 21 will be paid exactly the same amount as they have placed in their respective bet circles. Those players that have blackjacks (21) will be paid one and a half times.
  • If the dealer stands (between 17 and 20), all the players who beat the dealer will be winners of an equal amount as their bets, for those who have the same score as the dealer, it will be a push. They neither win nor lose, just get their bets back.
  • If the dealer has a blackjack, it will be a push for the players who have blackjacks, the rest will automatically lose.


Blackjack Advanced Plays

Doubling Down

If your first two cards sum up to 10 or 11, you may be destined for a win since there is a very high probability that you may get a 10-valued card when you hit. Even 7, 8, or 9 are also good. So, blackjack rules allow you to double your bet. You do this by placing an additional bet next to your original bet. Most casinos have a ‘Double On Any’ (DOA) rule, others allow doubling only to hands that total 10 or 11. You also have to check how much additional bet you can wager when doubling down, since some casinos have limits on doubling down. When you double down, you’ll receive one card only.


Suppose you are dealt two Aces, then you can take advantage of this lucky situation by splitting. That is, making two separate hands. Here, you just place an additional bet equal to your starting bet next to it. The dealer will separate the cards and make it a two hand game and give you two more cards for each hand. Now, you play each hand, one at a time, just like you played a single hand – hit as many times as necessary and stand when appropriate, you can even double down. Although we have cited as an example two Aces, which is the best case of splitting, you can split whenever you are dealt any pair (two cards of the same rank).


If the dealer’s up card is an ace the dealer will offer insurance. Insurance is a side bet you make by wagering half your original bet that the dealer has a ten in the hole. If you make the bet and he has the ten you will be paid 2 to 1, at the same time, you would lose your original bet. The overall result is similar to a push; you don’t win or lose any money.

If you have a blackjack and the dealer has an ace you will be asked if you would like even money for your blackjack instead of one and a half times. If do not take the even money you will have a push if the dealer has a blackjack.

Basic Strategies:

If you have a stiff and the dealer has a stiff you STAND.
If you have a stiff and the dealer has a pat hand you HIT.
If you have a Pat hand and you stand, no matter what.


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