Online Casino Blackjack
Blackjack is one of the most common casino table games. The basic concept is to get a hand as close to 21 as possible without going over, which is known as busting. If your blackjack hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, or the dealer busts, you win – simple as that. However, there are a number of subtleties to blackjack that aren’t so easy to grasp: such as splitting, doubling down, insurance, and surrender.
One of the wonderful things about blackjack is the fact that you’re only playing against the casino and not your fellow players. Beginners are encouraged to ask the advice of more experienced blackjack players at the table. Even the dealer is usually more than happy to offer their opinion on the best blackjack strategy to use for your hand.
Blackjack is certainly one of the simplest and most inviting table games for the novice gambler. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to lose a lot of money at blackjack if you don’t know what you’re doing. Much of the player’s advantage is in the use of splitting and doubling down techniques. The courses below are intended to help gamblers advance their blackjack skills and knowledge. Whether you’re a novice or experienced player there should be a class suited to your blackjack experience level.
Getting Started – Blackjack Basics
Blackjack is sometimes referred to simply as 21. This is because getting your cards to total 21 is the basic premise of the game. Your ultimate goal is to have a hand value that is closer to 21 than that of the dealer, without going over 21. You are only playing against the hand of the dealer not against any of the other players at your table.
The dealer has certain rules of play, which he or she must abide by so there no problem with the dealer or the other players seeing the cards in your hand. If you’re playing at a game where six or eight decks are being used all players cards will be dealt face up, the dealer’s first card will not. Games with fewer decks are usually dealt face down. Whether your cards are dealt face up or not, don’t be afraid to show the dealer or other players your cards in order to ask questions.
In blackjack only the value of your cards are important the suits of the cards have no meaning.
The cards from 2 through 9 are the value indicated. If you have a 6 and an 8 then your hand is worth 6 + 8 = 14.
The 10, Jack, Queen and King each have the value of 10. If you have a 10 and a King then your hand is worth 10 + 10 = 20. If you have a 5 and a Jack then your hand is worth 5 + 10 = 15.
An Ace may be counted as either 1 or 11 depending on the other cards in your hand. If you have a 6 and an Ace then your hand is worth either 7 or 17. If you stop at this point then your hand will be worth 17. Let’s say you draw another card and it is an 8. Your hand is now a 6, an 8 and an Ace. This hand has the value 6 + 8 + 1 = 15.
In this case the Ace must be worth 1 otherwise the hand would be 6 + 8 + 11 = 25, which is over 21 and a losing hand regardless of what the dealer has.
Going over 21 is called “busting” in blackjack. If you bust then you lose the hand even if the dealer also busts. In the case mentioned earlier (6 + Ace = 17) this is referred to as a “soft” 17.
A soft total occurs when you have a hand with an Ace that can be either a 1 or 11 without busting. If you added a 10 to the previous hand (6 + 10 + Ace = 17) you would have a “hard” 17. In this case the Ace can only be counted as 1 in order to avoiding busting. With a soft total you can always draw another card with no risk of busting.
The dealing begins to the dealer’s left and goes around the table in a clock-wise manner. The dealer makes two passes, first dealing each player one card then giving himself a card face down. On the second pass the dealer will again give each player a card and then will deal himself a second card, this time face up. This can vary in Europe and Australia where the dealer may deal his first card face up and deal his second card after all players have finished their hands. This is called “European No Hole Card Rule.” In games where players’ cards are dealt face up, players should not touch their cards.
In games where the cards are dealt face down the players will hold their cards in their hand. You may only touch the cards one had and you must keep your cards held over the table. Any subsequent cards will be dealt face up on the table and should not be picked up. Play begins to the dealer’s left and progress around the table in the same fashion as the dealing. Some of these rules may sound odd but they are there place to prevent players from cheating the casino. If you’re new to the game you may want to stand by a table and watch what people do before sitting down to try your new skills.
Part of the beauty of blackjack is the fact that you’re only playing against the dealer and the dealer must play their hand in a specified way. There are two common rule variations that dictate how the dealer must act.
1. The dealer stands on all 17s
In this variation the dealer must continue to take cards, or “hit”, until their total is 17 or greater. This includes the soft 17 combinations.
2. The dealer hits soft 17
In this case the dealer will always hit on any total less than 17 and will also hit a soft 17. For example: if the dealer has a 3 and an Ace the dealer will hit because the total is 3 + 11 = 14, which is less than 17. If the dealer gets a 3 he now has, 3 + 11 + 3 = 17. Under this variation the dealer will hit again because this is a soft 17. This variation is less common than the first.
In either variation, the dealer has no influence over whether or not he draws a card. If you have 20 and the dealer has 18 he must stop even though you have the winning hand. The dealer may also bust by going over 21 in which case all players who did not bust will have a winning hand. When you and the dealer have the same total it is called a “push.” In a push the dealer will leave your bet on the table, you do not win or lose. A win with a normal hand will earn you an even money return, if you be $10 you win $10. The exceptions to this are “blackjack” and “insurance” which will be discussed later.
The most desired hand is the blackjack, or natural. A blackjack is a hand where the original two cards you are dealt are an Ace and a card with a 10-value, this can be either a 10, Jack, Queen or King. The blackjack usually pays the player odds of 3 to 2. Therefore, if you bet $10 and are dealt a King and an Ace the dealer will pay you $15. A player’s blackjack beats any dealer total other than a dealer’s blackjack. If the dealer also has a blackjack the outcome is a tie or “push” and the player keeps their money. Usually the dealer will pay your winning blackjack bet immediately when it is your turn to play. If you are playing a face down game you should show your blackjack to the dealer when it is your turn.
The first step in blackjack is finding the right table to suit your gambling and skill level. Blackjack tables can come in several different varieties. The minimum and maximum allowable bets should be clearly posted on a sign at any blackjack casino table.
The lower limit tables of one to five dollars are often fairly crowded. Beginning players are usually better off playing at tables where six or eight decks are being used (“shoe” games.) The shoe is that gizmo the dealer is pulling the cards out of.
This is a good place to learn the game because player’s card are usually dealt face-up which allows the dealer and other players the ability to help with questions and decision making. Don’t be afraid to ask the dealer for help, they’re your friends here; it’s just the casino that likes to see you lose. More advanced players should consider moving on to a table with fewer decks.
Remember, the casino’s advantage decreases with fewer decks in play.
Buying Chips & Table Ettiquette
After you find a table that feels right, you’re going to need some chips to bet with. To purchase chips from the dealer wait for the completion of the current round of betting and place your cash on the table felt in front of you. Do not try to hand your money directly to the dealer, that’s just not the way things work in the casino world due to security reasons.
Place down only the amount you wish to gamble, dealers are not in the habit of making change. An appropriate buy-in amount is anywhere from 10 to 20 times your average bet. If you’re a 5 dollar bettor than lay down $50-$100.
You can just lay down $5 if you’d like but don’t plan on sitting at the table for too long. The following chip colors are fairly standard; red $5 chips, green $25 chips, black $100 chips and silver $1 tokens or white $1 chips, these may vary depending on the casino.
Make sure you received the correct amount and take a moment to become familiar with what each denomination looks like. If you have any questions just ask your friend the dealer.
Placing a Bet
Now it’s time to place your bet! There will be a circle or box for your bets on the table felt in front of you. Always stack your chips in a neat pile from largest denomination on the bottom to smallest on top. Example: If you’re betting $16 dollars with a $10 chip, a $5 chip and a $1 token, place the $10 chip on the table then stack the $5 chip on top of this and finally the $1 token on top.
Do not touch your bet once the cards have been dealt. This is again for security reasons. If you want to know how much you have bet simply ask the dealer and he or she will be happy to count your chips for you. After the hand is over the dealer will collect the losing chips and pay the winners. If you are one of the lucky winners you are now free to collect your chips. If you’re up for another round then place your new bet on the table.
When you’re ready to take your money and run, you’ll need to let the dealer know you would like to “cash in” your chips. If you have groups of smaller denomination chips the dealer will usually exchange these for larger denomination chips. This process is known as “coloring up,” exchanging lower colors for higher. You may now take these chips to a cashier for cash or to another table for more gambling fun.
Gameplay – Playing a Hand of Blackjack
The most common actions in blackjack are the “hit” and the “stand.” When you decide to add another card to your hand you are hitting. When you decide you don’t need any more cards you are standing.
In the face up blackjack game you indicate a hit by tapping your fingers on the table behind your cards. To indicate a stand you should wave you hand horizontally over your cards palm down. Many dealers will allow you to say hit or stand but they prefer the hand motions to avoid confusion and for the benefit of the many many security cameras that like to watch what everyone is doing.
If you bust the dealer will collect your bet and remove your cards. In the face down game you’ll be holding your two dealt cards in one hand. To request another card lightly scrape your cards towards yourself on the table felt.
Your additional cards will be dealt face up on the felt in front of you but do not pick them up. If you have the misfortune to go over 21 then toss your two cards onto the table face up. To stand simply slide the corner of your two cards face down under your bet.
Do not touch your bet during any of these actions. The dealer and casino do not appreciate you touching your bet. This may all sound a bit confusing at first but sit down with a few other players and you’ll pick it up quickly.
“Doubling down” can be a very profitable player option. A double down is performed when you believe you can beat the dealer’s hand by adding one single card to your hand. For example: if you are dealt a 5 and a 6 and the dealer is showing an up card of 5 then you may want to double down.
Why? Because there are more 10s in than any other card in blackjack. The odds are that you will be dealt a 10 giving you a total of 21. The dealer will have a very hard time beating a 21 with a 5 showing. When you double down you must double your bet for the hand.
If you originally bet $10 you must add another $10 to this in order to double down. You may only double down with a two-card hand; you cannot hit and then decide to double down. To double down in a facedown-game, toss your two cards face-up onto the table in front of your bet. In either style of game you should place your additional bet to the side of your original bet, not on top of it. The dealer will then deal you one additional card.
In a facedown game the dealer will most likely tuck it under your bet facedown, to be revealed later. Players are allowed to double down for any amount up to the original bet amount, so you could double down “for less” if you wanted; however, if the correct play is to double down, you should always double for the full amount.
If you are initially dealt two cards of the same value you have the option of “splitting” your hand. The process of splitting means you split your hand into two separate hands. For example, you are dealt two eights which has a total value of sixteen. Sixteen has the distinction of being the worst possible player hand in blackjack.
This is because if you choose to stand on sixteen you will only win if the dealer goes over 21 and if you choose to hit you have the greatest chance of busting by drawing another card. By splitting the eights into two hands you have a chance of improving a bad situation. If you are playing a facedown game of blackjack, toss the cards face-up in front of your bet, in the same manner as the double down.
When splitting you place a matching bet beside your original bet. Unlike the double down, you must bet the same amount on a split bet. The dealer will then separate your two cards and treat them as individual hands. The dealer will deal a second card to your first hand after which you continue play on that hand as normal. You may choose to hit, stand, double or even split again just as you would if you had not split.
When play ends on the first hand, the dealer will then deal your second card to the second card from your split. Play then continues as normal on this hand. Some casinos restrict re-splitting but most will allow you to split at least three times. You are allowed to split any cards that have a value of ten; you could split a Jack and a King.
However, it is very rarely a good idea to split Tens. With two Tens you have a total of twenty, which is a very good hand and usually a winner. Many dealers will even encourage you not to split Tens if you attempt to. Remember, even though he’s there to take your money away, the dealer is still your friend.
One more note on splitting concerns splitting Aces. Splitting Aces is a very strong player move. Because of this the casino restricts you to only drawing one additional card on each Ace. Drawing a ten-valued card on an Ace split is not considered a blackjack. Some casinos will not allow you to resplit Aces. Even considering these restrictions it is still in your best interest to split a pair of Aces.
Insurance in Blackjack
The last basic concept in blackjack is called “insurance.” Insurance is not a widely understood part of blackjack; which is okay because it’s usually a poor bet. If a dealer has an Ace up card, he will offer insurance to the players. An insurance bet can be made by betting up to half your original bet amount, usually half your bet.
The dealer then checks to see if he has a ten-valued card, which would result in a dealer blackjack. If he has a blackjack and you have made an insurance bet your insurance bet will be paid 2:1. So, if you originally bet $10 and make an insurance bet of $5, you lose your original $10 and also are paid $10 (2:1) on your $5 insurance bet. You will break even.
If the dealer does not have a ten-value card then you lose your insurance bet and continue play as normal. The odds are usually against placing an insurance bet. The one possible exception is when you have a blackjack. In this case the dealer will usually offer you “even money” instead of insurance. This is just a simplification of the insurance bet process.
Basically, “even money” means the dealer pays you even money for your blackjack regardless of his down card. Remember, normally a blackjack pays 3:2 odds instead of even, 1:1, odds. If you do not take insurance on your blackjack and the dealer also has a blackjack then the hand will be a push and you will not win or lose your money.
The odds are still against the insurance bet even if you do have a blackjack. However, some players prefer to take their “even money” win to avoid the chance of a push.
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