How To Play Blackjack

Blackjack is a game of chance where the objective is to accumulate cards worth 21 points without exceeding it (called "busting").  Aces are worth 1 or 11, and all face cards (Kings, Queens, and Jacks) are worth 10.  Having an ace and any 10 in the first two cards is called "Blackjack," which means a player wins automatically unless the dealer also has Blackjack.  Blackjack pays 3 to 2 on the initial wager.

If playing at a casino, you are playing against a house-assigned dealer.  If you are playing with friends, you are playing against whoever dealt the cards.  Commonly, players agree to rotate dealership with every game, or to have one player be the dealer for an entire session's worth of play.  In casinos, the dealer usually plays with a 6 to 8 deck "shoe."  In home games, one deck is more than enough.

  1. Before any cards are dealt, each player places their wager.

  • Two cards are dealt to each player, in a clockwise direction starting with the player to the immediate left of the dealer.   All players except the dealer are dealt their cards face up; the dealer is dealt their first card face-down, the second face-up.  After all the cards are dealt, the dealer checks for Blackjack.  If the dealer has Blackjack, all players who do not have Blackjack lose.  All players with Blackjack "push," or take back their initial wager.
  •  Each player decides if they want to take another card ("hit") or pass on more cards ("stand").  A player may hit as many times as they want, though they lose if at any point the total points of their cards exceed 21.  The choice to hit or stand rotates clockwise, in the same order in which the cards were dealt.
  • After each player has finished acting, the dealer flips over his facedown card.
  • If the dealer has a point total under 17, he must hit until he has a total 17 or greater, or busts. If the dealer busts, all players who have not busted win.
  • If the dealer does not bust, all remaining players with a point total higher than that of the dealer win an amount equal to their bet.  All remaining players with a point total lower than the dealer's lose.  In the event of tied scores, the cards are pushed and the bet is returned.
  • Additional Tips:

    • Casinos commonly offer rule variations: If the dealer is showing an ace after the initial cards were dealt, the house offers players "Insurance."  For a price equal to half of their initial wager, players may buy insurance from Blackjack.  If the dealer has Blackjack, the player wins automatically at a 2-1 payout of their initial wager.  If the dealer does not have blackjack, then the insurance fee is lost and play continues as normal.  From a strictly statistical point of view, it is never profitable to take insurance.

  • When a player is choosing to hit or stand, he or she may choose to double their bet, or "Double Down."  When a player doubles down, they are dealt one more card, and may not hit for more.  Doubling Down is usually profitable when you have a 10 or 11, or the dealer has a 5 or 6 showing.
  • If you have two cards of the same value, you may choose to split your hand for the cost of your initial wager.  If you split, your two cards are separated into two new hands, and each are dealt another card.  You may hit or stand on these hands, just like normal hands.  Splitting is most profitable when you are splitting Aces or tens (however splitting 10s is rarely reccommended and the 20 you have is a strong hand). Some casinos allow you to double down after a split, and others do not.  Be sure to check your local casino's rules before sitting down to play!
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