Blackjack for Dummies
This article is for those who are completely new to the game of blackjack. We will review the basic aspects of the game; from the items used in order to play it, the terminology every player should know and what game options a player has and when to take advantage of them.
The Blackjack Table
In most casinos the blackjack table is covered in green felt and offers 7 betting spots (some casinos also offer a 5 seat blackjack table). On one side of the table the dealer stands and around the dealer there are 7 seats. A player can take a seat and play one betting spot or they can take one seat but choose to play 3 betting spots (so they will be playing 3 separate hands during each round of blackjack).
The dealer is representing the casino during the game. He or she would stand behind the table and be responsible for shuffling and dealing cards. They are also responsible for collecting losing bets and paying the winners.
Blackjack can be played with a traditional 52 card deck and can be played using a single deck of cards or 2, 4, 5, 6 and up to 8 decks of cards.
When a single or double deck is used the dealer would shuffle it and present it to a player who will cut the deck using a ‘cut card’. The dealer will keep the deck in their hand and deal the cards to the players. After each round the cards will get reshuffled.
When playing multi-deck blackjack the dealer will put all the shuffled decks of cards into a special card box called a “shoe”. The first card from the top will be burned (discarded from play).
After all bets were placed the dealer will proceed to deal each player two cards facing up and two cards to the dealer with one facing up and one facing down (called a hole card).
After all cards were dealt the dealer will approach every player by pointing at their cards, starting from the player to their left. Each player will then need to make a decision as to what move they wish to make.
In most casinos players are not allowed to touch the cards. Only the dealer is allowed to touch them in order to avoid any card tampering, card replacements or any other activity that might tamper with the fairness of the game.
Beating the dealer’s hand is the main objective. It does not matter what hands other players have and if their hand is better than yours. The only thing that matters is that you beat the dealer’s hand. The best blackjack hand is valued at 21 and reaching a hand total of over 21 is considered busting out of the game (losing the hand regardless of the hand value of the dealer’s).
The cards in blackjack have a point value attached to them. Aces can be 1 or 11, 10’s and Face cards (King, Queen and Jack) have a value of 10, and cards 2-through-9 have their numeric value.
Hard Hands vs. Soft Hands
A hand that uses an Ace as a 1 is considered a ‘hard hand’ and a hand that uses an Ace as 11 is considered a ‘soft hand’.
In any game of blackjack the dealer’s actions are governed by the rules of the game. They cannot decide what move to make with regards to their own hand. The main rules for the dealer are printed on the blackjack table for everyone to see. Example of a rule is “Dealer stand on all 17’s”. This means that if the dealer has a total hand value of 17 (soft 17 or hard 17) they cannot draw additional cards even if they see that some players have them beat with total hand value of 18 or higher.
Hit or Stand
After a player is dealt their initial two cards they are given the option of “Hit” (taking an additional card) at the hope of increasing their total hand value, or “Stand” (not take any additional cards and play with only the two original cards they were dealt). A player can hit the same hand several times until they are happy with their hand total or until they go over 21 and bust out of the game.
This option allows the player to double their original bet in exchange for receiving only one additional card. For example: the dealer's face-up card is a 4 and you have 3 and 6 giving you a hand total of 9. This is an ideal situation for doubling down. You will increase your bet and hope to hit a 10 valued card that will give you a total hand value of 19. The dealer might very easily bust out of such hand or get stuck on a total hand value of 17. Either way you won the hand.
Splitting also allows you to increase your bet after the initial cards were dealt. When you are dealt a pair you are able to split it into two hands. You will need to add the same amount as your original bet to cover the bet for the split hand. Each hand will then be played separately. A good pair to split are 8’s. This is because two 8’s give you a total hand value of 16, however if you split them you stand a chance of getting 10’s, making each total hand value be 18.
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