Some players refer to the game as blackjack, while others refer to it as 21. Whatever you call it, learning how to play it in a casino is essential for having fun and possibly beating the house.
The Revolution in Blackjack
Blackjack is thought to have originated in 18th-century France under the name vingt-et-un, which means “21.” However, once Edward O. Thorp revealed his Basic Strategy for winning at blackjack in his successful book “Beat the Dealer,” published in 1963, it became a popular casino game. Which, incidentally, is the game’s ultimate goal. Blackjack has evolved into more than just a form of amusement, thanks in large part to Thorp. It is now possible to make a life playing blackjack.
Everything is in the cards.
Blackjack is a deceptively easy card game that can be played with one, two, four, six, or eight decks. The dealer used to shuffle the cards, but nowadays most casinos utilise continuous shuffling machines. The dealer holds the cards and distributes them in single-deck and double-deck games. In multi-deck games, the cards are dealt from a shoe, which is a tray-like box. A shoe that both shuffles and holds the cards is used in some casinos.
The cards are dealt face down in handheld games, and players are allowed to pick up their cards. The cards are handed face up to the players in a shoe game, and they are not allowed to touch them.
Both handheld and facedown games follow the same rules. The goal is to always beat the dealer, which means achieving a total point score of 21 or as near to it as possible. You win if your cards total more than the dealer’s without going over 21. You “bust” and lose your bet if your hand totals more than 21. You win if the dealer busts. The fact that the house—or casino—always holds the advantage is an intriguing element of not only blackjack but all casino games. In the case of blackjack, this equals 5%. (meaning for every dollar bet, the casino keeps, on average, five cents). Another intriguing aspect of blackjack is that the dealer’s chance of going broke is frequently smaller than the players’.
Values of the Cards
The suits of the cards have no bearing on the game, unlike in poker. In blackjack, just their numerical value matters. Cards 2–10 are counted at face value, which means that a pair of hearts, spades, diamonds, or clubs always equals two points, and so on up the ladder to the tenth card. The value of all face cards—king, queen, and jack—is ten. An ace might be worth one or eleven points.
A queen and a five would add up to 15, but an ace and a five would add up to either 6 or 16. Because it has only one value, a hand without an ace is known to as a hard hand. Because the value of an ace can alter, a soft hand with an ace is referred described as such. If you have a soft hand and the three cards add up to a number that is greater than 21, the hand is considered a hard hand. Assume you’ve been dealt an ace and a three. Either a 4 or a 14 is in your hand. If you then draw a 10, you now have a hard 14 because counting the ace as 11 would give you a total of 25, which would put you out of the game.
Playing at the Table
Blackjack is played on a semi-circular table with a specific layout. Each player has his or her own circle or square. You must purchase chips from the dealer or bring them from another table when you sit down. Then you place your wager in the betting circle in front of your location. Your stake is only as good as the chips you place in the betting circle. The game begins after all bets have been placed.
We’ll pretend you’re playing a multi-deck game with cards dealt from a shoe for this example. Two cards are dealt face up to each player. The dealer is dealt one face-up card and one face-down card, known as the hole card. After the cards have been dealt, the dealer will invite each player to make a decision in turn. The player to the dealer’s left takes the first turn. First base is the name given to this location. Third base refers to the position of the last person to perform. You’ll decide how to play your hand depending on the dealer’s up card as well as the two cards you’ve been given. A beginner’s rule of thumb is to presume the dealer has a 10 in the hole. (While this isn’t always the case, making this assumption makes it easier to put bets.)
Making Use of Hand Signals
It’s important to remember that you can’t touch the cards in a game dealt from a shoe. In all circumstances, hand signals should be used to communicate your decisions. This not only keeps the game moving, but it also avoids verbal misunderstandings by allowing the eye in the sky to keep track of the action. The following are the signals:
- Taking a hit indicates that you wish to draw another card. You tap the table in front of you or make a beckoning motion with your hand to notify the dealer for a hit. If you want a second card after the first, make the same motion.
- Stand – When you’re happy with your cards, you tell the dealer you’d like to take a break (not receive any additional cards). Waving your hand over the top of your cards accomplishes this.
- Double Down – After obtaining your first two cards, you have the option to double your wager. Then you just have one card in your hand. You can double down on any two cards in most casinos (DOA). Some casinos only allow you to double down on hands with a total of 10 or 11. DOA is a rule that benefits the player. You will place an additional stake next to your previous bet to indicate that you are doubling down. If your original stake is less than the table minimum, most casinos will allow you double down for less. This is a bad idea. You only double in advantageous situations, and it’s in your best interests to double as much as possible.
- Split a Pair – You can split a pair (two cards of the same rank) into two hands. Then you must place an extra wager equal to your initial wager. By placing your second bet adjacent to your initial stake in the betting circle, you indicate to the dealer that you are splitting. This bet should not be placed on top of the initial bet. Separate the cards as little as possible. This will be handled by the dealer. You’re not going to play each hand one at a time, either. To go with the first split card, the dealer will hand you a second card. Then you’ll have to pick whether to hit or not. After you’ve completed this hand and stood, you’ll go on to the next split card and continue the process. After splitting, some casinos enable you to double down on your first two cards. As if you were doubling down on your first two cards, you would play this hand the same way. This regulation is in the player’s favour.
Getting a Blackjack is a difficult task.
When you or the dealer are dealt an ace and a ten-value card, you have a blackjack. This is a natural occurrence. If you get blackjack, you’ll receive paid 3-to-2 on your wager if the dealer doesn’t get a 21 at the same moment. A push occurs when both you and the dealer have blackjack, and your bet is refunded to you. All players will lose if only the dealer has blackjack.
If the dealer’s up card is an ace, the dealer will offer insurance to the player. This is a side bet in which you stake half of your original bet on the dealer having a ten in the hole. You will be paid 2-to-1 if you place the bet and the dealer has the 10. You’d then lose your original wager but win the insurance wager, resulting in a push on your original wager. If you hold a blackjack and the dealer has an ace, you will be asked if you want even money instead of 3-to-2 for your blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack and you don’t take the even money, you’ll get a push. Insurance and even money bets are both sucker bets. The traders will not have ten times as many opportunities as they will have one.
After the dealer checks for blackjack, some casinos will enable you to surrender your hand and give up half of your stake on your first two cards. Late surrender is the term for this situation. However, not all casinos provide this option. When performed correctly, it benefits the player. Unfortunately, many players surrender more hands than they should when this choice is presented, giving up the advantage earned by this alternative.
A Straightforward Approach
As you can see, when playing blackjack, you must make a lot of judgments. If you play your cards correctly, the house edge can be reduced to less than 1%. To do so, you’ll need to master basic strategy, which is a mathematically sound way for determining when to hit and when to stand.
To get you started, here’s a simple strategy:
- You have a “stiff” hand if your first cards total 12–16. (one that can be busted with a hit).
- If the dealer’s up card is a 2–6, the dealer has a “stiff” hand.
- It’s a pat hand if you have 17 or better, and you stand.
- The dealer has a pat hand if he or she presents a 7–ace.
- You STAND if both you and the dealer have a stiff hand.
- You HIT if you have a stiff hand and the dealer has a soft one.
- Although this simple approach will get you through the first few games, you should make an effort to understand even more fundamental strategy. You can carry a basic strategy chart to the casino if you don’t want to memorise it. Most casinos will let you use them at the table as long as you don’t disrupt the game.
If you play effectively, blackjack can be the finest game in the casino, with the lowest house edge. If you play by hunch, on the other hand, it will only lead to aggravation and money evaporating.