Blackjack, also known as 21, seems like it’s one of the easiest card games out there.
The objective is to get a higher score than the dealer without surpassing 21. And, ideally, you want to get blackjack.
But if you think that blackjack is easy, that probably means that you don’t actually know all of the rules, or how to maximise your strategy.
There are lots of variations of blackjack, usually depending on the casino, but we’re going to go over some of the universal rules and strategies in the game. And if you start to feel a bit confused while reading this – well, that just means that you’re starting to understand the game.
First thing’s first.
The cards’ values. Cards with the numbers 2 through 10 have their face value – that’s pretty easy. Jacks, queens, and kings are valued at 10 points. Aces can be 1 or 11 points.
What ‘blackjack’ actually means. Surprisingly, lots of people think that blackjack is any card total that sums up to 21. But “blackjack” – also called “natural 21” – is only when you add up to 21 on the first two cards that you are dealt. You need to get an Ace and one of the 10-value cards for this to happen.
Basic rules of betting in blackjack. There are always minimum and maximum bets in blackjack. In some casinos, like Caesars, you can go all the way up to $US50,000. But the fun stuff comes after you’ve made your bet.
Let’s say that you bet $US100. If you lose, the dealer gets your $US100. If you win, you get your original $US100 bet back, plus the dealer gives you $US100. If you draw (or push) you keep your bet money. And if you get blackjack, you get your original $US100 bet back, plus $US150 from the dealer because for blackjack, you get 1.5 times your bet.
A Few More Things You Should Know
Blackjack is fundamentally a two-person game. Sometimes players get too caught up in what the other people at the table are doing. But it is important to remember that you are only playing against the dealer. If you lose that mindset, it will affect your play.
Understand what “Blackjack 3 to 2” means. Somewhere on the blackjack table there will be a sign that says, “blackjack pays 3 to 2”. All this means is that you, the player, will get $US3 for every $US2 you wager. This is standard, and gives the house slightly elevated odds.
If you see “Blackjack pays 6 to 5” run away from that casino. Be careful. Sometimes the house has different odds. A lot of rookie players make the mistake of thinking that 6 to 5 is more profitable that 3 to 2. They see that they get $US6 from the 6 to 5, and $US3 from the 3 to 2, and think, “Hey, $US6 is more than $US3 – great news for me.” But the important thing to consider is the ratios. In this case, 6 to 5 is smaller than 3 to 2 – which means that the house is great odds. Bottom line, you’re going to lose a lot of money.
If you see “Blackjack pays 2 to 1”, that’s good news for you. This doesn’t happen often anymore because most casino owners have figured out that 2 to 1 actually gives the player better odds than the house. But in case you do stumble upon a casino like this, make the most of it.
Hit versus stand. Let’s say that the first two cards you are dealt are a 2 and a 7. This adds up to 9, which is far from 21. You have the option of getting a hit, or an additional card. Let’s say that the next one you get is a 10. Now your total is 19, which is close to 21. Here, you should choose to stand, which means that your final score for the round is 19. Remember that you don’t want to go over 21 or else you will bust because then you automatically lose.
Double Down. If after you’ve received your first two cards you are fairly confident that you’re going to beat the dealer, you can increase your original bet by as much as 2 times the bet (It depends on the casino, though – sometimes you can only increase by exactly 2 times the bet.) This can be one of the more profitable options in blackjack, but don’t let overconfidence get the best of you.
Split. If you are initially dealt two cards of equal value, you can split them. After they’re split, you play as though you have two hands. This is an especially smart choice if you are dealt two 8’s because they total to 16, which is the worst number to get. This way you can increase your odds on a particularly bad pair.
Note: make sure to check with the casino if you are allowed to split all 10-values. Sometimes you can split pairings like Ten-Queen.
Surrender. After you have been dealt the first two cards, if you feel as though you have a lousy hand compared to the dealer, you can surrender. This means that you will reclaim half of your bet and the dealer will keep the other half of your bet. It’s smart to do this in a situation when you have a bad combination (again, some sort of combination that gives you 16) and the dealer is showing either an Ace or a 10. Make sure you don’t surrender too often though, because then you’re just losing money.
Insurance. Insurance confuses a lot of people, but basically all it means is that you are insuring yourself against the dealer having blackjack. After you see that the dealer’s upcard (or his visible card) is an Ace, you can create a side bet betting that the dealer will get blackjack. This side bet is completely independent of your original wager. The idea is to even out the money you would lose if the dealer got blackjack, versus the money you would gain from your bet. Be careful, though, because this bet is designed to lose in the long run. A dealer is only supposed to have blackjack less than 1/3 of the time when his upcard is an Ace.
Now that you’re armed with basic knowledge and some playing strategy, you’re ready to face the dealer. Get out there and see what you can do.
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