Blackjack – also known as Twenty One, is one of the most popular games you will find in any casino. It is a game of comparing cards; those belonging to you, against those of the dealer. The aim of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without busting. It is an easy game to get the hang of – even if you’re not good at counting the friendly dealer will usually do that for you!!
The game is played on a crescent table with the dealer one side, and the players (you) the other. On most tables there is space for up to six or seven players, but you can play one on one against the dealer – you do not need all player spaces filled.
Blackjack is usually played with several decks of 52 cards (jokers are not included) and aim of the game is to beat the dealer. To beat the dealer you can:
- obtain 21 (known as Blackjack) with your first two cards – the dealer must not have this combination as well.
- If the dealer has blackjack then the house wins.
- have a combined total greater than the dealer without going over 21
- make the dealer ‘bust’ (goes over 21) in which case all remaining players win
Card values are as displayed on them. Aces are played as 1 or 11. For the player they can choose as they go along. For example, if a player had an ace and a 5, then they can play this as either 6 or 16. If the next card is a 5, then the player has 21, but if the next card was a 7 then the player will have 13. The ace always plays to whatever favours the player.
Jack, Queen and King cards are all played as 10.
Players place their bet in their box on the blackjack table. Let’s say the minimum displayed at the table is £5 (or local currency equivalent). This simply means your bet must be at least £5 – it does not mean it has to be multiples; you could put £6 down! If a table is only multiples of the minimum bet, they should clearly stipulate this.
So, all players have placed their bet, the dealer then deals out one card to each player in a clockwise rotation, and then deals their second card, all face up. Now, different casinos deal cards for the dealer differently. Some casinos will deal one card for the dealer, face up and only deal their second card after all players have finished. You find this in most European casinos. Some casinos on the other hand deal both the dealer cards with the player’s, but again, only one will be face up, the other will be face down. This is prevalent in American casinos.
The croupier will then go around each player where they decide what action(s) to take (described below). Players choose what to play depending largely on what the dealer has as their first card. Players first look to their own hand, but should also try to work together to make the dealer bust where possible.
The dealer’s hand is resolved by drawing cards until either the hand busts (by having a number greater than 21) or achieves a value of 17 or higher (up to and including 21). In Blackjack, a dealer does not have the power to choose when to stand. They must always play until 16 and must then stand on 17 or greater. A dealer also cannot double, surrender or split.
Blackjack is a game of chance initially – you have no control over the first two cards dealt to you. After you have your two initial cards, then you have a say on whether to hit, stick, double down or surrender (see below). Once you have made this decision and it has been played out, you cannot change your mind!
Now your first two cards are dealt, the player can choose to:
- ‘Hit’ (take an additional card – this does not have to be limited to one. The player can hit as many times as they feel confident to ensure a hand that is best placed to beat the dealer).
- ‘Stand’ (this ends the player’s turn and moves on to the next player – or banker should the order of play dictate as such).
- ‘Double’ (this is when the player can double their initial bet but is only allowed one card. This is only usually done when the player has 11 or less with their first two cards, and the banker does not have a high card).
- ‘Surrender’ (if the player does not feel confident with their cards against the one dealer card they can see, then their is the option to surrender. This is where you give up half your bet immediately and surrender form the game).
- ‘Split’ (if the player has two cards of the same value, then they can split them and play them as two separate hands. For example, if you had two 8s,with a £5 bet, then you could split them to two hands. Some casinos will not allow you to split aces (from our experience this has only been in the U.S). When you do this they are treated separately and you must place an additional £5 – one for each 8 in this example. The dealer will give a card for each and you can choose whether to hit, stand, double, split again if you get another 8, or surrender.
Casinos in the U.S and some in Europe offer ‘insurance’. This is usually only offered when the dealer deals themselves both their starting two cards along with the player’s first two cards (remember above we said the dealer either deals their second card at the end of all the player’s turns or along with the players first two cards and before they choose their game play. If this is the case, the dealer keeps the second card face down until all players have finished. This is popular in U.S casinos)? This is when insurance is more prevalent. There are two tutorial videos below. The first is from a British Casino where you will notice the dealer only deals himself one card and does not deal another until the player is finished. The second video is of a US tutorial and you will notice the dealer has two cards before the players make their choices.
If the player feels the dealer has Blackjack (an ace card and a 10 value card) then the player can opt for insurance – a side bet. You can only play this side bet if the dealer has an ace face up. It pays 2:1 meaning if you put £5 down for insurance, and the dealer has indeed Blackjack, then you will win £10 back, plus your £5 bet.
The cards in play will be made up roughly 1/3 of 10 denominations, so there is a 1 in 3 chance the dealer will have blackjack. Personally, it is not something we would play as it does still mean there is a 2 in 3 chance the dealer does not have Blackjack. In the long run, generally speaking, the house will win insurance bets because if the dealer does not have blackjack (as in 2 out of 3 hands), you lose that side bet.
It can be very daunting at first as to what to game play action to take. Below is a chart that you may find useful when deciding on how to play. There are mixed opinions on some hands but we think this should give a safer option for you to try and swing things a little more in your favour.
If your hand beats the dealer, then you will be paid at a rate of 1:1. That means if you bet £5, your hand equals 18, the dealer hits 17 (and therefore has to stick), then you will win £5, plus your original bet of £5, effectively doubling your money.
If your hand is an ace and a 10 value card then you have Blackjack! This can pay varying amounts depending on the casino. It should display in large letters on the blackjack table what the payout is. For example, the best rate you can get is 3:2. This means if you bet £5 and get blackjack, then you win £7.5 back, plus your original £5.
Some casinos blackjack tables pay some very bad odd, such as 6:5. This means if you bet £5 and get blackjack, you only win £6, plus your £5 bet. Avoid these – only play tables that offer 3:2 for blackjack.
If the dealer’s hand beats yours, then you lose. If the dealer get blackjack, and you have blackjack, then you will either lose or ‘push’. Some casinos will allow you to push if you also have blackjack – this means you do not win or lose and simply get your bet back.
What’s a soft hand and a hard hand
In Blackjack, the most important card in the ace. This card is the only card that can be played as two values – either 1 or 11, which ever benefits the player most.
A soft hand is when the player has an ace which counts as 11. For example, a 7 and ace would be a soft 18. (Think of it this way – if an ace can be a 1 or 11 and you can’t bust, it’s soft)
A hard hand is when the player has a hand with no ace, or where the ace is worth 1 and cannot be worth 11 as it would mean busting. For example a hand with an ace, 7 and a 9 would be a hard 17. If the ace was counted as an 11 then it would take the player over 21 and bust them.
Finally, here are a few videos from YouTube we have found that might help as a tutorial