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The Game of Blackjack  

More Gambling Tutorials
  1. Introduction
  2. You Against the House
  3. Place Your Bets
  4. Introduction
  5. You Against the House
  6. Place Your Bets
  7. Deal the Cards
  8. Card Values
  9. Bust
  10. Push
  11. Payoffs
  12. Player Options
  13. Dealer Options
  14. The Player's Basic Strategy Card


Also known as “21”, Blackjack is a relatively easy game to learn.

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You Against the House  

It’s all about you, the player, competing against the dealer, who deals on behalf of the “house.” You and each of the other players at the table try to get to as close to a “score” of 21 as possible without going over. You then have to hope that the value of your cards beats the value of the dealer’s cards. If your cards total more than “21”, you have “busted”.

Please note that in a game like this, the player has to complete his hand before the dealer has to complete his, which is an advantage the house has over the player.

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Place Your Bets  

A game will begin when you place a bet in the circle or square in front of you. Other players at the table, if there are any other players, place a bet in the circles in front of them as well. The dealer deals the cards, beginning with the player in the first chair to his left.

The amount of the bet is determined by you, though every casino has minimum and maximum amounts that it allows. Usually, these betting limits are displayed somewhere on the table in plain sight.

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Deal the Cards  

The dealer either deals to the players from one deck of cards, or from a “shoe” that may contain as many as eight decks of cards. The house prefers to deal from a “shoe” because this allows for more games to be played, before the cards have to be reshuffled. Mechanical shuffling machines are also widely used by casinos.

These additional cards also allow for more unpredictability in a game as to which card might appear next, which some might argue serves to the advantage of the house.

The dealer begins by dealing one card to every player at the table and then one card to himself. He then deals yet another card to every player at the table, until everyone has two cards. Depending on the particular table or casino, the cards can either be dealt all up or all down, with one notable exception. The dealer’s cards are always dealt one up, one down.

The players always get to see one of the dealer’s cards. This rule allows the players to make decisions based on what they believe the dealer’s “hole” card to be.

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Card Values  

Numbered cards are worth their face value. Face or picture cards are worth “10”. Aces are worth either “1” or “11”. A “soft” hand is a hand that contains an ace whose value is worth, again, either “1” or “11” depending on which number most benefits the player’s hand.

A “soft 17” would be an ace and a “6”. Since the ace represents either a “1” or “11”, the hand would also have a value of “7”, giving the player of the hand more options.

What does a natural “21” or Blackjack look like? If your first two cards contain an Ace and a “10” or an Ace and any picture card, like a king, queen or jack, you have a natural “21” or “Blackjack.”

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Any time the value of the player’s or the dealer’s card total more than “21” the hand “busted” and either the player or dealer has automatically lost.
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At the end of a hand, if the value of the player’s cards matches or “ties” the value of the dealer’s cards, the outcome is a “push” or “draw” and no one wins.

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Winning payoffs are “even money.” If you bet $100 and your cards beat the dealer’s cards, you win $100.

However, if you have been dealt a natural “21” on your first two cards, you have a “blackjack,” and if the dealer does not have a natural “21” in his hand, you are paid at the rate of 3 to 2. So if you bet $100, you have won $150.

Some casinos that offer “single deck” blackjack pay off a “blackjack” at the rate of 6 to 5, rather than 3 to 2.

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Player Options  

The player places his bet inside the circle or square in front of him.

Once the first two cards have been dealt to every player at the table, a player indicates his desire to receive additional cards by making a special motion with his hand or with his cards.

The player indicates that he does not want any additional cards by either by making a special motion with his hand, or if the cards at the table have been dealt down, by placing his cards under his chips.

The “house” usually allows a player to “split” the first two cards dealt if they are pairs. If the player splits his pair, he must make an additional wager up to or equal to the current wager. The player now has an opportunity to play two hands at once. Depending on the situation in which the player splits the pair, he may increase his chances to make (or lose) more money. Now the two hands are played as if the player is playing two separate distinct hands. On occasion when the player is dealt another identical card, he may split yet again, depending on the casino.

Split Aces
When a player splits aces, the house usually only allows the player to take one additional card for each ace.

Double Down
A player usually has the right to “double down” his bet after he is dealt the first two cards. Some casinos place limitations on when a player can do this, but many casinos have no restrictions at all. If your first two cards total “10”, for example, and you want to “double down” your bet, simply make sure your cards are both face up, then place a bet up to or equal to the amount of your original bet right next to the original bet on the table. The dealer will deal you more card and one card only.

Double Down After Spliting
After your cards are split you may receive a card on one or both of your new hands where doubling down would now be advantageous. Not all casinos allow this.

The player may decide that he does not like the value of his first two cards compared to the dealer’s “up” card and so decides to “fold” his hand. If the player folds, the casino will only take 50% of the player’s original bet. Not all casinos allow this opportunity, however.

If the dealer’s “up” card is an ace, the dealer will ask players at the table if anyone would like to “take out Insurance.”

Insurance allows a player to protect the value of his original bet by giving the player the opportunity to invest up to half the amount of his bet to insure against any losses should the dealer have blackjack. If the dealer has blackjack, the player is paid at a rate of 2 to1 on his insurance bet, which equals the amount of his original bet, insuring against any losses.

If the player himself has blackjack, he need not go through the actual physical act of placing insurance money on the table, but simply says “even money” to the dealer. The dealer will then pay the player even money rather than the usual 3 to 2 payoff. Professional players do not recommend a time when a player should ever take insurance, but some players have different views on this.

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Dealer Options  

This dealer must stand on all 17's
Unlike the player, the dealer must play his hand as required by the house for which he deals.  He has no free will to make decisions other than what is allowed by the house.  He may not split pairs nor double down as his only option is to try to beat the player with the one hand he has dealt himself.  His options to take a hit or to stand are also pre-determined.  Some casinos require the dealer to stand on all “17’s” while other casinos require the dealer to hit all soft “17’s”.  This requirement is clearly spelled out on the table at play.
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The Player's Basic Strategy Card  

The Blackjack Strategy Card is also available for download in PDF format.

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