Blackjack is a game where luck determines some of the outcome, but strategy has its part to play too. As you learn about the rules of blackjack it becomes clear that your decisions, in particular how to play a hand, will influence the outcome of that hand and the overall game. The goal of the game is to get a better total card value than the dealer without going over 21.
The cards in the deck are numbered 1 to 10, and the face cards (Jacks, Queens and Kings) are worth 10. The player’s first two cards make up their starting hand which is called a Blackjack or Natural. If this beats the dealer’s hand then that hand wins.
In order to win a blackjack hand you must be dealt an Ace and a ten valued card as your first two cards. If the dealer also has a blackjack then it is a Push or Tie and neither you nor the dealer win the hand. The best way to play blackjack is to aim to beat the dealer’s hand, but the most important thing is not to be afraid of a Push or Tie as this will still leave you with more money than if you had lost your original bet!
A blackjack table is usually semicircular and will seat varying numbers of players. Most tables accommodate 7 players but some can hold up to 12 ‘spots’. The dealer stands behind the table and chip rack facing the players.
Initially the game was played with a single deck, but as a counter measure against card counting casinos began to introduce multi-deck games. Currently blackjack is generally offered in a double-deck, four-deck and six-deck variants. Some casinos even remove all the tens from the shoe making it almost impossible to count cards.
There are a number of side bets that can be made on the blackjack table in addition to the main bet. These include betting on a pair as your first two cards, betting that your hand will form a poker hand with the dealer’s up-card, or placing a bet on whether or not the dealer will bust. Most of these side bets will have a house edge but some can be profitable for players who know how to play them properly.
Insurance is one of the most misunderstood side bets in blackjack. It’s a big money-maker for the casinos and many otherwise solid blackjack players make this bet frequently and often wrongly. It’s not as bad as it sounds though, as there are times when it is a very good bet to make.
Doubling is a great option in certain situations but it requires you to increase your bet by up to half of its original value and only receive one additional card. A great example of when to double is holding a total of 11 against the dealer’s upcard of 5. This is an excellent opportunity for a blackjack player to increase their bet and improve their chances of winning the hand.