BlackJack Rules and Strategy

Blackjack is the most popular casino game out there, and it has quite a bit of strategy behind it as well.  On top of that though, there are also definitely some rules that you’ll have to follow as well!  In blackjack, remember that the face cards (King, Queen, and Jack) count as ten, and that an Ace can either count as a one or an 11.  There are a few different names for the game of blackjack, including both twenty-one, and pontoon as well.  The game of blackjack all began back in the 1700’s at many different French casinos.

What makes this game even more interesting though, is the fact that it wasn’t always a hit in the United States, so different casinos and gambling houses attempted to give out different bonus payouts in an attempt to build up the games popularity.  An example of the general bonuses that they would offer players included a 10 to 1 payout for players if they were able to hit the Ace of Spades, and have it paired up with some sort of a black Jack.  Hence the name “blackjack”!

Blackjack Rules

The idea behind the game of blackjack, is to total up your points that come from your hand, and attempt to get a higher number than the dealer.  BUT, you can’t go over 21, because if you do then you end up “busting”, which means that your hand is an automatic loss.  We’ve already touched on the fact that the face cards will all count as ten, and an ace counts as either an 11 or a one, but numbers two through ten will equal those same numbers.  Remember though, as much as you want to get close to 21, the main thing you are trying to do is to beat out the dealer.  Now, if both the dealer and the player have the exact same number, then the player will get his bet back in what would result as a pus h.

Players put out their starting bets, and the cards are dealt out to each player sitting at the table.  They are dealt in many different ways depending on the type of blackjack that you are playing, but it is most commonly done from a shoe which has four decks at least.  While every player will get two cards, the dealer has one card facing upwards, and the other face down which you can’t see.  Now, if you are dealt two cards that equal up to 21, then you are the big winner and hit the blackjack, which will pay you out 3:2 typically, but some casinos will pay 6:5.

The way that play will go after all of the cards are dealt out will depend on what the dealer is holding, and also what the player is holding also.  For example, if the dealer has a blackjack and a player does not, this means that the hand is over and you automatically lose your bet.  If the player has the blackjack and the dealer does not, then it’s an instant win for the player in this situation.  If both sides end up having a blackjack then it results in a push on the bet.

If all of the cards are dealt out to players at the table, and neither the player nor the dealer have a blackjack, then the first player will play through their hand until they either bust or decide to stand pat with what they have.  The action then moves to the next player, all the way until the dealer goes last.  Players have the option to either take a hit (which means to get another card), stand (stay with what they have), double (double their bet and get ONLY one more card), split (only allowed when you have two cards with the same value, and you then have a bet on each card), or to surrender (which means to forfeit your hand and get half of your bet back).

The action will then come to an end when they decide either to take no more cards, the player busts (gets more than 21), or if they decide to double down and get their one card.  At this point, the dealer will then turn over their hidden card, and play the hand out until they get to a certain point.  This point is the number 17, which means that a dealer has to take a hit until they are at that number.  Almost all casinos will make the dealer hit a soft 17, which means that the dealer is holding an Ace and a six for example.  If the dealer goes over 21 and busts, this means that all players get paid out who are still remaining in the hand.

It’s important to remember though, that there are quite a few variations that can be done at a specific casino, as many casinos will have their own sets of rules that they go by.  Some of these can include things such as one card split aces, the option to surrender early, the option to surrender late, restrictions on double downs, and many other things as well.  Always verify the rules with the casino before playing of course!

Insurance

Insurance is a part of blackjack that players seem to be split on.  Some players will avoid insurance all together, while other players will do insurance quite often.  Basically, how this works is that when the dealers up card is an Ace, each player at the table will have the choice to take insurance before the dealer sees what their under card is.

If a player takes insurance, the rules may vary a bit by casino, but typically you can put out up to half of your original bet.  A standard return on insurance will pay out 2:1, and a player who takes this bet is essentially placing a bet that the dealer has a card worth ten as their under card.  You are basically protecting yourself against the dealer turning over a blackjack in this situation.  If the dealer does NOT have blackjack, then you lose your insurance bet, but you can still win your standard bet on the hand.

There are conflicting thoughts on insurance, but one thing that can also occur is the offer of even money for a player who is dealt a blackjack themselves.  A normal blackjack will pay out 3:2 typically, but if you accept even money, you will get 2:2 on your money, but you get paid before the dealer even checks to see if they have a blackjack.

Basic blackjack strategy

Unfortunately, the house still does have a bit of an edge over the players in blackjack, but this does not mean that players don’t have quite a bit of control on how the action goes.  Blackjack is a game that the player gets to choose their decision on how to play things, which is definitely nice.  There is absolutely strategy that is involved in the game of blackjack, and honestly it is very important to do some research and learn this basic strategy.  The idea behind the strategy is to help you understand the best times to hit and take the card, or to stand with what you are currently holding.  There is also tips and strategy behind when to double and split your hand as well.  A lot of this will depend on not only what you are holding in your hand, but also what the dealer’s up card is as well.  There are a few rules that can be both beneficial to a player, and also ones that are detrimental to players as well.  We’ll take a look at both of these below to sum it up:

Beneficial Rules

  • Allowing doubles on any two card hand
  • Allowing doubles after the split of your original hand
  • The option to surrender early/before dealer checks for blackjack
  • Standard surrender option
  • The option to re-split Aces
  • The option to draw more than a single card against a split Ace
  • An automatic win being awarded when five or more cards are drawn and the total still not being above 21.

Detrimental Rules

  • Anything less than 3:2 for hitting a blackjack
  • Dealer takes a hit on a soft seventeen
  • Max number of splits set at one
  • Restrictions set on double downs
  • Not allowing Aces to be resplit
  • No-Peek blackjack, or when a player loses any splits and doubles to a blackjack from the dealer
  • Losing your bet to a tie with the dealer

Basic Black Jack strategy tables

 

Your Hand Dealer’s face-up card
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
Hard totals
18-21 S S S S S S S S S S
17 S S S S S S S S S Rs
16 S S S S S H H Rh Rh Rh
15 S S S S S H H H Rh Rh
13-14 S S S S S H H H H H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
11 D D D D D D D D D H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
5-8 H H H H H H H H H H
Soft totals
A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
A,8 S S S S D S S S S S
A,7 D D D D D S S H H H
A,6 H D D D D H H H H H
A,4-5 H H D D D H H H H H
A,2-3 H H H D D H H H H H
Pairs
A,A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
10,10 S S S S S S S S S S
9,9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
8,8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP Rsp
7,7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
6,6 SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
5,5 D D D D D D D D H H
4,4 H H H SP SP H H H H H
2,2 3,3 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H

The table above gives you the general strategy behind a standard deck with Vegas Strip rules, meaning that a dealer will hit on a soft seventeen, the option to split aces multiple times, blackjack paying 3:2, etc.  To help sum up what the letters above mean, we’ve broken it down to the following key:

  • S= Stand
  • H= Hit
  • D= Double
  • SP= Split
  • Rh= Surrender if allowed (hit if not)
  • Rs= Surrender if allowed (stand if not)
  • Rsp= Surrender if allowed (split if not)

Shuffle tracking

Shuffle tracking is something that can help you gain an advantage in playing blackjack that is NOT card counting.  The idea behind this is to track groups of cards throughout a specific shoe, and just keep track of them through the shuffle.  From there, you are playing and betting based on when those cards actually come into play in the new shoe that is being dealt out of.  This is widely considered to be a tougher strategy than standard card counting, and it will require great eyesight and excellent visual estimation as well.  But, if you are able to master this, it will give you the benefit of fooling anyone in the casino who is attempting to monitor players’ actions and abilities to count cards.  A player who is shuffle tracking would actually be playing and betting completely opposite from how a standard card counter would in certain situations.

Variants

There are a few variants in the game of blackjack, and one of those is Spanish 21.  It will include many different blackjack rules including things like double down on numbered cards, different bonuses that are awarded for five or more card 21’s, if your hand consists of a 6-7-8 21, a 7-7-7 21, and also things like player blackjacks and 21’s winning no matter what the situation is.  The interesting part about this though, is that there will be no ten’s in the deck (so jacks, queens, and kings are still in play, but do not count as a ten).  Spanish 21 will actually have a lower house edge than normal blackjack will.

There are other rules that have been changed as well to create new variant games, but these other changes actually give the house an additional edge, which most players hope to avoid in almost all situations.  There is a game called Double Exposure Blackjack which features the dealer having both cards showing throughout the hand, but they will only pay you even money on all blackjacks and any ties result in a loss for the player.

Other casino games

There are definitely some other casino games that you can gain an edge from if you play with strategy and skill, and they include games like video poker machines, regular poker tables, and some video slot machines as well.  Games like roulette and craps are said to have no advantages or betting strategies, but some do feel that both of these two games are beatable through different ways of “bias tracking” (roulette), and of course dice influencing (in craps).

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