Blackjack is one of the simplest casino games to learn, and because it is one of the few casino games where the outcome can be influenced by the skill of the player, it is very popular. Blackjack can be played alone or with several players at a single table, but in all cases the players are competing against the dealer, not each other. The aim of Blackjack is for the player to beat the dealer by getting a hand as near to 21 as possible, but without exceeding 21 – something commonly referred to as the hand being “bust”. Picture cards count as 10, an Ace counts as 1 or 11 and all other cards count at face value.
The game starts with the player making a bet. Two cards are then dealt to the player and two to the dealer. The player’s cards are dealt face down but one of the dealer’s cards is usually dealt face up. If the dealer’s up-card is an Ace then the player may be offered insurance against the dealer have a blackjack (an Ace and 10 value card). This is a side bet that costs 50% of your bet and pays out at 2/1, but most serious players agree that this insurance is rarely worth taking.
If the dealer does not have Blackjack then the player can choose one of the following actions:
- He can STAND with the cards he has.
- He can HIT to receive a new card (if his total exceeds 21 then he loses automatically).
- He can SPLIT if he has a pair. This costs the same as the original bet and splits the pair to create two separate hands.
- He can DOUBLE DOWN and pay his original bet again on the turn of one more card. Whatever the next card is, he must then STAND on his total.
When the player has elected to STAND, the dealer hits until he has 17 or more, at which point he is forced to stand. The two hands are then assessed and the one with the total closest to 21 is deemed the winner. Regular winning hands are paid out at odds of even money (1/1) but if you get a blackjack the odds are slightly better at 3/2. If both hands are the same then the dealer calls a “push” situation and the player gets his stake back (but not any insurance bet he has made).
Whilst it is possible to play blackjack by throwing caution to the wind and hitting until you just happen to get 20 or 21 (and busting far more often) the more sensible approach is to adopt a strategy. Many blackjack players adhere to a basic strategy that is based on statistical analysis of hands and which gives them a decent chance of winning over the long haul. The following tables present one such strategy. To use them, find the point at which your hand and the dealer’s hand intersect, and then read off the letter, which symbolises the best thing you can do in that situation:
S means you should STAND
H means you should HIT
D means you should DOUBLE DOWN
Y means you should SPLIT
N means that you should NOT SPLIT
|HARD TOTALS||DEALER CARD SHOWING|
|SOFT TOTALS||DEALER CARD SHOWING|
|SHOULD YOU SPLIT A PAIR?||DEALER CARD SHOWING|