Every casino game has its own set of rules, and blackjack is no exception. While the game might seem complicated to play from an observer’s standpoint, the rules are quite easy. By going through a playing guide, and observing a few games, you should be ready to start taking tentative steps towards enjoying blackjack.
The most important rule regarding blackjack is the card values. The entire game is based on the value of the cards within your ‘hand’. The magic number in blackjack is 21. You want your hand’s value to be as close as possible to 21 without exceeding it. If your hand’s value is 21 or higher, then you are considered to have a ‘bust’ in which case you automatically lose and forfeit any wager that you had placed. The main aim of the game is to get a higher score than the dealer, without having a bust hand.
The game starts by all players wagering their bets. All casinos usually have a lower and upper limit on the bet that can be set during a game of blackjack. These figures are usually quite prominently displayed at the table.
While traditionally the game was played with one deck of cards, most casinos use 4, 6, or 8 decks to minimize the practice of card counting. The cards are shuffled either manually or automatically with mechanical card shufflers. One player is chosen randomly to ‘cut’ the deck by splitting it into two, with the top part being placed at the bottom. The dealer then hands out two cards to all players face up, and two cards to him/herself (one being face up and one being face down).
Starting from the left, each player is expected to make a move. Options include asking for an additional card (getting a hit), leaving the cards as they are (a stand), splitting the hand into two hands (if the player has identical cards) or doubling down (doubling one’s wager while accepting one additional card), or surrendering and losing half of the wager. Once each player has finished their play, the dealer flips their card that was face down (the hole card) and makes their play.
If a player gets an additional card and the value exceeds 21, then they immediately lose their bet. If a player achieves a score of 21, then they will win their bet if the dealer does not achieve a similar value. Regarding card values, numbered cards (between 2 and 10) have the value of their corresponding numbers. Face cards (queen, jack, and king) have a value of 10 while the ace has a value of either 11 or 1, depending on which value will favor the player.
In most casinos, the dealer has to take on additional cards until they achieve a score that is equal to, or more, than a ‘hard’ 17. A ‘hard’ value is a value that does not include an ace. For example, an ace and a 6 is considered a ‘soft’ 17 since the ace can take on the value of 1. After the dealer finishes his/her play, then those with higher values win their bet, while those with lower values lose their bet.