Easy to Learn Blackjack for New Players

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blackjack is one of the most popular card games all over the world. This game is available in almost all of the casinos in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Macau. Because it involves a few simple rules and a bit of strategy to remember, playing Blackjack can be a lot of fun. Strategy means a legal system designed to beat the dealer or to at least minimize your loss. It will not hurt to know that Blackjack is one of the very few games where the casino's margin called "house edge" is the lowest, something like 0.50% if the player follows the appropriate basic strategy. House Edge in Blackjack will also depend on the Blackjack Rules that a casino follows. Though the game is generally similar across casinos, some casinos follow liberal (player friendly) rules or tight (anti-player) rules. I will try to keep this page very simple for the benefit of those who are yet to play Blackjack. Keep reading...

Blackjack Cards and Chips

Blackjack Basics

A maximum of 6 or 8 individuals play against a casino dealer who deals two cards to each of the players (who have already placed their bets on the table) and to himself, one card at a time. The dealer opens one of his cards and asks the players one by one to make their choice. The player cards are dealt open and looking at those cards, they need to make a decision to play ahead. This decision may be either a "Stand or Stay" "Hit or Card", "Double Down", "Split", or "Surrender". "Surrender" means withdrawing from the hand by losing 50% of the bet. Dealers generally offer the "Surrender" option first to all the players and the option needs to be exercised at that time only.

The basic purpose of the game is to beat the dealer by getting a hand total of 21 or as close to 21 without going over 21. A Blackjack means an Ace and a 10 Point card. Let us first see the value of various cards in Blackjack.

Card Value

10 and face cards have a value of 10 points, 2 through 9 are counted at face value, and an Ace can be counted as 11 or 1 (you will read about "Soft" hands later).

Player Decisions** to be spoken or conveyed via hand signals by the player

Stand or Stay means the player is happy with the total of his/her first two cards and does not wish to draw another card or do anything else like Double, Split, or Surrender.
Hand Signal: A waive of a hand over one's cards

Hit or Card means the player wishes to draw another card and add the value of the new card to his/her total
Hand Signal: Tap the table with your fingers once or twice

Double or Double Down means the player wishes to double his/her original bet. Upon doubling, the player gets one and only one more card. This can be beneficial under some situations.
Hand Signal: Place the chips equal to the original bet to the next of the cards in front of the player, and say "Double Down".

Split means the player wishes to split the first two cards and play two separate hands. Another bet equal to the original bet is required to be placed by the player to split a hand.
Hand Signal: Make a "victory" sign with your fingers so that the dealer can see them.

Surrender means the player wishes to withdraw from the hand by losing 50% of the original bet. The dealer will pick up the chips originally bet by the player and return chips equal to 50%.
Hand Signal: Strike through your cards with your fingers without touching the cards.

**Hand Signals are not compulsory in many small and even some large casinos but good players always use them.  Hit and Stand decisions are always available to the player, but the other options - SplitDouble, and Surrender depend on the rules followed by a casino and as such, these options are to be exercised with the consent of the dealer. Some casinos allow doubling only if the dealer's open card is a 9, 10, face card, or Ace while some other casinos always allow doubling. Some casinos do not permit doubling on a player's soft hand. Let us now learn about soft hands:

Soft hand or Soft total

A soft hand is the one where at least one of the cards with the player is an Ace. In case of a soft hand, the ace can be valued by the player as One or 11. The following Soft hand totals are, thus, possible:

Ace + Ace = 2 or 12
Ace + Two = 3 or 13
Ace + Three = 4 or 14
Ace + Four = 5 or 15
Ace + Five = 6 or 16
Ace + Six = 7 or 17
Ace + Seven = 8 or 18
Ace + Eight = 9 or 19
Ace + Nine = 10 or 20

Ace + 10 (or Face Card) is a Blackjack and will win if the dealer does not come up with a Blackjack too.

How Winning is decided

After the dealer has dealt the cards to all the players and to himself, the Surrender option will be given to the players, if the casino allows Surrender. if any player has a Blackjack and the dealer's open card is not a 10 point card or an Ace, the player(s) with Blackjack will be paid out 3 to 2 and their cards will be taken back. If the dealer has a 10 point card or an Ace, then he will wait for the second card to open. Next, the dealer will ask the players one by one to make their decisions to Hit, Stand, Double, or Split. If any player goes over 21 (Busts) in an original or split hand, the bet is lost and the cards are taken away. The players with totals of 21 or less will remain in the game. In the end, the dealer will open his second card and see the total. If the hard or soft total of dealer's hand is less than 17, the dealer will draw another card and more cards until the dealer's total becomes 17 or more. If the dealer goes over 21, the house loses and every player standing in the game wins. If the dealer gets 17 or more but less than 22, then the dealer's total is compared with each of the players still in the game. Those who outscore the dealer get their bets doubled, and those beaten by the dealer lose their bets.

What are Insurance and Even Money

Blackjack dealers offer these to things to players rather enthusiastically. Both Insurance and Even Money options are not recommended as per Blackjack Basic Strategy. Anyway, this is what they mean:

"Insurance" is an optional bet that the players are asked to make when the dealer's open card is an Ace. It means that the dealer is more likely to hit a Blackjack when his second card is opened and if that happens, all those players who played the Insurance bet are paid out in the ratio of 2:1 on the money placed on Insurance. The regular Blackjack bets get played out in the normal course after Insurance bets are settled.

"Even Money" is an offer that Blackjack dealers make to those players who have hit a Blackjack (10+Ace) and are yet to be paid out because the dealer's open card is a 10 or an Ace. That means, if the dealer gets a Blackjack too, the player's bet will "Push" and will get back only the original bet without any winning. However, if Even Money option is taken by the player, he or she gets paid 1:1 regardless of whether or not the dealer comes up with a Blackjack. As such, Even Money is a sort of insurance against a dealer Blackjack but with a reduced winning payout of 1:1 instead of a regular Blackjack payout of 3:2.  

Blackjack Basic Strategy

How to play soft or hard hands, or in other words, how to make the decision to Hit, Stand, Double, Split or Surrender is a matter of learning what is called the Blackjack Basic Strategy. Basic Strategy is all that one can do legally because next to that is card counting which is illegal in most casinos. My next article is Blackjack Basic Strategy. In case you wish to practice Blackjack before hitting an actual casino table, I suggest that you download a Blackjack free game on your smartphone right now. Please do not gamble online with real money. Also Read: Blackjack Mistakes to Avoid

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Posted by Narinder Singh


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I left my day job in October 2013 and became a full time blogger. I love travel and hence a travel blog was the obvious place to start from. The result is desiyatri.com. I currently live in Bengaluru, India. - Narinder Singh.


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