The aim of Blackjack is very simple: to beat the Dealer. You are playing against the Dealer, even if there are 6 other players at the table. The object of the game is to Stand on a higher scoring hand than the Dealer and not exceed a point total of 21 (“Busting”). If you draw only to 12, you will win if the Dealer draws to more than 21 and busts. The ideal hand is a score of 21 – the highest in Blackjack. When the first two cards total 21, an Ace and a ten value card, you have made a natural – a Blackjack.
How Blackjack is Played
Blackjack is played with one or more decks of cards. Each deck consisting of a standard set of 52 playing cards, jokers removed. In Blackjack the card suit has no significance. The numeric value of each card is used as the card value. So, the 2 of hearts represents a card value of 2. All face cards, Jack, Queen, King, count as 10. The Ace is the exception to the rule. The Ace can count as both 1 or 11, the choice is up to the player. When the Ace is counted as 1 the hand is called a “soft hand”. When the Ace is counted as 11 the hand is called a “hard hand” and subsequently a “hard total”.
Before the game commences the Dealer shuffles the cards. Each game begins with the players placing their bets. The Dealer then deals cards to each player. The players first play out their hands and then the Dealer plays his. If a player loses the dealer will collect the chips and then place the cards on the discard pile. Once the Dealer has played out his hand he allocates the winnings to the winning players and removes losing bets. The blackjack dealer will then collect all of the remaining cards and put the cards in the discard pile. Once the cards have been discarded it indicates the end of the game. Games of Blackjack are played one after the other until all the cards in the deck have been exhausted.
Players can enter and leave the table at the beginning and the end of each game. The player has the option of playing or not playing a hand. If a player does not wish to play a hand then he simply does not place a bet. If you do not bet then another player may bet in your box or a back-better may ask if they can play.
Each casino has its own table rules which can vary from one table to another. Casinos can operate the game of Blackjack as they see fit. It is always wise to read the table rules to make sure that they are familiar and sound fair. There are a number of casino games that look like Blackjack but are in fact Pontoon or Double Exposure Blackjack.
Video surveillance (“the eye in the sky”) is used to monitor all the games in the Casino. This is done for security reasons and to resolve any disputes players and Dealers may have. Surveillance can also identify barred players ( players who are not allowed at the Casino ) and players/Dealers suspected of cheating. The Casino not only monitors the players but also its own staff. Dealers who cheat have the potential to send the casino broke.
The Blackjack Table
The blackjack table is semi-circular and is covered in green felt. The position for items placed on the table is mapped out in black ink. A chip tray, containing the Casino chips, is placed on the table in front of the Dealer. On the Dealer’s left is the card shoe. On the Dealer’s right is the discard tray. If there is a card shoe in use, it indicates that the game is being played with more than two decks. This is referred to as a “multi-deck” game. If the Dealer is dealing directly from his hand, than a single or double deck game is being played.
Each Blackjack table has between 5 and 7 playing positions depending on the Casino. Each position is indicated on the felt by a rectangle or oval. This is for the placement of the Casino chips by the player. Blackjack tables impose betting limits, both minimum and maximum bets that are permitted on that table. These table limits are usually displayed on the blackjack table near the shoe or discard pile. There may be other signs hanging from the roof or posted near the table indicating the limit on that table.
Blackjack Table Rules
The house rules, or playing conditions of a Blackjack game are printed on the green felt above the player’s betting boxes. Additional rules may be found on the table limit sign or around the table.
Typical rules include:
- Dealer must draw to 16 and Stand on all 17s
- Insurance pays 2 to 1
- Blackjack Pays 3 to 2
At any casino there may be several Blackjack tables with different playing rules. It is important that you read the table rules before playing. Also, different Blackjack tables within the same casino can have different rules!
The Blackjack Dealer
The Dealer is responsible for shuffling and dealing cards to the players. He is also responsible for accepting bets and paying out on winning hands. The Dealer resolves any disputes that may occur at the table. If the dispute cannot be resolved by the Dealer, the on-duty pit boss will step in. The pit boss can ask the “eye in the sky” to replay the video tape for that table to determine the correct outcome.
The Dealer will commence each round by asking the players to place their bets.
Placing a Blackjack Bet
To place a bet the player simply places his chip (bet) within the betting box. The chips are placed at the top of the betting box so other people can “back bet” if necessary. Once the round commences the players are no longer allowed to touch their chips or the cards ( in a “face-up” game).
“Back-betting” is when another player places a second bet behind the player’s bet. The “back-better” cannot make any play decisions such as hitting, sitting or doubling. If the player splits, the back-betters bet is placed behind one of the hands. This can be either the original or newly formed hand. If the player doubles then the back better has the option of increasing his bet by up to double his original bet. He also has the option of staying with his original bet size.
Playing a game of Blackjack
When everyone has placed their bets the Dealer deals the cards. The first card is dealt, face up, to the player immediately to the Dealer’s left. The Dealer then deals to the other players in a clockwise direction. He then deals a card to himself. The Dealer then gives each player a second card. The Dealer may not receive a second card at this point in time, this depends on the casino rules. If the Dealer does then the card will be dealt face down. This is referred to as the “hole card”.
The player has a number of playing options when the Dealer has completed dealing. The player can Hit – that is another card is dealt to him; Sit – to stand with his current hand and not take any more cards; Double down – increase the size of his bet by up to the same amount for the addition of one more card; Surrender – forfeit half of his original bet on the first two cards received; and Insurance – to insure against the Dealer having a Blackjack ( a “natural” ).
The Insurance bet will be offered by the Dealer only at the beginning of the round. The Insurance bet is a side bet that insures that the Dealer’s hand will not result in a Blackjack. If the Dealer has a Blackjack then the Insurance bet wins and will pay odd of 2-to-1. The original bet wagered will be lost unless the player also draws a Blackjack. The player’s who insured will end up with the same amount of money as they started with. If the Dealer does not have a Blackjack then the player loses his Insurance bet. The original bet still stands and the hand is played out. The Insurance bet cannot be more than half the size of the original bet amount.
There are two types of surrender available to a player. Surrender is offered only on the players first two cards received. By surrendering you are forfeiting half of your original bet.
Early surrender is when the Dealer asks the players if they wish to surrender before he checks his hand for a Blackjack. Early surrender should be taken when the Dealers upcard is an Ace against the players 5 – 7 or players hard total of 12 through 17. Also, hard 14 against the Dealers 10. The player may ask for Surrender and the player will receive half of his original bet even if the Dealer has a Blackjack. This rule is not very common is casinos becuase it offers a large advantage to the player.
Late Surrender is more common in Casinos. Late surrender, like early surrender, is offered only on the first two cards. However, if the Dealer has a Blackjack then the player will still lose his whole bet. Late Surrender should be taken when the Dealer’s up-card is 9 through Ace against hard 16 and 10 against the players hard 15.
Surrender is taken by saying to the Delaer “Surrender”. The Dealer will then take the players cards and remove half of the original bet.
To Hit or “Draw” another card the player uses his index finger by touching or brushing the felt with his index finger. To Stand or Sit, the player waves his hand, palm down, over the cards indicating he does not wish to receive any more cards. The Dealer then proceeds to the next player at the table. When all players have played their hands the Dealer then plays his hand.
The Dealer must play to very strict rules when playing out his hand. These rules are dictated by the casino. The most common playing rules are that the Dealer draws to 16 and Stands on all 17s. This implies that the Dealer must keep drawing cards until his total card value is 17 or above.