The basic object of the game of
Blackjack (or "21") is to acquire cards that add up
to twenty-one without going over. Players make their bets and
the dealer then deals two cards to each player; and two to
himself, one up one down. Aces count as one or eleven. Face
cards (jacks, queens and kings) all count as ten. All other
cards are face value. The best hand in blackjack is an ace and
any ten. This pays three-to-two odds. All other bets pay even
money. Each player then plays their hand starting with the
player to the left of the dealer.
There is a basic strategy to
blackjack - when to hit (ask for another card), when to stand
(pass) - based on what card the dealer is showing. Simply put,
if the dealer is showing a seven or higher, a player should
hit any hand of sixteen or lower. Conversely, if a dealer
shows six or lower, a player should stand on twelve or higher.
If you want to hit, or pass, most casinos require a hand
signal rather than a verbal response. For a hit, tap the table
behind your cards. To pass, wave your hand. Most casino gift
shops sell a credit card size chart called a blackjack
strategy card which tells you when to hit when to stand, when
to split, when to double. For a Newbie this is a good
If the dealer is showing an ace he
will ask if anyone wants insurance. If you would like
insurance, you may bet up to half your original bet. The
dealer then checks his hole card. If he has a ten, making
blackjack, he takes the losing bets and pays any insurance
two-to-one. Since insurance is half your bet, you end up
exactly even. If he doesn't have blackjack, the insurance bet
loses and the hands are played out in the usual fashion.
Generally, insurance is not considered a good bet. If a dealer
is showing an ace there are only four cards in a deck that
give him blackjack: ten, jack, queen and king. However there
are nine cards (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9) that can cost
you your insurance bet, and still leave you with the house
percentage against you on the original bet.
Some casinos also allow you to
"surrender". This means giving up half your bet
without even playing the hand. For example, suppose you have a
sixteen and the dealer is showing a ten. You know that sixteen
isn't enough to beat the dealer's probable hand, but you're
convinced the next card is a seven. You surrender and watch
the dealer take $50 of your $100 bet, then move on to the next
player and unsmilingly deal him a five. There goes your
twenty-one! Our advice: don't take insurance and don't
surrender, they are both sucker moves.
The big advantage the house has in
this game is that you have to play your hand first. If you
bust (i.e., go over twenty one), you lose. The dealer might
also bust, but since you are already out of the picture, your
money remains the property of the casino.
Do's and Don'ts.
If you want to play without really
learning how, don't do it on a fifty dollar game with five
serious looking people. How you play can affect the
outcome for others, and it's bad manners to mess it up for
Don't split fives or tens, ever.
As on all games, tips are
appreciated. You can hand tips directly to the dealer, or
place a bet for him or her in front of your bet.
Actually playing is the best way
to learn. Dealers are used to newbies, it's part of their
job to help you out. Ask questions and bet small.