Blackjack Strategy Guide

Blackjack is one of the most popular card games today. The goal in blackjack is to get a sum as close to twenty-one without busting – without going over 21.

How to Play

In blackjack, each player is playing against the dealer. Each player is dealt two cards, face up. The value is calculated as the sum of the two cards where cards 2 through 10 are at face value, the picture cards (jack, queen, king) are all worth 10, and an ace can be valued at either 1 or 11. At the initial stage, the player can never bust. The maximum value is 21, which is a winning hand unless the dealer gets 21 as well.

The dealer has two cards – one face up, and one face down. The dealer is the last player to add cards.

Adding cards is called “hitting.” A player can request to stand or hold, which means he or she wants to keep the hand the way it is. If the player requests “hit,” the dealer will give the player a card which will be added to the total. If the new total is above 21, the player busts and loses the game.

If the player busts, and then the dealer busts later, the house wins. This is the house advantage. However, on the other hand, the dealer is not given an option of when to stand and when to hit. If the dealer has less then 17, the dealer is required to draw, and if the dealer has 17, the dealer is required to stand. If there is a tie, the player’s bet is returned. If the player wins, the house pays the player the value of his bet.

A “blackjack” hand is a special hand in which you immediately have a sum of 21. This happens when one of the cards is an ace, which can have a value of 11, and the second card is a picture card or the number 10. Typically, a winning blackjack hand pays 3:2 on the player’s bet. That means a player who bets $100 will receive his $100 back plus another $150. If a casino is only offering 6:5 on a blackjack hand – they’re cheapskates – and you should find a better casino.

Your Choices

Hit – Hitting is essentially requesting from the dealer to draw and deal you a card. In some casinos, you can signal to the dealer that you want him to “hit” you by rapping on the table with your hand.

Stand – To stand (also referred to as hold) is to inform the dealer that you do not wish to draw a new card and you are satisfied with your hand. The dealer will then show you his cards. When the dealer reveals his hand is when the dealer’s hand plays out (almost automatically). As previously mentioned, if the dealer has below 17 he draws, and if he has 17 or above he stands. You will then find out if you won or lost.

Double down – If your 2 cards add up to a low sum, like 9, 10, or 11, you can double down which means to double your bet. It is recommended to do this when the dealer has a low card showing. The logic is that since you can stand or hit freely, you have a better chance of getting a number close to 21 without going over. The dealer, on the other hand, is required to draw if he doesn’t have 17. If the dealer has a low card like 5 or 6, then it is very likely that the he will have two draw two cards. This increases the chances that the dealer will bust, hence the profitability of doubling down.

Split – A split is when you are dealt two of the same cards, and you turn them into two separate hands (you split them). You add the value of your bet again, and each card is dealt a new second card. Strategically, it is always worthwhile to split eights and aces. You can split numbers like seven or three as well. You should not split tens, because two tens sum to twenty which is already a great hand. Two fives should be treated as a 10, because the most likely card to pick is a 10-value card (they make up just over 30% of the deck). That’s great odds for getting a great hand.

Those are the basics for playing blackjack.

Good luck, and enjoy!

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