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Blackjack

: Game Rules & Strategy
Object: The object of the game is to have a hand value that is closer to 21 than that of the dealer, without going over 21.

The Deck: This game is played with anywhere between one and eight standard 52-card decks.

Table Layout

a sample blackjack table layout

Overview: Your only opponent in Blackjack is the dealer -- no one else matters.

Suits are not relevant in this game. Cards are valued as follows:

  • Ace: 11 or 1. An ace is valued as 11 when it does not cause a hand to go over 21, and is valued as a 1 otherwise.
  • King, Queen, Jack, Ten: These cards count as 10.
  • Nine through two: These cards count as their face value -- that is nine through two, depending on the card.

After making a bet, both you and the dealer are dealt two cards, with one of the dealer's card being dealt face up -- that is, you can see one of the dealer's card. The hand may be over at this point if:

  • You have 21: You win!!!! Usually, you win 3 to 2, meaning that you win 3 for every 2 that you bet.
  • The dealer has 21: You lose. :( The house takes your money.
  • You both have 21: A tie -- also called a push. Your money is returned to you.

If the dealer shows an Ace, you will be offered the chance to make an Insurance bet -- insurance against the dealer having blackjack. If you make the Insurance bet and the dealer has a blackjack, you win the insurance bet (but still lose your original bet). If the dealer shows an Ace and you have a Blackjack, you will be offered even money (rather than 3 : 2) for your Blackjack.

Assuming that the hand is not over, you now make a decision to hit, stand, double, or split. (Some casinos offer another option -- surrender -- but it is rare that this option is offered.) Follow the basic strategy below to make your decision.

After making your decision, and assuming that you did not go over 21, the dealer hits or stands after revealing his second card. If he has 17 or higher, he must stand; otherwise, he must hit. Once the dealer has reached the point where he has 17 or more, he stops hitting and pays off either all hands (when he goes over 21 -- also called a bust) or hands that have a higher total than him (but not over 21); ties are pushed.

Strategy:

There are many other modifications to the basic strategy presented below based on card counting (an advanced technique that can get you barred from casinos), the number of decks in play, and the size of your bet. Personally, I find that following anything other than the basic strategy minimizes my enjoyment of the game and is simply not worth my effort -- I'd rather have fun at the blackjack table than make it seem like work!

Never take insurance; never take even money for a Blackjack.

The table below is based on 4 decks. For more complete strategies that can be customized to the blackjack game that you are playing, check out one of the books below.

  • When you have a pair
      Dealer's Visible Card
    Your Cards 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
    (A,A) Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
    (T,T) N N N N N N N N N N
    (9,9) Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y N N
    (8,8) Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
    (7,7) Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N N
    (6,6) Y Y Y Y Y N N N N N
    (5,5) N N N N N N N N N N
    (4,4) N N N Y Y N N N N N
    (3,3) Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N N
    (2,2) Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N N
     
      Y Yes, Split the pair.
    N No, Don't split the pair.

 

  • When you have an Ace and any other card -- also called a soft hand
      Dealer's Visible Card
    Your Cards 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
    (A,9) S S S S S S S S S S
    (A,8) S S S S S S S S S S
    (A,7) S Ds Ds Ds Ds S S H H H
    (A,6) H D D D D H H H H H
    (A,5) H H D D D H H H H H
    (A,4) H H D D D H H H H H
    (A,3) H H H D D H H H H H
    (A,2) H H H D D H H H H H
     
    Key: H Hit
    S Stand
    D Double if allowed; If not, hit.
    Ds Double if allowed; If not, stand.

 

  • When you do not have a pair or an ace -- also called a hard hand
      Dealer's Visible Card
    Your Cards 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
    17 S S S S S S S S S S
    16 S S S S S H H H H H
    15 S S S S S H H H H H
    14 S S S S S H H H H H
    13 S S S S S H H H H H
    12 H H S S S H H H H H
    11 D D D D D D D D D H
    10 D D D D D D D D H H
    9 H D D D D H H H H H
    8 H H H H H H H H H H
     
    Key: H Hit
    S Stand
    D Double if allowed; If not, hit.

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