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Blackjack 101: How to play and win

Blackjack is one of the most popular card games in casinos. Although it gained popularity during World War I, its origins may be traced back to the 1760s in France, where it is known as ‘Vingt-et-Un’ which translates to twenty-one. Now, most people know this popular card game as either blackjack, twenty-one and pontoon.

There’s no question as to why this card game has been so successful over the years. Its simple, quick and easy rules and gameplay attract new players and keep veterans playing. Since all you need to know is the card values, basic terms and game process, you can start playing in no time. 

The main objective of the game is to beat the dealer by forming a hand closest or equal to 21 without going over. Find out more on how to play this game below.

Ace to King: Card values to know

Cards two to ten equal their own face value while Kings, Queens and Jacks are valued at ten. Ace, on the other hand, is valued as either one or eleven depending on what benefits the player. Hands that have an Ace valued at eleven are called a ‘soft’ hand and all other hands are called a ‘hard’ hand. 

A Blackjack or natural is a beginning hand that consists of a ten-valued card and an Ace, and it defeats all other hands except Blackjack. And when a tie occurs, neither the player nor the dealer wins and all bets are returned to the players.

Know the flow of the game

Now that you know the card values, you’ll get a better understanding of the game flow. So if you’re ready to start testing your luck, here’s where you start off:

Before cards are dealt, each player at the table places their desired bets in the betting circle. The betting amount may vary depending on the minimum and maximum limit of the casino but it usually ratios around 40 to 100. Once all bets are placed, the dealer will then pass on the first card around the table. All players are dealt with two face-up cards while the dealer will have one face-up and one face-down card.

If the dealer gets a 10 or an ace face-up, players are given the option to place an insurance bet. An insurance bet is a side bet that means you’re betting on the dealer’s hand to get a Blackjack. If you choose to take the insurance bet, you’ll have to add an additional bet equal to half of your original bet. If the dealer does get a Blackjack, the insurance bet wins and you receive a payout worth 2:1.

The dealer now checks their down card. If they get a blackjack, the round is over and all players lose their original stake unless at least one player also has a blackjack. If both the dealer and a player get a Blackjack, this will result in a ‘push’ which means a tie and the player’s bet is returned.

But if the dealer doesn’t get a Blackjack, all insurance bets are lost, and any player who gets a Blackjack is paid. The remaining players are now given the option to take action.

The attacks: Playing actions

Playing options or actions offered to all participating players let them choose what to do with their hands, bets and turns. To better understand the gameplay and improve your odds of winning, you have to know all the playing options below:

  • Stand – This is when a player is content with their hand and has no interest in taking further action. The signal for ‘stand’ is waving a flat hand over your card.
  • Hit – A player ‘hits’ if they want to get another card. Players can get as many hits as they want as long as their hand value doesn’t exceed twenty-one. But when a player gets a total of over twenty-one, the hand ‘busts’ and they lose their wager.
  • Double Down – This is when a player doubles their bet. It’s generally when a player is dealt with a total hand value of nine, ten or eleven and has a high chance of winning. The player is then dealt one card face up, and regardless of the total, the player is obliged to stand. Only players with a standing hand consisting of two cards are allowed this option.
  • Split – This option is done when a player’s first two cards match rank, giving them the option to split them into two new hands and place an additional wager. Once the cards are split, the player can hit or stand for both hands. The split hands are handled one at a time, from the dealer’s left to the dealer’s right, in the sequence in which they were dealt. 

When splitting Aces, a player is generally only permitted to get one more card for each hand. Normally, players are permitted to split two 10-value cards that do not match. 

In any event, dividing tens is nearly always a bad move for the player. If the player splits Aces and draws a Ten, or if the player splits Tens and draws an Ace, the resulting hand does not qualify as a Blackjack, but rather as a regular 21 and will not result in an automatic win.

  • Surrender – This is when a player decides to surrender their hand. This also means a player gets back half of their bet. The player’s first and only action on the hand must be surrender. The most common form, known as Late Surrender, occurs after the dealer checks the hole card and determines that they do not hold a Blackjack.

After all players finish taking their actions, the dealer then plays their hand depending on the fixed rules. First off, the dealer reveals their down card and continues to add until they reach a hand value of seventeen or higher. A soft 17 is a total of 17 with an Ace classified as 11 such as A+6. 

Regulations differ from casino to casino yet some dealers stand while the rest require additional cards to reach seventeen or eighteen. When a dealer busts, all remaining players automatically win.

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