Playing Blackjack

The game of blackjack has many variations of rules and different numbers of suits. The most common blackjack games are licensed with 6 or 8 deck. Single and double deck games still exist and work well, but not all casinos with blackjack will have single and double deck, so “shoe games” are more common. Our example will be the most common course of a blackjack game using 6 decks of cards. This is a basic overview of a round of blackjack:

  1. Players buy chips
  2. Player Bets
  3. The dealer deals to the players
  4. Players decide how to play the cards
  5. Dealer plays hand
  6. Payout

  1. Players buy chips
    Most casinos will no longer allow “cash play” bets, so you must allow the dealer to exchange your money for casino chips. All you have to do is walk up to the table and place your money on the table felt. For security reasons, the dealer cannot take anything away from the player and vice versa. Once you place the money on the felt, the dealer will place the money on the table so that the camera can clearly see the amount and a pit boss will come and verify the amount. The dealer will calculate a chip denomination equal to your purchase amount and push the chips to you. You are now free to handle the chips and place your bets.

  1. Player Bets
    The first thing you will do at the beginning of a round is to place a bet in the betting circle. There will be a small sign on the far right or left side of the table telling you what your bet limit is. Most tables in the US require a minimum of $5 per hand, but the minimum and maximum bets you can place will vary depending on the casino you visit.

  1. The dealer deals to the players
    After a bet is placed, the dealer will deal a card clockwise, face up, to each player at the table and then deal a face down card for herself. She then deals another face-up card to each player and another face-up card to herself. Each player has 2 cards in front of them, face up. The dealer has a face up and a face down card.

  1. Players decide how to play the cards
    The dealer will start with the person to his left and wait for that player to play a hand. First add up the cards to get a total from 4 to 21. If your first two cards are a 10 value card and an Ace, that means you get a 21! As long as the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, they are immediately paid 3 to 2 (or 1.5 times your bet) and don’t need to play the whole round. If the dealer also has blackjack, you don’t win anything, but you also don’t lose the original bet. This is called a “push”. If neither you nor the dealer have blackjack, the dealer will point to each player in turn and wait for you to decide how to play your hand. When it is your turn, you must use the appropriate hand signals to make your decision. The dealer will not respond to your verbal instructions, as the camera also needs to see your decision.

There are 5 ways to play your hand.

Stand – If your first two cards are acceptable, you may stand and the dealer will continue to the next player.
[Gesture: Waving your hand, or simply placing your open palm on the felt].

Hit – If you want more cards to increase your hand total, the dealer will give you more cards, one at a time, until you ” bust ” (over 21 points) or you choose to stand. There is no limit to the number of cards you can take (except for a total of more than 21 cards).
[Gesture: Tap the felt with your fingers].

Double Down – The player increases their initial bet size to twice the original bet amount. A condition is that the player has to stand after taking one more card from the dealer. This strategy is typically used when the player is confident that any additional card will help them get the winning hand. It is considered one of the best blackjack moves because it lends the player the potential to increase the value of the initial bet by up to 100%.
[Gesture: Simply place a bet to the left of your initial bet, equal to your initial bet, and the dealer will give you an extra card, sideways to indicate that you may not take another card].

Split – It is an option given to a player when their initial two cards form a pair. When this happens, the player can split the cards into two separate hands and then receive an additional card for each hand from the dealer. The total amount of the original bet goes on one of the cards and an equal amount of bet must be placed on the other card when the player decides to split. Splitting in blackjack therefore costs twice as much.
[Gesture: Place a second bet, equal to your first bet. Then give a “peace sign” to indicate that you want to split rather than double down. The dealer will split two cards from your first hand and deal you a second card for each hand].

Surrender – Surrender implies giving up the hand after the initial deal. This strategy is done when the player believes they have a low chance of winning the round based on their first two cards and the dealer’s card. He will keep half of his original bet instead of potentially losing the entire bet.
[Gesture: To draw a line on the felt behind your bet as if you were cutting a slit in the felt with an imaginary knife. Dealers often mistake this signal for a “hit” signal. To be safe, always say the word “surrender” to your dealer and send the signal on the camera felt].

  1. Dealer plays hand
    Basic Strategy : Depending on what the dealer shows you and what you have in your hand, you can make a choice that follows the basic strategy. Basic Strategy is the mathematically best way to play every combination of the player’s hand and the dealer’s up card. It was created by a computer that has played millions of rounds of blackjack and determines the best way to play each combination of hands based on what works best for the player.

When you follow the basic strategy and play with one of the 5 options listed above, one of 3 things will happen.

  • You stood immediately – you got a hand that the basic strategy says you should not take any cards.
  • You made a hand – you took more cards (hit, double, or split) and reached a hand of 21 or less without busting.
  • Your hand is out – you played your hand one or more times and ” busted”, or you chose to surrender your hand. If your hand busts, you lose the bet immediately. This is why the casino has an advantage in the game. Players must move first so that even if the dealer finally blows like you did, they will still keep your money because you busted first.

If you are not bust and have not surrendered, then it is time for the dealer to play their hand. The dealer will first show their bottom card and then add up their two cards. If the dealer’s hand totals 17 or higher, they will automatically stand. If the dealer’s hand total is 16 or lower, they get an extra hit. The dealer can’t use doubling, splitting or surrendering, and they can’t choose how to play their hand like the player. The dealer must play their cards the same way every time. The only exception is when the dealer has a 17 consisting of an ace and a six. this is called a “soft 17”. Depending on the casino, this hand gives the dealer a greater chance of getting a better hand than a 17. Whether or not the dealer will play the soft 17 is usually highlighted with text on the felt, so you know what the dealer’s hand should be.

  1. Payout
    There are two things that will happen:
  • The dealer busts and they will pay an equal amount of money to each hand still in play at the table.
  • The dealer will make a hand (17 to 21). If your hand is still in play, it’s a simple battle of who has the higher hand. If the dealer is higher, they will sweep your bets. If yours is higher, the dealer will pay you one times your bet. If you and the dealer have the same total hand, it is considered a ” tie ” and you keep your money, but do not get paid for your bet.