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Playing the Game of Blackjack

Basics and Goals

Anyone who knows how to play Blackjack is aware that, at the end of a game, you want to have approached 21 points as closely as possible without going over that (or else you lose). If you have more than the dealer, you've won. With Blackjack, although several people play, everyone is playing against the dealer, and the dealer plays by a predetermined set of rules, so cards are no secret. With a shoe game, the playing cards are face-up anyway.

A "shoe game," by the way, is playing Blackjack with six or eight decks of cards. It's a great opportunity for beginners to watch others' moves and receive tips from the dealer.

Blackjack Cards' Values

These are the individual card values:

  • Cards numbered 2 through 10 are their face values
  • 10 is the value for queens, kings, and jacks
  • Aces are eleven points unless that would give the dealer or a player more than 21 points, in which case they're just 1

The standard 52-card deck is used for Blackjack: Four suits (clubs, spades, hearts and diamond), and 2-10, king, queen, jack and ace in each suit. Usually, at least two decks are combined for a game.

Some online casino variations on how to play Blackjack use a 53-card deck, increased by adding an extra jack. At least two decks are still used. Sometimes, excess jacks are put into a deck for playing a short promotional game, but licensees have to clearly define all card values and the rules concerning the extra jacks.

Obviously, you compute the total value of card hand by adding each card's value. So a queen, a two and a five would be seventeen points.

What a Player Can Do

The Surrender Signal

In some casinos, you have the choice of surrendering your hand when, and only when, the dealer shows a ten or ace. You must announce surrender before taking any further action. Surrendering is the only verbal Blackjack play.

Types of Surrender

One type is "late surrender." With this type, you make an announcement of your plans to surrender and the dealer puts a lamer (a plastic chip) or your own chips on your cards. In the case where the dealer has a blackjack, your whole bet is gone, and you get half back if he doesn't.

Your other choice is "early surrender." Your make your intentions to surrender known and immediately lose half your bet. Since, either with a favorable late surrender or any early surrender, you end up with the same amount of money, go for the early surrender.

Doubling down

Double down when you're thinking that one more card could win the hand. You do this by doubling your first bet and drawing just one card. As long as your initial hand does not contain a blackjack, most casinos will let you double down on it, but some only allow this play on your initial hand when it totals ten or eleven points. Signal a double down just by doubling your bet.

Hitting in Blackjack

Provided that you stay under 21 with your total, you can draw new cards to make your total better. Beckon with your fingers or point at the cards if you want to hit. Going over 21 points is called "breaking," and it means automatic loss for you, even if your dealer breaks on his next turn. Your cards are discarded and your bets taken.

Standing

When you stand, you refuse to take on additional cards, which is something you can do under any circumstances. Wave your palm over either your cards or your initial bet to say that you wish to stand. Once again, the signal is nonverbal.

Splitting Pairs of Cards

You can play two hands simultaneously if you receive two initial cards of the same value. You may draw additional cards for both hands as you please (unless you break); you play from right card to left. If you split two aces, you can only draw one more card at most casinos. Splitting aces and then drawing a ten, and splitting tens and then drawing an ace, result in 21 points. This combination is not considered a blackjack, though, and a blackjack can still beat it.

Most casinos will let you split a second time if you draw another card of identical rank. All you have to do is put another bet of the same value as your first next to the first, without touching your original wager or your cards.

You now know how to play Blackjack, and I hope you go out and enjoy a good game. There are lots more fine points to it, of course, but the basics are all you need to get started.

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