Basic
Rules
Additional Bets Tips
on Winning Basic
Strategy
Blackjack
is easily the most popular table game of all. If
you enter any Las Vegas casino, you will find that
blackjack tables outnumber other table games by a
margin of about two to one. The game enjoys its
immense popularity for many reasons, but one of the
primary reasons is that, when played correctly, it
offers the best odds out of all the casino games.
In fact, a good blackjack player's odds of winning
are about even with the house.
Basic
Rules
The
purpose of blackjack is to obtain a hand as close
to 21 as possible without going over. A hand with
a value over 21 is called a bust, and it is
an automatic loser. Your opponent in blackjack
is the dealer, and in order to win, you must beat
the dealer's hand.
Each card in blackjack has a certain value. Cards
between 2 and 10 have values of 2 to 10, respectively,
regardless of the suit. All face cards (jacks,
queens, and kings) have a value of 10. An ace
is a special card that can be counted as either as
a 1 or an 11, whichever is more advantageous to your
hand. If counting an ace as 11 makes your hand
go over 21, then you would obviously count it as 1
so you can stay in the hand.
The
best possible hand is called a blackjack, which
is composed of two cards that equal 21. The only
way this can happen is if one of your cards is an
ace, and the other card is a 10value card (e.g. an
ace and a king, and an ace and a queen are both blackjacks). A
blackjack beats all other hands except another blackjack. If
you have a blackjack, and the dealer has 3 cards that
add up to 21, you still win the hand even though you
both have hands valued at 21. If both the player
and dealer have blackjacks, the two hands push,
or tie.
Each
player must place a bet at the beginning of the hand,
before the cards are dealt. To make a bet, simply
place your chips in the appropriate box or circle,
as shown below.
.
Typical Blackjack layout
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After
placing a bet, the player receives 2 cards, dealt
faceup. The dealer also receives two cards,
but only one of the dealer's cards is faceup. Since
the other card is facedown, the player will not know
what the dealer's hidden card (also called the hole
card) is until the end of the hand. In a
sense, the dealer's hand remains a mystery.
After
receiving two cards, the player must decide whether
to keep the hand as is, or take additional cards in
an attempt to raise the value of the hand. Remember,
players must be careful when requesting additional
cards, because if their hand goes over 21, they lose
automatically. The decision to take an additional
card is called a hit or a draw. There
is no limit on the number of hits a player can take. When
players are done taking hits, they have chosen to
stand.
Next,
it is the dealer's turn to play his/her hand. First,
the dealer reveals the facedown hole card. If
the dealer's hand is between 17 and 21, the dealer
is NOT allowed to take additional hits, and MUST stand. If
the dealer's hand is 16 or under, the dealer MUST
take additional hits until the dealer's hand has a
value of 17 or higher. If the dealer goes over
21 while taking additional cards, he/she busts,
and automatically loses.
When
you lose a hand, you lose the amount you originally
bet. When you win a hand, you get paid even
money, which means that you win the same amount
you wagered (1:1 odds). If your hand is the
same value as the dealer's hand, it is called a push,
or a tie, and neither side wins nor loses any money.
Since
a blackjack is a special hand, it is paid extra. Normally,
a winning 5 dollar bet will net you an additional
5 dollars. But with a blackjack, you receive
1.5 times your original wager, or stated another way,
you get 3:2 odds. This means you win a total
of $7.50 on a 5 dollar bet when you have a blackjack.
Additional
Bets
As stated earlier, you must place an original bet
at the beginning of each hand. But that is not
the only bet a you can make. During the middle
of the hand, you have the option of making additional
bets, often doubling your stakes.
The
additional bets you can make are:
1)
Double Downs
As
the name implies, a double down allows you to double
your wager. You can double down only when you
have 2 cards in your hand. However, there is
one condition: When you double down, you MUST
take one additional card. You can NOT receive
any more hits after this. Oftentimes, players
will double down when their first two cards add up
to 10 or 11. Players in such cases are hoping
to receive a 10card, thus making their hand a 20
or 21. The likelihood of this happening is relatively
high, since a 10card is the most frequently occurring
card in blackjack (10, J, Q and K are all valued at
10). For this reason, experienced players will
almost always double down when their first two cards
total 10 or 11.
2)
Splits
Splitting
is another way of doubling your stake. You can
split when you have two cards of the same value. To
split your hand, you must put up an additional bet
equal to your original bet. You then divide your
cards and create 2 separate hands, each starting with
one of the split cards. For example, if you have
two 8's and split them, you would end up with two
hands, each with a value of 8. You would then
play out each hand separately, by hitting them until
you are satisfied with the total. If you obtain
a blackjack on a split, you only get paid 1:1 odds. You
don't get the 3:2 blackjack odds because your original
hand was not a blackjack.
3)
Insurance
You
are allowed to make an optional insurance bet when
the dealer's face card is an ace. Whenever the
dealer has an ace card showing, there is a possibility
that the dealer has a blackjack. If the dealer
does, you would normally lose, unless you also have
a blackjack, in which case you would push.
By
purchasing insurance, you prevent yourself from losing
money if the dealer has a blackjack. The cost
of insurance is normally half of your original bet. So,
if your initial bet is $10, it costs $5 to buy insurance. If
the dealer does not have a blackjack, you lose your
insurance bet, and the hand is played out normally. If
you purchase insurance, and the dealer does have a
blackjack, you lose your original bet ($10 in our
example), BUT you win your insurance bet. Since
insurance pays 2:1, you would receive $10 on your
$5 insurance bet. In effect, you lose the original
$10 bet, but get paid $10 in insurance, so it's a
wash. To summarize, buying insurance will keep you
from losing money if the dealer has a blackjack, but
if the dealer does not have a blackjack, you would
end up losing the amount you paid for insurance.
In
most cases, you should avoid buying insurance. It
is a sucker bet that heavily favors the house. The
only time you should make the insurance bet is when
there is a high proportion of 10cards left in the
deck. You would not know this unless you count
cards.
For
most players, a good rule of thumb is to simply ignore
the insurance bet. Just pretend it doesn't exist.
Tips
on Winning
Back
in the sixties, a university professor put every conceivable
blackjack hand into a computer and, by using statistics,
determined the most advantageous way to play in each
and every situation. The strategy he devised
based on his research was called basic strategy. Many
experts have modified this strategy over the years. The
strategy was so effective in slicing the house advantage
that casinos later counterattacked by modifying some
of their blackjack rules to make basic strategy less
effective. But make no mistake: In order to maximize
your chances of winning, you MUST follow basic strategy.
All good players do.
There
are many different basic strategy charts, and each
one is a bit different. Below is a pretty standard
version you can follow in order to increase your odds
of winning.
Basic
Strategy Chart
The
horizontal numbers, in red, represents the dealer's
faceup card. The vertical numbers, in green, represents
the value of your hand. Match the two to find the
recommended move.
Example:
If the dealer has a 6card showing, and you have a
hand valued at 15, you would stand.
H=
Hit, S=Stand, Sp=Split, D=Double Down.

2 
3 
4 
5 
6 
7 
8 
9 
10 
Ace 
8
or less 
Always
HIT 
9 
D 
D 
D 
D 
D 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
10 
D 
D 
D 
D 
D 
D 
D 
D 
H 
H 
11 
Always
DOUBLE DOWN 
12 
H 
H 
S 
S 
S 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
13 
S 
S 
S 
S 
S 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
14 
S 
S 
S 
S 
S 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
15 
S 
S 
S 
S 
S 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
16 
S 
S 
S 
S 
S 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
17
or more 
*Always
STAND  unless you have an ace in your hand 
then see below 
*A2

H 
H 
D 
D 
D 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
*A3 
H 
H 
D 
D 
D 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
*A4 
H 
H 
D 
D 
D 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
*A5 
H 
H 
D 
D 
D 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
*A6 
D 
D 
D 
D 
D 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
*A7 
S 
D 
D 
D 
D 
S 
S 
H 
H 
S 
*A8/A9 
Always
STAND 
22 
H 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
H 
H 
H 
H 
33 
H 
H 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
H 
H 
H 
H 
66 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
77 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
H 
H 
H 
H 
88 
Always
SPLIT 
99 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
SP 
H 
H 
H 
H 
H 
AA 
Always
SPLIT 
