Black Jack Rules

If you've always heard about Blackjack, but wondered how the game is played, this explanation will have you doubling down in no time.

Blackjack, or 21 as it is sometimes called, is one of the most popular games found in a casino - and probably the most infamous, thanks to the practice of counting cards. The goal for a Blackjack player is to have a hand of cards that beat the dealer's cards without "˜busting', or having their cards total more than 21. The three face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) are equivalent to a 10, and an Ace can be either a 1 or an 11, the choice of which is up to the player. The remaining cards are all equal to the number shown on the card.

Blackjack is played with more than one deck of cards in any casino you'll find, and sometimes up to eight decks may be shuffled together for use in a game. This large reserve of cards is referred to as the "shoe". From a casino's standpoint, the more decks in a shoe the better, because each deck makes it significantly more difficult to count cards. Before any cards are dealt each round in Blackjack, the dealer calls for all bets to be placed on the table, which can be anywhere in between the minimum and maximum bets. Each player is then dealt two cards face-up, while the dealer deals himself one card face-up and one face-down. The best hand to have in Blackjack is 21, obviously, so if a player is dealt an Ace and a 10, J, Q, or K they automatically win, and get paid off extra for it. This form of winning is referred to as a Blackjack, and it usually pays 3 to 2 - meaning if your original bet was 30, you'd get paid 75 for winning with a Blackjack. However, some casinos may choose to specify a different Blackjack payout.

After the first two cards are dealt to each player, the first player to the left of the dealer has the option to "˜hit' or "˜stand'. They may also "˜double down' or "˜split', depending on what their cards are, which will be explained in more detail shortly. If a player decides that their hand probably isn't enough to beat the dealer (based on the card the dealer is showing and what their hand currently totals), they can hit, or take another card. If the card dealt to them doesn't cause them to bust, the player may once again hit, or stand if they are content. This continues until a player either busts or stands, after which the next player to his left is given the same options. After all the players have either busted or stood pat, the dealer flips over his down card, revealing his hand. He then hits or stands depending on his card total. If his cards total 17 or more, he is required to stay. Otherwise, the dealer will hit. Once the dealer stands, players are either paid out, or have their bets collected.

If the dealer busts, all the players who didn't bust get double their original bet back. In the unlucky case of the dealer dealing himself a Blackjack, he sweeps the table and collects everybody's bet, and the next hand is dealt. If a player and the dealer have equivalent hands, it is referred to as a "˜push', and the player simply gets their original bet back. And if a player beats the dealer's hand without either of them busting, they win double their bet, same as if the dealer had busted.

The two special cases are, are previously mentioned, the double down and the split. If a player is dealt two of the same ranking card for their first cards (such as two eights), the two cards can be split up and played as two separate hands, provided the player matches his or her original bet. The obvious goal of this is to win both of the hands, thus making double what you would have had you not split. You can double down on any beginning two card combination you want, though it is not always advisable - all you have to do is announce you're doubling down, match your original bet and you are dealt one more card, and one card only. Again, the advantage here is that if that one card makes your hand a winner, you will win twice what you would have if you didn't double down.

Blackjack may seem like a pretty simple game to play, and the basics of game play really are. However, to be a truly successful player, it requires far more strategy and thought than it might seem at first - not to mention, plenty of luck.

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