If you've never played blackjack before, you are in for a treat. Although it may seem like the game has complicated rules, it really can be understood in a short while. Below are the basics.
Blackjack or twenty-one
is played with a deck (or decks) of cards, but it really is a game of numbers. The suits of the cards don't matter, just their value. If the point total of your hand is greater than the dealer's and is not over 21, you win. The point total is determined by adding up the cards in your hand. Face cards are worth 10 points, number cards are worth the card value, and just to make it a little complicated, aces can be either 1 or 11. A hand with an ace and a face card or a ten is called a blackjack
or a natural
. A hand with an ace and any card with a value less than ten is called a soft
hand. For example, an ace and a 7, can total 8 or 18. In blackjack lingo, this is a soft
18. If it were a jack and a 8, it would be hard
You are dealt two cards initially. The dealer also gets two cards, the first one up, and the second one down, called the hole card
. If you were dealt an ace and a card with a value of ten (face card or ten), smile – you just got a blackjack. There's a very good chance you are going to win this hand. If the dealer has an ace showing, there will be a call for insurance
(see blackjack insurance
). We'll discuss whether or not that's a good bet in our next article, Blackjack - Beyond the Basics
. After all insurance bets are placed, the dealer will check to see if he has a blackjack.
If the dealer doesn't have a blackjack, it's your turn again. Your goal is to get a total closest to 21 without going over. If you are happy with your hand, you stand. If you think you can improve your hand, you hit. You can continue to hit until you are happy (think you will beat the dealer's hand), at which point you stand. If you hit and you go over 21, you bust and you lose.
If you didn't bust and are still in the game, it's now the dealer's turn. The dealer must follow strict rules in building his hand. The dealer flips over his hole card and if the two cards have a combined point total between hard 17 and 20, he must stand. Anything below 17 and the dealer must draw a card or “hit”. He will continue to hit until he has a total equal to or over 17. Some casinos require the dealer to hit a soft 17, as well. If he hits and goes over 21, he busts and you win. If he doesn't bust, it's time for the showdown between your hands. The highest point total wins. If there's a tie, it's called a push and no money is taken or paid.
To get the hang of blackjack at this level, we recommend playing with friends, playing an online simulator, or going to a low-key casino and befriending the blackjack dealer
at a quiet table. On a slow casino floor, blackjack dealers are looking for anything to relieve the boredom of standing around waiting for customers. They are generally very patient and understanding with new players. Just tell them you are learning the game, and they will be happy to help you.