Rules to Know
Blackjack is essentially a game to 21 without going over. The game is played with 1 or more standard decks of 52 playing cards.
It’s important to note that the number of decks used in a game can significantly impact the game, but I’ll cover that later.
The numbered cards 2 thru 10 are played at face value. Jacks, Queens, and Kings are all worth 10, and Aces can be worth 1 or 11.
Your objective is simple, to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. A natural 21 is called a “Blackjack.”
Other table rules will be clearly posted on the table for you as well. These can include things like “Insurance pays 2:1” or “Dealer Stays on Soft 17”.
Each player and the dealer are dealt 2 cards to create their starting hand. The players get 2 cards face up while the dealer gets 1 card face up and the other face down.
With the dealer being 12 o’clock, the action then goes clockwise. Each player may hit or stay, and the action progresses to the next player.
The hand concludes with the dealer completing their hand and collecting losing bets, and paying the winners.
Establishing a Blackjack Vocabulary
Casinos and gambling have a language all their own. The ins and outs of playing blackjack isn’t any different, and most of the terminology you’ll hear at the blackjack table should be at least vaguely familiar.
Let’s take a little refresher to keep you feeling and sounding sharp on the casino floor. Here are some of the key phrases you’re going to be using shortly.
Stand: To stand is to elect not to draw any additional cards. You’re essentially banking that your hand is strong enough to beat the dealer as it stands. You can gesture this to the dealer by waving an open hand palm down over your cards.
Hit: If a player wishes to draw more cards, they hit. Once a player hits, they may then stand or hit again. A player that hits and exceeds 21 has “bust” and automatically loses. In casino blackjack, a player must indicate a hit to the dealer by tapping or scratching the table near their cards.
Split: If you’re dealt 2 of the same card, i.e., Aces, you may split the hand. You’ll place a second bet equal to your initial wager, and the dealer will split the hand and deal another card to your first card. You then play that hand independently. Once the hand is complete, you’ll receive a second card for the split’s remaining card and play that hand. Make a mental note that there are tables that will allow you to split any 2 cards. This can be beneficial to the player if the cards are right.
Double Down: I love doubling down. Of Course, only when it’s the best play. Doubling down is when you place a separate bet equal to your first bet in exchange for drawing only 1 card. Some games only allow you to double down on certain hands like 11, but others will allow you to double down on any 2 cards.
Keep these terms and their meanings in mind as you hit the casino floor, but never hesitate to ask the dealer if you ever have a question at the table.
The Basics of Blackjack Betting
After you’ve found the right table limits, you need to check a few other boxes. The first being blackjack paying 3:2; don’t even break stride if you see 6:5.
Next, try finding a table that uses as few decks as possible. This is imperative for even the most novice card counters; the fewer cards in play, the easier to keep a good count.
Once you’re confident that you’ve found a player-friendly table, have a seat and place your chip or chips in the bets circle on the table.
You’ve done it! You’re playing blackjack, but there are some other things you’ll want to know.
Table Ettiquette Musts
When you take your seat at the table, allow the hand in progress to be completed before doing anything. Once the hand is completed, you may place your cash on the table and slide it toward the dealer, telling them you’d like change.
The dealer will then place your chips in front of you. Don’t make the foolish mistake of trying to hand the cash to the dealer. Dealers aren’t allowed to take cash in hand; it must be on the table.
Move your chips close to the table’s edge in front of you and place your wager in the bet box. Make sure you don’t touch your chips once the cards have been dealt.
Some players will try to stack their bet when dealt a good hand. Even if you have the best of intentions, this will draw the attention of security, the dealer, and the pit boss.
Clearly, you don’t want to be on any of their bad sides.
Also, remember to tip your dealer. How you chose to go about this is a personal decision. I prefer to make a bet for the dealer; many others will simply tip the dealer after they’ve colored up and are leaving the table.
Of course, you can simply place a chip on the table anytime and let the dealer know it’s for them. An entire article could be written about tipping etiquette. Still, all that really matters is that you give something for the effort.
I suggest tipping 1 bet amount every hour. So, if you’ve been betting $10 per hand, a $10 chip is plenty.
Use Basic Strategy on Every Hand
Don’t stress that you haven’t spent years pouring over the data and memorizing detailed calculations on playing a soft 15 against a dealer’s 6 upcard.
You can purchase the detailed charts in the casino’s gift shop for a few dollars. That’s right; the casinos know all about basic strategy.
You can even use your basic strategy card at the table as long as you’re not slowing down the game. I suppose it follows the old adage, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”