Blackjack Basics: How To Play

Ok, so you’ve decided to try your luck at the tables.  How about some blackjack?  It’s one of the easiest games to learn, while also being quite fast-paced.  It also happens to have one of the best sets of odds against the house, provided that you play the game optimally.  We’ll cover some basic strategies elsewhere, but for now, let’s just help you out with the basic rules:

  • Blackjack starts with bets by the players.  The minimum amount depends on the table, which itself depends on the casino.  For casinos in the NC area, expect to see minimum bets in the $10 – $15 range at the cheapest tables, and lots of $25 tables around the casino, especially during peak hours like weekends.  In high limit areas, the minimum bet is $50 or more.
  • The Dealer deals 2 cards each to the players and himself / herself.  For the dealer, the first card is face down, and the second one is face up.
  • Blackjack cards are valued as the number on the card, except for face cards and aces.  So, a 2 is 2, a 5 is worth 5, and so on.  It doesn’t matter what suit the card is.  Face cards (Jacks, Queens and Kings) count as 10 (along with the 10 card of course).  Aces can count as either 1 or 11.  So, aces give players (and the dealer) a lot of value since there is some flexibility there.
  • Players must decide whether to stand, hit, double down, or split.
    • Stand – you’re good with your hand, and you’ll see if you win once the dealer plays out his / her hand.
    • Hit – you’ll get an extra card from the dealer.  If you don’t go bust and you’re still in the game (more on that below), you can Hit again for more cards.
    • Double Down – you’ll double your original bet and then get one, and only one, extra card from the dealer.
    • Split – if you’re got two cards with the same value, like two 8’s or two Queens, you can split them.  This means that you’ll double your original bet and play out two hands instead of one.
  • The object of the game is to beat the Dealer’s hand, without going over 21.  If you go over 21, you “Bust” and you automatically lose your bet.
  • The dealer acts last.  This is where the Casino (or the “House”) has the advantage, because Players can bust out beforehand and lose, regardless of how the dealer ends up.  The dealer must hit on 16 or less, and stand on 17 through 21.
    • Table rules vary about what’s called a “Soft 17” – which is an Ace and a 6 for the dealer.  Since the ace can be either a 1 or 11 value, at some tables the dealer is required to hit, and at some tables they are required to stay.
  • Players win when:
    • Their hand beats the dealer’s hand; or
    • They have 21 or less and the dealer busts
  • Players lose when:
    • They go over 21 and bust; or
    • The dealer’s hand beats their hand
  • If the player’s and dealer’s hands are the same, this is called a “Push”.  The player retains his bet.

Easy, right?  This is one of the most popular casino games for a reason.  Sit down and play and you’ll get the hang of it in minutes.  Also, the dealers at your table are nearly 100% of the time very friendly and willing to give you guidance on how to play, so don’t feel intimidated.  Give it a shot!

If you want to learn some tips about how to handle specific hands, check out our Blackjack Basic Strategy guide here.

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