How to play blackjack
Black jack is a very easy game to learn and it is possible to learn all the basic strategies within a day. It might however take longer than that before the correct action becomes a reflex and you stop making mistakes at the table.
The object of this game is to beat the dealer and you do this by getting closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. It is important to remember that you win money by beating the dealer, not by getting as close to 21 as possible. If the dealer goes bust (goes over 21) it doesn't matter how far from 21 you are - you are still a winner. The value of the different cards are as follows: 1-9 have the numerical value of the card, 10-K are all counted as 10, and aces can be counted as 1 or 11 depending on what's best for the hand.
Once the betting has been completed, two cards are dealt to each player, face up. The dealer has one card face up (the face card) and one card face down (the hole card). Some casinos do not use a hole card and the dealer's second card is instead dealt when it is the dealer's turn to act.
Once the initial round of cards have been placed on the table, each player is allowed to act (in turn). Players will typically make decisions based on both the cards they hold and the face card of the dealer. The face card of the dealer is one of the most important factors in deciding what the player should do. Anyone interested in using a system for how to act at any given point can pay a visit to the optimal strategy table on the “Winning at black jack”-page.
When it is the player's turn to act, she has the following options:
Hold/Stay = Do nothing and pass the turn over to your next hand, or the next player or to the dealer if you are the last player. This action ends you chances of affecting your hand, while all the options below allow you to make a follow-up choice once you have seen the result of your initial action.
Hit = The player gets another card and hopefully get closer to 21.
Split = When both cards are of the same numerical value the player can split them to create two hands from the one. To do this, he must wager the same amount as his original wager on the new hand. Splitting can normally be done an unlimited amount of times if cards of the same numerical value keeps falling on the table, but some casinos put a limit on the amount of times you are allowed to split a hand.
After splitting, his first hand is first played and when he stands on that hand (or go over) the turn goes over to the second of his hands. The turn only passes to the next box on the black jack table after all split hands have been played.
Double = You are only allowed to double as the first action for your hand, i.e. when you have two cards. Doubling means that you double your wager and then receive one more card. After that, the turn automatically moves on to the next hand. In some casinos you are allowed to double on anything while others only allow it on 9-11. You are usually but not always allowed to double after split; the rules vary from casino to casino.
Insurance = Insurance is available only when the dealer's face card is an ace. Insurance protects a hand against a dealer black jack. If the dealer gets a black jack, the players are allowed to keep their money on insured hands.
When the face card of the dealer is an ace, the dealer will ask if any player wants insurance before any other actions are taken. This is the time when you have the opportunity to insure your hand if you so desire; you can not do it later. Insurance costs half your bet and is lost if the dealer doesn't get a black jack. Insurance is normally not a good idea to purchase as it will cost you more money than it will save in the long run. It is however sometimes purchased by advanced card counters in very specific situations.
Surrender = Surrender is very seldom offered nowadays. Surrender allows the player to surrender his hand as the first action of a hand. By surrendering the hand, the player loses half his wager but is allowed to keep the other half. Is only a good idea for very poor hands.
If you play black jack in a traditional casino offline, you are usually required to make hand signals for your actions instead of simply talking to the dealer. This is so that the surveillance cameras can monitor your decision.
The dealer's action is decided by rules that are normally written on the table. The most common rules are 17S and 17H. 17H means that the dealer has to hit on 17 and below. 17S means that the dealer stands on 17 and above. 17H is a bit more beneficial for the player as it increase chances of the dealer going bust.
A winning hand in black jack usually pay even money. The exception to this is black jack that pays 1.5 times the money (standard rules). In some establishments, the dealer wins if the game is a draw. This drastically increases the edge of the house and such casinos are best avoided.
Black jack rules can vary from casino to casino and you should always check the house rules before you start playing. Avoid playing in casinos (online and offline) with unfavorable rules.