Blackjack is a French game that was at first called 21. When it was introduced into casinos they tried to attract customers by offering higher payoffs for players who would be lucky enough to catch a black jack (spades or clubs) paired up with the ace of spades. Since the high payoffs became centered around the black jacks they began to call the game blackjack. Note that blackjack should not be confused with black jack, which is an entirely different game.
Please note, for further rules of blackjack (and other card games) please visit the Rules of Card Games page on Playing Cards Online.
Rules of casino blackjack will vary from casino to casino. In addition, some rules may be imposed upon the game by regulations enforced by the local gaming control board. In general, blackjack is dealt face down in single-deck and double deck variants, but multiple deck games are dealt face up and the players are not allowed to touch the cards. However there are some casinos that deal single-deck games face up as well.
• The Pack
The original game is played with a standard 52-card pack, however casinos have devised versions of this game that is played with 2, 4, 6, or 8 packs shuffled together and dealt from a dealing shoe.
• The Value of the Cards
All the number cards count at face value, all court cards count as 10, and aces may be counted as 1 or as 11. Suits have no values.
• The object of the game
To win money against the banker (dealer) by drawing cards to a total of 21, or to a total as close to 21 but over the dealer's total, and without going over 21.
• The deal
The player(s) put(s) money or chips into the betting circle on the layout. The dealer shuffles the deck and offers it to the player (or one of the players) for a cut. The player cuts the deck, the dealer completes the cut, and burns the first cards.
The dealer deals clockwise one card face down to each player, one card face up to him(her)self (this is the dealer's up-card), then deals another card face down to each player, and deal a card face down under the up-card (this is the dealer's hole-card).
Each player now looks at his(her) two cards and mentally adds up the total. If the first two cards already add up to 21, i.e. if it is a 10 and an ace, this is called a natural, in this case the player exposes both cards and collects a payoff, unless the dealer also happened to catch a natural, in which case it is a tie and no one wins.
• The payoffs
Most wagers a paid off at 1 to 1 odds. For a $10 bet a player will receive $10. However, some situations pay at higher odds.
If a player happens to catch a total of 21 with the first two cards dealt, i.e. a 10 and an ace, this is called a natural. Most casinos pay naturals at 3 to 2 odds; for a $10 bet the player will receive $15. However, there are some casinos that will pay at 2 to 1 odds to attract more customers, and there are also some casinos that will pay at less favorable odds when playing single-deck blackjack. When blackjack was first introduced casinos were trying to attract customers by offering 10 to 1 payoffs to any player who happens to catch a natural that consists of a black jack and the ace of spades. However, this practice has long since been abandoned.
◊ insurance bets
Whenever the dealer's up-card is an ace the payers have the option to insure their bets. If the hole card proves to be a 10 the player will lose the initial bet but be paid at 2 to 1 odds on the insurance bet.
• The dealer's play (if an ace or a 10 is showing)
The dealer is always last to act unless the up-card happens to be a 10 or an ace. If the dealer's up-card is a 10 or an ace, the dealer must first secretly check the hole-card to see if he(she) caught a natural. If so, the dealer must expose the hole card and collect all the bets, unless one of the players also happened to catch a natural, in which case it is a tie, and the player does not lose the wager.
• The player's play
The player always acts first. If the player did not catch a natural each player has the option to hit, stand, double down; or, if applicable, split a pair, surrender, or insure the bet.
If the player's cards total less than 21 the player is allowed to draw additional cards. This procedure is called hitting. To request a hit, the player may call, "hit!" or scratch the surface of the table with the two cards. If the new total is over 21 it is said that the player busted. If the player busts the dealer will expose all the cards, add up the total, collect the bet, and place those cards into the discard pile.
If additional cards are not wanted, the player puts the two original cards face-down under the stack of chips.
◊ doubling down
A player may choose to double down on any two cards (except on a natural), or the first two cards of any split pair. The player will double down by adding an amount equal to the amount of the original wager, and exposing the two cards by placing them face up on the layout. The dealer will then deal only one hit card face-down in front of the player. The hit card will be revealed only after the dealer has played.
◊ splitting pairs
Whenever the first two player's cards are of identical value the player has the option to split them by betting an equal amount to form a second hand. Some casinos allow a player to split a hand only once, in effect if another identical card is dealt the player will not be allowed to re-split, but these rules vary from casino to casino. Furthermore, is aces are split the player will receive only one hit card for each ace.
The player may elect to discontinue play for a particular round. In this case the dealer will collect half of the wager and put the cards into the discard pile.
Whenever the dealer's up card is an ace the players are allowed to insure their bets against the possibility of the dealer having a natural. To insure a bet a player must do so before the dealer checks the hole card. If the dealer's hole cards turns out to be a 10-value card the player loses the original bet but collects 2 to 1 on the insurance bet. If, however, the dealer's hole card is not a 10, the player loses the insurance bet. Usually a player is allowed to insure any amount up to 1/2 of the total of the original wager. Most casinos also allow a player to insure a bet and surrender the original bet; in this case each wager will be settled separately and will have no bearing on each other.
• Soft hands vs. hard hands
A hand that consists of an ace counted as 11 is called a soft hand. In this case the player will always have the flexibility to hit a total of 12 or higher without risking to bust on the first hit card. In the event that a hit card brings a soft total over 21 the soft hand becomes a hard hand and the ace, which was originally counted as 11, is now counted as 1.
• The dealer's play (after the players)
If there are no active players left the dealer must expose the hole-card, and only then place both cards into the discard pile.
If there is at least one active player remaining the dealer must now expose the hole-card and play his(her) hand by following a set of rules. These rules will vary slightly from casino to casino, but the basic rule will be printed on the actual layout on the blackjack table.
◊ Dealer must hit all soft 17's
In Downtown Las Vegas single-deck blackjack is played so that the dealer must hit all soft 17's. This rule is somewhat less favorable for the players because the dealer always has a second chance. However, the dealer will not be allowed to hit any soft totals over 17.
◊ Dealer must draw to 16 and stand on all 17's
In multiple-deck shoe games the dealer usually must stand on all 17's, soft or hard. One may find single-deck games on the strip where the dealer must stand on all 17's. Although a single-deck game where the dealer must stand on all 17's may look attractive to a player at first glance, it should be noted that those games do not pay 3 to 2 on naturals.
• Other variations
As already stated above, casinos offer other variations of blackjack.
◊ Multiple-deck games
The usual casino variations are games in which the dealer uses 2, 4, 6, or 8 decks. These games will vary in rules, some will allow doubling down after split, others won't; some will allow re-spitting, others not; some will allow surrender, and again, some will not. It would be unpractical to list all rule variations in this text.
◊ Double exposure 21
This is a variation where both dealer's cards are dealt face up. As attractive as it may sound at first glance there other changes that make this game unfavorable: the player will win all natural ties and lose all other ties; all naturals are paid at 1 to 1; surrender and insurance are not available; the player may double down only on a point count of 9, 10, or 11; the player may split only once.
◊ Spanish 21
This variant is called Spanish 21 because it is played with a "Spanish" deck. Not really a Spanish deck because the cards are French-suited, however, the deck is stripped of all 10-pip cards, so it contains only the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, J, Q, K, A. There are some exceptions to the traditional rules: player's naturals beat dealer's naturals and are always paid at 3 to 2; a player's 21 will beat a dealer's 21, however, a player will lose if the 21 consists of more than 2 cards and the dealer has a natural, and certain player 21's will result in additional pay outs; player may split any pairs including aces up to 4 hands, hitting and doubling of all split cards is allowed; double down rescue allows a player after doubling, if not satisfied with the non-busted hand, the player may rescue (take back) the doubled portion of the bet and forfeit the original portion of the bet; surrender is permitted on the first 2 cards.
◊ Player-Banker blackjack
This is a game in which the deck is handed off to the next player in rotation after every round. Although this is usually the format for some private blackjack games, some card rooms have been known to offer this format as well.
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