Like many other casino games, Blackjack has many historical roots and, not surprisingly, the rules change from country to country and even in different casinos. The type of Blackjack described below is taken as a basis in various casinos all over the world, so we call it Standard Blackjack.
This game uses six standard 52-card decks consisting of four suits with ranks ranging from a Deuce to an Ace. As such, there are 312 cards forming a "big deck". The dealer deals cards from a special box called a sabot or a shoe.
All face cards and 10s are valued as 10. All these cards are equivalent and for the sake of simplicity are called a ten. Aces can count as either 11 or 1, depending on the player’s preference. The rest of the cards are worth their face-value (a Deuce is valued as 2, an Eight is valued as 8, etc.). The cards’ suits don’t have any meaning in the game.
The Objective of the Game
The objective of the game is to get a hand closest in value to 21.
21 is the maximum, and a hand over 21 leads to a complete loss, or a bust. The higher the value of the hand, the better chance the player has of winning. Furthermore, the combination of an Ace and a 10 is called blackjack and is considered the most valuable combination. Its value is higher than any other combination of cards making 21.
The Number of Players
All players at a table play against the casino, as represented by the dealer, or croupier. The number of players is limited only by the number of boxes on the table. A box is a rectangle, specially drawn on the table. As a rule, there are 7 boxes at each table.
The player may bet on one or several boxes.
If players agree, more than one player can bet on a single box. The sum of such bets cannot exceed the table’s maximum limit.
The Size of Bets
The size of minimum and maximum bets is indicated on every blackjack table. Here are some examples of typical ranges: €5 - €100, €25 - €500, €25 - €1000.
The Course of the Game
Usually there are several players at the game table. Before the game starts, they make theirs bets – place chips on theirs boxes. After that the dealer deals one card to each player, takes one card to himself and again gives one card to each player. All cards are dealt face-up. Now the dealer deals with each player in order.
Assume that the player has bet €100. He can see his two cards and one card of the dealer’s hand. The game is played only against the dealer and the cards of other players make no difference to him. His two cards are an initial combination which he can try to improve by taking additional cards. Then the dealer will do the same to improve his single card. The more valuable combination wins. The size of the prize is equal to the bet (€100). If, however, the player was dealt blackjack, the house pays out 3:2, so that the €100 bet wins €150. If the player’s cards have the same value as the dealer’s, the game ends in a tie or push. Therefore, even blackjack does not necessarily guarantee a win.
Players are not allowed to touch their own cards. Often, players communicate with the dealer with gestures rather than words. For example, when the player wants to hit, he taps on his combination. When the player doesn’t want any more cards, he can wave his hand towards the neighboring player, or wave his hand horizontally over the table, or say “stand”.
Players have several other opportunities in addition to hitting that will be explained further down. For now, we will concentrate on hitting. If the two initial cards do not suit the player, he can ask the dealer to deal one more card. After assessing the hand’s new value, the player can ask for another card. This continues until he is either satisfied with his hand and stands or his hand exceeds 21 points. In the later case, the dealer immediately removes the player’s bet from the table. When adding cards, players must keep in mind the two possible values of an Ace. For example, the Ace-3 is worth either 14 or 4. If the player hit that hand and received another Ace, the new hand would be worth either 15 or 5 (but not 25!). The player can hit again without hesitation, because he cannot possibly bust. Regardless of the number of Aces in a hand, the hand’s value can only have two possible denominations. If a hand with an Ace has two possible values, it is called soft. Otherwise, it is called hard. A hand with multiple Aces can be hard if, for example, the hand consists of A-A-4-6, which can only add up to 12.
Any hard or soft combination that adds up to 21, is considered completed.
After all the players have stood or busted, the dealer deals his own combination, as long as at least one box is still in play. Unlike the players, the dealer can’t make decisions. He is obliged to hit until the value of his cards equals 17 or more. The dealer stands on soft combinations like A-6 or A-5-3. As soon as he stands, the dealer stops taking cards. If the dealer has busted, all boxes remaining in play win. Otherwise, he compares his combination with the players’ cards, and the winner is determined.
If all the players busted, the dealer removes his single card together with the players’ cards and discards them in a pile of used cards. The dealer receives a new card for the next deal.
When the game is finished, the used cards are set aside and the new hand is dealt from the cards remaining in the shoe. Some players attempt to remember which cards have been dealt and which remain in the shoe, and this is called card counting. The decks are shuffled only when the dealer reached the cutting card, which was placed in the decks after the previous shuffle. Generally, the cutting card is placed in front of approximately one-third of the cards, which reduces the number of cards in play to around 200 to 220. After shuffling, the deck is cut and the cutting card positioned, and a new cycle of dealing begins, in casino they call it new shuffle. Joining the game is not connected in any way with the beginning of the next cycle (shuffle) and is possible before the beginning of any deal.
Once the player has been dealt the first two cards, he has a range of additional options.< /p>
If the player has a good hand, he can double his bet. After that, he automatically receives a single additional card. Futher hitting is impossible.
When the player is dealt two cards of the same value (2 threes, 2 tens, etc.), he can split them. By doing this, the player gets two combinations instead of the original one. The player has to place a bet, equal to the original one, on each new combination. So he has to place new chips—additional €100. After splitting, the player can receive one or more cards on his first hand. Upon that, he begins hitting on to the second hand.
The second card on any new hand is received automatically. After that, the player proceeds in accordance with the general rules, and can double down if he wants. Each new combination can be splitted again if the cards are of the same value. Generally, casinos limit splits to three. In other words, the maximum number of combinations played is limited to 4.
The Ace-ten combination (after splitting two Aces or two tens) is not considered blackjack, it’s valued as only 21. The special rule is applied to Aces splitting. After the second card dealt on new hand, the player can neither hit nor double. However, if another Ace is dealt, the player can split again.
If the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, he offers insurance after dealing to the players. Players who accept the offer are insuring themselves against the dealer getting blackjack. Insurance bet cannot exceed half the value of the original bet. If the dealer receives blackjack, insurance pays out 2:1. Otherwise, the insurance bet is lost.
If the player was dealt blackjack, he is not offered insurance. Instead, the dealer asks if the player wants “even money”. If the player accepts, he receives winnings equal to his original bet rather than the 3:2 payout. If he declines, he risks to lose if the dealer also receives blackjack.
If the player is dealt an unfavorable combination of two original cards, he can fold his hand at the cost of half of the original bet (€50). If the player has already splitted his cards, he cannot surrender on his new combinations.
Generally, the dealer reminds players of the chance to surrender right after dealing the original cards. If any player has hit once, nobody can surrender. However, some casinos offer more convenient rule: the player can surrender once the dealer reaches his box.