I. Beginner's - Black Jack
A GUIDE TO BLACK JACK
Here you will find some basic information about the game Black Jack.
There are also some strategy tips and links to other Black Jack sites.
How it works
The game of casino blackjack, or 21, is by far the most popular table game
offered in gambling establishments. If you are unfamiliar with the rules of
casino blackjack, or simply need some clarification on the finer points,
you've come to the right place! This page will tell you everything you need
to know to play the game, and describe the various rules that can differ
from one casino to another.
Object of the game
The basic objective of the game is that you want to have a hand value that
is closer to 21 than that of the dealer, without going over 21. Other
players at the table are of no concern. Your hand is strictly played out
against the hand of the dealer. The rules of play for the dealer are
strictly dictated, leaving no decisions up to the dealer. Therefore, there
is not a problem with the dealer or any of the other players at the table
seeing the cards in your hand. Indeed, if you're playing at a shoe game,
the player cards are all dealt face up. In any event, when you're just
learning to play, don't hesitate to show the dealer or other players your
cards and ask questions.
Choosing a table
Before playing the game, you'll need to find an appropriate table at which
to play. If you're a newcomer to this process, there are a few items to
keep in mind. You'll want to pay attention to several details about each
table that you approach. The most important item is the sign declaring
betting limits. Both the minimum and the maximum allowable bets should
be clearly posted on a sign on the table top. Look around to find a table
that suits your bet sizes. Often, you'll find that the lower limit ($3 or $5)
tables are quite crowded. In most casinos, the signs are color coded to
match the minimum bets posted on them: Next, you'll want to make sure
that the table you have selected is actually for blackjack, and not another
of the various table games offered at the casino. Blackjack tables will
almost certainly have the phrase "Blackjack pays 3 to 2" printed on the
table felt. The next item to observe is the type of game being dealt.
Beginners are usually better off playing the "shoe" games where 6 or 8
decks are used. The advantage for beginners in this game is that all of the
player's cards are dealt face up in front of each player, and the dealer can
help with playing questions and decisions.
Once you are seated at a table, you'll need to purchase some chips from
the dealer for your bets. Wait for a break in the action, and place your
cash out in front of you on the table felt. (Some casinos might make you
wait until the dealer shuffles to join the game). An appropriate buy in
amount is anywhere from 10 to 20 times your average bet. Don't try to
hand your cash to the dealer. For security reasons, he can't take anything
from your hands. Simply lay the cash on the table; he'll pick it up and
change it for an equal value of playing chips. You won't be getting any
change back either. He'll change the entire amount; push the chips across
the table to you.
Take a quick look at the chips to make sure that you know the values, and
that you were given the correct amount for your cash. If you have any
questions, just ask the dealer. Part of his job is to help players learn
Values of the cards
In blackjack, the cards are valued as follows:
An Ace can count as either 1 or 11.
The cards from 2 through 9 are valued as indicated.
The 10, Jack, Queen, and King are all valued at 10.
The suits of the cards do not have any meaning in the game.
The value of a hand is simply the sum of the point counts of each card in
the hand. For example, a hand containing (5, 7, and 9) has the value of 21.
The Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11. You need not specify which
value the Ace has. It's assumed to always have the value that makes the
best hand. (A hand that contains an Ace is called a "soft" total if the Ace
can be counted as either 1 or 11 without the total going over 21.
Making a bet
On the table felt in front of your position, you'll find a circle or box for your
bets. Before each hand begins, place your desired bet into the circle in one
stack. If you are betting multiple denominations of chips, place the larger
valued chips on the bottom of the stack, and the smaller value chips on
top. Once the cards have been dealt, you aren't allowed to touch the bet
in the circle. If you need to know how much you have bet for doubling or
splitting (explained later), the dealer will count down the chips for you.
Once the hand is over, the dealer will move around the table to each
position in turn, paying winners and collecting the chips from losing hands.
After the dealer has paid you, you can remove your chips from the circle,
and place your next bet. If you want to let your winnings "ride", you'll need
to form one stack of chips from the two or more stacks on the table after
the dealer pays you.
The deal of the cards
Once all the bets are made, the dealer will deal the cards to the players.
He'll make two passes around the table starting at his left (your right) so
that the players and the dealer have two cards each.
In the shoe games, the players cards will be dealt face up, and the players
are not allowed to touch the cards. If you're just beginning, you'll probably
want to start at the shoe game where you don't have to worry about
handling the cards.
In the handheld games, the player's cards are dealt face down, and the
players pick up the cards. When handling the cards in a handheld game,
here are a few important things to remember. You are only allowed to
touch the cards with one hand. You must keep the cards over the table.
Any cards that the dealer subsequently deals to your hand must be left on
the table, not added to the cards in your hand. Once the cards are dealt,
play proceeds around the table, starting at the first seat to the dealer's
left, also called first base. Each player in turn indicates to the dealer how
he wishes to play the hand.
How the dealer plays his hand
The dealer must play his hand in a specific way, with no choices allowed.
There are two popular rule variations that determine what totals the
dealer must draw to. In any given casino, you can tell which rule is in effect
by looking at the blackjack tabletop. It should be clearly labeled with one
of these rules: "Dealer stands on all 17s": This is the most common rule. In
this case, the dealer must continue to take cards ("hit") until his total is 17
or greater. The dealer has no choices to make in the play of his hand. He
cannot split pairs, but must instead simply hit until he reaches at least 17
or busts by going over 21. If both a player and the dealer make blackjack,
the hand is a tie or push. The dealer will usually pay your winning blackjack
bet immediately when it is your turn to play. In the face down games, this
means that you should show the blackjack to the dealer at that time. .
One of the least common decisions, but it is appropriate to begin with
surrender, because this decision must be made before any other choice
about playing your hand. Surrender offers you as a player the choice to
fold your hand, at the cost of half of the original bet. You must make that
decision prior to taking any other action on the hand. For example, once
you draw a third card, or split, or double down, surrender is no longer an
The most common decision a player must make during the game is
whether to draw another card to the hand ("hit"), or stop at the current
total ("stand"). The method you use to indicate your decisions to the
dealer depend on which kind of game you are playing.
In the face up shoe game, you indicate that you want another card by
tapping the table behind your cards with a finger. You'll be required to
make the hand signals, rather than just announcing "hit" or "stand" to the
dealer.. If you go over 21, or "bust", the dealer will collect your bet, and
remove your cards from the table immediately. When you decide to stand,
just wave your hand in a horizontal motion over your cards. The
descriptions are a lot tougher than the actual play. Just pay attention to
what other players are doing and you'll fit right in.
Among the more profitable player options available is the choice to "double down". This can only be done with a two card hand,
before another card has been drawn. Doubling down allows you to double your bet and receive one, and only one, additional card to the hand.
If you are playing in a face down game, just toss the two cards face up on the table in front of your bet.
In either type of game, add an additional bet to the betting circle. Place the additional bet adjacent to the original bet, not on top of it.
The dealer will deal one additional card to the hand. Players are allowed to double down for any amount up to the original bet amount,
so you could double down "for less" if you wanted.
When you are dealt a matching pair of cards (remember, ignore the suits), you have the ability to split the hand into two separate hands,
and play them independently. Let's say you are dealt a pair of eights for a total of sixteen. Sixteen is the worst possible player hand,
since it is unlikely to win as is, but is very likely to bust if you draw to it. If you get additional pairs (in the first two cards of
a hand most casinos will allow you to replete making yet another hand. The most common rule allows a player to split up to 3 times,
making 4 separate hands, with 4 separate bets. If double after split is allowed, you could have up to 8 times your initial bet on the
table if you chose! Some casinos restrict re-splitting, and some allow unlimited splitting. Splitting Aces is a very strong player move,
so the casino restricts you to drawing only one additional card on each Ace.
Insurance and Even Money
Insurance is perhaps the least understood of all the commonly available rules for Blackjack. This is not necessarily a bad thing because
the insurance bet is normally a poor bet for the player, with a high house advantage. However, that's not always the case.
If the dealer turns an up card of an Ace, he will offer "Insurance" to the players. Insurance bets can be made by betting up to half
your original bet amount in the insurance betting stripe in front of your bet. The dealer will check to see if he has a 10_value card
underneath his Ace, and if he does have Blackjack, your winning Insurance bet will be paid at odds of 2:1. ) This is why the bet is
described as "insurance", since it seems to protect your original bet against a dealer blackjack. Of course, if the dealer does not
have blackjack, you'll lose the insurance bet, and still have to play the original bet out. The basic strategy player should simply
never take the insurance bet, even the "even money" variety. "Card counters" on the other hand can often detect situations where more
than one third of the remaining cards are ten valued, and the bet is then a profitable one.
So, unless you know the bet is favorable, just ignore it.
When you're finished playing, you'll want to take your chips to the cashier to exchange them for cash.
If you have groups of smaller denomination chips in front of you, the dealer will probably want to "color up" your chips.
This simply means exchanging groups of smaller denomination chips for larger valued chips.
Wait until the end of a hand, and then simply push your chips out in front of you between the betting boxes,
so it can't be confused for a bet. The dealer will count down the chips, and return to you a smaller stack of chips of equal value.
You can take these to the cashier for cash, or to another table for more play.
That's really all there is to know. If you've never played the game before, it can be a little intimidating at first.
Just sit down at a table with a friendly looking dealer and give it a try. After 10 minutes, all these details will be easy.
Like many things, it's easier done than said!
The history of the game.
Black Jack is known the world over as vingt-et-un, 21, pontoon, California Aces or in America as Black Jack.
Blackjack is a European game. Many believe it is a variation of a French game called "Vingt-Un".
Two of blackjack's nicknames, "Van John" and "Pontoon" can sound much like a corruption of the French game.
Blackjack itself is a nickname for the game of twenty-one.
This nickname arose due to the practice of casinos paying a bonus to hands consisting of an Ace and a Jack of spades (a Black Jack).
The basic rules and some variations.
There are plenty of rules variations that may affect your odds of winning. The single most important variation to consider from
one casino to another is the number of decks employed. The rule of thumb is the fewer decks the better. The use of four decks
reduces your odds by 0.54% compared to a one deck game.
Another rule is the policy concerning dealer hands of soft 17. The most common rule is that the dealer stands on all 17s (including soft hands)
which is good from the player's point of view. Casinos that allow their dealers to hit on soft 17 hurt your chances of winning by 0.2%
compared to those who don't.
Some casinos allow the player to double down after splitting a pair. That rule improves your odds by 0.1% (it's not much, but still...).
Simple basic strategy tips and charts, and also some advanced strategies.
Black Jack's "best odds", also called the Basic Strategy Total of 5, 6, 7, and 8 always hit.
Total of 9 double down if dealer shows deuce thru six, otherwise hit.
Total of 10 Double down if dealer shows Deuce thru nine, otherwise hit.
Total of 11 always double down.
Total of 12 Stand if dealers shows Four thru Six, otherwise hit.
Total of 13 thru 16 Stand if dealer shows Deuce thru Six, otherwise hit.
Total of 17 thru 20 Always stand.
Soft total of 13 thru 16 Double down if dealer shows four thru six, otherwise hit. Soft total blackjack and hard total blackjack.
Ace and Six Double down if dealer shows Deuce thru six, otherwise hit. Ace and six blackjack strategy.
Ace and Seven Double down if dealer shows three thru six. Stand if dealer shows Deuce, Seven or Eight. Hit if dealer shows Nine, Ten or Ace.
Ace and seven blackjack.
Ace and Eight Double down if dealer shows six, otherwise stand.
Ace and Nine Always stand.
Ace and Ace Always split Aces.
Deuce and Deuce Split if dealer shows three thru seven, otherwise hit.
Three and Three Split if dealer shows four thru seven, otherwise hit.
Four and Four Double down if dealer shows five or six, otherwise hit. (If double not allowed split if dealer shows five or six)
Five and Five Double down if dealer shows Deuce thru nine, otherwise hit. Pair of gambling fives on blackjack.
Six and Six Split if dealer shows Deuce thru six, otherwise hit.
Seven and Seven Split if dealer shows Deuce thru seven, otherwise hit.
Eight and Eight Always split Eights.
Nine and Nine Stand if dealer shows Ace, Seven or Ten, otherwise split.
Ten and Ten always stand on Tens.
To put it differently, here are the six basic strategy rules for splitting:
1. Always split aces and 8s.
2. Split 2s and 3s against a dealer up-card of 4 to 7.
3. Never split 4s, 5s, or tens.
4. Split 6s against a dealer up-card of 3 to 6.
5. Split 7s against a dealer up-card of 7 or less.
6. Always split 9s, except against a dealer up-card of 7, ten, or ace.
Here are the basic strategy rules for standing with a hard hand:
1. Stand on 13 against 2 or 3.
2. Stand on 12 against 4 to 6.
3. Stand on 17 against 7 to ace.
V. Card counting
Card counting isn't really a topic for beginners, but here is some basic information about card counting anyway.
It may help you decide if card counting is something you should try or not.
Playing basic strategy correctly is often enough to get a basically even game, however to achieve a long term advantage for the player,
card counting techniques must be used. There is no point in trying to learn how to count cards without first knowing the basic
strategy correctly, so make sure you first know the basics before attempting to learn advanced techniques.
Most people think that card counting means that you have to memorize every card as it's played. Fortunately, there is a much simpler way.
It requires no memorization at all, just some very simple arithmetic. The key is to assign a plus or minus value to each card in the deck,
then to total these values as each card is dealt. All the cards from the 2s to the 6s hurt your chances of winning.
It's to your advantage to have those cards removed. For that reason, you will assign a +1 value to each of these cards and add +1 to
your count each time one of these cards goes out of play by being dealt to someone's hand.
The tens and aces are the cards most favorable to the player. Each time one is removed, your chances of winning the next hand suffer.
Therefore, you will assign every ten and ace a -1 value and add -1 to your count each time one of those cards is dealt.
The remaining cards, 7s, 8s, and 9s, have so little impact on your chances of winning that we will assign them a value of zero.
The point values you have to remember for this count system are as follows:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
+1 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 0 -1 -1
Through the game, you keep a running computation of each card as it is dealt. Your count begins at zero before any cards have been dealt
from the deck or shoe.
You must re-calculate your running count when playing in a multiple-deck game. You keep a running count just like in a single-deck game,
however before deciding how much to bet on a hand you must first convert the running count into a true count. You do this by dividing the
count by the approximate number of decks still un-dealt. You can either look at the shoe and estimate about how many decks are left in it,
or you could look at the discard rack to get an idea of how many decks that are left in the shoe. The total you arrive at is your true count.
Your disadvantage is usually about 0.5% at the start of a new shoe, and your odds improve with about 0.5% for each true count.
For example, your advantage would be about 1.0% with a true count of +3.