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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. Any hand that goes over 21 "breaks", or is "busted", and is an automatic loser. When playing with optimal strategy, our standard six-deck blackjack has a house edge of 0. So, what happens if you and the dealer tie, with the same exact total? Depending on what the dealer makes on his hand, it can be an exciting wait to see that card revealed at the end!
Part 1 – Blackjack Basics
This hand is now a hard 17, despite having an Ace in it. Once all the bets are placed, the dealer will deal the cards to the players. He will make two passes around the table starting at his left your right so that the players and the dealer all have two cards each.
The dealer will flip one of his cards over, exposing its value as the "dealer upcard". In games dealt from a shoe, the players' cards will be face-up, and players are not allowed to touch the cards.
If you are just beginning, this is the best kind of game, because you don't have to worry about handling the cards. Hand-held games are slightly different. In these games, the players' cards are dealt face down, and players pick up the cards. When handling the cards in a hand-held game, here are a few important things to remember. Once the initial hands 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. All of those choices are explained in the next part of this series. After all of the players have finished their hands, the dealer will complete his hand, and then pay the winning bets and collect the losing bets. The dealer will first flip over the "hole card" to reveal his two-card starting hand.
The dealer is then required to play his hand in a very specific way, with no choices allowed. He must draw cards until he has a total of 17 or more. The dealer has no choice in how to play the hand.
He must continue taking cards until his total is at least A slight variation of this rule is discussed below. After flipping over the hole card, the dealer's hand was Ace, 5. That makes a hand value of 16, so he must draw another card. He drew a 7, making the hand value 13 the Ace can no longer be counted as With a total of 13, he must hit again. He drew a 6, making the hand total Since that is "17 or more", the dealer stops with a final total of If you draw a card that makes your hand total go over 21, your hand is a bust.
That is an automatic loser. The dealer will immediately collect your bet, and discard your hand. Assuming you did not bust, the dealer will play out his hand at the end. If he busts by going over 21, all the remaining players win their bets. If his total is higher than yours, you lose the bet, and he will collect your bet and put the chips in his tray.
If your total is higher than his, you win the bet, and he will pay the entire amount you have bet. After he pays you, you'll have your initial bet plus the amount you won in the circle. So, what happens if you and the dealer tie, with the same exact total? A tie is called a "push", and you do not win or lose your bet. Your chips stay in the betting circle where you can leave them for the next hand if you want, or you can add to or remove from them as you wish before the next hand.
A blackjack, or natural, is a total of 21 in your first two cards. A blackjack is therefore an Ace and any ten-valued card, with the additional requirement that these be your first two cards. If you split a pair of Aces for example, and then draw a ten-valued card on one of the Aces, this is not a blackjack, but rather a total of The distinction is important, because a winning blackjack pays the player at 3 to 2.
A player blackjack beats any dealer total other than blackjack, including a dealer's three or more card If both a player and the dealer have 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. Some casinos may postpone paying the blackjack until after the hand is over if the dealer has a 10 card up and has not checked for a dealer blackjack.
Other casinos check under both 10 and Ace dealer upcards, and would therefore pay the blackjack immediately. Regardless, when you are dealt a blackjack, turn the cards face up, and smile.
It only happens about once every 21 hands, but it accounts for a lot of the fun of the game. 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". You will be required to make hand signals rather than just announcing "hit" or "stand" to the dealer. This is to eliminate any confusion or ambiguity in what you choose, and also for the benefit of the ever-present surveillance cameras.
If you go over 21, or "bust", the dealer will collect your bet and remove your cards from the table immediately. In the face-up shoe game, you indicate that you want another card by tapping the table behind your cards with a finger.
When you decide to stand, just wave your hand in a horizontal motion over your cards. In the face-down game, things are a little different. You will hold the first two cards with one hand. To let the dealer know that you want to draw another card to your hand, scratch the table with the bottom of your cards lightly. Watch another player at first to see how this works.
The dealer will deal your additional cards on the table in front of your bet. Leave those cards on the table, but mentally add them to your total hand value. If you go over 21, just toss the two cards in your hand face up on the table. The dealer will collect your bet and discard your hand.
When you decide to stand, tuck the two cards you are holding face-down under the chips in your betting circle. This can be a bit tricky the first few times. Don't pick up the bet to place the cards underneath.
Remember, once the cards are dealt, you can't touch the chips in the circle. Simply slide the corner of the cards under the chips. Describing these moves makes them sound complicated. Just pay attention to what other players are doing and you will fit right in. Much of the excitement and profit in blackjack comes from hands where you are able to "double down". This option is available only 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 your hand. A good example of a doubling opportunity is when you hold a total of 11, like a 6,5 against a dealer's upcard of 5. In this case, you have a good chance of winning the hand by drawing one additional card, so you should increase your bet in this advantageous situation by doubling down.
If you are playing in a hand-held game, just toss your original 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. In a shoe game, he will probably deal the card sideways to indicate that this was a double-down. In a hand-held game, the card will be tucked face-down under your bet to be revealed after the hand is over. Depending on what the dealer makes on his hand, it can be an exciting wait to see that card revealed at the end!
You are allowed to double down for any amount up to your original bet amount, so you could actually double down for less if you wanted. That's a bad move though. Remember that you do give up something for being allowed to increase your bet: If the correct play is to double down, you should always double for the full amount if possible.
And just when should you double down, you ask? For that information, just use our Blackjack Basic Strategy Engine. When you are dealt a pair of cards of the same rank, you are allowed to split the pair 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. Here's a great chance to improve a bad situation.
If you are playing a hand-held game, toss the cards face-up in front of your bet just like a double down. Then, in either type of game, place a matching bet beside the original bet in the circle.
Note that you must bet the same amount on a split, unlike a double-down where you are allowed to double for less. The dealer will separate the two cards, and treat them as two independent hands. He will deal a second card on the first eight, and you will play that two-card hand to completion.
Many casinos will let you double-down on that two-card hand if you want. No matter what happens on your first hand, when you are done with it the dealer will deal a second card to your next hand and the process starts all over. If you get additional pairs in the first two cards of a hand, most casinos will allow you to resplit, making yet another hand. Typically a player is allowed 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! Note that you are allowed to split any valued cards, so you could split a Jack, Queen hand.
However, this is usually a bad play. You will make more money on the pat 20 than you will trying to make two good hands from it. I wrote a post about just that: Why Splitting Tens is a Bad Move.
Another oddity comes when splitting Aces. Splitting Aces is a very strong player move so the casino limits you to drawing only one additional card on each Ace. Also, if you draw a ten-valued card on one of your split Aces, the hand is not considered a Blackjack, but is instead treated as a normal 21, and therefore does not collect a 3: With all these limitations, you may wonder whether it makes sense to split Aces.
The answer is a resounding YES. For accurate advice on what other pairs you should split, consult the Blackjack Basic Strategy Engine. If you want to win at Blackjack, you will eventually need to learn basic strategy from a basic strategy chart or play the interactive strategy trainer. However, there are some quick rules and tips that you can learn as a beginner to decrease the house edge and formulate a strategy. Remember there are more 10 value cards 10, J, Q, K than any other cards in the deck—so when a 10 will get you close to 21 and you are against a card that is bad for the dealer, you should double.
A player 9, 10, or 11 would always be a good double when a dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5, or 6. This is because the 3, 4, 5, and 6 are starting cards that are more likely to make a dealer bust. The Ace is such a powerful card because pulling a 10 on a split will give you a Even though a 21 gained through a split is still only paid 1: Two fives total 10—which is a hand much better suited for doubling. Insurance in blackjack is often misunderstood by players, and is a big money-maker for casinos.
Naming this side-bet "insurance" was a brilliant marketing ploy, and some otherwise solid players will frequently make this bad bet to "insure" when they have a good hand. But actually, insurance is not always a bad bet. For players who can recognize when the remaining deck is rich in ten-valued cards, this can actually be a profitable side-bet.
Insurance is a proposition bet that is available only when the dealer's upcard is an Ace. When the dealer turns up 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 value card underneath his Ace, and if he does have Blackjack, your winning Insurance bet will be paid at odds of 2: You will still lose your original bet unless you also have a Blackjack , so the net effect is that you break even assuming you bet the full half bet for insurance. 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. Insurance is simply a side-bet offering 2: Not surprisingly, the casino has a substantial edge on this bet. In a single deck game, there are 16 ten-valued cards.
Assuming that you don't see any other cards, including your own, the tens compose 16 out of 51 remaining cards after the dealer's Ace was removed. That creates a 5. It's even worse in six decks with a 7.
Card counters can still beat the insurance bet, by only making the bet when they know that more than one-third of the remaining cards are tens. Unless you are card counter and know the deck is skewed sufficiently, just ignore the insurance bet. It doesn't matter whether you have a good hand or a bad hand. Getting a value card and an Ace for a score of 21 in the initial deal.
Score of 17 that includes an point Ace. Every game comes with three strategy charts: These charts are designed for our standard six-deck blackjack. When playing with optimal strategy, our standard six-deck blackjack has a house edge of 0. Single Deck Blackjack has a house edge of 0. Double Deck Blackjack has a house edge of 0. Classic Single Deck Blackjack. Classic Double Deck Blackjack. Get another card Stand: No more cards Double: Many casinos today pay blackjacks at less than 3: Blackjack games almost always provide a side bet called insurance, which may be played when dealer's upcard is an ace.
Additional side bets, such as "Dealer Match" which pays when the player's cards match the dealer's up card, are sometimes available. After receiving an initial two cards, the player has up to four standard options: Each option has a corresponding hand signal. Some games give the player a fifth option, "surrender".
Hand signals are used to assist the " eye in the sky ", a person or video camera located above the table and sometimes concealed behind one-way glass. The eye in the sky usually makes a video recording of the table, which helps in resolving disputes and identifying dealer mistakes, and is also used to protect the casino against dealers who steal chips or players who cheat. The recording can further be used to identify advantage players whose activities, while legal, make them undesirable customers.
In the event of a disagreement between a player's hand signals and their words, the hand signal takes precedence. Each hand may normally "hit" as many times as desired so long as the total is not above hard On reaching 21 including soft 21 , the hand is normally required to stand; busting is an irrevocable loss and the players' wagers are immediately forfeited to the house. After a bust or a stand, play proceeds to the next hand clockwise around the table.
When the last hand has finished being played, the dealer reveals the hole card, and stands or draws further cards according to the rules of the game for dealer drawing. When the outcome of the dealer's hand is established, any hands with bets remaining on the table are resolved usually in counterclockwise order: If the dealer's upcard is an ace, the player is offered the option of taking "insurance" before the dealer checks the hole card.
Insurance is a side bet that the dealer has blackjack and is treated independently of the main wager. The idea is that the dealer's second card has a fairly high probability nearly one-third to be ten-valued, giving the dealer blackjack and disappointment for the player. It is attractive although not necessarily wise for the player to insure against the possibility of a dealer blackjack by making a maximum "insurance" bet, in which case the "insurance proceeds" will make up for the concomitant loss on the original bet.
The player may add up to half the value of their original bet to the insurance and these extra chips are placed on a portion of the table usually marked "Insurance pays 2 to 1". Players with a blackjack may also take insurance, and in taking maximum insurance they commit themselves to winning an amount exactly equal to their main wager, regardless of the dealer's outcome. Fully insuring a blackjack against blackjack is thus referred to as "taking even money", and paid out immediately, before the dealer's hand is resolved; the players do not need to place more chips for the insurance wager.
Insurance bets are expected to lose money in the long run, because the dealer is likely to have blackjack less than one-third of the time. However the insurance outcome is strongly anti-correlated with that of the main wager, and if the player's priority is to reduce variation , they might choose to pay for this.
Furthermore, the insurance bet is susceptible to advantage play. It is advantageous to make an insurance bet whenever the hole card has more than a chance of one in three of being a ten. Advantage play techniques can sometimes identify such situations.
In a multi-hand, face-up, single deck game, it is possible to establish whether insurance is a good bet simply by observing the other cards on the table after the deal; even if there are just 2 player hands exposed, and neither of their two initial cards is a ten, then 16 in 47 of the remaining cards are tens, which is larger than 1 in 3, so insurance is a good bet. This is an elementary example of the family of advantage play techniques known as card counting.
Bets to insure against blackjack are slightly less likely to be advantageous than insurance bets in general, since the ten in the player's blackjack makes it less likely that the dealer has blackjack too. The rules of casino blackjack are generally determined by law or regulation, which establishes certain rule variations allowed at the discretion of the casino.
The rules of any particular game are generally posted on or near the table, failing which there is an expectation that casino staff will provide them on request. Over variations of blackjack have been documented. As with all casino games, blackjack incorporates a "house edge", a statistical advantage for the casino that is built into the game. The advantage of the dealer's position in blackjack relative to the player comes from the fact that if the player busts, the player loses, regardless of whether the dealer subsequently busts.
The loss rate of players who deviate from basic strategy through ignorance is generally expected to be greater. Surrender, for those games that allow it, is usually not permitted against a dealer blackjack; if the dealer's first card is an ace or ten, the hole card is checked to make sure there is no blackjack before surrender is offered. This rule protocol is consequently known as "late" surrender. The alternative, "early" surrender, gives player the option to surrender before the dealer checks for blackjack, or in a no-hole-card game.
Early surrender is much more favorable to the player than late surrender. Most medium-strength hands should be surrendered against a dealer Ace if the hole card has not been checked.
For late surrender, however, while it is tempting to opt for surrender on any hand which will probably lose, the correct strategy is to only surrender on the very worst hands, because having even a one in four chance of winning the full bet is better than losing half the bet and pushing the other half, as entailed by surrendering.
With no hole card, it is almost never correct basic strategy to double or split against a dealer ten or ace, since a dealer blackjack will result in the loss of the split and double bets; the only exception is with a pair of A's against a dealer 10, where it is still correct to split. In all other cases, a stand, hit or surrender is called for. For instance, holding 11 against a dealer 10, the correct strategy is to double in a hole card game where the player knows the dealer's second card is not an ace , but to hit in a no hole card game.
The no hole card rule adds approximately 0. The "original bets only" rule variation appearing in certain no hole card games states that if the player's hand loses to a dealer blackjack, only the mandatory initial bet "original" is forfeited, and all optional bets, meaning doubles and splits, are pushed. Each blackjack game has a basic strategy , which is playing a hand of any total value against any dealer's up-card, which loses the least money to the house in the long term.
An example of basic strategy is shown in the table below, and includes the following parameters: The bulk of basic strategy is common to all blackjack games, with most rule variations calling for changes in only a few situations. For example, if the above game used the hit on soft 17 rule, common in Las Vegas Strip casinos, only 6 cells of the table would need to be changed: A, surrender 15 or 17 vs. A, double on A,7 vs. Also when playing basic strategy never take insurance or "even money.
Estimates of the house edge for blackjack games quoted by casinos and gaming regulators are generally based on the assumption that the players follow basic strategy and do not systematically change their bet size. Most blackjack games have a house edge of between 0. Casino promotions such as complimentary matchplay vouchers or 2: Basic strategy is based upon a player's point total and the dealer's visible card.
Players may be able to improve on this decision by considering the precise composition of their hand, not just the point total. For example, players should ordinarily stand when holding 12 against a dealer 4. However, in a single deck game, players should hit if their 12 consists of a 10 and a 2. The presence of a 10 in the player's hand has two consequences: However, even when basic and composition-dependent strategy lead to different actions, the difference in expected reward is small, and it becomes even smaller with more decks.
Using a composition-dependent strategy rather than basic strategy in a single deck game reduces the house edge by 4 in 10,, which falls to 3 in , for a six-deck game. Blackjack has been a high-profile target for advantage players since the s.
Advantage play is the attempt to win more using skills such as memory, computation, and observation. These techniques, while generally legal, can be powerful enough to give the player a long-term edge in the game, making them an undesirable customer for the casino and potentially leading to ejection or blacklisting if they are detected. The main techniques of advantage play in blackjack are as follows:. During the course of a blackjack shoe, the dealer exposes the dealt cards.
Careful accounting of the exposed cards allows a player to make inferences about the cards which remain to be dealt. These inferences can be used in the following ways:.