The most popular table game in every casino in the U.S. is Blackjack. This may be due to the fact that people can easily learn to play it at home and practice it in their own living rooms before going to a casino. However, there are differences to pay attention to when you go to a casino that can make you walk away with winnings or sadly lose.
When you sit down at the blackjack table, you’ll be facing the dealer and there will be seats for 4 more players to join you. However, even if you are the only one there, you can still play. Every player is dealt 2 cards at the start of the game. In some casinos they are dealt face-down and in others face-up.
- If the cards are face-down, you may pick them up to see what they are.
- If they are face-up, you are not allowed to touch the cards.
- The dealer will get one card face-down and one face-up
The goal of the game is to get as close to a total value of the cards in front of you of “21” without going over it plus having a higher total than the dealer.
The game is played with standard English 52-card decks of cards. Each numerical card is worth its face value – 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 – and the face cards – K, Q, J – are worth 10. The Ace is worth either 1 or 11.
The rules in Blackjack are fairly simple. The goal of the game is to take as many cards as you wish to hit 21 or get as close to as you can without going over 21. Some hands are easy to decide if you want to get another card or not. Others are really a matter of guessing, logic or any combination of both. So, here are some tips to help you beat the dealer’s hand:
- If the 2 cards you are dealt are a King and an Ace, you have already reached “21” and you don’t want any other cards.
- If you have a total of “17” or better, the probability of getting another card is that you will go over “21”
- If the total of your first 2 cards is 13, 14, 15, you have a 50/50 chance of getting a card between the numbers 2 – 5 and a slightly less positive chance of getting a card between 6 – 8. Keep in mind, if you have 15, you don’t want a 7 or greater.
- If you have a total value of “16” in your hand, as difficult as it is do not take another card. More players lose on the “16” and “12” than any other starting total.
- If your total is 12, there are plenty of “experts” that will tell you to ask for Hit. That’s because professional gamblers consider “12” a losing hand no matter what decision you make.
The dealer has 2 definite rules to follow:
- He must show you his hand immediately before allowing any other bets or cards dealt to players if he has “21”
- He must draw enough cards in his own hand to reach “17” or better.
The dealer turns his cards face up and draws to 17 or better after all other players have taken all the cards that they want.
Getting the Motions Down
Unlike poker and other games, hand signals are required to signal either hit or stay to the dealer. You may also say it but it is important that the Pit Boss and visual monitor in the sky knows what you are saying to the dealer. Since the Pit Boss may be on the other end of the Pit (the space behind all the blackjack tables), he cannot hear you but he does see you. This is for your protection as well as for the casinos protection.
- Hit me – is done by motioning with your hand in a “come here” signal or scratching with your fingers next to your cards in that same “over here” motion
- Stay – is done by sweeping your stretched out hand across your cards TOWARD the dealer in a sideways motion to clearly indicate “no more”. Some players simply use the flat of their hand in a sharp, straight motion over the cards moving toward the dealer.
Just make sure that your signals are sharp and clear instead of wobbly and easily mistaken.
- Know the Table Limits – As hard as it may be to believe, a common mistake among players occurs before any cards are dealt. They find that they are sitting at the wrong table. It’s not too bad if you intended to sit at a $2 table and find yourself on $5 table but it is extremely embarrassing when you intend to play at a $5 table and sit at a $25 table. Before you sit, read the sign that tells you what the minimum bet is.
- Playing Over the Maximum Limit – If you are playing at the $100 table there may be a maximum bet limit as well. If you wish to wager more than the maximum, ask the dealer for permission. He will ask the Pit Boss and if the Pit Boss approves, you can play unlimited. The Pit Boss will stand by the dealer’s side the entire time that you are playing over the max limit to protect both you and the house from any funny business. ** To play more than the limit on all other tables, you must change to another table
- Buying Insurance – You will see the word “Insurance Pays 2 to 1” on the table felt. When the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, he will ask all the players “Insurance?” before he looks at his down card. The reason for this is that if his down card is a face card or a 10, you lose unless your cards total “21” as well and then you have a “push” or tie instead of a win. If you want “insurance”, you will have to pay ½ the amount of your bet on the table. After the dealer asks for insurance, he will check his down card for the first time.
Here are few things that you should never do.
- Never reach across the table to touch the dealer or his cards
- Never Hit on 16 or better – if you have 16 and the dealer has to draw to reach 17, you have a decent chance that he’ll go over and you’ll win
- Never split anything less than a 10 or Face Card
- Never take insurance because the odds are in your favor that the dealer does not have 21
These are pretty simple and mainly are just good Casino etitquette.
- Always tip your dealer before he leaves the table
- Always be polite to the other players and the dealer
Blackjack Winning Strategies
There are several ways to play after you decide that you want another card. By the way, you can take as many cards as you want one after another before the dealer moves onto the next player.
- Double Down – If your first 2 cards total is “10”, then you may choose to double your bet and take one more card. One and only one more card may be drawn.
If the next card you get is a “2”, you end up with a maximum total of “12” and you cannot take another card at this point. On the other hand, if your total is “10” and you get an ace or face card, you’re in pretty good shape to win.
There are people that will tell you to double down on “9” as well, but it is pretty poor advice because the best you can get at that point is “20” and the dealer can draw to “21”. Remember, the dealer draws last and as long as his total is less than “17” he will be taking cards.
- Splitting – you can split any pair and create a second hand. You must also bet the an equal amount to the original bet for the second hand.
The dealer will give you one card on the first hand and at that time, you must decide if you want to have him Hit you or if you want to Stay. Then, he will give you a card on the second hand and you must decide the on that one. Each hand is played individually.
If you are splitting 7’s and the second card on your first hand is a 3, you’ll have a “10”. You may now Double Down on that hand or not. If you get a 10, you’ll have 17 and should not ask for a Hit at that point.
Often, players are betting that they’ll get a 10 or face card to match the Ace and end up with “21”. That only happens about 30% of the time, though. But, its better to have 18 than 12.
Do I have to leave my winnings on the table in view of the dealer at all times?
No. There is some weird rumour that you cannot take the chips off the table until you leave, but that is not true. Pit Bosses don’t like it but they will not stop you from doing so. Remember, if you play your winnings, you are NOT playing “house money”, you are playing “your money”. All the chips that belong to the “house” are in the dealer’s tray – and you will never be able to get to it for an instant!