Blackjack is a modern day casino classic, whose origins are surprisingly mysterious. The earliest reference to the game suggests that it was played around the start of the 17th Century, in Spain with later references found in France, but nobody knows the exact origins of the game of Blackjack. Here we have a look at Blackjack, casinos to play at, rules and strategies for winning.
The basic premise is well known. The object is simply to beat the dealer, whether that is by obtaining a higher total than the dealer (without going over 21, known as “busting”) or by the dealer going over 21. A pat 21 is known as “Blackjack”.
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There are slight regional differences in Blackjack rules, as well as plenty of variations such as “Spanish 21”, where the game is played with no Ten cards in the deck, but the most common rules see players being dealt two cards face up and the dealer once card up and one card down. If the croupier is dealt an Ace, players will be offered “Insurance” before the croupier checks the downcard for Blackjack. Insurance bets pay 2:1 should the house prove to have Blackjack, otherwise the bet is lost.
Assuming there is no Blackjack, players have the opportunity to act on their hands, in turn. They may “Stand”, “Hit” or “Double”. Stand simply means that a player is happy with their hand and they don’t wish to take any more cards. “Hit” means they wish to take another card before re-evaluating their hand and “Double” (or “Double Down”) is taking just one further card after doubling the bet.
Often, casinos will allow players to “Split” two cards of equal value, which essentially means starting two new Blackjack hands and requires extra chips to be bet. Some casinos allow hands to be split repeatedly, should another pair be dealt after splitting.
Some casinos allow players to “Surrender”, which means they may take back half of their bet if they don’t like their chances, but must forfeit the hand and the remainder of the bet.
Picture cards are valued at Ten, whilst other cards retain their face value. If the croupier has 17 or better, they must stand, whilst on 16 or lower they must hit. Players have the choice to stand or hit regardless of their points total.
If players are dealt Blackjack, the standard payout is 3:2. In the event of a tie, bets are returned and if a player successfully beats the dealer, they are paid at even money.
The casino’s edge depends on the exact rules being played, but by implementing the correct strategy, the edge can easily be reduced to lower than 1%. Players who learn to count cards can utilise their skills to turn Blackjack into a positive expectation game and whilst counting cards is perfectly legal, players suspected of doing so will likely be asked to leave the Blackjack tables.
Basic Blackjack strategy will depend on the exact rules involved, but here are some general rules:
- Never take insurance, never split fives or tens and always split aces and eights.
- Double down on hard eleven, ten or nine, except when the dealer is showing an ace or ten and double on soft 15 – 18 against a dealer’s 3 – 6.
- Always hit hard eleven or lower, always hit soft 17 or lower and always stand on soft 19 or more. Stand on soft 18 except against a nine, ten or ace.
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