One of the most popular casino games, Blackjack is easy to play, but the strategies are hard to master. For new players, it helps to remember that Blackjack is also called "twenty-one," because 21 is the target number that players try to reach in Blackjack.
When you're playing Blackjack, your goal is to get as close as possible to 21, without going over. If you get closer to 21 than the dealer, or if the dealer goes over, you win the hand. If you don't get as close to 21 as the dealer, or you go over 21, the dealer wins. If your hand is the same value as the dealer's hand, your wager is returned to you.
Scoring a Hand
The value of your hand is determined by the face value of the cards. Cards 2-10 have the value shown on the card. Face cards have a value of 10, and aces have a value of 1 or 11, depending on what is better for the player. When an ace is being played as an 11, the hand is said to be soft. For example, ace and three is a soft fourteen, while nine and five is a hard fourteen. While receiving a ten on a hard fourteen would make the player bust, on a soft fourteen, the hand would still have a value of fourteen, because the ace would automatically become a one.
Each player plays against the dealer. Players do not play against each other. As a result, many online casinos present blackjack as a single-player game against the computerized dealer. This is advantageous because no one is impatient if you take your time making a decision, and no one tries to claim that if you weren't playing, they would be getting better cards.
Play is simple. The dealer gives each player, including himself, two cards. The dealer has one card face up and one card face down. Generally, the player cards are dealt face up, since the dealer's decision is based on house rules and not on the player's hand. Based on their own cards and the upcard of the dealer, players determine whether to hit (draw another card) or stand (stop drawing cards). Players may hit as many times as they choose, as long as their hand's value has not gone over 21.
The dealer must draw on a hand total of 16 or less, and must stand on a hand total of 17 or more. Some casinos require dealers to draw on a soft 17.
If you draw an ace and a card valued at ten as your first two cards, you receive one and a half times your original bet. This is called a blackjack. The only exception is if the dealer also has a blackjack. Then the hand is a push or a tie.
In addition to hit or stand, there are a few special options. First, players may split. If the hand consists of two cards of the same value, the player may add to the original wager and split the hand into two separate hands. Some casinos allow splitting unmatched face cards since they have the same value, but not all casinos allow this.
If your first two cards add up to nine, ten, or eleven, you can opt to double down. This requires adding to your original bet (usually doubling the original bet). You may then receive one and only one more card.
Casinos offer a bet called insurance. If the dealer's upcard is an ace, you can choose to add to your original bet. If the dealer gets blackjack, the insurance bet pays you 2 to 1 even if you lose the hand. An insurance bet may be as much as half of the original bet. As a result, if you lose the hand, but have insurance, you end up "even" for the hand - you neither win nor lose money.