To play blackjack, you need at least one standard deck of 52 playing cards, booty such as money or chips, and at least two people: a dealer and a player. Only one dealer is necessary regardless of the number of players.
How Does Blackjack Work?
The object of blackjack is simple–whoever comes the closest to twenty-one points without going over wins the hand.
A hand begins with players making bets. Once bets are placed, the dealer gives the players two cards then deals himself two cards, one face-up, the other face-down. The players can then either hit or stand. If a player hits, she gets another card. If she stands, the dealer reveals his hidden card and then hits until he beats the player’s card or goes over twenty-one. Dealers typically stand on seventeen.
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Each card has a different point value: number cards are worth their numerical values, face cards are all worth ten points, and aces either one or eleven points, whichever is more advantageous.
If a hand with an ace could be played either way without busting, it’s called “soft”: A five and an ace make a soft sixteen or six. An ace hand that can only be player one way is “hard”: A five, ten and ace make a hard sixteen.
Going over twenty-one points is a “bust” and an automatic loss. When the dealer and the player tie at the end of the hand, it’s called a “push” and the player gets her money back.
For example, the player starts with a two and a jack, equaling twelve points, and the dealer’s showing a nine. The player hits and gets a seven, bringing her total to nineteen. Since this is close to twenty-one, she stands here.
The dealer flips his hidden card revealing an ace, giving him twenty (9+11). He stands on this and the player is defeated.
While most common, hit and stand are not the only options. “Doubling down” allows the player to increase their bet by up to 100% in exchange for receiving one more card then automatically standing. Doubling down on nearly any hand, especially if the dealer has a high-value card showing, is considered good aggressive strategy.
If you are dealt two identical cards to open a hand, like two fours, you can split them, or play each of them as a separate bet against the dealer. If the new hand also contains identical cards, you may place a new bet and “re-split.”
If the dealer shows an ace, you can buy insurance, or make side bet paying 2:1, that the hidden card is worth a ten, giving the dealer a two-card twenty-one, or blackjack. If you win the bet, you get double your money; if you lose, you at least know the dealer does not have blackjack.
Surrendering ends the hand immediately and gives the player half her bet back. Surrendering can only be done on the first move and is always considered bad strategy.