The Rules of Blackjack
The standard black jack rules are straightforward, especially when compared to games like poker, craps or baccarat. As a result of the simplicity of the blackjack rules, it’s become one of the world’s most popular casino table games. Check out our essential guide below, including all the blackjack dealer rules you need to know.
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The Basics of the Black Jack Card Game
The blackjack card game is a table-based betting game. Usually, there is one player and a dealer competing against each other. Less common are tournaments, where there may be multiple players competing against one other.
A minimum of one standard card deck is normally used in a black jack card game. There are fairly standard black jack rules used at most casinos, although some black jack dealer rules vary between casinos.
Black Jack Rules for Card Values
The most important black jack rules are those around card values. The playing cards 2-10 carry their face value, whilst the royal picture cards are each worth 10. An ace has a changeable value of 11 or 1. The hand containing an ace is therefore known as a soft hand.
Aim of the Game – The Quick Black Jack Guide
The basic aim of black jack is to build a hand worth 21 (or the closest number to it), but not exceeding 21. Players are playing against the dealer, trying to build a hand closer to 21 than the dealer’s. Some blackjack dealer rules vary slightly at different casinos, as we will explore later.
Black Jack Dealer Rules: Dealing
To begin, the player will lay a wager using either real or virtual chips. Normal blackjack dealer rules mean two face-up cards are dealt to the player and either one or two to the dealer. If the dealer has one card, it will be put face-up, but if the dealer has two cards, only one will be put face-up. Whether the dealer has one or two cards varies from casino to casino.
The Black Jack Rules to Standing, Hitting and Bust
Once the player has seen their cards, they choose to either Stand (not add cards to their hand) or Hit (be dealt another card). The addition of the third card may cause the player to go Bust (total hand of more than 21), which means the dealer automatically wins. The player always goes first, which gives the dealer the house edge.
After the player has decided whether to Stand or Hit, the dealer then does the same. Whoever has 21, or closest to it, will be the winner. In the case that both players have reached 21, a 21 made up of a picture card and an ace will win the round.
If the dealer wins, the wager is lost. If the player wins, they are awarded a 1:1 ratio win. If the player’s winning hand contains a 21 made up of a 10 or picture card and an ace, this is known as a blackjack and they will win at a ratio of 3:2.
The Soft 17 Black Jack Dealer Rule
Oftentimes casinos apply a modern black jack dealer rule, whereby the dealer has to stand at a soft 17 (a 17 which contains an ace). This black jack dealer rule is used because it increases the house edge. You can normally find out the specific blackjack dealer rules for each casino by clicking on the game rules.
Black Jack Game Rules and Strategies
The Surrender option is a nice touch that allows players to surrender half their wager upon seeing their hand. This option is most frequently taken when the player’s total is 16 or the dealer has a face-up card of 9 or 10, as these are the two most likely instances whereby the dealer will win. However, there are no hard and fast black jack rules regarding this: a player can surrender whatever their hand.
The Double Down black jack rules may also be chosen after the initial two cards are dealt. If your cards add up to 9, 10 or 11, you can double your bet and receive one more card. Some casinos even allow players to ‘Double Down’ on any initial total, depending on which variant of this black jack rule they use.
Splitting Hands is an option players have when their original deal contains two matching pairs, e.g. two tens. They may split these to create two hands, and will be dealt two further cards, one for each hand. In order to split hands, players need to add another bet of the same amount, so there is one bet for each hand. Splitting Hands is arguably the most exciting element of modern blackjack rules.
Players have the option to lay another side bet, called an insurance bet in accordance with the black jack rules allowing it. This insures against the dealer getting a blackjack. A player is most likely to make this bet when the dealer’s face-up card is a picture card or ace.
In the case that the dealer does have a 21 blackjack, the player wins the insurance bet at a ratio of 3:2, even though they lose the main bet. This is another of the more modern and popular blackjack rules.
For more complex strategies you can visit our blackjack strategy guide.
Short History of the Black Jack Card Game
Like most card games, the exact origin of black jack is a much-debated topic. Most experts agree that the game we play today is a combination of a number of European card games. This includes the 17th century French Vingt-et-un (21), the Spanish Veintiuna (21) and the Spanish One and Thirty (31).
These card games are thought to have been taken to the US via the French émigrés of the early 20th century. There the rules evolved, eventually into the game we know and love today. The name ‘black jack’ was given when the casinos of Nevada added a rule in 1931 in order to attract new players.
In the new black jack rule, a hand of 21 made up of the ace of spades and either of the black jacks (spades or clubs) earned a huge payout of 10:1. Side bets such as the insurance bet and splitting hands, as well as the soft 17 black jack dealer rule, have been added in more recent times.
As you can see from this essential black jack guide, the black jack game rules are straightforward and easy to learn. The only differences you may encounter are the black jack dealer rules regarding the number of cards the dealer gets and whether they stand at soft 17. Once you have learned the rules, the real skill of the blackjack card game is knowing when to Stand and when to Hit.