Blackjack is one of THE most famous casino card games in the world ,and for a very good reason, blackjack offers many advantages that the majority of today's casino games don't. A variable house limit that always changes with your personal class of skill is rare even for other table games. And if you add to this the power to change your risk mid-play when surrounding circumstances are in your favor, and you have a very player-friendly game.

Learning blackjack is a procedure made supremely easier with the support of the Internet. The quantity of expert advice present online, for free, is truly staggering, and thousands of competitors are learning the advantages of using free blackjack software to upgrade their game skills.

Learning how to play blackjack has never been easier than it is in this day and age. This page will tell you verything you need to know to play the game, and describe the various Blackjack Rules that can differ from one casino to another.

The Aim of Blackjack

The basic premise of the game is that you want to have a hand value that is closer to 21 than that of the dealer, without going over 21. Other players at the table are of no concern. Your hand is strictly played out against the hand of the dealer. The rules of play for the dealer are strictly dictated, leaving no decisions up to the dealer. Therefore, there is not a problem with the dealer or any of the other players at the table seeing the cards in your hand. Indeed, if you're playing at a shoe game, the player cards are all dealt face up.

A "shoe" game is where 6 or 8 decks are used. The advantage for beginners in this game is that all of the player's cards are dealt face-up in front of each player, and the dealer can help with playing questions and decisions.

The Value of Cards in Blackjack

The values of the cards contained in a deck of cards are as follows:

A card from 2 to 10 has its face value
A jack, queen, or king has a value of 10
An ace may have a value of either 1 or 11 unless a value of 11 would give a player or the dealer a score in excess of 21, in which case it has a value of one.

A standard blackjack deck shall contain 52 cards in four suits (hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades) with each suit consisting of numerical cards from 2 to 10 and a jack, a queen, a king, and an ace. Two or more decks of cards may be combined for play at blackjack.

If permitted or required by the rules of a blackjack variation game, a joker may be added to make a 53 card deck, and two or more such decks may be combined for play of the game. One or more jokers may be added to a deck, or combination of decks, for short term promotional play with the advance approval of the Director. When jokers are in use, the licensee must provide signage describing the card value(s) or usage of the jokers.

The value of a hand is simply the sum of the point counts of each card in the hand. For example, a hand containing (5,7,9) has the value of 21.

The Ace Value - Examples:

Suppose that you have the beginning hand (Ace, 6). This hand can be either 7 or 17. If you stop there, it will be 17. Let's assume that you draw another card to the hand and now have (Ace, 6, 3). Your total hand is now 20, counting the Ace as 11. Let's backtrack and assume that you had instead drawn a third card which was an 8. The hand is now (Ace, 6, 8) which totals 15. Notice that now the Ace must be counted as only 1 to avoid going over 21.

A hand that contains an Ace is called a "soft" total if the Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11 without the total going over 21. For example (Ace, 6) is a soft 17. The description stems from the fact that the player can always draw another card to a soft total with no danger of "busting" by going over 21. The hand (Ace,6,10) on the other hand is a "hard" 17, since now the Ace must be counted as only 1, again because counting it as 11 would make the hand go over 21.

Dealing the Cards

Once all the bets are made, the dealer will deal the cards to the players. He'll make two passes around the table starting at your right so that the players and the dealer have two cards each. The dealer will then flip one of his cards over, exposing its value. (As mentioned above, in a Blackjack "shoe" game, the players cards will be dealt face-up).

In the hand-held blackjack games, the player's cards are dealt face down, and the players pick up the cards. When handling the cards in a hand-held game, here are a few important things to remember:

You are only allowed to touch the cards with one hand! You must keep the cards over the table. Any cards that the dealer subsequently deals to your hand must be left on the table, not added to the cards in your hand.

Once card dealing is done, play proceeds around the table, starting at the first seat to the dealer's left, also called first base. Each player in turn indicates to the dealer how he wishes to play the hand, And After each player has finished his hand, the dealer will complete his hand, and then pay or collect the player bets.

Blackjack European NHC (No Hole Card) rule:

Some casinos in Europe do not deal the dealer's second card until each player at the table has finished his hand. Then, if the dealer makes a Blackjack, the entire player's bet, including double-downs and splits is lost.In this case, you should split Ace-Ace against a 10, but otherwise do not double or split against a dealer upcard of 10 or Ace.
Please Note that some US casinos also use this ENHC rule.

The Dealer's Hand

There are two popular rule variations that determine what totals the dealer must draw to. In any given casino, you can tell which rule is in effect by looking at the blackjack tabletop. It should be clearly labeled with one of these rules:

"Dealer stands on all 17s": This is the most common rule. In this case, the dealer must continue to take cards ("hit") until his total is 17 or greater. An Ace in the dealer's hand is always counted as 11 if possible without the dealer going over 21. For example, (Ace,8) would be 19 and the dealer would stop drawing cards ("stand"). Also, (Ace,6) is 17 and again the dealer will stand. (Ace,5) is only 16, so the dealer would hit. He will continue to draw cards until the hand's value is 17 or more. For example, (Ace,5,7) is only 13 so he hits again. (Ace,5,7,5) makes 18 so he would stop ("stand") at that point.

"Dealer hits soft 17": On all blackjack tables, the dealer hits totals of 16 or less. The difference comes at 17. Better for the player is if the dealer stands on all 17s. If the dealer hits soft 17--hands in which an Ace is counted as 11, such as Ace-6 or Ace-2-4--it adds 0.2 percent to the house edge.

Again, the dealer has no choices to make in the play of his hand. He cannot split pairs, but must instead simply hit until he reaches at least 17 or busts by going over 21.

A Natural Blackjack

A blackjack, or natural, is a total of 21 in your first two cards. A blackjack is therefore an Ace and any ten-valued card, with the additional requirement that these be your first two cards. If you split a pair of Aces for example, and then draw a ten-valued card on one of the Aces, this is not a blackjack, but rather a total of 21. The distinction is important, because a winning blackjack pays the player odds of 3 to 2. A player blackjack beats any dealer total other than a dealer's blackjack, including a dealer's regular 21. If both a player and the dealer make blackjack, the hand is a tie or push.

The Player's Choices

Blackjack Surrender Signal:

Some casinos offer an option for blackjack called blackjack surrender. A player can only surrender their hand when the dealer has an Ace or a Ten valued card showing. If you do not believe you can beat the dealer after receiving your first two cards, you can announce surrender to the dealer. You must decide to surrender your hand before you taking any other action on your hand. The surrender announcement is the only play in blackjack that is made verbally.

Blackjack Surrender types:

There are two types of surrender available:

"Late surrender" - In this type of surrender, you announce your intentions, and the dealer marks your bet, by either placing a plastic chip (lamer) or by placing your chips on top of your cards. If the dealer does have a blackjack, you lose your entire bet. However if the dealer does not have a blackjack, you get half of your bet back.

"Early surrender" - After you announce your intentions, the dealer will take half of your bet without waiting or checking to see if they have a blackjack. Obviously the "Early surrender" is the best type of surrender.

Doubling down:

When you think that with just one more card you will be able to beat the dealer, you are allowed to double your original bet and draw one, and only one card. While many casinos will permit you to double down on any initial hand except a blackjack, some casinos restrict this option to hands that total 10 or 11. To signal the dealer your intention to double down, simply play another bet up to the amount of the original bet alongside your first bet.

Blackjack Hitting:

If you feel that you require additional cards to improve your hands total, you may draw one or more cards, as long as you go over 21 (called breaking). To call for a hit, either point at your cards or make a beckoning motion with your fingers. When the hit card breaks your hand, the dealer will automatically scoop up your bet and place your cards in the discard tray, as you have lost, even if the dealer subsequently breaks.

Blackjack Standing:

Standing is the act of refusing any additional cards. The player always has the option of standing at any time. Usual

procedure consists of a hand signal rather than a verbal one. To indicate to the dealer that you wish to stand, simply wave your hand, palm down over your cards or the initial bet.

Splitting Pairs:

When the first two cards you receive are of equal value, you may elect to split them and play each as a separate hand, drawing to each until you are satisfied or break. You play the right card first followed by the left card. Most casinos only permit drawing one card when two aces are split. When a 10 value card is drawn to an ace or when an ace is drawn to a 10 value card that have been split the resulting hands are not blackjacks but are considered 21. This would tie a dealer 21 but lose to a dealer blackjack. In many casinos, if a pair is split and a third card of the same rank is drawn, the hand may be re-split. To indicate to the dealer your desire to split, merely slide up another bet of equal value next to your first wager, touching neither your cards not the original bet.