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Blackjack Rules

The basic rules of blackjack are outlined here with the intention of introducing a novice player.

Each blackjack player at the table competes only against the dealer (i.e. the bank/casino), not against other players. The often stated goal of blackjack is to draw cards until your hand adds up to 21, or comes as close as possible without exceeding 21. More realistically the true goal is simply to beat the dealer. It just so happens that usually, your best hope of beating the dealer so is to get as close to 21 as you can without going over.

If your first two cards total 21, you have been dealt a blackjack. If the dealer gets closer to 21 than you without going over themselves, the dealer wins your bet. The dealer does not have freedom to choose how to play their hand, and always follow a set of blackjack rules which apply only to the dealer. Understanding these is just as important as knowing what you can do as a player.

Before you are dealt a hand, you must place wager. At a land based casino you can place a bet by putting your chips or cash directly in the designated space in front of your table position. The dealer then deals two cards to each of the players at the table, and two to themselves. The first of the dealer's cards is dealt face up and the second is dealt face down. Face cards (kings, queens and jacks) count as 10, an ace counts as one or 11 (whichever is more advantageous to the current hand) and all other cards are counted at their face value.

In some casinos, players get both cards face down. If this is the case, be sure to only handle your cards with one hand. If the cards are dealt face up, there is no need to handle them at all, and the casino may not appreciate you touching the cards.

Since a casino can be very noisy, and because it provides video recorded confirmation of your intention, hand signals are the preferred method of signaling hit, stand, etc. There are no hard and steadfast rules to hand signals, but there are norms. If the cards are dealt face down and you want a hit, lightly draw the corner of the cards across the felt two times. If the cards were dealt face up, point at them while saying hit, or scratch the table with your finger. You may also want to nod your head in approval at the same time. To stand simply wave your hand horizontally across your cards as they lie on the table.

If the dealer's hand totals 16 or less, they must take a card. If the dealer's hand is 17 or more, they must stand. Sometimes a casino lets the dealer hit on a soft seventeen, adding to the casino edge.

Should a player get a Natural Blackjack (first 2 cards are an Ace and a ten) standard blackjack rules pay back at 3 to 2, or 1.5 to 1. This means if you were to receive a natural blackjack on a bet of £50.00 the payoff would be £75.00.

You also have the option during mid play to 'double down' after you are dealt your first two cards. To double down is to double your bet on your current hand, part way through. When you choose to double down it means you will be dealt one more card on your hand, and this will produce your final hand, with no more opportunities to hit. Some casinos only allow doubling on a total of 9, 10, or 11 although some allow doubling down on any 2-card hand. If your first two cards provide you with the appropriate total and your cards were dealt face down, turn them over and put place the same amount as your original bet down beside your other chips. For face up play simply place an equal amount of chips next to your original bet and say double. The dealer will give you one more card only, and will move on to the next hand.

If you are dealt a pair, you have the option of 'splitting' them. To do so tell the dealer and they will place your two cards a few inches apart. The original bet will go with one card and you will have to place an equal amount of chips down beside the new hand. You are now playing two hands, each as though they were independent, normal blackjack hands following standard rules. If you were splitting aces however, you only get one more card on each hand after the split. If you manage to split aces and draw a ten, it is not considered a natural Blackjack, so you don't get paid 3 to 2, but you still win.