There is one goal in blackjack and one goal only – BEAT THE DEALER! The object of blackjack is NOT, as I found prominently displayed on another website’s sorry excuse for blackjack rules section, “to get a total value of cards as close to 21 as possible without going over.” For shame!!
The main rule of blackjack is that your card total cannot go over 21 if you hope to win. But please don’t confuse this rule with the goal by trying to get a hand as close to 21 as you can…the results won’t be good. One can beat the dealer with a hand total of 2, provided that the dealer busts. Smart players know that sometimes they have a better chance of winning certain hands by standing on a 12 or 13!
In casino blackjack, you must bet before any cards are dealt. The dealer will give everyone including him or herself one card face up, then will give each player a second card also face up, and him or herself a second card face down. This face down card is known as the dealer’s hole card.
After your first two cards are dealt, you have to make a decision. Your cards in combination with the dealer’s up-card should be the basis for your decision, not your cards alone or the dealer’s cards alone.
A natural blackjack occurs when one hits 21 with the first two cards. An Ace and a 10 card (10, J, Q, or K) on the first two cards are considered a natural blackjack and is typically paid out at three to two. However, if the dealer too gets a natural blackjack, it is called a “push” (a tie where no one wins on or loses).
Hit or Stand
The main decision made on your cards, in the absence of a natural blackjack, is to hit or to stand. To hit means the dealer will give you another card. To hit you should stay the word hit clearly to the dealer, while signaling by scratching or tapping the table with your finger. To stand means that you don’t want any additional cards. When you choose to stand, tell the dealer while moving your open hand palm down over the cards.
Doubling down means to double your bet on your initial two cards and drawing only one more card to better your hand.
If your first two cards are a pair, you may want to split them into two separate hands. To do so you need to make a new, identical bet on your new hand. After you split, each new hand is treated as a independent, separate hand. Aces receive one additional card and after the split only. A blackjack after a split is not considered a natural and so does not pay extra.
If the dealer’s up-card is an ace, the player has the option to take insurance. This means betting exactly one-half your original bet that the dealer has a blackjack. If the dealer has blackjack then you win 2 to 1, effectively nullifying your original bet. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, then the dealer will win the insurance bet. That said, never take insurance. Unless you count cards, it is not statistically in your interest to do so.
When permitted by the rules, a player may give up the first two cards and lose 1/2 of his original bet rather than face losing the whole bet. There are rare cases where losing half your bet is your best bet statistically.