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How to Play Blackjack

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Blackjack is a favourite among professional gamblers because it’s a straightforward, game in which the rules are fair and easily understood. Many people, however, are intimidated by blackjack. It’s a very old game which gives it an aura of mystery. It’s played by the top gamers of the world which makes it seem inscrutable and unapproachable. And the multiple variations make many people turn around and walk away before they even start playing.

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Yet anyone can play blackjack and win. Learning the basic blackjack strategy is helpful but, as a beginning player you don’t have to start with the Strategy which may seem intimidating. Blackjack is gambling entertainment, so view it as such.  You can head to the casino and start playing immediately or you can play with a friend or in a neighborhood game for awhile to get your feet wet.

Once you start to play, chances are that you’ll want to continue.

Blackjack

Some people believe that blackjack was invented by the Romans who played the game with wooden blocks, each of which represented a different numerical value. Most historians, however, think that blackjack originated in the early 1700s, though they differ over whether the first players were from France and played it as the game of “Vingt-et-Un” (twenty-one) or in Spain where competitors played “ventiuna.” Regardless of the game’s birthplace, by the 1800s the game of “Twenty One” had caught on at European casinos and became popular in the colonies of the New World via French colonists who brought it to America’s West.   

When Nevada legalized casinos in 1931, one of the first games to be featured at the new Las Vegas casinos was Twenty-One. The casinos offered a special payout for hands that showed either of the black jacks (Jack of Spades or Jack of Clubs) plus the Ace of Spades. Such a hand paid 10-to-1 odds and although the special payout was later discontinued, the name “blackjack” stuck. Today, people call the game “Twenty One” or “Blackjack” interchangeably.

The game of blackjack has evolved over time and continues to evolve. Today many casinos feature multiple variations of the game so you can play the version that fits your specific needs and expectations.

Playing Blackjack

When describing how to play blackjack, many people says that the objective of the game is to build a hand that totals as close to 21 as possible without going over 21. That’s not exactly accurate. Playing blackjack involves beating the dealer. You want to build a hand that get as close to 21 as possible, and you don’t want to go over 21. But the goal is to beat the dealer’s hand in the process.

Blackjack can be played with one to eight decks of 52 cards. The aces are counted as either 1 point or 11 points, depending on the player’s choice. Face cards are counted as 10 points.

If, on the opening deal, you achieve a face card and an ace, you’ve achieved a “Blackjack” and you receive a blackjack payout. Blackjack trumps all other card combinations.

The game starts with your deposit. You then receive 2 cards and the dealer receives 2 cards. One card is face up and one card is face down (hole card). If either side has blackjack they win and the deal ends. If both sides have blackjack, there’s a “push” to resolve the tie.

If neither side has blackjack the gamer plays first. He can take a hit, stand, double, split or surrender.

  • Hit: An additional card is added. The player can continue to take hits as long as his card total remains less than 21. On each hit, he needs to decide whether another card will take him above the total of 21. Exceeding 21 is known as “busting” or “breaking” and causes the player to lose the hand.
  • Stand: Player “stands” (takes no more hits) with his cards.
  • Double: In some variations the player can double his bet. He then receives one (only one) more card. .
  • Surrender: In some variations the player can forfeit half of his wager if he feels that he has no possibility of winning after receiving his initial 2 cards. He can’t win, but he saves himself from losing his entire bet.
  • Split: In some variations, the player can split on a pair or on any 2 10-oint cards. He doubles his bet and then plays two separate hands. Each hand is played individually and wins or loses individually.

After the player(s) finish, the dealer plays. If the dealer goes over 21 than any player who didn’t already go bust will win. If the player’s point total is higher than the dealer, he will win. If the dealer’s point total is higher than the remaining players’, the dealer wins.

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Short-Paying

Traditionally blackjack tables pay 3 to 2 but in recent years some casinos have begun to short-pay on blackjack. They feature 6 to 5 or 7 to 5 payouts which favor the casino. Casino advisors say that the 3 to 2 rule is the standard, and that’s the only blackjack that you should play. Look for a sign at your casino or, if there’s no sign, ask.

Tips and Tricks for Blackjack

Casino consultants remind players that, to achieve the highest levels of success with their blackjack games, they should learn the Basic Blackjack Strategy which provides general rules about when to stand and when to take hits. It’s not easy to memorize the Basic Blackjack Strategy but if you start out slowly and add a little bit of the strategy every time that you play, you’ll eventually succeed in playing by the Basic Blackjack Strategy rules.

A few other tips involve

  1. Don’t take out insurance. Insurance provides you with little game and you end up paying more than it’s worth.
  2. Split on Aces or Eights. Aces and Eights gives you the best chance to build a new winning hand.
  3. Fold as needed. It’s better to fold with a bad hand and not lose too much than to start over with a new hand.
  4. Take hits on a hand in which your cards total 16 or under. Stand on hands in which your cards total 17 and up. This tip is a cornerstone of the Basic Blackjack Strategy. Since there are more cards in the deck whose value is over 5, your chances of winning rise if you take hits only on hands in which you have the most percentage of not exceeding 21.
  5. Select blackjack variations that utilize more than one deck of cards. The more cards in the game, the better the player’s chances of success.

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I have been following the Canadian Lottery for both print and visual media outlets since the lottery's 1982 launch. My research focuses on the lotto's individual character as it pertains to its individuality in each Canadian region. The lottery's rollover feature and the pick-your-own-number feature are credited to her input. I enjoy spending time visiting the communities in which the lottery operates so that I can get a sense of the kind of impact that the Canadian lotto has on the localities in which it is offered. I specialize in reporting on legal issues which affect the Canadian lottery. My journalistic investigations are cited as having played a major role in maintaining the lotteries as safe and secure gaming venues for Canadians, ensuring that the lotto remains a protected gambling entity.