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Black Jack

blackjackBlack Jack, also known as Blackjack, is a card game offered by pretty much all casinos – online and offline. It is very easy to learn the basics, but the game is also complex enough to leave room for long-term improvement and skill development.

When you play Blackjack, a hand worth 21 points is the best hand. Also, a 21 point hand consisting of just an ace + a ten point card is worth more than any other 21 point hand – and is called Blackjack, just like the game itself.

A blackjack table has room for several players, but you don’t play against each other. If your hand is better than the dealer’s hand, you will get paid, regardless of how great or poor the hands of the other players are.

The cards

Blackjack is played with the standard (French) 52 card deck. No jokers or other wild cards are used in standard Black Jack.

How many decks of card that are mixed together at the blackjack table varies from one table to another. Single deck black jack is quite unusual but do exist. Black Jack with many decks, such as six or eight, is much more common.

The point system

Card Point value
Ace1 or 11 points, depending on what’s best for the hand
Duce2 points
Tree3 points
Four4 points
Five5 points
Six6 points
Seven7 points
Eight8 points
Nine9 points
Ten10 points
Jack10 points
Queen10 points
King10 points

A Black Jack is a hand consisting of one Ace + one 10 point card. Even though 11 + 10 is 21, a Black Jack hand is worth more than any other 21 point hand.

Example: You have Queen + Ace, the dealer has Ace + 5 + 5. You win, because your Black Jack is worth more than her 21 point hand.

Playing Black Jack

This is a commonly used step-by-step guide, but details can vary from one casino to another. For more information about splitting, doubling and insurance, see below.

  1. All players place their bets.
  2. The dealer (croupier) deals two cards to each player and two cards to herself. The players get both cards face up, the dealer gets one card face up and the other card face down.black jack
  3. The player seated to the far right starts making decisions about their hand. They can chose to stay or ask for a third card. The player is allowed to continue to ask for cards until the hand reaches 21 points or more.If the hand reaches more than 21 points, the hand is “over” and the player instantly loses their bet. The dealer will remove the cards and the hand will no longer be in play. Even if the dealer also go “over” at the end of the round, this will not change the fact that this player has lost his entire bet on this hand.
  4. When the player in control of the first hand has either stopped asking for cards (“stayed”) or gone over, it is time for player in control of the second hand to make decisions. Then its time for the third hand, and so on, until all players have made their decisions.
  5. The dealer will now reveal the value of her second card. What happens next depends on the value of her hand. Unlike players, the dealer is not allowed to make decisions – she must follow strict rules about when to stay and when to give herself another card. In most casinos, the dealer is obliged to take a card if the hand is worth 16 points or less, and obliged to stay if the hand is worth 17 points or more. These rules are often printed on the Black Jack table.
  6. The dealer will now compare her hand to each player hand and act accordingly.- If the dealer goes over 21 points, all player hands that are still in play get paid.- If the dealer doesn’t go over, she will take the bets from every hand that is lower than her hand. She will then pay every hand that is higher than her hand.

What happens if there is a tie? That depends on the rules of the individual casino. In some casinos, the player gets to keep their money. In others, they lose. There are also casinos where the player loses the bet if there is a tie on 17, 18 or 19, but not on 20 or higher. Always check the rules before you start playing. Also remember to check the rules for a soft dealer hand, i.e. a hand that contains an ace that can count as either 1 or 11 without the hand going over.

As you can see, the important thing is to come closer to 21 than the dealer. Many novice players get confused about this point and think they have to be very close to 21 to win, which causes them to play contra-productively risky. Sometimes, staying on 16 is what will get you paid.

How much can I win?

This depends on the rules of the table, but it is very common for casinos to pay 1:1 (100%) on ordinary wins and 3:2 (150%) on blackjack wins.

Example:

  • Your bet is €100. Your hand is 18 points and the dealer’s hand is 17 points. You get paid €100. You now have €200 on the table in front of you.
  • Your bet is €100. Your hand is a Black Jack and the dealer’s hand is 17 points. You get paid €150. You now have €250 on the table in front of you.

Some Black Jack tables offer various special wins to attract players. There can for instance be a special prize for a hand consisting of 7-7-7 or if you manage to get a five-card hand without going over 21 points. These sort of extra payments originated very early in Black Jack history, when the game was still called Twentyone. One of these gimmicks that became very popular in North America was a big payment for a hand consisting of a black jack + a black ace. This turned out to be a very popular feature among the gamblers, and the game eventually became known as Black Jack. Today, it is unusual for casinos to make any distinction between red and black cards in Black Jack, or pay extra for a Black Jack containing a Jack instead of any other 10-point card.

Splitting

splitting in black jackAt some Black Jack tables, you are allowed to split your original hand into two hands if your two first cards in the original hand are of the same value.

If you chose to split the hand, you must make a new bet of exactly the same size as the original bet – no bigger and no smaller. The dealer will separate your two starting cards from each other, and each of them will form the basis of a new hand. You then get a second card on the first card, and play it out just like a normal hand. When this hand is finished, you get a second card on the other hand, and play it out just like a normal hand.

In some casinos, you are allowed to split a hand that has already been split.

Example: You get 8+8 and decide to split them. Your next card is another 8, and you elect to split again. You will now have three hands to play. For each split you do, you have to make a new bet.

Splitting aces

Most casinos have a special rules for splitting aces, stipulating that if you elect to split aces, you only get one more card on each ace.

Doubling

At some Black Jack tables, you are allowed to double your bet after seeing your two first cards, provided that the value of that hand is within a certain range, typically 7 points – 11 points. If you elect to double your bet, you only get one more card on that hand.

Insurance

If the dealer’s open-face card is an ace, the player can elect to purchase insurance. Purchasing insurance for a hand will cost the player the equivalent of 50% of the bet on that hand. So, if you want to insure a hand where the bet is $50, you have to pay a $25 insurance premium.

  • If you have insurance and the dealer gets a blackjack, you get paid 2:1, and you also keep the insurance premium. This means that if you paid $25 for insurance, you get paid $50, and you get to keep the insurance premium, so you now have $75.
  • If you have insurance and the dealer doesn’t get a blackjack, you lose the insurance premium.

What happens to the insured hand is not impacted by the insurance; the bet on that hand is treated just as it would without the insurance. The insurance is a type of sidebet.

Basic guide for Black Jack

This is a basic guide for Black Jack, based on the statistical chance of getting certain cards. Advanced Black Jack players use more complex strategies, and can also incorporate splitting and insurance. This is especially true for players skilled at card-counting, playing at offline Black Jack tables that doesn’t utilize continuous mixing of the decks.

Please note that following this guide does in no way guarantee that you will make a profit from playing Black Jack. Also, how large the house’s (casino’s) statistical advantage can vary significantly from one table to another, depending on the table rules.

In the table below, the term hard denotes a hand without an ace, while soft is a hand with at least one ace.

Your hand is The dealer’s open card is The dealer’s open card is
2, 3, 4, 5 or 67, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K or Ace
Hard 4-8Take cardTake card
Hard 9DoubleTake card
Hard 10-11Double if higher than the dealer’sDouble if higher than the dealer’s
Hard 12-16StayTake card
Hard 17-21StayStay

Your hand is The dealer’s open card is The dealer’s open card is
2, 3, 4, 5 or 67, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K or Ace
Soft 13-15Take cardTake card
Soft 16-18DoubleTake card
Soft 19-21StayStay

 

Should I split?

Summary: Never split fours, fives and 10 point cards. Always split eights and aces. For the remaining doubles, only split if the dealer’s card is 2-6.

Your hand is The dealer’s open card is The dealer’s open card is
2, 3, 4, 5 or 67, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K or Ace
22

33

66

77

99

SplitDont’ split
88

Ace-Ace

SplitSplit
44

55

10 points – 10 points

Dont’ splitDont’ split

Should I buy insurance?

Generally speaking, the statistics suggests that you should avoid risking money on insurance. With that said, there are some advanced Black Jack players that occasionally, when motivated, incorporate insurance in their BJ strategy.