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Blackjack basics

Blackjack (Twenty-one or Vingt-et-un in French) seems to be the most popular banking casino game all around the world. It has gained part of its popularity due to the fact that the player here gets an opportunity to reduce the house edge and consequently get more profit playing blackjack. The success in this game is based not only on chance, but also on the skill of the player, knowledge of blackjack basics and use of correct basic blackjack strategy.

Rules and game progress

The game of blackjack is played at a semi-circular table with one, two or more 52-card decks. The aim of the game is to reach a total hand value of 21 and get "Blackjack", or "Natural blackjack". The player who exceeds the total value of 21 loses the game, or busts. To reach the necessary hand value players draw cards to their initial hands each comprising two cards.

Due to the rules for blackjack, the game begins when the dealer distributes the first cards to the players, starting from the one sitting on the dealer's left and continuing clockwise. When each player receives a card, the dealer gets his or her face-down ('hole') card and continues distributing cards. Finally, each player gets an initial hand of two cards. The players' cards are all dealt face-up, while the dealer gets one face-up and one face-down card.

To master blackjack basics, one should get acquainted with four basic decisions the players can make while playing blackjack. These are:

  • Hit. It means that the player chooses to take another card. It works when the player is sure that his or her total hand value won't go bust.
  • Stand.The player who is likely to go bust with another card to his hand may decide to take no extra cards.
  • Double.There is an opportunity for a player to double his or her original bet and receive a single card.
  • Split.The player who gets two cards of the same kind (like two Kings or two Sevens) may split the hand into two hands, makes an additional bet that equals the original bet and receives a card for each of the two hands.

There is an extra Surrender option offered by some casinos. According to it, the player is able to quit the game either before the dealer checks his face-down card for "Blackjack" (late surrender) or after it (late surrender). The player then loses half of the original bet.

Insurance

There is an extra side betting opportunity in blackjack called "insurance bet". In case if the dealer's face-up card is an Ace, the dealer is likely to have "Blackjack" and the players may place insurance bets making up to half of their original bets. If the dealer does have "Blackjack", all original bets lose, but the players get 2 to 1 payouts for their insurance bets. In an opposite case, the players lose their insurance bets but preserve the original ones.

One of blackjack basics is blackjack probabilities. It is crucial that the players get acquainted with the odds and probabilities of the game. One should keep in mind that the house edge in blackjack can be reduced according to the correct choice of blackjack rule variations and correct applying of basic strategy.

To reduce house edge, players may use simple charts for different odds and choose tables offering advantageous rule variations. The most favorable blackjack rule variations are:

  • Stand on 'Soft 17' when the dealer who reaches hand value of 17 (6 plus and Ace) called 'Soft 17' chooses to withhold from taking another card. This reduces house edge by about 0.2%.
  • Doubling after Split reducing the house edge by nearly 0.13%
  • Splitting/re-splitting Aces - the house edge is decreased by about 0.13%
  • Playing with one or two decks