The basic premise of blackjack is that you must try to get a hand value as close to 21 as possible without going over 21 - which is called 'busting'. Traditionally every player plays against the dealer only, and if you obtain a higher card total than the dealer without busting, you win your bet.
All cards are taken at face value with picture cards being worth 10. An ace may be valued as 1 or 11. Blackjack is the best hand possible, and consists of an Ace with any 10 value card. Different suits have no difference in value. All bets are paid at even money, except blackjack which pays 3-2.
Only one deck of 52 cards is needed to play, but at a casino there will usually be anything from 4 to 8 decks in play. This allows up to 7 hands to be played concurrently without shuffling too often. In most online blackjack games the cards are continuously shuffled at the end of each hand.
Here is a simplified explanation of how a blackjack hand would usually progress;
- Each player places their bet on the player box in front of them. Up to 7 players may play at once.
- The dealer deals 2 cards to each player, one at a time. The dealer will also deal themself either one (European rules) or two (Vegas rules) cards in turn. If two cards are dealt to the dealer, the second is kept face down.
- Each player is given the option to either 'hit' or 'stand' on their hand. To 'hit' means take another card, to 'stand' means that the player is happy with their hand total and needs no further cards.
- If a player hits and their hand total goes over 21, they bust and lose their bet for that hand. A player may hit as many times as they like providing their hand total does not go over 21.
- Certain hands may have the option for additional bets according to the rules of the blackjack game being played.
The most common extra bets are;
- Split - if the first two cards dealt have the same value, you may split them into two hands by betting the same amount again. Each split hand is then played separately against the dealer
- Double Down - depending on the rules of the game being played, a player may bet an additional amount up to the value of their original bet and receive just one more card. In European rules, this option is available only on an original hand total of 9,10 or 11.
- Once each player has acted on their hand in turn, the dealer will turn over their second card if necessary and then hit on their hand according to a pre-defined set of rules. In most casinos the dealer will stand when a total of 17 or greater is reached. Sometimes they will hit on 'soft' 17 (and ace combined with cards to the value of 6)
- Once the dealer has reached a total of 17 or above (or busted) they will pay out the bets of any players who achieved a higher total at 1-1 odds. If a player has the same hand total as the dealer, it is known as a stand-off and the player keeps their bet.
- All cards are then collected and the next hand can be dealt immediately