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Blackjack: The Game of “Twenty-One”

Blackjack is often recommended for players who are new to table games at the casino. With fewer rules than poker, it’s easier to pick up. Players compete against the dealer rather than each other, which adds a sense of community to the blackjack table. The game’s origin goes back centuries and it is believed to be a variation of the French games "chemin de fer" and "French Ferme". The modern version that most closely resembles the blackjack we play today was called "vingt-et-un" (twenty-and-one); it originated in French casinos around 1700 and migrated to the United States in the 1800s. Sometimes, blackjack is referred to as “twenty-one” in English as well.

Dealing

When you arrive at blackjack table, wait until the round is finished and all bets have been paid out before placing your chip wager on the table. After all wagers are placed, the dealer will deal two cards to each player, both face up. The dealer will deal two cards to themselves, but one will be face up and the other will be face down.

Game Play

You and the other players are playing against the dealer, so there could be multiple winners with each deal. By combining the value of your cards, you need to come as close to 21 without going over that amount. Aces count as 1 or 11; all Jacks, Queens and Kings are 10. All other card values are represented by their number. If you are dealt an Ace and 10 (or a face card, which is equal to 10), you have a blackjack and will automatically win unless the dealer also has a blackjack.

If you don't have Blackjack on the first two cards, you need to decide whether to "stand" with your two cards or "hit" and be dealt another card. You can get "hit" with as many cards as you like, provided that your total doesn’t exceed 21. The decision of whether to "stand" or "hit" is made based on the value of your cards—combined with what you know about the dealer’s hand based on the card that you can see. By the way, the dealer must hit on 16 and stand on all hard 17s. A hard 17 is when the total of the hand MUST be 17 and no ace is involved. For example, if the dealer has a face card and a 7, that’s a hard 17. If the dealer has an ace and a 6, that’s either a 7 or a soft 17, since aces can be counted as 1 or 11, depending on the player’s preference.

Double Down: Sometimes in blackjack, if you have a particularly favorable hand, you’ll want to consider “doubling down.” This means you can double your original bet if you think the odds are in your favor. After you double down, the dealer will give you one additional card, and only one card. Most people double down on 10 or 11 because there’s no way the additional card could cause you to bust. Check out the chart below for some helpful tips on when to stay and when to hit. This can help you out when you’re deciding whether you should double down or not.

Split Your Hand: If you’re dealt two of the same cards, it’s sometimes advantageous to split your hand and play two hands at once. You will need to match your original bet, essentially doubling your original bet, but now you have two chances to beat the dealer. Each hand is separate and you play each of them individually just as you would a single hand.

Winning

You can win in two ways against the dealer: The total of your cards closer to 21 without going over than the dealer’s total, or if the dealer "busts" by going over 21. If your hand equals the dealer’s, then it’s called a push and neither the dealer nor the player wins. You’ll get your bet back, but you won’t receive a payout for a push.

Pay Out

If your hand beats the dealers, the payout is equal to your wager, unless you win with a blackjack. Remember, a blackjack is a combination of an Ace and a 10 or a face card. A blackjack pays out one and a half times your bet (1.5:1 on a six-deck blackjack table). So, for example, if you bet $5.00, you get your initial wager back plus $7.50. If the dealer also has Blackjack, it's a "push" or tie. So, you retain your original bet.

Your Hand Dealer's Card Action
13, 14, 15, or 16 2 through 6 Stand
13, 14, 15, or 16 7 through Ace Hit
12 4, 5, 6 Stand
12 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, Ace Hit
A7 9 through Ace Hit

As usual, our friendly dealers will help you understand the game and make the best choices if you’re learning. Check out our blog on How to Play Blackjack for a few more tips. Visit our casino page for general information or contact us if you have questions. Good luck!