The Basics of Blackjack
Historically, blackjack was referred to as a “blackjack” or “Vingt-et-un” in France, referring to the French word for “21”. It is a game of chance, but a player can take actions to increase their odds of winning. The objective is to beat the dealer’s hand.
Blackjack is played with a conventional 52-card deck. Two cards are dealt to each player, the objective being to reach a total card value of 21 or close to it. In some games, a side bet called insurance is available. This side bet will pay 2 to 1 if the dealer is showing a jack, queen, or king. It is not wise to take this bet if you have a natural, though.
Blackjack is played with a single deck, though in some casinos the decks are separated. If the player has a natural, he will automatically win unless the dealer does not have a natural. The best hand in blackjack is a blackjack with two cards. The goal is to make as close a total card value to 21 as possible without going over. This is done by playing cards in a sequence that reflects the card values. This is known as “the optimal play.”
Blackjack games can be played in tournament format, with the goal being to finish in the top chip holders. In tournaments, one or two players qualify from each table, after a specified number of deals are completed. In some casinos, a side bet called “Dealer Match” pays when the player’s first two cards match the dealer’s up card. Often, this is a side bet that requires wagering at the same time as the main wager. In other games, a side bet called “Early Surrender” will allow the player to surrender half of his wager before the dealer checks his hand.
In 2003, some casinos in Las Vegas began paying 6 to 5 on blackjacks, increasing the house edge by a factor of two or more. The reduced payout has since been restricted to single deck games. It is not common in casinos with more than one deck. The “Charlie rule” is a lesser-known rule that increases the house edge by about eight fold. It is also the only side bet offered universally on Blackjack tables.
The blackjack “rule of thumb” is that the sum of all your cards should be less than 21. Aside from the mandatory draw, the optimal play is to draw a card when you have 12 compared to the dealer’s 10. If you have a hand with a value of 11 or higher, the obvious play is to bust. The “Charlie rule” is not always obvious to the unsuspecting player, though. It is a good idea to study the cards in front of you before making a decision.
In the modern era, hundreds of blackjack side bets are available, and some even require wagering at the same time as the main bet. The most common side bets are “Dealer Match”, “Early Surrender”, and “Multi-Card Blackjack”. They are often placed in an area near the main wager box, though in some cases they may be placed on the dealer’s bust.