The basic premise of Blackjack is that you want to have a hand value that is closer to 21 than that of the dealer, without going over 21.
In Blackjack, the cards are valued as follows:
- The cards from 2 thru 9 are valued at their face value.
- The 10, Jack, Queen, and King are all valued at 10.
- An Ace can count as either 1 or 11, as explained below.
The suits of the cards do not have any meaning in the game. The value of a hand is simply the sum of the point counts of each card in the hand.
For example, a hand containing (5,7,9) has the value of 21. The Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11. You need not specify which value the Ace has, it’s assumed to always have the value that builds the best hand.
An example will illustrate: Supposed that you have the beginning hand (Ace, 6). This hand can either be 7 or 17. If you stop there, it will be 17.
Let’s however assume that you draw another card to the hand and now have (Ace, 6, 3). Your total hand is now 20, counting the Ace as 11.
Now let’s backtrack and assume that you had instead drawn an 8 for your third card. The hand would then be (Ace, 6, 8) which totals 15. Notice that now the Ace must be counted as 1 so as to avoid the hand going over 21.
The game begins with you placing a bet, which must be between the minimum and maximum bets allowed (as determined by the venue). After betting, the dealer deals you two cards and you start from there in constructing your hand. The dealer also deals themselves two cards, however one of their cards is face-up while the other is face-down.
In the top right-hand corner I provide the deck count, that is the number of how many cards are left within the current deck before a fresh new deck comes into play. Consequently it is possible to count cards if you’re so inclined. Since counting cards on some level is an imperative strategy to learn if you want to win regularly at blackjack in real life, this should hopefully make things a bit easier for you.
HOW THE DEALER PLAYS
There is no AI involved in the blackjack games, as the dealer must always play their hand the same way – unlike for players, the dealer is afforded no choices in how to play their hand.
After your turn is complete, the dealer flips their first card face up, displaying their hand. The dealer must then continue to draw additional cards (hit) to their hand until it totals 17 or greater. Similarly to you, an Ace in the dealer’s hand is always counted as 11 if possible without the dealer going over 21. However since they only draw to 17, this has a different effect on their hand than it could potentially have on yours.
For example, a hand of (Ace, 8) would be 19 and the dealer would stop drawing cards (stand). Similarly, the hand (Ace, 6) would be 17 and the dealer would also stand, since they are only allowed to draw new cards until their hand reaches 17 or greater. However, a hand (Ace, 5) amounts to only 16, so in this circumstance the dealer would hit. They will continue to draw cards until the hand’s value is 17 or more.
For example, (ACE, 5, 7) is only 13 so the dealer hits again. (Ace, 5, 7, 5) makes 18 so the dealer would stop (stand) at that point.
The dealer has no choices to make in the play of their hand. They must simply hit until their hand reaches atleast 17, or busts by going over 21.
WHAT IS A BLACKJACK
A blackjack, or natural, is a total of 21 in your first two cards. A blackjack is therefore an Ace and any ten-valued card, with the additional stipulation that these be your first two cards.
For example, if you split a pair of Aces, and then draw a ten-valued card on one of the Aces, this is not a blackjack although it still adds up to 21 (The exception to this is while playing Double Blackjack – see below).
A player blackjack beats any dealer total other than blackjack, including a dealer’s three or more card 21. If both a player and the dealer have blackjack, the hand is a tie (called a push).
HITTING / STANDING
The most common decision you must make during the game is whether to draw another card to your hand (hit) or stop at the current total (stand).
Among the more profitable player options available is the choice to double down. This move can only be performed on your initial hand, and is not offered after drawing additional cards to your hand.
Doubling down allows you to double your bet and recieve one, and only one, additional card to the hand, at which point you must Stand.
A good example of a doubling opportunity is when you hold a total of 11, say a (6, 5) against a dealer’s upcard of 5. In this case, you have a good chance of winning the hand by drawing one additional card, so you might as well increase your bet in this advantageous situation.
When you are dealt a matching pair of cards (remember, ignore the suits), you have the ability to split the hand into two separate hands and play each of them independently.
For example, let’s say you are dealt a pair of 8’s for a hand value of 16. 16 is the worst possible player hand, since it is unlikely to win as it is, but is very likely to bust should you draw to it. Splitting here has a chance to improve upon a bad situation.
Surrender provides you the opportunity to fold your hand, at the cost of half of your original bet. However you are only provided this opportunity prior to taking any other action on the hand.
For example, once you draw a third card, or split, or double down, surrender is no longer an option.
Not every venue offers the option to Surrender.
Gold Rush in The Outskirts plays a variant called Double Blackjack, which is just something I made up. Some of the core game mechanics rely on computers so I wouldn’t expect to see it offered in the real Las Vegas anytime soon.
The principle is the same except every hand you will be dealt one card from the deck and your second card will be a clone of your first card.
The deck has no face-cards (so it’s just 2-10 and aces), and if you split and get blackjacks on both hands, this is called a Double Blackjack and you end up winning double what you normally would.
However the dealer wins on a push (tie), and Aces cannot be split.