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Learn how to play the most popular and classic casino card game - blackjack 21. Learn to master Blackjack through reading this comprehensive blackjack guide.
The Blackjack that we know today was derived from a number of European gambling games. The first reference to a Blackjack-like game dates all the way back to the 1600s, and was written about by none other than Cervantes, famed author on Don Quixote. In another work of his, he references a card game called Ventiuna, which is Spanish for twenty one.
The version of Blackjack that we play today comes more directly from a French game played in the 1800s called "Vingt-et-Un" (Twenty One). This game was brought from Europe to North America.
When Blackjack was first introduced to American society, casino owners promoted the game by offering a bonus of 10:1 odds if a player had a hand of the ace of spades and a black jack. The promotion bonus soon ended, but the name Blackjack remained. Its popularity took off in America in the 1930s, when Nevada legalized gambling. Since then, it has become a popular American casino game, and in the past few decades has also spread across the world due to online gambling.
While Blackjack started off in Europe, its popularity in America led to many terms in the American vernacular. Here are some important Blackjack terms to know:
Blackjack: Literally, blackjack is a hand consisting of an ace (which can be valued at one or eleven) and a ten, jack, queen or king. This would make the total twenty one.
Bust: This is when either the player or dealer receives a hand whose total value is over twenty one. This automatically erases any chances of winning in a hand.
Double Down: Doubling of initial bet in exchange for agreeing to stand down after receiving an extra card.
Hit: A request for the dealer to deal the player another card.
Holecard: This is the Dealer’s second card, and the card that is known only to him. The holecard is dealt face down and is only shown after the players decide how they will play the hand.
Insurance: A player can take insurance if the dealer is showing an ace in his hand. Insurance will pay the player 2:1 odds and will also cover the loss of the original bet. In Blackjack, the ace is a coveted card because it can be valued at either one or eleven.
Push: A tie between player and dealer.
Soft: When the player or dealer has an ace that they decide to value at eleven points and not one.
Split: If the two initial cards that the player receives have the same value, the player can split those cards into two separate hands. They then have two hands in play at the same time, and the dealer deals to both hands.
Stand: When the player chooses not to take any more cards.
Surrender: Not all casinos offer this graceful exit to a player who is losing, but some do. A surrender is when a player is allowed to back out of the game at a certain point, and he or she can cut their losses and receive cash back on half of the bet.
Upcard: This is the card that the dealer has which is facing up.
Blackjack is played against a dealer. The goal for the player is to get cards whose value equals twenty one, or as close as possible without going over. Aces are worth either one point or eleven – the player makes that decision based on his other cards. Tens, jacks, queens and kings are worth ten points, and all other cards are worth their given numbers.
Players place their bets before the cards are dealt; they place their chips in the betting circle on the table in front of them. The dealer then deals the players two cards each, which are usually dealt facing up. He then deals himself two cards, one the upcard and one the holecard.
Beginning with the player to the dealer's left, each player has a turn to make a move. The player can either hit (get another card), stand (take no more cards), split their hand (if both cards are the same value), or double their bet.
When the players have finished their moves, the dealer then draws cards for himself until he either busts (gets over twenty one) or gets over seventeen or higher.
There are three possible outcomes in Blackjack: the player can win, the dealer can win, or there can be a tie (in which case the player gets his bet back). The best possible hand a player can get is a blackjack – a picture card or ten and an ace. Some casinos even offer 3:2 odds for a hand of blackjack.
In this card game players don't need to worry about other players; they only have to focus on the dealer. The dealer is the one to beat. Other players only matter in the sense that they are using cards from the same deck. As in poker, there are many complex strategies players can use when playing Blackjack; some mathematically minded players even resort to counting cards (which is illegal!).
There are general guidelines, which are based on the laws of probability, and they are as follows: If a player gets a hand totaling between five and sixteen, he should hit. If he has cards that total seventeen or higher, he should stand. However, players should also take into account the dealer's hand, and that other players have cards from the same deck.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when venturing into the world of Blackjack:
- Different casinos offer different odds for playing Blackjack – make sure to check what the odds are before you play! Some, but not all, offer specials such as 3:2 odds for getting a blackjack on your first hand, and they even pay out then. Just remember – the House always has the advantage.
- Practice for free before you play for real money! You can find demo versions on online casinos where you can practice for free without time limits. This way you can be prepared for playing when it actually counts!
- Do some research. This can be reading or watching movies such as 21 or Rain Man. But whatever you do, don't go into the game uneducated and uninformed.
- If you are at a real casino, remember that the other players at your table, while they may be entertaining, are not relevant to your game. You are playing solely against the dealer, and focusing on anyone else's hand is detrimental and distracting.
- Keep a clear head. This is a tip for all card games, and it is worth remembering! Players who act on emotion or whim usually end up losing all their money. So keep your calm, remember your strategy and play to win!