During JCK Las Vegas: How to Play the Game, Black Jack

By no means do we encourage gambling, but if you have a little free time and are up for the challenge, you can always try your luck at Black Jack. You won’t be an expert after reading this column, but you will have a better understanding of how to play the game.

The goal of blackjack, or 21, is to get a hand value closer to 21 than the dealer, without going over 21. Each player plays individually against the dealer, and players at the same table have no effect on each other’s game. If the player and the dealer have the same card values, this is “push,” and neither wins. 

Each player, including the dealer, is dealt two cards and offered the opportunity to take more. Card values are as follows: Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value; face cards are worth 10; an ace is worth 11, except when it would cause the player to “bust,” (go over 21) in which case it is only worth 1. 

A “soft hand” is a hand in which the ace’s value is 11, since it cannot be busted when the player draws another hand. The value of the ace can turn to 1 at any time.

A “pitch game” is a game played from one or two hand-held decks. A “shoe” is a game with four or more decks. Cards are dealt face-down in a pitch game, and face-up from a shoe. One of the dealer’s two cards is face-up and the other, the “hole card,” is face down.

A player automatically wins if they get a perfect two-card hand of 21, which would be an ace with a ten value card. This hand is also called a “blackjack” or “natural.” 

After the two cards are dealt, a player has the following five options:
1. Take another card – “Hit”
2. Take no more cards – “Stand”
3. Double the wager and take only 1 more card, then stand – “Double Down”
4. When both cards are the same value: Double the wager and each card becomes the first card in a new hand – “Split”
5. Give up half the bet and the hand – “Surrender”

Player’s turn is over after standing, doubling down, or busting. 

The dealer, on the other hand, must always play his hand in a specific way. They cannot split but must simply hit until at least 17, or until busting. When the dealer busts, all remaining players win. There are two popular rule variations, listed below. The casino table will be labeled accordingly.

1. Dealer stands on all 17s: In this case, the dealer must continue to hit until total reaches 17 or greater. An ace in the dealer’s hand is always counted as 11 if possible without the dealer going over 21. He will continue to draw cards until the hand’s value is 17 or more. 

2. Dealer hits soft 17: This rule is identical except for what happens when the dealer has a soft total of 17. Hands such as (Ace, 6), (Ace, 5, Ace), and (Ace, 2, 4) are all examples of soft 17. The dealer hits these hands, and stands on soft 18 or higher, or hard 17 or higher. When this rule is used, the house advantage against the players is slightly increased. (www.blackjackinfo.com)

These basic guidelines will start you out at a table, and learning in this case is much easier actually done than said! Try www.blackjackinfo.com for more details and strategies. 

Last week, we taught you how to play craps.

Sources include: www.blackjackinfo.com; www.wikipedia.org