The Dealer's Hand
After the deal, the dealer will have one face-up and one face-down card in front of him or her. If the face-up card has a value of 10, the dealer will look at the face-down card to check for a blackjack. If he or she has blackjack, he or she will turn over the cards and take your bet and your hand away. If you have blackjack, the dealer will take your cards, but you keep your bet. If you are not playing for money, you and the dealer are considered tied if you both have blackjack. If the dealer does not have blackjack, he or she will continue the play around the table. If the dealer's face-up card is an Ace, he or she will go around the table and ask the players if they want “insurance.”
You can keep score according to wins, and determine the winning player by the number of games won. If you don't want to play for money, play for chips or for chores around the house. My grandfather used the packing peanuts to teach us how to play. We used all sorts of things when playing Blackjack, including real nuts, candy, and loose change.
If you are playing for money, or in the casino, the dealer will ask you if you want insurance if his or her face-up card is an Ace. The Ace is, of course, the card that determines a blackjack. If the dealer's face-down card is a 10-value card (and there are 16 of these cards) he or she has blackjack.
If you decide to take insurance, you can bet up to half of your original bet by placing your chips (or peanuts) below your original bet. If the dealer has a 10-value card, then he will pay off the insurance bets at two to one, but you lose your original bet. If the dealer does not have blackjack, the players lose their insurance bets and play continues with the original bets. This is why you're no better off taking insurance.
Casinos will use the insurance rules, but don't be fooled—it's just a sneaky way for casinos to try and make some extra cash. The odds are against you in taking insurance, so beware.
Let's say you bet $10 and you decide to take insurance because the dealer's face-up card is an Ace. You place another $5 under your original bid. If the dealer does not have blackjack, you lose your $5, but keep your original bet of $10. You're out $5. If the dealer does have blackjack, you lose your original bet of $10, but the dealer pays out two to one, thus giving you back $10. You haven't made a penny. Why is insurance even an option then? Beats me. You neither gain nor lose from it—only the casino turns a profit from insurance.
Splitting and Doubling-Down
It's in the Cards
When you split your hand in Blackjack, what you do is turn your two cards face-up side-by-side, and if you're betting, place another bet of identical value to your original bet. You are now playing two hands. The dealer will deal to the hand on your right first—until you stand or bust—and then the dealer will play to your other hand.
The abilities to split or double-down are the strategies that make the game interesting. If you are dealt two cards of the same value—let's say two 8s—you can split the hand.
If you are dealt another 8, you can resplit and play three hands by moving that 8 alongside the other two cards, or just place another bet on the table, equal to your two previous bets.
Casino rules will vary, but some have strict rules about resplitting. If you are unsure of the rules, just ask the dealer. Also, some casinos will not allow you to touch your cards, so in this case, just place another bet over your cards and the dealer will know that you are splitting. At home, make sure you establish the rules before you start the game. It might be fun to adopt some of the strict casino rules just to liven things up a little.
Experts advise that you should always split Aces, and it is highly recommended to split 8s.
Doubling-down refers to doubling your bet, so if you're playing for money or chips at home, you can certainly employ this strategy. It is a strategy that is definitely used in the casinos—so you should know about it if you're heading to a blackjack table near you.
Doubling-down means that you can double the size of your original bet. You do this by turning your cards face-up and placing another bet on the table that is equal to your original bet. When you double-down, you are dealt one more card—meaning you do not have the option to stand on your original hand or take any more hits after you are dealt the one extra card.
The best time to double-down is when the two cards in your hand total 11. That means you are banking that the next card you are dealt will be a 10-value card. It's a real gamble, but the odds are pretty good that you will get a 10-value card because there are so many of them in a deck.
Blackjack is not just a game of chance. While a lot depends on the luck of the draw, there are many strategies to better your odds of winning. Here are some basic strategies to help you play a better hand:
- Always hit any hand that totals 11 or under.
- Stand on 17 and over. (The only exception to this rule is when you have a soft 17—meaning the hand contains an Ace. And even here, be careful of the dealer hand—check out his or her cards before asking for a hit.)
- For cards totaling 12 to 16, whether to hit or stand depends on the dealer's face-up cards: Hit if the dealer has a 7 or higher; stand if the dealer has 2 or 3 points.
- Never take insurance.
- Always split Aces and 8s.
- Never split 4s, 5s, and 10-value cards. The odds will be against you.
- Never double-down below 8 points.
- Always double-down on 11 points.
- When you have 10 points, double-down when the dealer shows 2 and 9.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Family Games © 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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