Blackjack, also known as twenty-one, is a card game of skill and luck. The object of the game is to draw a hand whose value is higher than that of the dealer’s hand, but without going over 21. If you go over 21, you “bust” and automatically lose.
In blackjack, cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, and all face cards are worth 10. An ace is worth either 1 or 11, whichever is more advantageous. A hand with an ace that is counted as 11 is called a “soft” hand; thus, an ace and a 6 is called “soft 17.” A hand with an ace counting as 1 is called a “hard” hand.
Starting the Blackjack Game
To start a game of blackjack, you first place your bet, and then you receive two cards, both face up. The dealer receives one card face up. In some blackjack variations, he receives a second card face down, known as the “hole card”. In other variations, the dealer does not receive his second card until a later stage in the blackjack game.
If your two cards total 21, you have “blackjack.” and you automatically win, unless the dealer has blackjack too. If you both have blackjack, the hand is a tie (called a “push”). Otherwise, a winning blackjack pays out at a rate of 3 to 2. All other winning hands pay out at 1 to 1.
Playing Your Blackjack Hand
If you do not have blackjack, then, after examining your two cards and the dealer’s card, you play your hand by making one of the following moves:
Stand: You take no more cards, and it is now the dealer’s turn to play his hand.
Hit: You take another card. You may continue hitting until you either bust or decide to stand.
Double down: You double the amount of your bet, take one more card, and then stand.
Split: If your two cards are the same, you may split them into two separate hands. A bet equal to the amount of your original bet is placed on each of the two hands, effectively doubling your bet. Each of your split hands receives a second card. You then play each resulting hand independently by standing, hitting, etc.
Surrender: If you think you are likely to lose the hand, you may surrender half your bet rather than risk losing your entire bet.
Take Insurance: If the dealer’s up card is an ace you can take insurance, which is a bet that is equal to half of your original bet. Essentially, you are betting that the dealer will get a blackjack. If he does, you win a 2-to-1 payout on the insurance bet. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, you lose the insurance bet and proceed to play your hand.
The Dealer Plays His Hand
If you bust or surrender, the game is over and you may start a new game. Otherwise, after you stand, it is the dealer’s turn to play his hand.
The dealer first turns over his hole card, if he has one, or else he receives his second card at this point. In playing his hand, the dealer has fewer options than you do and no freedom of choice. He must play his hand strictly in accordance with the following rules:
If the dealer’s cards total 16 or less, he must hit.
If the dealer’s cards total 18 or more, he must stand.
With a hard 17, the dealer must stand. With a soft 17, the rules vary among the different blackjack games: in some games, the dealer must hit; in others, he must stand.
Determining the Winner of the Blackjack Game
After you and the dealer have finished playing your hands, the winner of the online blackjack game is determined.
If you have blackjack (an ace and a 10-value card) as your first two cards, and the dealer does not, you win a payout of 3-to-2. All other winning hands pay out 1-to-1.
If you bust (go over 21), you lose automatically, regardless of what the dealer does.
If you stand without busting, and the dealer busts, you win the blackjack game.
If neither you nor the dealer busts, the one with the total closest to 21 wins the game.
If you and the dealer have the same card total, the game is a “push” and you get your bet back without winning or losing anything.
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