When you sit down to play this very old card game with roots in both France and Italy in an otherwise obscured and mysterious past, you probably already suspect the amount of depth and strategy that is involved in a game of Black Jack. While the primary ingredient in Black Jack is luck when being dealt a hand, odds and other information can help you make the most mathematically correct decision.
But this isn’t a guide to how you can card count or with any mysterious techniques that can reward you with millions of dollars in a day, we just want to get you started on the basics of Black Jack so you can learn and advance from the very core of the game.
Introduction to a game of Black Jack
The first thing you need to know about Black Jack is the goal and after that, most of the things you do in any given hand are pretty straight forward. The goal of Black Jack is to defeat the dealer by getting as close to or getting 21, if you go over 21 you bust and automatically lose but so does the dealer should he go over 21.
The dealer has his rules written on the black jack table, the most important being how long the dealer will draw/when he will stand. The black jack table probably has text similar to “Dealer must draw until 17” or “Dealer must stand on 17”, the 17 is exchangeable but the rest is pretty universal. The dealer will continue to draw cards until his (usually hard hand) is worth 17 or more, this is sometimes an exception in some Black Jack games where the dealer must stand even on a soft hand.
The cards in black jack have different values from those in poker, cards 2-10 have the same value as their face and the face cards (jack, queen and king) all have 10 in value. The ace however is valued at both 11 and 1, as long as your original hand keeps you under 21 the ace will be worth 11.
Black Jack Terms and Words
When you play a game of Black Jack you will need to use different terms and words to describe your actions and you will need to understand a small range of terms and words to know what to do in any given situation.
Soft Hand: a hand that has an ace valued 11, a soft hand cannot bust and instead the ace will change value to 1 to accommodate for the hand being over 21.
Hard Hand: Any hand that does not fall into the category of a soft hand is a hard hand and can bust at any time, play with more caution.
Bust: You have gone over 21 with a hard hand and bust.
Black Jack: Every Black Jack is 21, but every 21 is not Black Jack. Only the first two cards giving you 21 will give you a Black Jack.
Face Down/Face Up: A card with face down is a card which value you cannot see while a card with face up is a card which value is visible to all.
A Round of Black Jack
You’re now set for your first game of Black Jack, but how do you play? You know the rules are to beat the dealer by getting a hand that is as close to 21(or 21) without going over.
You start by placing your bet and you are dealt two cards, if these two cards give you Black Jack then you have immediately won 1.5x your bet unless the dealer also has a black jack. If the dealer has an ace on his face up card, you can buy Insurance for 50% of your current bet to protect you against the dealers face down card giving him Black Jack. If the dealer has a Black Jack and you have insurance, you win 2x your bet, if however the dealer doesn’t have a black jack you lose your insurance and the hand resumes.
Some casinos do allow you to surrender your hand on your first deal, sometimes the surrender can only happen if the dealers face up card is of certain value. When you surrender you get back 50% of your bet and the hand ends, but usually there are more arguments against surrendering than surrendering – such as the mathematical odds being unfavorable.
Moving on with the round, if you haven’t won with a black jack, surrendered or successfully bought insurance and the dealer got no black jack you will now be given several options on how to play your hand.
You can Stand with any active hand at any moment you wish, meaning you’re taking that hand to showdown with the dealer.
The first and most obvious thing you can do is Hit and gain a new card, it doesn’t cost any bets to Hit for a new card and you can Hit for as many cards as you want for as long as your hand is under 21.
You can also split your hand if you have two identical cards, by placing a new bet with the same wager as your active hand. Your two identical cards will be split into two hands that you can keep playing individually and as normal.
Double Down is a method that suits the gambler and people who love to play with the odds and risk for more money. When you use Double Down you double the bet on your current hand and draw a new card, hoping that this new card will give you the win. Double Down however does force you to immediately stand, regardless of what the new card you got was worth.
The showdown takes place when you’re standing (and/or have busted part of your hands) on all of your hands, may the best hand win and may that hand be yours.