Rules of Blackjack
Blackjack, or 21, has a long history both in and outside of the United States. Its origins can be traced back to Europe, as early as the 17th century, though little is known about the development of the game prior. When 21 reached the United States, casinos offered a 10 to 1 payout if you hit 21 with a black Ace, a blackjack, and the name stayed.
Today you’d be hard-pressed to find such bonuses, as players have learned how to minimize their losses in blackjack. But what are the rules of blackjack? They’re actually pretty simple to learn, yet very difficult to master.
The Rules of Blackjack
Blackjack is a game of probability. A player bets that they will beat the house, and up to eight full decks are used to play blackjack. The player is served two cards, and the house is served two cards. Depending on where you are, some of the cards may face down (one of the house cards is usually played down). Your current score is calculated from the sum of your two cards. 2-10 are worth their pip total. The face cards are worth 10, and Aces are worth either 1 or 11. Your goal is to get a higher score than the house, or force the house to go over 21. Going over 21 will cause you to lose. Scoring under the house will cause you to lose. From here there are a few options.
Stay: you can opt to not take any more cards and remain with the cards you have. Only recommended if you are confident you will beat the house (think of scores ranging from 19-21, depending on the house).
Hit: you receive one card. This is a common move. It’s advised to hit on lower totals like 9, or on certain soft hands (one ace in your total). You can technically hit until you break (go over 21), at which point you lose.
Double Down: you can increase your bet by up to 100% and agree to stay after taking just one more card. This differs from hitting because you can hit until you break.
Split: you may split cards that have the same value, like two 4s. This changes one hand into two, and you bet and play on these two hands separately. Splitting Aces is generally not allowed.
Surrender: you can surrender your hand if you have an extremely low probability of winning compared to the house. You forfeit half your bet and your cards are discarded. This can avoid losing your entire bet when you are nearly certain you will lose to the house.
Insurance: this is a separate bet and doesn’t affect the original play. When the house draws an Ace face up, a player may insure that card if they suspect the house has a 10 as their hole card (blackjack). The payout is 2 to 1, and looks like a good offer because otherwise, you will win nothing if the house ends up with blackjack. Unfortunately, unless you’re counting cards or playing advantage, it is almost never advised to take insurance. The probability of the house having blackjack with this combination is less than ⅓.
Blackjack Basic Strategy
As blackjack is a game of probability, there are blackjack charts that dictate the rules of blackjack. These were created by computer simulations of millions of hands of blackjack, and tell players the highest probability of winning when you’re given a certain hand versus the house. This is called blackjack basic strategy, and although we won’t get into the details of it, it’s the key to minimizing loss and maximizing wins in blackjack.
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