How to play Blackjack 2 Parts
The Blackjack Table
A blackjack table is typically a semi-circle that seats between 5 and 7 players on one site, with the dealer on the other side. These blackjack tables are normally arranged in a circle, with a dealer behind each table in an area called the blackjack pit. This area is easily observed by the pit boss.
The table will normally have information about the blackjack game that you're playing written on it. This information includes what the house pays you for a blackjack (also called a natural), and what point total the dealer has to stop taking hits (additional cards) on. Our section on blackjack basic strategy goes into further detail about how these options affect the correct strategy decisions and which options are better for the player.
Below the information printed on the blackjack table about the rules are between 5 and 7 circles. The number of circles corresponds to the number of players allowed in the game.
The seat farthest to the left at the table (if you're on the players' side) is called third base. That's the last seat to receive a card before the dealer gets his card. There are different opinions about how much effect the player at third base has on the game; some players get mad because third base will make a decision that will prevent the dealer from going bust, and they'll lose as a result. So from a social perspective, third base might not be the best place to sit.
But if you're counting cards, third place is a great place to sit, because you get to see everyone else's cards before making a decision. And of course, the more cards you see, the more info you have about what decision to make. (By the way, the seat at the far right is called first base, which makes sense if you think about it.)
More Stuff on the Blackjack Table
There's a chip tray in front of the dealer. The chips are replaced as necessary, so even if you go on the winningest of winning streaks, you needn't worry about the dealer running out of chips.
There's also a plastic sign on each table that indicates what the table limits are. Do everyone a favor and actually look at the limits before sitting down. It's frustrating for the other players if you try to buy into a $100 table when you meant to buy in at a $5 table, and it's embarrassing for you.
Another item of interest on the blackjack table is the shoe. Not all tables have a shoe, since single deck blackjack games don't use one. But if there's a wooden or plastic box holding the cards, then it's a multiple deck game, which isn't as favorable for the player as a one or two deck game. (That wooden box holding the cards is the shoe.)
Six or eight decks is pretty standard for a blackjack game these days, although the local casinos and some of the less ritzy places offer fewer decks in order to attract more business. It's one of the ways they're able to compete. But don't worry, blackjack basic strategy will work for you no matter how many decks are in use and no matter how often they shuffle the decks.
Learning to Play
Playing blackjack isn't that hard once you've played for a little bit. It's so easy for the dealer in fact that it's often been said that playing blackjack might be lots of fun, but dealing blackjack is boring as hell. That's because the dealer must follow the house rules, and he makes no decisions. All decisions about how the hands are shuffled, dealt, and played by the dealer are done strictly in accordance with casino policy.
Luckily, as a player, you get to make decisions when you play. In fact, the decisions you make playing blackjack are meaningful and have consequences related to how much you win or lose. This is what makes the game so much fun, and it's one of the reasons the game is so popular.
You win if the dealer busts and your hand hasn't already busted. You also win if you get a hand that's closer to 21 than the dealer's hand is. A natural, or a blackjack, usually pays out at 3 to 2, although some places offer a payout of 6 to 5 on single deck blackjack, which does horrible things to your odds.
Face cards are worth 10 points each. Jacks, queens, and kings are face cards. Aces are worth 1 or 11 points, whichever better benefits the player. All other cards have points corresponding to their face value. An 8 is worth 8 points, in other words. Suits have no meaning in blackjack.
The dealer shuffles the cards and a player normally cuts the deck. The first card is always burned or discarded when the hand gets dealt, and the dealer gives players cards in a clockwise direction around the table. Everyone gets two cards. These are usually dealt face down in a single deck game, in which case you can touch the cards. In multi-deck games, the cards are dealt face up, in which case you aren't supposed to touch the cards.
The dealer gets one card face up and one card face down. (Sometimes in Europe the dealer only takes a face up card and gets his hole card later in the game.)
Aces and Faces
If the dealer has an ace as his upcard, the players are given the option of taking insurance. This is an optional side bet that the dealer has a natural, or a blackjack. (That means he has a 10 in the hole.) The insurance bet is half of the player's initial wager. Insurance pays 2 to 1 IF the dealer has a blackjack, but all original bets are removed from the table if the dealer has blackjack too. And of course, if the dealer doesn't have a 10 in the hole, the insurance bets are lost immediately and the game continues.
If you are dealt an ace and a 10, then you have a blackjack, and you should immediately turn over your cards and collect your winnings. Blackjack normally pays out at 3 to 2 odds, which means you win one and a half times whatever your wager was. Unless the dealer also has blackjack, in which case you have what's called a push, or a tie. In that case, you receive your original bet back.
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