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Blackjack Basics

In blackjack, each player competes against the dealer only, not against one another. The goal of the game is to beat the dealer's hand, without exceeding a total hand count of 21. If the first two cards you're dealt are an ace and a 10-point card, you have what is called a Natural Blackjack. This is usually paid at 3 to 2.

Before you are dealt your first two cards, you need to place a bet. Each player has a betting area that corresponds with the seat they are in. Place your chips in this betting area (a square or circle printed on the felt) with one hand. The dealer gives out cards one at a time starting with the player immediately to his/her left, and ending with himself. The dealer gets two cards; one face up and one face down. The players all receive two cards; either both face-up or both face down.

Face cards (kings, queens and jacks) count as 10 points, Aces count as either one or 11 (as the player chooses, whichever is more advantageous), and all other cards are counted at their face value.

If the dealer's hand totals 16 or less, they are usually required (depends on the house rules) to take a card. If the dealer's hand is 17 or more, they have to "stand". Some casinos let the dealer hit on a soft seventeen; this is bad for the player as it adds to the house edge.

The decisions you make based on your first two cards and the dealer's visible card (or up-card) are what defines how well you'll do at the table. A method known as 'basic blackjack strategy' was developed with the aid of computers in the mid 1980's, and since then has provided a basic template for novice blackjack players to work from.

A direct link for you to learn more about basic blackjack strategy is provided in our menu navigation options. Additionally, to learn more about doubling down, splitting, and other blackjack rules and specifics, please read the blackjack rules section.

Most of your decisions regarding your initial two card hands will be based on what the dealer's up-card is, so it's worth looking a little more at what that one card indicates. If the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5, or 6, they are said to be holding 'busting cards'. This simply means that they are likely to have a total of 13, 14, 15, or 16, and since the dealer must hit everything below 17, they would have to hit on these hands, and stand a good chance of busting.

Ultimately, knowing when the dealer is showing busting cards is essential to making good blackjack decisions.

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