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The rules in blackjack are fairly simple to understand and follow. In blackjack, the player must wager before any cards are dealt and this is done by placing a bet in their 'assigned' table position. Next, the dealer will then deal two cards to each of the players and two to himself (or herself; yes there are many female blackjack dealers in the land casinos). One of the dealer's cards will be dealt face up, and the other is dealt face down. Face cards count as ten, the ace counts as one or 11, and all other cards are counted at their actual face value.
A "blackjack" occurs if the player's first two cards are an ace and a ten or face card. This is usually a winning hand, although, if the dealer also has a blackjack, it is a tie or push. A winning blackjack pays the player 3 to 2. Typically, the dealer must draw (take a card) if their card count is 16 and 'stand' on 17. It is important to note that some casinos will alter this rule slightly, so be sure to read the applicable rules where you play.
Basic Rules Explained Through Blackjack Terms
Double Down - Most casinos allow you to double the bet on your first two cards. The catch here is - you can only have one more card to improve your hand. You usually double down if you are dealt an 11 or a 10, so your next card will most likely bring you to a 21 or 20. Always remember to take the dealers up-card into account; if they are showing busting cards it may be a good idea to double down even if your total is as little as 9. To double down, blackjack rules would have you place the equivalent of your original wager directly beside your original wager on the table. Remember, you only get one more card, so you may get stuck with a low total.
Hit or Stand - The 'hit' and the 'stand' are two of the most common decisions made at a blackjack table. To 'hit' means to draw another card (adding to your total). To 'stand' means you do not want any more cards. If you hit and your new total is more than 21, you bust, and lose immediately.
Insurance - When the dealer shows an Ace as their up card, the table will be asked whether or not anyone wants to 'buy Insurance'. Don't bother buy insurance; typically, it never helps your chances. Basically what you're doing when you buy insurance is placing a bet that the dealer has blackjack (this bet is worth half your original bet). So if they do have blackjack, you lose your original bet, but are paid 2 to 1 on the insurance bet, and come out even. If they don't have blackjack, you lose your insurance bet and may win or lose your original bet. Statistically it is never advantageous to take insurance.
Natural Blackjack - The one time you don't need to make any decisions at all is when you are dealt a 21 on your first two cards. Blackjack rules call this a Natural Blackjack, and it typically entitles you to a larger-than-normal payback of 3 to 2.
Pair Splitting - If you were dealt a pair of cards as your first two cards (a pair means 2 sevens, or 2 jacks, or two aces, etc.), you then have the option to split that pair into two different hands. To do so, simply ask the dealer to split your pair and they will push the cards apart a little. You will need to place a new bet beside one of the split cards. Blackjack rules then treat each card as its own hand and the player is then dealt a second card for each hand. You can then play out each hand independently. If either hand happens to be dealt as a natural blackjack, typically you are not paid the extra 3 to 2. A good rule of thumb is to always split Aces and 8's - you're going from a bad hand to two potentially good ones.
Soft Hand - A 'soft hand' is a hand total that consists of an Ace (because the Ace can be counted as 1 or 11).Surrender - Most casinos blackjack rules don't include this one, but the 'surrender' option allows the player fold (give up), after receiving their first two cards. If you think you have no way of winning, you can therefore surrender and only lose half your bet.
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