Casino Blackjack, Types & Rules

The history of Blackjack
Blackjack's precursor was "twenty-one," a game of unknown origin. The first written reference is to be found in a book of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, and a gambler himself. The main characters of his tale "Rinconete y Cortadillo", from "Novelas Ejemplares", are a couple of cheaters working in Seville. They are proficient at cheating at "veintiuna" (Spanish for twenty-one), and stated that the object of the game is to reach 21 points without busting, and that the Ace values 1 or 11. The game is played with Baraja, that is without tens, which makes the game similar to the current Spanish 21. This short story was written between 1601 and 1602, so the game was played in Castilia since the beginning of the 17th Century or even earlier. Later references of this game are to be found in France and Spain. When 21 was introduced in the United States it was not very popular, so gambling houses tried offering various bonus payouts to get the players to the tables. One such bonus was a 10-to-1 payout if the player's hand consisted of the ace of spades and a black Jack (either the Jack of clubs or the Jack of spades). This hand was called a "blackjack" and the name stuck to the game, even though the bonus payout was soon abolished. In the modern game, a "natural" or "blackjack" is simply an ace plus a ten-value card.

Types of Blackjack:
European Blackjack, Vegas Blackjack, Classic Blackjack, Surrender Blackjack, Live-Aces Blackjack, 6-deck Blackjack, Double-deck Blackjack, Single-deck Blackjack, Blackjack Swap

The rules of Blackjack
In casino blackjack, the dealer faces one to seven players from behind a kidney-shaped table. Each player plays his hand independently against the dealer. At the beginning of each round, the player places a bet in the "betting box" and receives an initial hand of two cards. The object of the game is to get a higher card total than the dealer, but without going over 21 which is called "busting", "breaking", or many other terms. (The spot cards count 2 to 9; the 10, jack, queen, and king count as ten; an ace can be either 1 or 11 at the player's choice). The player goes first and plays his hand by taking additional cards if he desires. If he busts, he loses. Then the dealer plays his or her hand. If the dealer busts, he loses to all remaining players. If neither busts, the higher hand total wins. If a player ties with the dealer the hand is a "push" and the player's bet is returned. It is possible for the dealer to lose to some players but still beat other players in the same round.

Example of a Blackjack game: Cards are dealt in three ways, either from one or two hand-held decks, from a box containing four to eight decks called a "shoe," or from a shuffling machine. When dealt by hand, the player's two initial cards are usually face-down, while the dealer has one face-up card called the "upcard" and one face-down card called the "hole card." (In European blackjack, the dealer's hole card is not actually dealt until the players all play their hands.) When dealt from a shoe, all player cards are normally dealt face-up, with minor exceptions. It shouldn't matter to the non-expert player whether his cards are dealt face-down or face-up since the dealer must play according to predetermined rules. If the dealer has less than 17, he must hit. If the dealer has 17 or more, he must stand (take no more cards), unless it is a "soft 17" (a hand that includes an ace valued as "11," for example a hand consisting of Ace+6, or Ace+2+4). With a soft 17, the dealer follows the casino rules printed on the blackjack table, either to "hit soft 17" or to "stand on all 17's."

Normally, the highest possible hand is a "blackjack" or "natural," meaning an initial two-card total of 21 (an ace and a ten-value card). A player blackjack is an automatic winner unless the dealer also has blackjack, in which case the hand is a "push" (a tie). When the dealer upcard is an ace, the player is allowed to make a side bet called "insurance," supposedly to guard against the risk that the dealer has a blackjack (i.e., a ten-value card as his hole card). The insurance bet pays 2-to-1 if the dealer has a blackjack. Whenever the dealer has a blackjack, he wins against all player hands except those that also have a blackjack (which are a "push").

The minimum and maximum bets are posted on the table. The payoff on most bets is 1:1, meaning that the player wins the same amount as he bets. The payoff for a player blackjack is 3:2, meaning that the casino pays $3 for each $2 originally bet. (There are many single-deck games which pay only 6:5 for a blackjack.)

Card values

Aces value either 1 or 11 points.
J, Q, K e 10 each value 10 points.
Cards from 2 - 9 each have their nominative value.

Player actions

Hit: Take another card.

Stand: Take no more cards, also "stick" or "stay".

Double down: After receiving his first two cards and before any more are dealt to him, a player has the option to "double down". To "double down" means the player is allowed to double his initial bet in exchange for receiving only one more card from the dealer. The hand played consists of his original two cards plus one more from the dealer. To do this he moves a second bet equal to the first into the betting box next to his original bet. (If desired, the player is usually allowed to "double down for less," although this is generally not a good idea as the player should only double in favorable situations but should then increase the bet as much as possible.)

Split a pair: If his first two cards are a "pair," meaning two cards of the same value, the player can "split the pair." To do this, he moves a second bet equal to the first into the betting box next to his original bet. The dealer splits the cards to create two hands, placing one bet with each hand. The player then plays two separate hands.

Surrender: Some casinos offer a fifth option called "Surrender." After the dealer has checked for blackjack, the player may "surrender" by giving up half his bet and not playing out the hand.

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