In blackjack, every player is competing only against the dealer, not
against one another. The goal of the game is to beat the dealers hand,
without exceeding a total 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,
which 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 on their left, and ending with himself. The
dealer gives themselves 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 have 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 dealers
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 middle of the 80's, and since then has provided a
template from novice blackjack players to work from. To
learn more about basic strategy click here.
To learn about doubling down, splitting,
and more, read our blackjack rules section.
Most of our decisions on our initial two card hands are 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
Knowing when the dealer is showing busting cards is essential to making
good blackjack decisions.