How to Play Blackjack for Beginners
This is everything you ever wanted to know about how to play blackjack like a pro but were too ashamed to ask.
Bryce Carlson, Edward O. Thorp, Arnold Snyder, Russ Hamilton, Don Johnson.
If these names don’t ring any bells, then you’re probably here to pick a trick or two before your next beer-and-blackjack session with the guys.
Though gambling is not necessarily your passion in life, you certainly deserve to see their baffled faces as you beat them to the draw.
And who knows?
Maybe in time, you’ll get to sit at the big shots’ table and make some serious dough.
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Since this is a guide on demand – made especially for rookies without any real experience or proper blackjack skills – I’ll start by introducing the game.
Blackjack might not the easiest way to spend your free time, but it is the easiest way to have lots of fun and bring home the bacon too.
Oh, and it’s the most exciting, too.
You can play blackjack in that shiny new casino just around the corner or join millions of thrill-seekers who’ve replaced classic tables for online simulations.
Or, you could host a blackjack party at your home - if your friends share your passion.
Whatever your choice is, you’ll need a solid knowledge the basics of blackjack, of the deck of cards used to play, of the rules rules, and - obviously - of your winning odds.
Which One Is the Spade Again?
Like you can not learn a language before you studied its alphabet, you this blackjack guide starts from the very basics.
I’m going to call this ‘first lesson’ How to Play Blackjack and What the Cards Mean.
This may be the last chance for you to clear any confusion surrounding card symbols and to finally learn to read them right.
Let’s start from a classic deck of French cards, because that’s what blackjack uses.
Yes, the same one your grandfather taught you to play slapjack and crazy eights with.
In total, the deck features 52 cards divided into four different suits:
- Clubs (♧)
- Diamonds (♢)
- Hearts (♥)
- Spades (♤)
Spades and clubs are coloured in black, while diamonds and hearts are coloured in red.
But since we are n PokerNews, I’m assuming you knew that already.
A traditional deck has 13 ranks, and each suite has one card per each rank.
The first card is the ace (A), but it’s not exactly the equivalent of a 1. In fact, it is often valued as the highest-ranking card of the deck.
The following ten cards form a string from two (2) to ten (10/T), while the last three are the Jack (J), Queen (Q), and King (K), traditionally called the face cards.
Oh Wait, How Much Did I Just Score?
But I just want to learn how to play blackjack, you say?
I don’t need you to remind me of my grandpa and his dusty old cards! I hear you, but be patient.
I’ll get to that in less than a minute.
The reason I needed to dust off your grandfather’s old deck of cards is that blackjack has some restrictions when it comes to using suits.
In fact, suits are of value only in some variants of this game.
Since this is blackjack for dummies, you can feel free to ignore them now.
What’s really important here is getting to know your ranks.
Since there are four suits, and each suit has one card of each rank, the math says that there are only four cards of each rank in the deck, right?
Scoring in blackjack depends on the ranks a player holds in his or her hand, and his or her ability to count them according to the rules:
- Each ace is worth either 1 or 11 points.
- For all cards that belong to the two-to-ten string, the rule is the same – their rank equals their point value. If you hold a 5, for example, you hold exactly 5 points.
- Every face card, be it a Jack, a Queen, or a King, is worth 10 points.
Let’s see now how much did you just score.
Translate the ranks of cards you hold to their point value and add it all up.
And now for the easy blackjack rules (finally).
When you’re playing this game, you’re actually playing against the dealer.
It means that, regardless of how many of you sit at the table, there are always only two hands in play – the player’s hand versus the dealer’s hand.
The winning hand in blackjack is, you guessed it, the higher hand.
A blackjack is a hand with 2 cards that total 21 and is higher than the dealer’s.
But what about the losing hand?
The losing hand, the dead hand, or the bust, is every hand with a total sum of 22 or higher.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to play blackjack for dummies.
Your typical casino blackjack table has enough space for seven players plus a dealer and includes the following phrases and/or signs – blackjack plays x to y, dealer must draw to 16 and stand on all 17s, pays 2 to 1, insurance, and at most cases, $w minimum, $z maximum.
What’s That Nonsense on the Table?
Remember how a blackjack – which is a hand with 2 cards that total 21, and is higher than the dealer’s – automatically wins the game?
Well, if the dealer also holds a 21, then the result is a so-called push, meaning that your initial bet is returned to you. You neither win nor lose.
Blackjack pays 3 to 2, or in some casinos, blackjack pays 6 to 5, refers to payoffs and odds.
If you win against the dealer’s hand, your initial bet is paid off 3 to 2, or in some casinos, 6 to 5.
With Insurances pays 2 to 1, you’re offered to put an additional bet on whether or not your dealer will get a blackjack.
Your hand can lose against the dealer’s hand, but then you might cover your lost bet with a win on an insurance bet. Word to the wise, you can drop them both.
$5 minimum, $500 maximum is simply a reminder of the smallest and the largest amount of money you can put on the table.
A guide on how to play blackjack online would include a smaller minimum, as most online casinos allow you to enter the game for a trifle of $1 for one hand.
Should I Hit or Should I Stand?
Blackjack begins after all players have exchanged their money for chips and placed them on the designated spot on the table as their bets.
The dealer then deals the cards – two of them for each player, including himself.
The cards can be dealt either face down or face up, apart from the dealer’s own two cards, of which one is always dealt face up and another face down.
The dealer then peaks to check if he’s been dealt a blackjack. If not, the players are invited to hit or stand, though there are three more options to choose from – splitting, doubling down, or surrendering.
How you play your hand depends on the cards both you and the dealer have.
When you go for hitting, you’re dealt one additional card.
If you choose to stand instead, you’re keeping the cards you have.
To qualify for splitting, you need to have two cards of the same rank.
You’ll receive two cards more, one for each of the cards you’ve originally been dealt, pay a side bet, and then start playing with two independent hands.
Both their bets and their payoffs are independent too.
When you double down, you need to place an additional bet, after which you’ll receive one card more to add to your original hand.
The rules for surrendering vary from one casino to another, in a sense that some offer an early surrender option – to drop out of the hand before the dealer checks his cards for a blackjack – and others a later surrender option, in which you must wait until after he’s done that.
Either way, you agree to give up a half of the bet and are free to walk away with the rest.
How Do I Choose to Play a Hand?
The basic blackjack strategy for beginners relies on knowing how to discern a hard hand from a soft one. The simplest way? Look for the aces!
If there’s no an ace in it, or if that ace counts not as 11, but as 1, then you’ve got yourself a hard one, and you don’t have much wiggle room.
Hard hands cannot count on aces to lower the total down and can be dangerously close to surpassing the limit of 22, which automatically makes them bust. Hitting is here quite a risk.
In a soft hand, however, you can count an ace either as a 1 or 11. It means that if another card is, say, a 9, you have either a total of 10, which makes you eligible for hitting or a total of 20, which could make your hand a bust if you choose to hit and receive anything but another ace.
But wait, there’s more.
All this would be of little value if you were to leave without these blackjack tips for beginners:
Always check the dealer’s face up card before you take action.
If it’s anything between 2 and 6, there’s a good chance the dealer’s hand will go bust, so don’t take unnecessary risks. If it’s 7 through ace, take your chances and play the hand aggressively.
Skip placing the side bet for insurance pays 2 to 1.
Experts calculate that this bet gives the house the advantage of almost 6% over the player. It’s dumb because even if you score a blackjack, your hand will pay off only the original bet.
Be smart enough to take your time, and don’t get burned.
The dealer might be rushing, so avoid the first base chair. Also, start small and give yourself a moment to assess the situation. Blackjack is only fun if you know how and when to move on.
Oh, and take a primer from a blackjack expert.
When asked how to play blackjack for beginners, gambling expert John Marchell spilled the following pearls of wisdom: When your hand is 12-16 and the dealer shows 2-6, stand. In the same situation, hit only if the dealer has 7-ace. Always split aces and 8s and double 11 versus the dealer’s 2-10, and hit or double aces-6. Also, blow off the guy who claims to be an expert.
That’s how Bryce Carlson, Edward O. Thorp, Arnold Snyder, Russ Hamilton and Don Johnson began counting their cards, after all.
Blackjack for beginners is much easier than you think.
Just memorize this, try it on your friends, and stop if you’re losing.
And though it won’t save you if you’re bad at math, we wish you good luck.
Where can I practice blackjack online?
Now, to the million dollar question:
what’s the best online blackjack site for a beginner?
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From the UI to the promotions and the easy casino games on tap, PlayAmo is a great casino site to learn how to play blackjack online and become a pro.
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