Blackjack Rules

Blackjack is perhaps the most popular table game in most casinos.  The rules are pretty simple and it doesn't take long to pick up the basics of the game.  Blackjack also has a variety of different names in the casinos, such as Twenty-One.  No matter what you call it, you'll find that the rules are basically the same across the board.
There are various styles of play for blackjack depending on where you are playing or which table you sit down at.  For instance, those games that are considered "hand held games" have the cards dealt face down and you are allowed to pick up your cards with one hand.  However, if the cards are dealt from a shoe or shuffler, your cards are dealt face up and you are not allowed to touch them.  Either way, the basic rules are the same.  You can often determine which type of game you are at as soon as you sit down and watch a hand be dealt.
Blackjack can be played with one, two, four, six or eight decks of cards.  The number of decks used varies from table to table and possibly casino to casino.  Sometime throughout the game, the dealer will receive new cards to replace those that have been played with after a certain amount of time.  These cards are always opened at the table and laid out on the table so that you can see all of the cards are there.  The cards are then shuffled by hand and cut by a player.

Your Main Objective
Your main objective in blackjack is to beat the dealer.  If your hand is higher than the dealer's hand without going over 21, then you win.  You are not necessarily trying to get as close to 21 as you can, but beat the dealer's hand.  If your hand does go over 21, then you "bust" and lose your bet.  If the dealer busts and you do not bust, then you win your bet.
However, the player is required to bet and then decide whether they want to "stay" (keep their dealt hand as is) or "hit" (add cards to the hand) before they are allowed to see the dealer's hand.  However, if the dealer has a high card, 10 or higher, they must check to see if they have 21 or a blackjack (an Ace or "10" card, which includes face cards and 10s).  If the dealer has an Ace showing, they are required to first offer insurance to all players before they check for blackjack.  

Card Values in Black Jack
The suit of the cards does not matter in blackjack.  What does matter is the value of the cards.  Cards that are 2-10 are counted at their face values.  All face cards have a value of 10.  An Ace can count as either one or eleven.
For example, if you are dealt a 10 and a 2, you're hand equals 12.  If you are dealt an Ace and a 5, then you're hand could be 6 or 16.  
Hands are often referred to as hard and soft in blackjack.  A hand with an Ace is usually referred to as a soft hand because the value of the hand can change.  A hard hand does not have an Ace and only has one value.  

When you take a hit, you are asking for another card.  To signal a hit, you generally tap the table in front of you or you can make a "come hither" motion with your hand.  If you want another card after your first hit, you would use the same motion.

Stay or Standing
When you stay or stand, you are satisfied with your hand and you signal this to the dealer by waving your hand over the top of your cards.

Double Down
To double down, you are allowed to double your bet after you receive your first two cards.  You can only receive one more card.  The idea is that you are able to get closer to 21 and that the dealer has a weak hand showing.  Some casinos allow you to double down on hands that total ten or eleven and others allow you to double down on any two cards.  The main thing to consider here is that you double your bet and that you only get one more card.  Only double down when it is favorable for you to do so.

If you are dealt a pair of cards that have the same value, then you are able to split these cards into two hands.  The majority of the casinos will allow you to split on any pair.  You must also place an additional bet that is equal to your starting bet.  If you want to split, the dealer will split your cards and place your bet where it belongs.  The dealer then deals two more cards to go with your cards, so now you are basically playing two separate hands.  You are able to decide whether you want to hit or stay on each of these hands.  

As stated before, when a dealer is showing an Ace, they must check to see if they have a blackjack.  But, they must first offer insurance.  Insurance is not really insuring your hand, but you are making an additional wager that is half of your original bet that the dealer has a ten under the Ace.  If you make this bet, you are paid 2 to 1.  However, if they do not have a 10 then you lose both bets.  If you have a blackjack and the dealer has an Ace, you will be asked if you want "even money" instead of the 3-2 payout.  If you do not take even money, you will have a push if the dealer also has a blackjack.  Both of insurance and even money bets are considered sucker bets and most players do not wager these.

Some casinos allow what is called a surrender.  This is when the player surrenders their hand and gives up half of their bet on their first two cards after the dealer checks for blackjack.  This is not common in most casinos.  This can be played to your advantage in some situations, but many players tend to get overzealous with this option and ends up losing the gain you would have otherwise received if played properly.

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