In blackjack your objective is to beat the dealer in one of two ways. You can either accumulate a higher score than the dealer without going over 21, or sit on a lower score and hope that the dealer goes over or busts. All face cards (jacks, queens, kings) are given the value of 10, and an ace is worth either one or 11, depending on how you want to use it in your hand. Subsequently, any hand that contains an ace that is valued as 11 is called a soft hand as opposed to a hard hand which does not. The remaining cards are worth their face value. The highest hand in the game is a blackjack or a natural, which is a two-card hand that totals 21. The player’s hand can not be beat unless the dealer also has a blackjack, which in this case is called a push or a tie. Three or more cards totaling 21 may have the same value but do not beat out a natural 21.
The blackjack table in a casino is set up with five to seven betting spots with a dealer that acts for the house behind the table. The seat at the far left of the table is referred to as third base because it is the last seat to receive a card. Each table should have a plastic placard advertising the table limits and the minimum and maximum bets allowed at that particular time. You can exchange your money with the dealer for chips, but should not place your money in the betting circle as some casinos permit cash to play on the first bet.
Once you have your chips you can place your bet into the betting circle or box in front of you. Most casinos use multiple decks of two or more and can use as many as eight. After the dealer shuffles, a player will be asked to cut the deck. This duty is rotated from player to player in a clockwise motion after each shuffle. The dealer then inserts a colored cut card, about two-thirds the way into the deck so that he will not be tempted to deal down to the bottom. The dealer then places the cards into the shoe, or arranges them in his hand (for two or less decks). The dealer will then discard or burn the first card, and check to make sure that all players have their bets in the right place and in the right amount. The dealer begins distributing the cards to the players from his left to right starting with the spot know as first base.
Each player will be dealt two cards face-up. The dealer receives an upcard dealt face-up and a hole card dealt facedown. Each player is playing a separate game, so after the dealer gives each player and himself two cards, he’ll return to first base and start acting on each hand individually. As each players turn comes up he will point to their cards.
After receiving two cards, players must decide whether or not they would like to keep the hand as is, or take additional cards to increase the value of the hand. When you would like to be dealt another card, a hit or a draw is indicated by lightly scratching the table with your hand or cards. Every time you scratch the dealer will give you a card face-up; there are no limits to the number of hits a player can take. If you do not want to take a card, you indicate a stand by waving your hand or placing your cards under your original bet. If you are lucky enough to be dealt an ace and a ten you have what is called a natural or blackjack and should immediately turn both cards face up to let the dealer know. The payout of 3:2 for a blackjack hand is standard in most casinos. If you take a hit and that card puts your total over 21, you lose automatically and the dealer removes your cards with your wager.
After all of the players have made their playing decisions, the dealer’s hand is played out according to the rules of the house. What usually happens is that the dealer will reveal his hole card. If the dealer’s hand totals 17 or more, he will stand. If the dealer’s hand totals 16 or less, the dealer will hit until reaching 17 or more. At the end of the hand, if the totals of your cards are closer to 21, you win. If you win then you will be paid even money, the amount that you wagered, plus your original wager. If the dealer’s hand is closer to 21, you lose and your wager goes to the house. If you have pushed, the dealer will rap the table with his knuckles and leave the chips where they stand. You are then allowed to increase, decrease or remove the bet.