PLAYING THE GAME OF BLACKJACK

In the final section covering the process of playing blackjack, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to get into the action. You’ve selected a game, you’ve exchanged your cash for chips and you know how to handle your chips at the table. Now you’re ready to play:

LAND BASED CASINOS VS. ONLINE CASINOS

The information that follows applies primarily to land-based casinos. Online casinos take the intimidation out of the equation and many of the tasks that we discuss below are automated. Every online casino has their own process for exchanging the money and managing play. Fortunately, you’ll find that the betting process at most online casino blackjack ‘tables’ is simple and intuitive. Even if you’re primarily an online player it never hurts to understand how to handle gameplay and betting if you ever decide to try your luck in local casinos.

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PLAYING THE GAME

The information below won’t give you any strategy tips—you can find that elsewhere on this website. In this section we’ll run through what will happen in a live blackjack game and how you’re expected to respond. A lot of people find playing casino table games highly intimidating and get very nervous the first time. They shouldn’t—it’s very unlikely that you’ll be the only novice at a table full of experienced players. Dealers are trained to help newcomers familiarize themselves with the blackjack gameplay process (it’s good business, after all). They’ll help you out if you don’t know what you’re doing and gently correct you if you make a mistake. As far as the others at the table, most are helpful to beginner players since everyone has been there at some point. After a few sessions, you’ll almost never be the least experienced player at a table.

THE DEAL

So you’ll place your bet and the dealer will give you two cards, both face down if the game is dealt from hand and both face up if dealt from a shoe. It’s not really a big deal if anyone else sees your hand—you’ll sometimes see players show their hand to the dealer asking for guidance. Remember that the deal has to play his hand according to the rules of the game which means he has no reason to care about your hand. One important thing to remember—only touch your cards with one hand. Holding your cards in two hands like you’re playing poker will quickly get a warning from the dealer. For whatever reason, in my experience dealers universally get worked up about this more than anything else. In many casinos, you won’t touch your hand at all in a shoe dealt game.

After your dealt two cards you have several choices—you can hit, you can stand, you can double and you can split. Some games will have a rule called ‘early surrender’ in which you can ‘surrender’ your hand after the first two cards and get your bet back. The best case scenario is being dealt a blackjack (21). If this happens, turn your cards face up (if necessary) and the dealer will do the rest.

To stand, just stick your cards under your bet. If you’re in a game where you don’t touch the cards just hold your hand up in the universal signal for ‘stop’. You can also ‘wave off’ the dealer. You can pretty much do anything except hit or tap the table since that’s an indication that you want another card. In a game where you’re holding the cards, scratch the table with them, or do it with your hand. Dealers are pretty good about figuring these things out. If you take a ‘hit’ and bust just flip your cards face up (if applicable) and the dealer will take your bet.

SPLITTING AND DOUBLING DOWN

To split, flip your cards face up and move them slightly apart. Place the second bet down and the dealer will understand what you’re doing. If you’re in a ‘no touch’ game just point to your cards and verbally indicate you want to split. In either case, the dealer will deal cards to each split hand until you bust or tell him to stop. The one possible exception—some casinos have a rule that split aces get one card each. Other casinos offering blackjack allow you to resplit hands if you get another pair, some casinos will let you re-split most hands but not aces. Some casinos will even let you double down on a split hand. In theory, its your responsibility to know these rules but sometimes a casino’s rules about splitting or doubling down are hard to find. You often won’t know for sure until you play a relevant hand. Keep in mind that every one of these rule variations either improves or detracts from your long-term profitability. This is addressed in more detail in our real money ‘strategy’ sections.

To double down, flip your cards straight up and place another bet by your original stake. The dealer will deal you one card and move on. Don’t move or flip this card over but you can peek at it. It’s bad form to play your hand out of turn so wait for the dealer to flip your ‘down’ card over. Like splitting, if you’re in a game where you don’t handle the cards just put down another bet and the dealer will take care of the rest. It’s important to know a casino’s double down rules and they’re usually easy to find. Some casinos allow doubling down on any two cards, others 9, 10, 11 and still others only 10 or 11.

One other procedural note—if you’re in a position to double down or split and you need to change a chip to have the right denomination just hand it to the dealer and he’ll make change, place down the second bet and give you the rest. Likewise, if you want to double down but are out of chips you can hand the dealer cash and he’ll quickly convert your money into chips, place the second bet and give you the rest. Splitting and doubling are two very important tactical weapons in intermediate and advanced play so don’t pass up an opportunity just because you don’t have correct change.

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