Blackjack Professor

How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is all about the number twenty-one. The suits of the cards mean nothing; their rank is of sole importance. Two through ten are counted at their number value. Jacks, queens, and kings are counted as ten. Aces can be one or eleven, as the player prefers.

Each player competes with the dealer to build a hand that has a point total closer to twenty-one but not over that amount. The initial hand consists of two cards. When these two cards are a combination of any ten and an ace (a total of 21), the player has “Blackjack” (also called a natural) and automatically wins (assuming the dealer doesn't also have a natural). Blackjack is dealt about once every twenty hands.

When the initial card combination totals less than twenty-one, the player can ask for additional cards in an attempt to get closer to twenty-one without going over. Receiving an additional card is called a hit. Refusing additional cards is a stand. Players who exceed twenty-one automatically lose. This is called a bust or a break. When all the players have finished hitting, standing, and sometimes busting, it's the dealer's turn to complete a hand. If the dealer busts and the player hasn't also busted the player wins. If the dealer has a lower hand, the player wins. A tie (called a push) has no winner and no money changes hands. The only way a player can lose without busting is when the dealer is closer to twenty-one, so the house advantage rests primarily on the fact that players complete their hands first.

A natural win is paid 3:2. That means a ten-dollar bet will win you fifteen additional dollars. All other bets are paid 1:1 (except when using insurance, which is discussed in our blackjack rules section).

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Basic Strategy
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