How to Play Blackjack at a Casino

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As far as table games go, blackjack features some of the best odds you can hope for against the casino -- if you play the game correctly. If you only rely on your gut, the house is going to take all your money. But if you learn the fundamentals of the game, you can swing the advantage closer to your favor, and hopefully walk away with a bit of dough when it's over.

Things You'll Need

  • Money
  • Plan how much money you can afford to lose. Everyone hopes to win, but understand that the odds are against you.

  • Find a table that has a minimum bet you want to play with. Usually $5 is the lowest. A good plan is to take enough money to play 10 hands at the minimum bet (example if minimum bet is $5, have at least $50).

  • Start with a low minimum bet table if you're a novice. You can always increase your bets if you want as you get going. Lower stakes tables tend to have people who are less experienced and more tolerant of rookie mistakes. If you are nervous, find a table with fewer people so you don't feel crowded.

  • When you sit down and are ready to play, put the amount of money you want to bet on the table in front of you for the dealer to change. Do not try to hand it to the dealer.

  • Put the amount you want to bet in the circle on the table (you must bet at least the table minimum). Once dealing starts do not touch your chips.

  • Each player is dealt two cards face up. The dealer will deal herself one card face up, and one card face down. The object of the game is to have a higher hand than the dealer without going over 21. Anyone going over 21 loses, including the dealer. You are not playing against the other players at the table, just the dealer. If the dealer busts (goes over 21), everyone who is still in play wins.

  • All cards with numbers on them, 2 through 10, are worth the value on the card. All face cards -- Jack, Queen, King -- are worth 10. Aces are worth 1 or 11 (you decide)

  • If your first two cards equal 21 (either a 10 a face card along with an ace) and the dealer is not showing an ace you hit a blackjack. Some casinos give you 1.5 times your bet for doing this. If the dealer is showing an ace she will check whether she has 21 before paying you. If the dealer also has a blackjack, you don't lose your bet, but you don't win either.

  • After the two cards are dealt, the dealer goes down the table asking whether you want to "stay" with your hand, or "hit" (ask for more cards). Your answer depends on what you have and what the dealer has.

  • Generally, the dealer stays on 17 and above (17 to 21) and hits on 16 and under until he reaches 17 or higher, or busts. Anyone who busts before the dealer, who always goes last, automatically loses, even if the dealer later goes over 21.

  • Look at your cards as you decide to stay or hit. If you have 17 to 20 (remember 21 is an automatic win), always stay (take no more cards and wait for the dealers turn). These hands are pretty good and the dealer (depending on what he has) may have to stay on a number below what you have.

  • If you have 11 or under, always hit. You can never lose with 11 or below so why not take another card to see if you can get blackjack or a really good hand?

  • The key in blackjack is that there is almost a 1 in 3 chance of getting a card that is worth 10. Your strategy should be to always assume the next card will be a 10.

  • If you have a 12 to 16, use the dealer' s hand as your guide on what to do. If he is showing a 7, 8, 9, 10, or face card you must assume the card that is hidden is a 10, and he has you beat (since he will stay because he has to and his hand is greater than yours). If the dealer is showing 6 or below, assuming once again his hidden card is a 10, the dealer will have to hit again (must hit on anything below 17). You will then assume the next card he takes is also a 10, which puts him over 21 and everyone wins.

  • During your turn to show that you want another card (aka hit), point at your card. Don't touch your cards, which casinos don't like. If you want to stay, put your palm face down and wave your hand across the table over your cards.

  • If you are up more than what you initially bought in for -- let's say you have $100 in chips and you only initially bought $50 worth of chips -- put your extra winnings in your pocket and resume betting with your base money. That way you'll usually walk away with something still in your pocket.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are dealt two aces or two rights always split your cards. To do this when it's your turn you say split and double your bet. This technique splits your cards into two separate hands and you will be dealt another card for each hand (so you will have two complete hands with two cards). You then play each hand as you would above.
  • If you and the dealer have the same hand, the bet is push, and you get to keep your money.
  • The other technique to remember is doubling down. You can double down on any hand. This is done by saying "double down" and doubling your bet when it comes to your turn (you can only do this before your first hit). The dealer will give one additional card and you will play with this hand -- you can no longer hit. You should always double down when your first two cards equal 11 since the chances of getting a 10 and hitting blackjack are very good.
  • Keep in mind that the methods above are the preferred way to play. Also remember that your decisions can have ramifications for the rest of the table. If you hit when you aren't supposed to and take a card that may bust the dealer in big money game you may run into people who gumble about the way you play. In most cases take no head of them because remember it is your money and you can play how you want. Still keep in mind regular play as it will give you (and the table) the best chance to win.

References

  • Photo Credit Photos.com/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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