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Blackjack , also known as twenty-one , is a comparing card game between usually several players and a dealer, where each player in turn competes against the dealer, but players do not play against each other. It is played with one or more decks of 52 cards, and is the most widely played casino banking game in the world. Players are each dealt two cards, face up or down depending on the casino and the table at which you sit. In most other countries, the dealer receives one card face up.
The value of cards two through ten is their pip value 2 through Face cards Jack, Queen, and King are all worth ten. Aces can be worth one or eleven. A hand's value is the sum of the card values. Players are allowed to draw additional cards to improve their hands. A hand with an ace valued as 11 is called "soft", meaning that the hand will not bust by taking an additional card; the value of the ace will become one to prevent the hand from exceeding Otherwise, the hand is "hard".
The dealer hand will not be completed if all players have either busted or received blackjacks. The dealer then reveals the hidden card and must hit until the cards total 17 or more points. At most tables the dealer also hits on a "soft" 17, i. Players win by not busting and having a total higher than the dealer, or not busting and having the dealer bust, or getting a blackjack without the dealer getting a blackjack.
If the player and dealer have the same total not counting blackjacks , this is called a "push", and the player typically does not win or lose money on that hand. Otherwise, the dealer wins. Blackjack has many rule variations. Since the s, blackjack has been a high-profile target of advantage players , particularly card counters , who track the profile of cards that have been dealt and adapt their wagers and playing strategies accordingly.
Blackjack has inspired other casino games, including Spanish 21 and pontoon. Blackjack's precursor was twenty-one , a game of unknown origin.
The first written reference is found in a book by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes , most famous for writing Don Quixote. Cervantes was a gambler , and the main characters of his tale " Rinconete y Cortadillo ", from Novelas Ejemplares , are a couple of cheats working in Seville. They are proficient at cheating at veintiuna Spanish for twenty-one , and state that the object of the game is to reach 21 points without going over and that the ace values 1 or The game is played with the Spanish baraja deck.
This short story was written between and , implying that ventiuna was played in Castile since the beginning of the 17th century or earlier. Later references to this game are found in France and Spain. When twenty-one was introduced in the United States, gambling houses offered bonus payouts to stimulate players' interest.
One such bonus was a ten-to-one payout if the player's hand consisted of the ace of spades and a black jack either the jack of clubs or the jack of spades. This hand was called a "blackjack", and the name stuck to the game even though the ten-to-one bonus was soon withdrawn.
In the modern game, a blackjack refers to any hand of an ace plus a ten or face card regardless of suits or colors. The first scientific and mathematically sound attempt to devise an optimal blackjack playing strategy was revealed in September This paper would become the foundation of all future sound efforts to beat the game of blackjack.
At a casino blackjack table, the dealer faces five to seven playing positions from behind a semicircular table. Between one and eight standard card decks are shuffled together. At the beginning of each round, up to three players can place their bets in the "betting box" at each position in play. That is, there could be up to three players at each position at a table in jurisdictions that allow back betting.
The player whose bet is at the front of the betting box is deemed to have control over the position, and the dealer will consult the controlling player for playing decisions regarding the hand; the other players of that box are said to "play behind". Any player is usually allowed to control or bet in as many boxes as desired at a single table, but it is prohibited for an individual to play on more than one table at a time or to place multiple bets within a single box. Each box is dealt an initial hand of two cards visible to the people playing on it, and often to any other players.
The dealer's hand receives its first card face up, and in "hole card" games immediately receives its second card face down the hole card , which the dealer peeks at but does not reveal unless it makes the dealer's hand a blackjack.
Hole card games are sometimes played on tables with a small mirror or electronic sensor that is used to peek securely at the hole card. In European casinos, "no hole card" games are prevalent; the dealer's second card is neither drawn nor consulted until the players have all played their hands. Cards are dealt either from one or two handheld decks, from a dealer's shoe , or from a shuffling machine.
Single cards are dealt to each wagered-on position clockwise from the dealer's left, followed by a single card to the dealer, followed by an additional card to each of the positions in play. The players' initial cards may be dealt face up or face down more common in single-deck games. On their turn, players must choose whether to "hit" take a card , "stand" end their turn , "double" double wager, take a single card and finish , "split" if the two cards have the same value, separate them to make two hands or "surrender" give up a half-bet and retire from the game.
Number cards count as their natural value; the jack, queen, and king also known as "face cards" or "pictures" count as 10; aces are valued as either 1 or 11 according to the player's choice.
If the hand value exceeds 21 points, it busts, and all bets on it are immediately forfeit. After all boxes have finished playing, the dealer's hand is resolved by drawing cards until the hand busts or achieves a value of 17 or higher a dealer total of 17 including an ace, or "soft 17", must be drawn to in some games and must stand in others.
The dealer never doubles, splits, or surrenders. If the dealer busts, all remaining player hands win. If the dealer does not bust, each remaining bet wins if its hand is higher than the dealer's, and loses if it is lower. If a player receives 21 on the 1st and 2nd card it is considered a "natural" or "blackjack" and the player is paid out immediately unless dealer also has a natural, in which case the hand ties.
In the case of a tied score, known as "push" or "standoff", bets are normally returned without adjustment; however, a blackjack beats any hand that is not a blackjack, even one with a value of Wins are paid out at 1: Many casinos today pay blackjacks at less than 3: Blackjack games almost always provide a side bet called insurance, which may be played when dealer's upcard is an ace.
Additional side bets, such as "Dealer Match" which pays when the player's cards match the dealer's up card, are sometimes available. After receiving an initial two cards, the player has up to four standard options: Each option has a corresponding hand signal. Some games give the player a fifth option, "surrender".
Hand signals are used to assist the " eye in the sky ", a person or video camera located above the table and sometimes concealed behind one-way glass. The eye in the sky usually makes a video recording of the table, which helps in resolving disputes and identifying dealer mistakes, and is also used to protect the casino against dealers who steal chips or players who cheat.
The recording can further be used to identify advantage players whose activities, while legal, make them undesirable customers. In the event of a disagreement between a player's hand signals and their words, the hand signal takes precedence. Each hand may normally "hit" as many times as desired so long as the total is not above hard On reaching 21 including soft 21 , the hand is normally required to stand; busting is an irrevocable loss and the players' wagers are immediately forfeited to the house.
After a bust or a stand, play proceeds to the next hand clockwise around the table. When the last hand has finished being played, the dealer reveals the hole card, and stands or draws further cards according to the rules of the game for dealer drawing. When the outcome of the dealer's hand is established, any hands with bets remaining on the table are resolved usually in counterclockwise order: If the dealer's upcard is an ace, the player is offered the option of taking "insurance" before the dealer checks the hole card.
Insurance is a side bet that the dealer has blackjack and is treated independently of the main wager. The idea is that the dealer's second card has a fairly high probability nearly one-third to be ten-valued, giving the dealer blackjack and disappointment for the player.
It is attractive although not necessarily wise for the player to insure against the possibility of a dealer blackjack by making a maximum "insurance" bet, in which case the "insurance proceeds" will make up for the concomitant loss on the original bet. The player may add up to half the value of their original bet to the insurance and these extra chips are placed on a portion of the table usually marked "Insurance pays 2 to 1".
Players with a blackjack may also take insurance, and in taking maximum insurance they commit themselves to winning an amount exactly equal to their main wager, regardless of the dealer's outcome. Fully insuring a blackjack against blackjack is thus referred to as "taking even money", and paid out immediately, before the dealer's hand is resolved; the players do not need to place more chips for the insurance wager.
Insurance bets are expected to lose money in the long run, because the dealer is likely to have blackjack less than one-third of the time. However the insurance outcome is strongly anti-correlated with that of the main wager, and if the player's priority is to reduce variation , they might choose to pay for this. Furthermore, the insurance bet is susceptible to advantage play. It is advantageous to make an insurance bet whenever the hole card has more than a chance of one in three of being a ten.
Advantage play techniques can sometimes identify such situations. In a multi-hand, face-up, single deck game, it is possible to establish whether insurance is a good bet simply by observing the other cards on the table after the deal; even if there are just 2 player hands exposed, and neither of their two initial cards is a ten, then 16 in 47 of the remaining cards are tens, which is larger than 1 in 3, so insurance is a good bet.
This is an elementary example of the family of advantage play techniques known as card counting. Bets to insure against blackjack are slightly less likely to be advantageous than insurance bets in general, since the ten in the player's blackjack makes it less likely that the dealer has blackjack too. The rules of casino blackjack are generally determined by law or regulation, which establishes certain rule variations allowed at the discretion of the casino.
The rules of any particular game are generally posted on or near the table, failing which there is an expectation that casino staff will provide them on request. Over variations of blackjack have been documented. As with all casino games, blackjack incorporates a "house edge", a statistical advantage for the casino that is built into the game. The advantage of the dealer's position in blackjack relative to the player comes from the fact that if the player busts, the player loses, regardless of whether the dealer subsequently busts.
The loss rate of players who deviate from basic strategy through ignorance is generally expected to be greater. Surrender, for those games that allow it, is usually not permitted against a dealer blackjack; if the dealer's first card is an ace or ten, the hole card is checked to make sure there is no blackjack before surrender is offered. This rule protocol is consequently known as "late" surrender. The alternative, "early" surrender, gives player the option to surrender before the dealer checks for blackjack, or in a no-hole-card game.
Early surrender is much more favorable to the player than late surrender. Most medium-strength hands should be surrendered against a dealer Ace if the hole card has not been checked. For late surrender, however, while it is tempting to opt for surrender on any hand which will probably lose, the correct strategy is to only surrender on the very worst hands, because having even a one in four chance of winning the full bet is better than losing half the bet and pushing the other half, as entailed by surrendering.
With no hole card, it is almost never correct basic strategy to double or split against a dealer ten or ace, since a dealer blackjack will result in the loss of the split and double bets; the only exception is with a pair of A's against a dealer 10, where it is still correct to split.
In all other cases, a stand, hit or surrender is called for. For instance, holding 11 against a dealer 10, the correct strategy is to double in a hole card game where the player knows the dealer's second card is not an ace , but to hit in a no hole card game.
The no hole card rule adds approximately 0. The "original bets only" rule variation appearing in certain no hole card games states that if the player's hand loses to a dealer blackjack, only the mandatory initial bet "original" is forfeited, and all optional bets, meaning doubles and splits, are pushed. Each blackjack game has a basic strategy , which is playing a hand of any total value against any dealer's up-card, which loses the least money to the house in the long term.
An example of basic strategy is shown in the table below, and includes the following parameters: The bulk of basic strategy is common to all blackjack games, with most rule variations calling for changes in only a few situations. Practicing in Free play allows players to learn at their own pace and opens the virtual doors to a broad range of variations of this world famous game.
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