Thursday, June 25, 2020

Tao's Dealer School: Blackjack

by James "Tao" Murphy 

Probably the most popular game offered in every casino.

Two ways to win; Your hand is higher than the dealers without going over 21, or the dealer busts.
For this explanation I am only going to talk about the standard game. Most casinos have some other “side bet” like the Jynx bet, or Tao’s triple. If you have questions about side bets, ask your dealer they do vary wildly and can add a lot of spice to the game.

You place a wager on the board. The dealer then deals, usually one card at a time to each player and themselves, until every player has two cards face up. Your basic choices are “Hit” or “stand”.  There are a few more choices I will go into later. Only 1 of the dealers’ cards will be face up. What is life with risk? Once all players have finished (usually from the dealers left to their right), it’s the dealers turn. They have very specific rules they must go by. If their hand is 16 or less, then they hit until its more than 16. If it goes over 21 then they “bust”, and all remain players that did not bust automatically win regardless of what they had for a total.

Hitting involves getting one more card to add to your total. Standing involves that you are don’t taking cards. You choose to take cards until you like your total, or you go over 21 at which point you lose, and your wager should be remove form the board.

Your object is to get your hand higher than the dealers without going over 21. Cards are worth their face value, jacks, queens and kings are worth 10, and Aces can be worth 1 or 11 your choice. So, if you have a jack and 3 your hands are 13 points. If you win your bet is paid even money; if you bet 4 you get paid 4, if you bet 25 you get 25. Quick note most experienced better make their bets even numbers. The why of this will be covered later. If you total is lower, then you lose. If, however it’s the same it’s a push you neither win nor lose. (Free entertainment)

The basic strategy is to ether have/make a strong enough hand to be stronger than the dealer or to think the dealer is likely to bust if they go over 21. Therefore, the dealer up card is important. This is your only clue as to if they are likely to bust or not.

A lot of players will use hand motions instead of saying Hit/stand, some kind of “Gimme” gesture will work for hit, and any kind of negative or “enough” gesture will work for stand. The dealer might make sure they understand the first few times you make the gesture. If you watch a table for a short while you will get the idea of it very quickly.

Now a special thing happens before anything else, is if the dealers up card is an Ace. If it’s an Ace they will ask every player if they want insurance. The way this works is they are warning the players they could have a hand that is 21 which means everyone else would lose. An insurance bet is an additional bet that is an half your current wager (rounded up). If your original bet was 18 your insurance bet would be 9. Once all players have placed the insurance bet or declined insurance, the dealer will check the down card to see if they have blackjack. If they do then they push back both the insurance bet, and the original bet back to the player who loses nothing. So in the example above, even though the dealer has a Blackjack, the player does not lose. If the dealer does not have a Blackjack, they take the insurance bets and play continues as normal with players making Hit/stand decisions. Quick math, the insurance bet basically pays 2:1. The likelihood of a dealer having a blackjack when they are showing an ace is about 3:1.

Now let’s talk about some rare special hands you might get. The first is a “Blackjack” that is on your first 2 cards you have any “ten” card and an ace. Your bet will get paid 3:2 (usually rounding down). So, if you bet 2 chips you will get paid 3; if you bet 10 you would get paid 15. If you bet an odd number like 5 you will be paid 7, therefore most experienced gamblers bet even amounts.

Blackjacks are usually paid before almost anything else happens. However, if the dealer is showing an ace, that process will happen first. Now when the dealer is showing an ace (or any card really) you can ask for “even money” you only get paid 1:1 instead of 3:2 but you will get paid before the dealer checks for Blackjack. Sometimes worth doing especially if you have bet an Odd amount.

Couple other special things you can do split and double down. Most experienced players only do this when the dealer is weak, but you can do it on any hand.

If your first two cards are of equal value you can split them to make 2 hands. But you must put another equal wager on the board. Notice I said equal value, you could split 8,8 for instance or split a king and a queen. As both cards have equal value. Like many things in blackjack, there is a special rule when it comes to aces. If you decided to split aces you have to put up another equal wager; however you only get one more card regardless of what it is. The card should be placed sideways. If you are lucky enough to receive another Ace, you can split that as up 4 total hands. Any other card besides an ace is played normally hit/stand. You must complete one hand before starting the next.

Doubling down is also possible on any two cards but most experts usually only do it when the have a total of 10 or 11 and the dealer is weak. You put up another equal bet and the dealer gives you 1 additional card which should be put sideways.

So that’s it, put up a bet, get two cards, figure out your strategy for either making a strong enough hand to beat the dealer, or thinking the dealer is going to bust. If you have kept reading to here, congratulations!, more than most probably. It sounds like a lot is going on, but if you watch a few hands you should very quickly pick up the feel for the game. Good luck