It’s one of the most popular gambling card games in the history of cards. Whether you’re looking to make a buck or two your next trip to downtown Las Vegas or learn the basics, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate guide to blackjack.
If you’ve read our ultimate guide to bingo, you’ll want to keep reading to learn how to play blackjack.
What Is Blackjack
Blackjack is a card game with one or two standard decks played against a dealer. Often played with betting, the objective is to get as close to 21 without going over based on the total value of cards dealt to you.
Each card played has a respective numerical value. 2 through 10 equal their respective values so a 2 of spades equals a value of 2. Face cards Jack, Queen, and King, have the value of 10 while an Ace can be an 11 or 1. Once you use an Ace as either an 11 or 1, you can’t switch it to a different value. Once you use it as one value, you cannot use it the other until you are dealt a new hand.
In the United States, we call this game that’s part luck and part paying attention blackjack but across the world, it goes by different nomenclatures, often simply referred to as “Twenty-One.” For obvious reasons, the game got its name from its objective; moreover, to reach 21 points without going over and using the ace as an 11 or 1.
“Twenty-One” has been around as early as the 17th century. By the time it finally arrived in the United States, gambling saloons introduced betting to entice players. Originally, these dealers would give a bonus to anyone who had an ace of spades with a black jack, a jack of spades or a jack of clubs.
Nowadays, there isn’t a bonus for when you get the black jack paired with the ace of spades but the name remains. And it’s still pretty cool when you do.
Learning to play is easy and requires little skill. It does, however, does require a strategy and understanding of the rules. Here are some of the basics to playing blackjack.
You are dealt two cards to start. If you’re playing at a casino, you play against the “house.” Once you count the total amount of your cards, you can decide to do one of the following:
- Hit: This is the most common action to take after you receive your two cards. If your cards don’t amount to twenty one, you can “hit” to receive another card. Making sure the next card doesn’t put you over is the trick, though.
- Stand: This action means you think you have enough to beat the house. You could have a perfect twenty one or you don’t want to take the risk of going over. Examples to come.
- Double down: This is an additional bet you make if you think you have a winning hand.
- Split: This is a strategy when you receive two 11s and split the hand into two separate hands. You pay twice the ante but you might be twice as lucky with a double black jack.
- Surrender: A player would surrender their hand if they see their hands and think they won’t win. This can only happen after the house looks at the cards they dealt. Surrender rules vary casino to casino so ask in advance.
You win your bet when you beat the house with the total count of your cards or if the house goes over. You lose when you go over or the house beats your hand. If you both get the same amount, it’s considered a “push” and you both get your original bets back. In some places, dealers win ties so make sure you clarify before you start playing.
However, another component to this game is called insurance. Insurance is an option all players have at the table after the house reveals an ace card. The dealer will ask if anyone wants insurance after he or she reveals their face up card to be an ace of any suit. This is a side bet that pays 2:1. When the house reveals an ace, it’s a high probability the next card the house will be a ten.
How do you know when to stand and when to hit? We’ll go into some well-known (and not-so well-known) tips in the next section.
Now you know the basics but do you know when to split or when to double down? Here are some blackjack strategies to consider the next time you head to the tables.
- When to hit: As a general rule, players should not hit past 16. However, some might depend on the odds and the stakes. Always hit on 8 through 13 no matter what the dealer has.
- When to stand: Always stand on 17. 16 stands against dealer 2 through 6.
- When to double down: Always double down on 11s.
- When to split: Most agree you always split aces and 8. Never split tens.
- When to surrender: Churchill would say, “Never surrender!” But sometimes it’s the safer bet if it’s offered. Not all tables or casinos have this opportunity. Surrender on 16 if the dealer has a 9 through ace and stand on 15 if the dealer has anything other than a 10 face up.
These strategies are just the beginning and are not a sure fire you’ll win but with a little luck and a little practice, you may get the hang of it. Expand your prowess even further by reading these in-depth strategy charts.
Where to Play Blackjack in Las Vegas
Every casino you enter in Las Vegas will have blackjack tables. Typically, some locations will offer a variety of bet minimums or even have more decks, increasing the house advantage.
As you research the places to play, take into consideration how much you want to risk to start. Some places are more strict on certain rules like whether the dealer hits on a soft 17, also known as H17 at the table. Hitting on a soft 17 means the hand contains an ace that is being counted as an 11.
You’ll find some of the high bet minimums on the Strip but downtown has a lot of great locations for low bet minimums with big payouts. The Plaza Hotel and Casino has plenty of table games to choose from, including regular Blackjack, Double Deck Blackjack, and Free Bet Blackjack.
Double Deck Blackjack means you play against the house with only 2 decks and the dealer shuffles these decks at the beginning of each hand. This increases your odds in winning against the house.
As the name indicates, Free Bet Blackjack allows players to play without betting but it comes with a catch. If the house gets a 22, all bets on the table push. This version is played with 6 decks, 3:2 odds, “Free Doubles” and “Free Splits.”
The Best Place to Play Blackjack Downtown
Whether you’re staying downtown or looking to party downtown, there’s no better place to play blackjack. Book a downtown hotel room and enjoy all that the Plaza and Downtown Las Vegas have to offer.