This game is known by several names Blackjack, 21, Pontoon but they are all the same game and it is extremely popular in the casinos and has been around for many years. The rules to this game are quite basic, to be successful at this game does take a lot of decision making which comes with experience and there are many skilful players who can make money at playing this game but as always with card games, there is always a degree of luck involved. If you are not dealt with the winning cards then making the decision to carry on with your hand can decide on how much money you win or lose.
Different casinos will have different house rules so always check before playing, many will have a minimum and maximum bet, some will use one or two decks of cards, others will use several decks that are contained in a “shoe” this allows the dealer to deal the cards one at a time from the top of the shoe. With casinos that only use one or two decks of cards, the dealer will usually deal them out by hand and this scenario is usually found in the smaller casinos. It is worth remembering that if a shoe is used the cards are dealt face up and you are not allowed to touch the cards, with hand dealt casinos, you can pick up your hand and the cards are dealt face down.
Whatever the scenario and however many players are at the table the objective is to beat the dealers hand. You need to get the value of your hand as high as possible without going over a total of 21, the player always goes first, play will always start with the player directly left to the dealer, and if you do exceed 21 you are bust and lose your wager, if you stay under 21 and the dealer goes over this total, you win and the dealer loses.
If you bust then the dealer wins without even having to play their hand, if you have stayed with your cards and the total is below 21 the dealer will then play their hand, if they beat your total without going over the limit then you lose again or if you beat their total without either player busting then you win. Sounds simple and it is but there are certain rules and etiquette of play that have to be observed at the table so below we will go through the process of playing the game and at the end of the article tips on how to be more successful will be given.
Starting the game is the same for hand dealt cards or shoe dealt cards, as mentioned above, the only difference is whether the cards are dealt face up or face down. The cards all have a value, numbered cards from 2-10 stick with the value of the card, all face cards (royal cards) have a value of 10 and aces can either have a value of 1 or 11, this makes them an extremely good card to be dealt with as it gives you the option of using them as either value. The playing table will be semi-circular in shape and at each players seat there will be a square or circle, dependant on each casino, where the player places their chips when they are betting on their hands. The chips are purchased from the dealer and can only be used at that table, any chips left at the end of play can be cashed in at the casino desk.
Each player is dealt with two cards, from a shoe one is face up and one face down, otherwise they are both face down. The dealer will then go round each player in turn asking them to play their hand dependant on the two cards that they have been dealt with, decisions here can be based on trying to work out how good a hand the dealer has.
If you are dealt with an Ace and a card to the value of 10, this can be the actual 10 card or aa royal card, you will have been given 21 in total and you have a Blackjack. The payout for this is 3 to 2 and the best hand you could possibly get. The dealer can still beat this if they have also dealt themselves a Blackjack, don't forget the dealers hand always takes priority.
If you have been given two random cards you can ask for another card especially if your total is low, this is signified to the dealer by tapping your hand on the table and beckoning, no words are ever exchanged. You can keep asking for cards while it is your turn as long as you do not exceed the value of 21 in your hand, if you do you will be bust and lose your money.
If the two cards that you were dealt with have a reasonable total i.e. 17 or 18 and you think you can beat the dealers total then you can stick with these cards and your turn is over. This is signified to the dealer by waving your hands over the cards.
There are a couple of other bets that you can play, if you feel that you could obtain a winning hand with your original cards then you can “Double Down” and place an extra bet at the side of your original bet. You will then receive one more card but no more, you are allowed to bet the same as your original stake but it must also be above the minimum stake of the table rules.
If you are dealt with two cards of the same rank you can split these cards and you will then be given another card to go with the first card that you split and you will then play out this hand before repeating the process with the second card that you split. To play this you have to double the stake that you originally placed. As expected this is known as “Splitting”.
There will be a scenario where the dealer has an Ace showing in their hand, in this case the dealer will ask all of the players if they want to play another bet which is based on the dealers hand. You will be betting that they have a 10 to accompany the Ace and if they have you will lose your original stake but this second bet will payout at 2 to 1 and will recover some of your losses. If they don't have a 10 you still have the chance of winning on your original hand but your second bet is classed as a loss.
As mentioned at the start of the article there are a lot of decisions to be made while playing this game, often what appears to be a losing original two cards can be made into a winning hand by making the right decisions, here are a few pointers to help you out.
If your first two cards total between 12 -16 then it is possible to go over 21 if you ask for another card, asking for that extra card could lose you your stake money, sometimes it is better to stay put and stick with those cards hoping the dealer will either bust or be unable to beat your total without busting.
If the total from two cards is 17 or more, always stick with those cards, do not take the risk of bettering your hand and going bust.
If you are dealt with two Aces or two mid-range cards, split your hand. Not only do you double your chances of getting Blackjack this way but if the cards are mid-range you also have the double the chance of building winning hands by asking for the extra cards.
There are many articles available that deal with the strategies in far more detail and some casinos will even let you take your strategy with you on paper if you are new to the game but always check if this is allowed and that you are not breaking the house rules.