Blackjack Made Simple – Part One
by: Vegas Vic – Victor H. Royer
Blackjack Basics – An Introduction
If you are new to the game of casino Blackjack – or perhaps find the game a bit intimidating in the actual casino – it’s OK. No one is born ready, or an expert. We all struggle at the beginning. But the point is to overcome that fear, or lack of knowledge, and get in the game!
Blackjack is a terrific game, and should be enjoyed without trepidation. And while it may look confusing – or perhaps appear difficult if you are seeing it in the casino for the first time – it’s all actually quite simple. And that’s why I have written this article – to show you that this great game actually IS very simple. So, let’s go to the table, and enjoy the game!
First, here’s a typical Blackjack table, just as you’ll find it in the casino:
The circles (or sometime squares) are where you will place your wager, and where the cards will be dealt. To the left of the dealer is the “shoe”, a device where the shuffled cards are placed, ready for dealing. In some casinos a machine will shuffle the decks, and the shuffled cards are then placed into this “shoe.” In other casinos, the dealer will shuffle the cards, and then place them into this “shoe.” Once this is done, the game is ready to start – this is called: “A new deal”, or: “Start of a new shoe.”
The tray in front of the dealer is where the casino chips are stored. From this tray the dealer will pay the winning bets, and into this tray the dealer will place the chips that have been lost by losing hands.
Where to Sit at Blackjack Tables
When you first approach a Blackjack table, you can sit in any one of the available seats. Which one you take really doesn’t matter. The “first position” – the seat to the far left of the dealer – is called: “First Base.” The opposite side seat – the one to the dealer’s far right – is called: “Third Base.” These names really don’t matter much to your game at this point, but you might hear other players at the game refer to them, so now you know what they are, and what this means. The other seats at the table usually don’t have any catchy names.
So, when you find a seat you like, sit down, wait for the current hand to be finished, and then – before the start of the next hand – place your cash on the table in front of you – but NOT into the “betting circle” (or betting square) – and say: “Change, please.”
This means that you want to join the game, and are asking the dealer to convert your cash into playing chips. The dealer will then take your cash, count it, spread it on the table so that the Supervisors can see it, announce the amount, and then convert the amount of the cash into an equivalent amount of playing chips, in various denominations.
All of this is done automatically by the dealer, so don’t worry about any of these procedures. If the dealer asks you how you want your chips, and you’re not sure, just say: “Break it down for me.” Or, you can just ask: “What do you think is best?”
Usually, if you’re buying in with, say, $100, and the table is a minimum of $5, the dealer will automatically give you “red” chips, each valued at $5. This is the most common “break” for $100 in cash into Blackjack gaming chips. But if you’re at a $1 game, and buy in for $20, then the dealer will usually just change the cash into $1 gaming chips, and so on. It all depends on the table stakes, and the amount of cash with which you bought in.
One hint – the reason why you don’t want to put all your initial buy-in cash into the betting circle (or square) is because sometimes the dealer may think that you are making a “cash bet”, and that, therefore, you want all that money to ride on the next hand. If that’s what you want to do, then, of course, that’s OK. But in most cases – especially if you are new to the game of casino Blackjack – you want to play a while with this money, and so all you want is the change into gaming chips, and not to play it all on one hand. So that’s why it’s important to ask for the “change”, and to NOT place your cash into the betting area on the table layout.
Blackjack Basics – Gameplay
OK – so now you have your seat, you have changed your cash for the gaming chips, and the game is about to start.
Even if you joined the game in progress, it’s OK. Everyone will wait until you have changed your cash into gaming chips, and made your first wager. Now the game can continue, and the dealer will begin to deal.
The dealer deals the cards from the “shoe”, and will deal them one at a time to each player on the table who has a wager in the betting area (that circle, or square, where you place your bets). In most casinos where the games are dealt from the “shoe”, the dealer will place each card face-up in front of each player with a wager. Such players with a wager are called: “Active players”, meaning they have a bet in the current hand in progress.
After the first pass – the first card out to each player – the dealer will then deal one card to himself, or herself, and this card is dealt face down.
After the second pass – the second card dealt to each player – the dealer will then deal the second card to himself, or herself, and now flip the first card face-up, while sliding the second card face-down under this now-exposed first card.
So, now all the players have two cards each – usually face up on most shoe-games – and the dealer also has two cards, but only one of them is face-up, for all to see.
It is at this point that players are asked by the dealer to make decisions about their hands. The dealer does this by pointing to each player in turn, starting with the player in Position One, or First Base if that seat is occupied. This dealer motions is an indication to each player to decide what to do now, based on the first two cards they have been dealt. These decisions are as follows:
- Stand – this means to “stay” with the original two cards you have been dealt, and do nothing else for this current hand in progress. To indicate this, you simply extend your palm over the cards, and slightly wave your hand from side-to-side. This indicates to the dealer that you are satisfied with the cards you already have, and do not wish to do anything else. The dealer will then move on to the next player, in turn. However – please remember that once you have made that decision, you CANNOT go back and change your mind, after the dealer has already moved on.
- Hit – this means to “draw more cards”. To do this you extend your palm near the cards, and “scratch” the table in front of you, gently, as if you were “scratching an itch.” This indicates to the dealer that you want another card, and he or she will then deal you one card from the shoe, face up, and place it next to your original two cards. You now have to make a decision, on whether to “stand” or “hit again.” If you want to “hit again”, then simply repeat the “scratching” procedure. You can do this for as many cards are you want to draw, until you either make the hand you want to make, or “bust.” If – after drawing the cards you want, you then want to “stand” – and did not “bust” – then you indicate this to the dealer by performing the “stand” hand motion, as described above.
- Double-Down – this means that if you have two cards whose total value can be much improved by just one good hit – usually cards whose initial combined value is either “10” or “11” – you simply say to the dealer: “Double-Down, please.” When you say this, the dealer will then ask you to place an additional wager, equivalent to your original wager, next to that original bet, and then deal you one card – and just one card only – and slide it under this additional wager, face down. You can gently look at it, of course, or you can just wait until the dealer finishes the hand in progress, and then turns the card over for you. In some casinos, however, the dealer will deal that card face-up, and then move on to the other players still in the game. Either procedure is fine, and will not affect your outcome in any way.
- Split – this means that if your original two cards are of matching value – such as, for example, two Aces – you can “split” them into two separate hands, and play them both for this round. To do this you simply say to the dealer: “Split, please.” The dealer will then separate the two original cards, place them side-by-side, and then ask you to make a second wager on the second hand, a wager which usually must be of equivalent value to your original bet. So, once you make that wager, you are now playing two hands.
- Splitting Aces – The dealer will then deal one card to each of your hands – and ONLY ONE CARD if you are splitting Aces. If you receive another Ace card on either hand, or in some cases on both hands, in some casinos you will be able to Re-Split those Aces again, in which case the dealer will then deal you ONE card, and ONE card only, to each of those other Re-Split Aces.However, if you are splitting OTHER hands, such as 8’s for example, then AFTER splitting them, the Dealer will then ask you for decisions for the first hand, such as “stand”, “hit”, “double-down”, or, in some cases, another “split.”Once you have completed the decisions for that hand, the dealer will now move on to your second hand, and all of these procedures are then repeated for that hand as well. Whatever results you achieve for each of these hands is independent of the other hand, and you therefore play them individually, as you would any other hand, one at a time.
- Blackjack – sometimes also known as “The Natural”, this means a total hand value of “21”, being composed of an Ace and a 10-value card. For example, any Ace with any King, Queen, Jack, or 10, combined on the original two-card deal, is a “Blackjack”. Usually this wins automatically, and pays either 3:2 or 6:5, depending on the game’s rules. This is an automatic win, unless the dealer is showing either an Ace or a 10-value card as his or her Up-Card. If this happens, the dealer will ask for “Insurance”, which is a side-bet on whether or not the dealer will also have a Natural, or Blackjack. To keep it simple, don’t buy this “insurance.” It’s a bad bet, and will unnecessarily complicate your game. If the dealer DOES also have a Blackjack, then you “push”, and lose nothing. But most of the time the dealer will NOT have a Blackjack as well as you, and so just sit back and enjoy the result, and your wins
- Bust – this means that – after drawing more cards to your hand – the combined total value exceeds “21”, and, therefore, you have lost the wager. This can happen ONLY if you have drawn more cards by asking to “hit”, either on your original two-card hand, or on your hand after drawing the first card, and so on, or on your hands after a “split.” If you did NOT draw ANY cards, then you can NEVER “bust.”
- Push – this means that both you and the dealer have the SAME total value of all cards. For example, if your total is, say, 18, and the dealer has the same total of 18, then neither you nor the dealer win or lose. It’s a “push”, a sort of “stand-off” where you don’t lose, and don’t win, and neither does the dealer. If you “push” ANY hand, you can either leave the same wager for the next hand, or change the amount of that wager for the next hand, or remove all your wagers altogether, and even leave the game.
After the dealer has asked each active player in the current hand to make these decisions, the dealer will then – and ONLY then – expose his or her “down card” – meaning the second card that has so far been hidden face-down under the dealer’s one exposed up-card – and this now reveals the dealer’s total value of his or her original two cards. If the dealer has a two-card total on which the dealer “must stand”, then the dealer will NOT draw any more cards, and will then pay winning wagers accordingly, and collect losing wagers accordingly. So, if the dealer’s original two-card hand is, say, 18, then the dealer MUST “stand”, and so anyone who also has a total of 18 will likewise not lose, and, therefore, “push” the hand. And so on for any such matching hands. And, of course, anyone having a hand less than the dealer’s total will now lose, and anyone with a better hand than the dealer’s will now win.
After all these decisions are made, and the winners paid and the losing wagers collected by the dealer and placed into the chip tray, the current hand is therefore finished. The dealer will now remove all played and exposed cards from the table, and place them into the “discard tray”, which is a small plastic container to the far right of the dealer, to his or her right hand-side. These “discard” cards will now stay there until the game requires a new shuffle. More “played” cards will be added to that “discard” tray by the dealer as other hands are played, until the “shoe” reached the “cut card.” This “cut card” is a colored piece of plastic inserted by the dealer into the shuffled “shoe” prior to the beginning of the “new deal.” This “cut card” indicates to the dealer that the “shoe” is almost out of cards, and therefore ready for a “new shuffle.”
Once the hand in progress is completed, after the cut card had been exposed, the dealer will then collect all of the cards, those from the discard tray as well as those still remaining in the shoe, and any cards still left on the table, and begin the “new shuffle.” In casinos where automated shuffling machines are used, this procedure is done by these automatic shufflers, and, therefore, the dealer simply places the cards from the discard tray into the shuffling machine, and removes cards already shuffled by the machine, placing those cards into the shoe – and the game is ready for a new round of play.
Objective of the Game of Blackjack
Players new to the game of casino Blackjack sometimes think that the objective of the game is to reach a card-value total of “21”, or get as close to that as possible.
This is NOT so.
The objective of the game is to WIN – and to do this you do NOT have to “reach as close to 21 as possible.” This is a misconception. All you have to do to win is to have a card-total value GREATER than that of the Dealer. And, of course, to NOT “bust” first.
So, if you have, say 19, and the dealer has 18, the YOU WIN!
But you can also win with “bad” cards.
For example, let’s say that you have 17. This is a very mediocre hand. There isn’t much you can do with it, so for this example let’s just say you “stand.” Well, if the dealer has 17 as well, then you “push”, and not lose. But what if the dealer has something else, and must “draw” cards? Well, if the dealer “busts”, then YOU WIN!
And that’s the objective of the game of Casino Blackjack – to WIN.
And to do this, you do NOT have to “reach to 21 or get as close as you can.” All you have to do is know the value of your cards, and the potential value of the dealer’s cards, and then “beat the dealer”, or win “by default” if the dealer “busts.”
OK, so these are simple strategies, for sure. But the purpose of this article is to “make Blackjack simple”, and so that’s what we’ve done here so far.
In Part Two, I will get more into the “Strategy” of the game, and explain more of what you should learn to make the game not just more FUN, but also profitable!
And if you’d like more details about Blackjack, please take a look at my book: “Powerful Profits from Blackjack”, available as an eBook everywhere, or from this link:
For more information, check out Vegas Vic’s author bio:
Until next time, this is Vegas Vic, wishing you Best of Luck!
Las Vegas, NV, USA
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