Black Jack is a very old card game that has roots in France and Italy but probably has roots going back much further than that. The goal of Black Jack is simple, get a better hand than the dealer without going over 21. It’s thanks to its very simple rules and its great mathematical depth that Black Jack is one of the most popular casino games today.
A simple game with incredible depth
Black jack is a game simple enough to be almost immediately picked up when going to a casino and it still has a mathematical depth that lead a team of students from MIT to Las Vegas with a card counting system. The team consisted of several students that had worked around the clock to create a working and profitable card counting system. Since then there have been a lot of card counting systems, not all of them work but many of those that do are surprisingly easy to use. Even if you’re not going to count cards, Black Jack is still a game where you can apply your own skill and strategy to win.
Playing Black Jack
Before you start a game of Black Jack you need to find out the rules for the dealer, how long the dealer will draw and when the dealer will stand. For example the black jack table may read “dealer must draw until 17”, which means the dealer will continue to draw new cards until he has at least 17 and stands.
Each card in Black Jack from 2-10 are worth their written value while face cards are all worth 10 and the ace is worth both 1 and 11. When the ace is worth 11 the hand is known as a “soft hand” and a soft hand cannot bust (go over 21 and cause you to lose the hand), because if you do go over 21 while the ace is worth 11 it will change value to 1 and your hands size decreases. Any other hand, including those with an ace valued 1 are hard hands and always risk going bust.
The round starts when you place your bet and you’re dealt two cards face up, the dealer also receives two cards one face up and one face down. If the dealers card facing up is an ace, you can buy insurance at the cost of 50% of your bet. With an insurance you will win 2x your bet if the dealers card faced down gives the dealer a black jack. However if the card does not give the dealer a black jack, you lose your extra bet and the hand continues like normal. In some games you can also choose surrender and give up 50% of your bet, in the games that allow this it typically only works on the first hand.
Play your hand of Black Jack
If you didn’t get a successful insurance or decided to surrender on your first hand and if you didn’t get a black jack (21 on the first deal) to win 1.5x your bet, then the round will continue as normal.
At any point during the game of black jack, you can choose Stand and not receive any more cards which takes you directly to showdown with the dealer and the hands are compared. If you want to try and improve your hand you can choose to take another card with Hit, you don’t need to place another bet to draw another card and you can do as many Hits as you want as long as you’re under 21.
If you have two of the same card, for example two kings – you can choose to Split the hand into two hands by placing the same bet on the new hand. You’ll continue to play both hands like normal after a split and it is possible to split several times.
If instead you believe that your next card will give you a winning hand, you can choose to Double Down. You double your bet on your hand and whether you win or lose, you draw just one more card before you automatically stand regardless of your hand. Double Down shouldn’t be used too much as tempting as it is since it often results in more losses and more left to chance.