Standard Blackjack Rules: Blackjack can be played with one to eight ordinary decks of cards. Cards of rank 2 through 10 are scored according to their face value. All face cards are 10 points. Aces are semi-wild and can be worth either 1 or 11 points. The highest hand in blackjack is an ace and any 10-point card and is called a blackjack. A winning blackjack pays 3:2. If both player and dealer have a blackjack the bet is a push. Aside from a blackjack a winning hand pays even money. The player wins if his hand has more points than the dealer, without going over 21. Thus a 21-point hand is the highest and is why the game is sometimes called 21. If either the player or dealer go over 21 it is called a break or bust and automatically loses. If both the player and dealer bust the player loses, where lies the house advantage. If the player and dealer tie the bet is a push.
A round of blackjack begins with each player placing a bet in the circle or logo directly in front of him. Then the dealer will give each player and himself two cards. Player cards are usually dealt face up. One dealer card is dealt face up (the up card) and the other face down (the hole card). If the dealer has a ten or an ace as the up card it is possible he has a blackjack in which case all player hands will lose except with another blackjack. In the U.S. the dealer will check for blackjack immediately if one is possible and will collect all losing bets immediately if he does have a blackjack.
In the event the dealer has an ace as the up card he will allow the players to insure their hands against a blackjack. This is much like any insurance policy in which you are betting something bad will happen. The insurance bet in blackjack pays 2:1 if the dealer has a blackjack. If the dealer has an ace showing and a player has a blackjack the dealer may ask “even money?” This is because if the player has a blackjack the net result of both the blackjack and the insurance bet will be an even money win regardless of whether the dealer has a blackjack. After all players have had a chance to accept or decline insurance the dealer will check the hole card.
After it has been established that the dealer does not have a blackjack the player in turn may play their hands. The following options are available.
Stand: If the player is satisfied with his hand as-is he may stand pat. To signify you wish to stand wave your hand as if to wave the dealer away. In a single deck game tuck your cards face down under your bet.
Hit: If the player wishes to take another card he may continue to do so until he either stands or busts. To signify you wish to hit tap the table with your finger. In a single deck game scrape your cards lightly against the felt.
Double: If the player feels he needs one and only one more card then he may double his bet and be dealt one more card, good or bad. This option is only offered on the first two cards, and sometimes on the first two cards after splitting. To signify you wish to double place another wager next to your original wager of equal value. In single deck place your cards face up by your bet.
Split: If the player’s first two cards are of equal point value he may split them into two hands. In this event each card is the first card of a new hand. The player must also make another wager of equal value to the first for the second hand. The player may usually re-split up to 2 or 3 times if another splitting opportunity arises. Doubling after splitting is usually but not always allowed. To signify you wish to split put the additional wager next to the original wager. In single deck place your cards face up by your bet.
Surrender: Finally some casinos offer the player the option to surrender on the first two cards. If the player does not like their prospects he may forfeit half the bet as well as his cards. This option is generally only offered after the dealer checks for blackjack, known as “late surrender.”
After all players have played their hands, from the dealer’s left to right, the dealer will play his hand. The dealer has no free will but must always play by certain house rules. Usually the rule is that the dealer must hit until he reaches a score of 17 or more. Some casinos stipulate that if the dealer has a soft 17, consisting of an ace and any number of cards totaling 6, he must also hit. If the dealer busts all players that did not bust automatically win.
Atlantic City Rules
Dealer must draw to all totals of 16 or less, and stand on all totals of 17 to 21. Players may double down on any initial hand and split any initial pair. Doubling after a split is allowed but re-splitting is not. Blackjacks pay 1 1/2 to 1 and insurance on a dealer Ace pays 2 to 1.
Spanish 21 Rules
Spanish 21 uses six or eight Spanish decks, each deck consisting of 48 cards — the regular 52 cards less the four tens. Any card counter can tell you that removing any 10-point card from the cards moves the odds in favor of the dealer. To make up for this Spanish 21 gives to the player a host of bonuses and favorable rules. The rules are based on liberal 6-8 deck blackjack rules, including double after split, late surrender, and re-splitting aces.
Las Vegas Strip Rules
Dealer must draw to all totals of 16 or less and stand on all totals of 17 to 21. Players may double down on any initial hand and split any pair. Pairs may be re-split and drawn to like an initial hand, except for Aces. Players get only 1 card on each of the split Aces. Doubling after a split is not always permitted. Blackjacks pay 1 1/2 to 1 and insurance on a dealer Ace pays 2 to 1.
Downtown Las Vegas Rules
These are the same as the above LV Strip rules except that the dealer draws to a soft 17.
European blackjack is normally played with only 2 packs of cards, does not offer surrender and only permits doubling on hands of 9, 10 or 11. Whilst you can split your cards, you will not be permitted to re-split them and nor can you double down on cards that have already been split.