Blackjack has been around for over a century, and it continues to be popular in casinos. But nothing lasts forever, and the game of blackjack has undergone a number of subtle — and some not so subtle — changes in recent years. Will more changes be in store for the card game in the years to come?
When playing blackjack, a player’s goal is to acquire cards that total as close to 21 as possible without going over. The game is played using one or more 52-card decks. The value of each card is its face value (twos through tens) or its index value if it’s an ace. A blackjack is a hand that consists of an ace and any of the card values that count as 10, including jacks, queens, and kings.
The dealer begins each hand by giving the players two cards, face up. The player then decides whether to stand (“keep”) or hit (“request more cards”) based on the cards and the dealer’s upcard. In some blackjack games, the dealer will ask players for an insurance bet before the player plays his first hand. The player can bet up to half of his current bet on an insurance payout if the dealer shows an ace. The insurance bet is placed on the “insurance bar” above the player’s cards.
A player who wants to hit must indicate to the dealer that he would like another card by making a beckoning motion with his fingers or tapping the table behind his cards lightly with one finger in shoe games, or by scratching the edges of his cards in hand-held games. A player may only request another card if he is sure that the next card won’t cause him to go bust or that it will improve his chances of beating the dealer.
If the dealer has a blackjack, the player loses his bet but wins his original bet back (less the amount of the insurance bet). The game also offers players the opportunity to double down. This means the player increases his initial bet size by doubling it on the next card, which is dealt face up. The player may double down only when he is certain that the next card will improve his chance of winning or if his hand is already very strong.
In some blackjack games, the player can choose to split his hole cards, which creates two separate hands that are played independently of each other. Players typically split if they are dealt two cards of the same rank, such as two aces or two face cards. The dealer will then deal a second card to each new hand. Both hands are then played normally. The game also allows players to surrender, which means that they give up their hand and lose half of their initial bet.