Black Jack Fundamentals

I grew up playing Blackjack with my family and relatives. My fondest memories of my cousins as kids were when we were playing this card game. Every time there is a family reunion, we ultimately end up sitting around the patio table shouting, “hit me, hit me” at my uncle who, for some reason, is always the dealer. The adults, wanting to be a little more responsible, would always limit the bets placed up to a dollar, hoping, I imagine, as a way to discourage us from developing a taste for gambling. We never did, but we never got joy out of the money we won, it was always about the thrill of trying to beat the dealer, our uncle. So for those interested to learn this rather fun card game, below are the fundamentals in playing Blackjack.

The Rules

The game is played with a standard 52-card deck. Each card denomination is assigned a point value. Numbered cards are worth their face value. Cards with faces, i.e. kings, queens, jacks are worth 10. An ace can either be worth 1 or 11. The main goal of the game is to draw cards that totals close to 21, and not exceed. The second goal is to get more points than the dealer.

  • Hit

            A hit means you take another card or cards as you try to reach close to 21. Getting more than 21 means the player is a bust and loses the bet. Wanting a hit has many signals; you can gesture to your cards, scratching the table, or saying “hit me.”

  • Stand

            If you stand, it means you have decided to stop drawing cards in the hopes that your points are more than that of the dealer. You signal a stand by placing your hand over the card. In our family, we just say, “done” to signal that we’ve had enough cards drawn.

  • Split

            Although we’ve never done splits in our family games, many casinos employ this. A split happens when you receive two cards of the same value. You can opt to split the two cards and play each one individually until you stand or bust. The dealer will then deal cards on the second card similar to the first.

  • Surrender

            If a player surrenders, he can keep half his bet and does not play out his hand. This is only allowed when the first two cards are dealt. You win the game by achieving Blackjack (reaching 21), or if the dealer reaches over 21 points. At that point, any player who isn’t bust will win. If the dealer did not bust, whoever has more points between the dealer and the player wins.

Common Mistakes

  • Betting Techniques

            Avoid using betting techniques such as Fibonacci. These take out the fun in the game and using these techniques, while sometimes useful, could be disastrous if miscalculated.

  • Playing While Drunk

            Drinking too much during a card game that requires critical thinking is always a bad idea. You’ll end up losing all your money and ending up being a punchline in family reunions for years to come.

  • Bad Budgeting

            Many players give out bets bigger than their budget allows. Over the years, I’ve learned to budget my money properly, knowing when to surrender or push through. Losing all your money after a few hands mean cutting the game short and sitting on the sideline, watching the rest of your family play.