Cards values in Blackjack

Basic Playing Rules

Blackjack Card CountingBefore you can begin to learn blackjack strategies, you’ve got to get the lay of the land (so to speak) on how the game is played - specifically the basic playing rules, the objective of the game, and a few protocols to know when you are playing.


I often shake my head in disgust when I pick up a brochure that you will usually find somewhere in a casino that explains “How to Play Blackjack.” Invariably it will state that the objective of blackjack is to get as close to 21 as possible. Wrong!

The objective of blackjack is: to beat the dealer’s hand by either

1) having a total that exceeds the dealer’s total
2) by not going over 21 when the dealer does.


All cards count their face value in blackjack. Picture cards count as 10 and the ace can count as either 1 or 11. Card suits have no meaning in blackjack. The total of any hand is the sum of the card values in the hand. A hand containing a 4-5-8 totals 17. Another containing a queen-5 totals 15. It is always assumed that the ace counts as 11 unless so doing would make your hand total exceed 21, in which case the ace reverts to a value of 1.


When a player or dealer’s hand exceeds a total of 21, this is known as busting. (Sometimes the term “break” is used when the dealer’s hand exceeds 21.) So if a player was dealt a 10-6, drew one more card which was a 9, the player busted (i.e., because his hand totaled 25).


A hard hand is any hand that either does not contain an ace, of if it does, counts the ace as 1. For example, 10-8 is a hard 18; 5-A-10-2 is a hard 18. Any hand that contains an ace that counts as 11 is known as a soft hand. For example A-5 is a soft 16; A-2-5 is a soft 18; and 3-2-A-3 is a soft 19. When you receive your first two cards and one of them is an ace, count the ace as 11. Often when you are dealt a soft hand and draw more cards your hand will convert to a hard hand. For example, suppose a player is dealt a 5-A which is a soft 16, and he draws another card. Suppose the draw card was a 6. The player now has a hard 12 (i.e., you can never bust when you draw to a soft hand). The reason you need to know the difference between a hard and soft hand in blackjack is because the playing strategy is often different even though the total of the hand is the same. For example, a 10-6 (hard 16) is played differently than an A-5 (soft 16).

Blackjack Betting handMAKING BETS

Blackjack is played on a semi-circular table covered with a felt cloth that usually seats up to a maximum of 7 players. There will be circle, or sometimes a square box, known as the betting spot, in front of each player in which the wager, using casino chips, is placed. A trained casino dealer is responsible for dealing the cards by strict casino protocols, collecting losing player bets, paying off winning bets, and generally keeping the game moving along at an acceptable pace.

In most casinos, cash is not used to make bets. You must use casino chips or “checks.” To purchase chips, simply take a seat at any blackjack table, wait until the dealer completes the current round, then place your cash on the table in front of the dealer and ask the dealer for chips. The dealer will convert your cash into chips and slide the chips toward you. Be sure to place the chips neatly stacked in front of you. Most casinos allow players to play more than one hand per round, assuming there are empty spots on the table. If a player does this, he must make a wager in each betting spot that he wishes to receive a hand. In most casinos, a player is required to wager double the table minimum on each hand when playing more than one hand.

Casino ChipsCHIP VALUE

In most casinos, chips are color coded to signify their denomination although usually the value is imprinted on the chip, as well. For example, a white chip usually signifies denomination, red is , green is , black is 0, purple is 0, and orange is , 000.

In casino jargon, red chips are often referred to as “nickels, ” green chips as “quarters, ” 0 black chips as “blacks, ” 0 purple chips as “Barneys, ” and , 000 orange chips as “pumpkins.”


Every table should have signage that specifies what the minimum and maximum betting limits are. For example, if a table has a minimum bet of $25 you are not allowed to say bet a red ($5) chip; your minimum bet must be $25. So before you sit down to play, be sure to check the betting limits posted on the table.

Prior to the deal of the cards, all players must make a bet by placing chips in their respective betting boxes. Every player and the dealer will receive two cards. One of the dealer’s cards (known as the dealer’s upcard) is always dealt face up so that players can see its value. The other dealer’s card, known as the dealer’s downcard or hole card, is unseen. The two player cards can be dealt either face up, or face down.

In general, in games that are dealt from a dealing shoe (normally containing 4, 6 or 8 decks of cards) the players’ cards are dealt face up. In this case you should not handle the cards. In games in which the dealer deals from the hand by pitching the cards to the players (single- or double-deck games), the player cards are usually dealt both face down. In these games it is permissible for the player to handle the cards with one hand only, and the cards must always be above the table.

Blackjack HittingAfter the player looks at his initial two cards and sees the value of one of the dealer’s two cards, the player must make a playing decision.


This means you want the dealer to give another card to your hand. In shoe games, indicate to the dealer that you want a hit by making a beckoning motion with your finger or tapping the table behind your cards with your finger. In hand-held games, scratch the edges of the cards in your hand lightly on the felt.


If you have two like cards (e.g., a pair of 6s or aces), you could exercise the option to split them. When you split, you must make another bet equal to your original bet, just place your chip next to the original chip bet on the hand. When you pair split, you are playing each card as a separate hand and you can draw as many cards as you like to each hand, except split aces; most casinos will allow only one draw card to each ace. For example, if you were dealt a pair of 8s, and split, you would have two separate hands with a count of 8 in each hand. You are required to play out one of the split hands (on your right) first to completion before the other. In shoe games, you indicate that you want to split by placing another chip next to the original chip. For hand-held games, toss the two cards you want to split face up on the layout and then make the secondary wager. Most casinos will also allow players to split any 10-value cards such as a jack-ten or queen-king, although, as you will soon learn about pair splitting, this is not a recommended playing strategy.


This means you are satisfied with the total of the hand and want to stand with the cards you have. In shoe games, indicate that you want to stand by waving your hand over the cards, palm down. In hand-held games, tuck your cards under the chips that you have in the betting box.


This playing option allows you to double your initial bet in return for receiving one (and only one) draw card. In most casinos, you can only double down after you receive your first two cards and before drawing another card. To signal the dealer that you want to double down in shoe-dealt games, just place your chip next to the original chip bet on the hand. In hand-held games, toss your cards on the table face-up and then make the secondary bet.

Blackjack Standing Blackjack Splitting 8`s Blackjack doubling down Blackjack Surrender
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