Most of us have played a bit of Blackjack or “21” at home with friends or family and feel that we know the game well, when in reality we don’t because of unfamiliarity with casino rules. Casino rules exist because the games played in casinos are not played for fun, but for money which is serious business.
One of the first concepts to learn is that of “Insurance”. Most casinos will offer “Insurance,” which is a side bet that you can make if the dealer shows an ace. A dealer showing any other card does not offer insurance. Keep in mind that not all casinos offer insurance and if they do it is nearly always restricted to half of the original bet. To make the bet you place the insurance bet in front of your original bet. Now if the dealer has a “natural” (a 10 card with the ace) the bet pays 2 to 1, but if he doesn’t you lose the insurance. If both of you have naturals the insurance bet still wins 2 to 1. If the dealer has a natural and you don’t, then the win on the insurance equals the loss; no money changes hands.
Most of the time neither of you will have naturals in which case you have a few choices: surrender, split a pair, double down, hit or stand.
Some casinos offer a “Surrender” option which is basically quitting your hand.
There is an early surrender which is a surrender before the dealer checks for a natural. Then there is a late surrender (the most common type of surrender) which is when you wait to until the dealer checks for a natural. Either will cost you the entire bet or half depending on the casino rules.
“Splitting a Pair” is taking any pair of two cards with the same point value (pair of aces, 2s, jacks etc). Generally any two cards with a value of 10 is considered a pair, so a jack and a 10 or a queen and a king is considered a pair, but check for your casino’s rules on this. It is accomplished by flipping up both cards and placing an additional bet that is equal to the first bet you made. If you split two aces at most casinos they’ll only allow you two additional cards; one for each ace. And if you ended up with more aces as the additional cards most casinos will allow a resplit up to four hands.
“Doubling Down” means to flip your cards face up and adding to your original bet another bet of the same amount or smaller. The dealer then deals out to your hand one more card. Most casinos will allow a double down on your first two cards, but rarely will they allow you to double down on any more than that and it is extremely rare to find a casino that will allow a double down on a splitting a pair situation.
To “Hit” means you want to receive another card and is usually signaled to the dealer by scratching the table with your cards or by tapping the table with your finger(s) near your hand. If your hand exceeds 21 then it is a bust and you’ve lost that hand. And to “Stand” on your hand means that you are satisfied with your hand, so you don’t want any more cards dealt to you. To indicate this to the dealer you would place your cards face down and don’t finger the bet you placed.