After reading our blackjack basics page, you're left thinking about the
options you have when it comes your time to hit or stand. These decisions,
as we mentioned earlier, play a large role in how well you may do at the
table. Hit and stand are two possible decisions, but there are more. Let's
look at anything and everything blackjack rules allow you to do.
Natural Blackjack - The one time you don't need to make any decisions
at all is when you are dealt a 21 on your first two cards. Blackjack rules
call this a Natural Blackjack, and it entitles you to a larger-than-normal
payback of 3 to 2.
Hit or Stand - The two most common decisions: Hit means to draw
another card - adding to your total. Stand means you do not want any more
cards. If you hit and your new total is more than 21, you bust, and immediately
Double Down - Many casinos allow you to double the bet on your
first two cards. The catch is, you can only have one more card to improve
your hand. You usually double down if you are dealt an 11 or a 10, so
your next card will most likely bring you to a 21 or 20. Always take into
account the dealers up-card, if they are showing busting cards it may
be a good idea to double down even if your total is as little as 9. To
double down, blackjack rules would have you place the equivalent of your
original wager directly beside your original wager on the table. Remember,
you only get one more card, so you may get stuck with a low total.
Pair Splitting - If you were dealt a pair of cards as your first
two (a pair means 2 sevens, or 2 jacks, or two aces, etc.) then you have
the option to split that pair into two different hands. To do so just
ask the dealer to split your pair and they will push the cards apart a
little. You need to place a new bet beside one of the split cards. Blackjack
rules then dictate that each card is treated as it's own hand and dealt a second
card. You can then play out each hand independently. If either hand happens
to be dealt as a natural blackjack you are not usually not paid the extra
3 to 2.
A good rule of thumb is to always split Aces and 8's - you're going from
a bad hand to two potentially good ones.
Insurance - When the dealer shows an Ace as their up card, they
will ask the table if anybody would like to buy Insurance. Don't ever
buy insurance; it never helps your chances. Blackjack rules wouldn't adopt
it if it helped the player too much. Basically what you're doing when
you buy insurance is you're placing a bet worth half your original bet,
that the dealer has blackjack. So if they do, you lose your original bet,
but are paid 2 to 1 on the insurance bet, and come out even. If they don't
have blackjack, you lose your insurance bet and may win or lose your original
Statistically it is never advantageous to take insurance.
Surrender - Most casinos blackjack rules don't include this one,
but what surrender does is allow you to fold, or give up, after receiving
your first two cards. If you think you have no way of winning, you can
surrender and only lose half your bet.