It's a Guy Thing

Blackjack for Beginners

Understanding the game

When you see a casino scene in a movie, you can expect drama. Who can forget Daniel Craig fighting for his life between hands in “Casino Royale”, for instance? One game we see in movies is blackjack. Again, the British superspy is at the table, but this time it’s Timothy Dalton in the lead role in “License to Kill”, playing blackjack rather Bond’s favored game of baccarat. Then there’s the card counting by Dustin Hoffman in the emotional, Oscar-winning drama “Rain Man” to win him and his on-screen brother in the movie, Tom Cruise, big money at blackjack in the casinos.

It’s not just in the movies we see the stars playing blackjack. The actor Ben Affleck knows his way around a blackjack table (a little too well for some casinos’ liking). Sports star Michael Jordan, socialite Paris Hilton and rapper P Diddy are all fans of the game, too.

Understanding blackjack

Unfortunately, you can’t just sit down to a blackjack table and win straight off the bat. The good news, however, is that blackjack isn’t particularly hard to play. Once you learn a few basic rules, you can keep building your knowledge and get better and better at the game.

Blackjack isn’t just a game you can play at a land-based casino. If you’re not feeling like going out to play at one or you just wish to get a little practice before you venture into the public arena with your blackjack skills, you can play online first. Here are some simple rules and tips to start you off.

Blackjack rules

Basically, you’re playing against the dealer. The object of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. To achieve blackjack, you must get 21 with your first two cards. You can win by achieving blackjack; by getting a higher score than the dealer but under 21 or equal to it; or by getting a lower score than the dealer but beating them because the dealer has gone bust.

Kings, queens and jacks have a value of 10. Aces  can have a value of 1 or 11. So if you get a 4 and an ace, your hand could be 5 or 15 and it’s up to you to decide whether you want to ask for another card (“hit”) or to just stick with the cards you have. An ace gives you flexibility, but it’s not a straight guarantee your hand will improve when you get the card.

These are a couple of basic rules, but you can find out more about the game at Note that there are different variants of blackjack, so some rules may vary slightly, depending on the version you’re playing.

Tips for beginners

When you’re starting out at blackjack, it’s good to read a few tips to help you perform well at the tables. Here are some useful tips for beginners:

Check the dealer’s face-up card

Don’t act before you see the dealer’s up card. It will be bad (2 to 6) or good (7 to ace). The dealer’s up card should determine your own action.

Start small

Don’t go big when you’ve just sat down at the table. Play small while you assess the situation. Is the dealer “hot” or “cold” i.e. are they on a winning streak or a losing one? These streaks can have a big impact on the player, so take some time to evaluate the situation before laying big money down.

Tips for advanced players

Of course, if you’ve been around the tables for a while, you’ll have seen plenty. You can still benefit from a few tips, though. Here are a couple:

Split double aces and 8s

If you receive two aces or eights, split the hand. Effectively, you’re playing two hands and it takes away some of the edge away from the house, giving you a better chance of winning. Eights give you a “hard” 16 and if you don’t split them, you’re likely to go bust if you hit and lose the hand if you stick. It’s an awkward number, basically.

Don’t take insurance

If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, you can take out insurance as a side bet in case the dealer has blackjack. Insurance gives the house a greater edge and really isn’t worth it because you only win your wager back. If the dealer’s second card is a 10, they have blackjack and you’re safe. If it isn’t, you lose your money. Good players know that the odds of the dealer having blackjack are fairly low and, unless they know how to count the cards, don’t take out insurance against it.

Blackjack is a simple game, but that doesn’t mean you can sit straight down at a table and win big. You’ve got to understand the basics to make the game work for you. When you do that, you can really enjoy the game and the taste of victory.