Hand Signals & Terms

Otherwise, the hand is "hard". You have no opportunity to "team up" with the other players in order to beat the dealer. The eye in the sky usually makes a video recording of the table, which helps in resolving disputes and identifying dealer mistakes, and is also used to protect the casino against dealers who steal chips or players who cheat. To stand means to refuse to take any additional cards and move forward with the total you have. Then, the player may hit, stand, or double normally. It should be emphasized that the basic strategy is not magic and does not guarantee winning. After receiving an initial two cards, the player has up to four standard options:

The Basics of Casino Blackjack

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This is an option to double the size of your bet and take one—and only one—additional card. To hit a blackjack hand means to take an additional card and increase your point total by the corresponding amount. To stand means to refuse to take any additional cards and move forward with the total you have. The dealer doesn't act until all the players have finished.

Any player who busts during his turn loses his bet immediately. When all the players have finished their actions, the dealer flips over her hole card and plays her hand according to the casino's rules. The dealer is required to take additional cards on any hand with a point value of 16 or below. She is also required to stand on any hand with a point value of 18 or higher. But if she has a total of 17, she has to make an additional distinction—is she playing a soft hand or a hard hand?

A soft hand is a hand with an ace in it. A soft 17, for example, might be an ace with a six or an ace with a four and a three. A hard hand is a hand without an ace in it or a hand where the ace has to count as 1 to avoid going bust.

In some casinos, and indeed, at some different tables in the same casino, the rules for whether or not a dealer hits a soft 17 differ. At some casinos and tables, she's required to hit. At others, she's required to stand. This is one of the rules variations that's always posted at the blackjack table.

If the dealer winds up with a hand that busts, any player still in action wins even money. If the dealer winds up with any other total, she wins the player's money if she has a higher total. If she has a lower total, the player wins. Ties result in a push—the player gets his bet back but no additional winnings. How you handle the cards and signal the dealer vary according to whether or not you're playing in a game with a shoe.

In single deck games, the dealer holds the deck in her hands. You receive both your cards face down and hold them in your hand.

In multiple deck games, the dealer keeps the cards in a shoe. You receive both your cards face up, and you're not allowed to touch them. You can always just tell the dealer what you're going to do. If you want to take an additional card, say, "I hit" or "hit me".

If you want to stand, say, "I stand". But if you want to look like a seasoned player, learn how to communicate your preference via hand signals. These vary according to whether or not you're holding the cards in your hand. In a single deck game where you get to hold the cards in your hand, you signal a hit by scraping the cards gently on the table. To stand, you place the cards underneath your chips. In a multiple deck game, where the cards are face up in front of you, you signal a hit by pointing at your hand with your finger.

To stand, you wave your hand, palm down, over the cards. You'll probably have more fun by incorporating the hand gestures into your game. This is one of the aspects of the game that often gets lost in online explanations, because you don't use hand gestures or words to play your hand on the Internet. You just click on buttons labeled "hit", "stand", etc.

Below we've included several examples of how various blackjack hands might play out. We've included several because we wanted to demonstrate how the various rules work in play. The player gets a jack and a deuce for a total of The dealer has an ace showing face up. The player decides to take insurance. Any other players at the table also lose their bet unless they have a total of 21, in which case they tie the dealer for a push. The player gets a ten and a six for a total of The dealer has a 10 showing face up.

The player decides to surrender. He gets two aces. On hand 2, he gets dealt a nine for his additional card. The dealer winds up with an 18 at the showdown, so the player, with a total of 19, wins even money on this hand: The dealer's showing a six.

He is dealt a ten, for a total of The dealer flips over her hole card to show a ten. He has a total of The dealer has a five showing. The dealer flips over hole card and shows a ten, so she has a total of She hits and gets another ten, making her total She busts, and the player wins. We mentioned the difference between soft hands and hard hands earlier.

It's important to recognize the difference between these hands, because your decisions for how to play these hands will differ based on whether you have a hard total or a soft total. The basic strategy page on this site provides more details about how to play hard hands versus soft hands. Blackjack is one of the easiest and most straightforward casino card games available. It's also a lot of fun and offers some of the best odds in any casino. Learning how to play is just a matter of studying the rules and maybe playing a few practice hands at home.

We recommend playing some of the free games online to get a feel for how everything works. You can also play with some friends at the kitchen table. If you learn the proper hand signals for the different decisions, you can look like an old pro at the casino in no time. Your next step after learning the rules is to memorize basic strategy.

Please read our introduction to basic blackjack strategy to find out how to do this. If this card causes the player's total points to exceed 21 known as "breaking" or "busting" then he loses. If the player has a pair, or any two point cards, then he may double his bet and separate his cards into two individual hands.

The dealer will automatically give each card a second card. Then, the player may hit, stand, or double normally. However, when splitting aces, each ace gets only one card. Sometimes doubling after splitting is not allowed. If the player gets a ten and ace after splitting, then it counts as 21 points, not a blackjack. Usually the player may keep re-splitting up to a total of four hands. Sometimes re-splitting aces is not allowed.

After each player has had his turn, the dealer will turn over his hole card. If the dealer has 16 or less, then he will draw another card. A special situation is when the dealer has an ace and any number of cards totaling six points known as a "soft 17".

At some tables, the dealer will also hit a soft Winning wagers pay even money, except a winning player blackjack usually pays 3 to 2. Some casinos have been short-paying blackjacks, which is a rule strongly in the casino's favor. The player cards in blackjack are usually dealt face up, but in single-deck and double-deck games, they are dealt face down.

Here is how to indicate what you want to do under both kinds of games. In a face-up game, tap the table with your finger. In a facedown game, scrape your cards lightly against the felt.

In a face-up game, wave your hand horizontally. In a facedown game, put your cards down face down, preferably tucking them under your bet. In a hand-held game, first put your cards down, face up.

Next, whether the game is face up or face down, put your additional wager behind your original wager. If you have a pair, hold up your index finger, to designate that you want one card, as opposed to splitting. Next, whether the game is face up or face down, put your additional wager next to your original wager.

If you have two fours or two fives, the dealer may not be sure if you want to double or split, so make a V sign with your fingers to indicate you want to form two hands. Next, whether the game is dealt face up or face down, touch the felt with your index finger and make a horizontal line, about six inches long, behind your wager. Make sure the dealer is watching carefully, because if he isn't, he may think you want to hit.

It doesn't hurt to say "surrender" as well, particularly the first time you do this with a new dealer. Few players invoke the option to surrender, so dealers don't see the signal often. Through the years, I've learned that very few people have the will to memorize how to play every possible situation in blackjack. If you are not familiar with the terminology, a "hard" hand is one that has no aces, or one where aces are forced to count as one point, lest the hand bust.

A "soft" hand is one with at least one ace, and you are able to count the ace as 11 points without busting. An "N" indicates the player should not split. In these cases, the player should treat the hand as a hard total. With a total of hard 10 or 11, the player should double if he has more points than the dealer.

For this purpose, a dealer ace counts as 11 points. To be specific, the player should double with 10 points against a dealer 2 to 9, and with 11 points against a 2 to

Gameplay and Decisions