The object of the game of blackjack is to beat the dealer's hand without exceeding a card point total of 21. For the purpose of card point counting, all number cards count their spot number, all face cards count as 10, and aces count as 1 or 21 at the player's discretion. Each game is an individual dealer-player showdown, with the dealer playing simultaneously with up to five players.
The dealer begins by dealing himself and each player two cards. Players' cards are dealt face down, but the dealer's second card is dealt face up. With the dealer's second card showing, this greatly affects the subsequent rounds of betting.
After the initial deal, each player examines his cards, adds his point total, and decides whether to take another card from the dealer (hit) or hold the card in his hands until the end of the round (stand). If you do ask the dealer to hit you, then your card point total must be 21 or less. If your cards add up to more than 21 points you must declare your hand out of the game, or bust, and the dealer wins.
The best hand in the game is being dealt an ace with a face card or ten. This is the famous "blackjack", and here is where some casinos differ in their rules. Some houses pay 3:2 on blackjack regardless whether the 10-point card is a picture card or a ten. Other houses state that a true blackjack is an ace and a picture card. This is significant if the dealer also draws blackjack, and the dealer's 10-point card is a picture. Many casinos will call this a draw, but others give an advantage to the player with the face card/ace combination.
The real skill involves when to take another card. Rules state that you can hold on any total, but you will most likely want to continue to add cards if your first two cards sum to a low total. Dealers, however, must take another card if their card point total is 16 or less. Additionally, dealers cannot take any more cards if their point total is 17 or more.
Further variations include splitting, doubling, and buying insurance, but these are for more advanced-level play.
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