Almost all games have their own language that is used to describe the action of the game. When you know the language you are an insider but when you don’t know the language you can feel like there is a barrier preventing you from participating. Blackjack like other games has a specific set of terms used to define the action particular to blackjack. Knowing these terms will open up a new level of enjoyment when playing blackjack. This article will provide you with all the terms you need to know.
Blackjack – If the first two cards dealt to you consist of an ace and a 10 or any picture card the hand is a perfect one – a “blackjack” – often called a natural. Unless the dealer ties you with their own blackjack, you have an automatic winner, and instead of the usual even-money payoff, a blackjack pays off at one and a half times your bet. For example, if you have $10 up, you receive $15. With a tie which is also called a push, no money is exchanged.
Hard and Soft Hands - Hands that do not contain an ace are known as hard hands, and conversely any hand that includes an ace that can still be valued at 1 or 11 is called a soft hand. For example, an Ace, 5 is a soft 16; if hit with a 2, the hand becomes a soft 18. If another card is drawn (for instance, a 9), the ace is revalued as 1 and the final hand now becomes a hard 17.
Breaking or Stiff Hand - Any hard hand valued between 12 and 16 is known as a breaking or stiff hand, as it is possible to go over 21 with the addition of just one more card.
Standing – Standing is the act of refusing any additional cards. The player always has the option of standing at any time. Usual procedure consists of a hand signal rather than a verbal one. To indicate to the dealer that you wish to stand, simply wave your hand, palm down over your cards or the initial bet. In many Nevada games the cards are dealt face down and the payers pick them up to play the hand. A standing signal in this game is given by tucking your first two cards dealt (the ones in your hand) under your chips.
Hitting – If you feel that you require additional cards to improve your hands total, you may draw one or more cards, as long as you go over 21 (called breaking). To call for a hit, either point at your cards or make a beckoning motion with your fingers. In the Nevada facedown game, scrape your two cards toward you on the felt to call for a hit. When the hit card breaks your hand, the dealer will automatically scoop up your bet and place your cards in the discard tray, as you have lost, even if the dealer subsequently breaks. If you break in the Nevada facedown game, just toss your two held cards to the dealer – face up.
Splitting Pairs – When the first two cards you receive are of equal value, you may elect to split them and play each as a separate hand, drawing to each until you are satisfied or break. You play the right card first followed by the left card. Most casinos only permit drawing one card when two aces are split. When a 10 value card is drawn to an ace or when an ace is drawn to a 10 value card that have been split the resulting hands are not blackjacks but are considered 21. This would tie a dealer 21 but lose to a dealer blackjack. In many casinos, if a pair is split and a third card of the same rank is drawn, the hand may be re-split. To indicate to the dealer your desire to split, merely slide up another bet of equal value next to your first wager, touching neither your cards not the original bet. In the Nevada facedown game, just turn over your pair and put out the extra bet.
Doubling Down - When you think that with just one more card you will be able to beat the dealer, you are allowed to double your original bet and draw one, and only one card. While many casinos will permit you to double down on any initial hand except a blackjack, some casinos restrict this option to hands that total 10 or 11. To signal the dealer your intention to double down, simply play another bet up to the amount of the original wager alongside your first bet. In the Nevada facedown game, turn your two cards over and put out your extra bet. Since you will always have the advantage when you take this option, you should double for the full amount. Again, to minimize the chance for player cheating, you are not permitted to touch either your cards or your original bet (except to turn the cards face up). When you split a pair, many casinos will permit you to double down after you draw the first card to each of the split hands.
Insurance – Insurance is offered when the dealer’s upcard is showing an ace. Insurance is really nothing more than a side bet on whether the dealer has a 10 hole card. This bet payoffs at 2 to 1 and can be a maximum of half of your original bet. What this bet means to you is if the dealer has a 10 hole card you lose your original bet but win the insurance bet thus breaking even. If the dealer does not have blackjack and your hand wins you win your original bet at even money and lose the insurance. You still win but not as much as you normally would. Insurance is really only a suggested bet when using a card counting strategy.
Surrender – A few casinos off the option of surrender. If you are not satisfied with your chances of beating the dealer after seeing your first two cards, you may announce “Surrender” and the dealer will pick up your cards and collect half your bet, returning the other half to you. This is the only decision in blackjack that is indicated verbally.
When the dealer is required to first check his hole card for blackjack, the option is called “late surrender.” If you are permitted to turn in your hand before the dealer checks for blackjack, the decision is termed “early surrender.” In some casinos, you must announce your surrender decision before the dealer deals to the first hand.
Dealer’s Play - After offering cards to all players, the dealer will expose her hole card. If there are players who still have not broken, the dealer then acts on her hand according to fixed rules. The rules include, standing when the dealer’s cards total 17 or more, with a hand of 16 or less, the dealer must hit until she reaches 17 or better. A few casinos have an exception to this rule and require the dealer to hit a soft 17 (ace, 6). If the dealer breaks, all remaining players win. It is important to remember that the dealer has no choice in the matter. If all the players have hands totaling 18, 19, 20 or 21, the dealer must still stand with a 17 – an obvious loser. Likewise, if the players show hands totaling 12, 13, 14 or 15, the dealer must still hit her 16 and risk breaking an otherwise winning hand. If the dealer does not break and reaches a hand between 17 and 21, she collects the bets of the lower hands, pay even money to the higher hands, and pushes (or ties) the equal. Players are now free to pick up their winnings, if any, and make a new bet as the whole process is repeated.
Breaking – Also called busting is when your hand total exceeds 21 when you receive an additional card. When you bust or break your hand you loose that hand and your bet.