Blackjack 101

Blackjack 101

Blackjack, also known as 21, is a simple card game with good odds, even for amateur players. It originated in France around 1760 and became popular in America during World War I. Today, the game is found in nearly every casino across the United States, including Colorado casinos. It’s also one of the most popular card games played at home.


Blackjack is played with a 52-card deck without jokers. Casinos use several decks mixed together (called a shoe) to minimize the need for shuffling. The number of decks differ, but there can be two to eight decks in a shoe. In addition, there’s a blank, plastic card that’s placed towards the bottom of the shoe to indicate when the cards need to be reshuffled.

In casinos, Blackjack is played on a specifically designed table with one dealer and room for up to eight players. There’s a designated space in front of each player where bets are made and cards are placed. Bets are made with casino chips, which are typically purchased from the dealer.

Object of the Game

In Blackjack, players don’t play against each other, but instead, compete with the dealer. Every participant attempts to beat the dealer by getting a higher point total without going over 21. The score is computed by adding the value of individual cards. The cards two to 10 are face value; jacks, queens and kings are 10 points; and aces are worth either one point or 11 points (player’s choice).


Prior to a deal, each player places a bet with chips in the designated box or circle in front of them. There’s always a minimum bet and a maximum bet for each table. The general limits are $2 to $500.

The Shuffle and Cut

The dealer shuffles portions of the pack until all cards are mixed and combined. A player is designated to cut the deck and the blank, plastic card is placed so the last 60-75 cards aren’t used.

The Deal

Once all the players have placed their bets, the dealer gives each player a card face, up working clockwise around the table, and then places a card face up in front of himself. Another round of cards is dealt to the players face up, but this time the dealer deals a card for himself face down. The result is two cards for each player face up and two cards for the dealer, one face up and one face down.


If a player is dealt a 10 and an ace, totaling 21, this is called a natural or blackjack. If the dealer does not have a natural, he immediately pays the players who do have a natural 1 1/2 times the player’s bet. If the dealer has a natural, he collects all the bets from players who don’t have a natural. If a dealer and player both have a natural, the player takes back his bet. The dealer can peek at the face down card only if the face up card is a 10 or an ace to see if he has a natural. Otherwise, the card remains face down until the dealer’s turn.

The Player’s Turn

The player to the left must first decide to “stand” (not ask for another card) or “hit” (ask for another card). The purpose is to get as close to 21, or get exactly 21, without going over 21. The player can hit until he/she stands or goes “bust” (the card count exceeds 21). If a player goes bust, the dealer collects the bets wagered by the player. This is repeated with all players at the table.

The Dealer’s Turn

After each player has taken a turn, the dealer flips over the face down card in front of him. If the total is 17 or more, the dealer stands. If the total is 16 or less, the dealer hits until the card total is 17 or more.


If the dealer busts, all players left in the game win. The dealer pays each winner the amount of their original bet. If the dealer stands, all players with a higher point total win and all the players with a lower point total lose. The dealer pays the winners the amount of their bets and takes away the bets from the losers. If a player has the same total as the dealer, the player keeps the original bet.


After the player’s bets are settled, the dealer gathers the cards and places them face up against a clear, plastic shield. The dealer continues to deal from the shoe until the blank, plastic card appears. The cards are shuffled at this time and the game continues.

Blackjack is a simple, fun card game that requires both strategy and luck. A good rule to follow is always consider the dealer’s face up card. If it’s a 7 or higher, don’t stop drawing until the point total is 17 or higher. If the dealer has a poor card (6 or less), stop drawing when the point total is 12 or more. Never take a card if there’s a chance of going bust, and consider the dealer’s chance of going bust. Regardless of how you play, remember to enjoy your time at the table and win big!