Depending upon the cards dealt, a Blackjack player has several options of what he can do with his hand. Knowing which option is best entails understanding Blackjack strategy, of course—but first, a player must understand all of the different options.
If a player is completely satisfied with the two initial cards that have dealt to him, this is the option he will want to choose. To stand means to stay with the hand as it is, and a player can indicate that he wishes to stand by making a waving motion toward the dealer.
If a player is not satisfied with his initial two cards and would like to increase his score, he can ask for another card. This is called asking for a ‘hit.’ A player can ask the dealer for a hit by making a scratching motion.
A player can ask for as many hits as he deems necessary—unless his score goes over 21. If his score reaches 22 or over, he has ‘gone bust’ and has lost the hand automatically.
A player may opt to ‘double down’ after his initial cards are dealt. The player must place another bet into his betting square (a bet equal to the initial bet), and then he is given just one more card to complete his hand. After this card is dealt to him, he must stand.
In the United States, players may double down when any two cards are initially dealt—except for a natural Blackjack. In the United Kingdom, however, players are restricted to doubling down only if their initially dealt cards total 9, 10, or 11 in score.
If a player is dealt a pair when his initial cards are dealt (two 6’s or 2 kings, for example), the player may split the pair into two hands. The player must put up a bet for the second hand that is equal to the bet for the first hand. Then each hand is played separately.
There are a couple of rules to remember with pair splitting. If aces are split, only one card may be added to each hand. Also, if a 2-card 21 is obtained with a pair split, it is not considered to be a Blackjack—it is only considered to be a score of 21 because a Blackjack can only occur from the initial deal of the cards.
In the United Kingdom, pairs of 4’s, 5’s, and 10’s may not be split. United States rules do not restrict any pairs from splitting.
When a player has Blackjack and sees that the dealer is showing a face up ace, the player has the option of buying insurance. The cost of insurance is half of the amount of the player’s initial bet.
If the dealer does have Blackjack, the insurance pays out 2 to 1 to the player who purchased it (though the player does lose his initial bet). If the dealer does not have Blackjack, the player loses the insurance bet; however, he wins his initial Blackjack bet that pays out 3 to 2.
Most Blackjack experts advise that players should not ever take out insurance because it is a bad bet that is biased toward the house.
While a great many casinos do not offer this option, it is worth mentioning because it is a good choice in some situations. Casinos may offer early or late surrender, meaning before or after the dealer has looked at his second card. Regardless, there are only two circumstances in which players are normally allowed to surrender in most cases. First is when the dealer is showing a nine, ten, face card, or ace and the player has two cards that add up to 16 in value. These may be 9-7 or 6-10 or 6-face card.
Second is when the dealer is showing a ten or a face card and the player has two cards that add up to 15 in value. These may be 5-10 or 5-face card.
Odds say that players in these circumstances have a 75% chance of losing the hand; therefore, surrendering may be a good idea.