Attempt to beat the dealer by getting a count as close to 21 as possible, without going over 21.
Card Values/Scoring :
It is up to each individual player if an ace is worth 1 or 11. Face cards are 10 and any other card is its pip value.
Before the deal begins, the player places a bet. The minimum bet is $10.
If the player's first two cards are an ace and a "ten-card" (a picture card or 10), giving him a count of 21 in two cards, this is a natural or "blackjack."
If the player has a natural and the dealer does not, the dealer pays that player one and a half times the amount of his bet.
If the dealer has a natural, he collects the bets of any players who do not have naturals, (but no additional amount).
If the dealer and the player both have naturals, the bet of that player is a stand-off (a tie), and the player takes back his chips.
The Play :
The player goes first and must decide whether to "stand" (not ask for another card) or "hit" (ask for another card in an attempt to get closer to a count of 21, or even hit 21 exactly).
Thus, the player may stand on the two cards originally dealt him, or he may ask the dealer for additional cards, one at a time, until he either decides to stand on the total (if it is 21 or under), or goes "bust" (if it is over 21).
In the latter case, the player loses and the dealer collects the bet wagered.
The combination of an ace with a card other than a ten-card is known as a "soft hand," because the player can count the ace as a 1 or 11, and either draw cards or not.
For example with a "soft 17" (an ace and a 6), the total is 7 or 17. While a count of 17 is a good hand, the player may wish to draw for a higher total.
If the draw creates a bust hand by counting the ace as an 11, the player simply counts the ace as a 1 and continues playing by standing or "hitting" (asking the dealer for additional cards, one at a time).
The Dealer's Play :
When the dealer has served the player, his face-down card is turned up. If the total is 17 or more, he must stand. If the total is 16 or under, he must take a card.
He must continue to take cards until the total is 17 or more, at which point the dealer must stand. If the dealer has an ace, and counting it as 11 would bring his total to 17 or more (but not over 21), he must count the ace as 11 and stand.
The dealer's decisions, then, are automatic on all plays, whereas the player always has the option of taking one or more cards.
Splitting Pairs :
If the player's first two cards are of the same denomination, such as two jacks or two sixes, he may choose to treat them as two separate hands when his turn comes around.
The amount of his original bet then goes on one of the cards, and an equal amount must be placed as a bet on the other card.
The player first plays the hand to his left by standing or hitting one or more times; only then is the hand to the right played. The two hands are thus treated separately, and the dealer settles with each on its own merits.
With a pair of aces, the player is given one card for each ace and may not draw again.
Also, if a ten-card is dealt to one of these aces, the payoff is equal to the bet (not one and one-half to one, as with a blackjack at any other time).
Doubling Down :
Another option open to the player is doubling his bet when the original two cards dealt total 9, 10, or 11.
When the player's turn comes, he places a bet equal to the original bet, and the dealer gives him just one card.
With two fives, the player may split a pair, double down, or just play the hand in the regular way.
Note that the dealer does not have the option of splitting or doubling down.
When the dealer's face-up card is an ace, the player may make a side bet of up to half the original bet that the dealer's face-down card is a ten-card, and thus a blackjack for the house.
If any side bets are placed, the dealer looks at his hole card. If it is a ten-card, it is turned up, and the players who have made the insurance bet win and are paid double the amount of their half-bet - a 2 to 1 payoff.
When a blackjack occurs for the dealer, of course, the hand is over, and the player's main bets are collected - unless the player also has blackjack, in which case it is a stand-off.
Insurance is invariably not a good proposition for the player, unless he is quite sure that there are an unusually high number of ten-cards still left undealt.