Starting with the dealer placing two cards on the table, each player must then decide whether or not to increase the amount of cards in their hand. The game is won by the player who has 21 (made up of an Ace and a 10, or any of the court cards, Jack, Queen or King), or has the highest numbered card. Winning hands are typically those that have cards totalling from 16 all the way to 21, although having a total of 16 will always give you a lower chance of winning. There are some games that have a bonus payout if you tie with the dealer, (called a ‘push’) but this is a rare occurrence.
Bets are important in a game of Blackjack. The bets are placed before the cards are dealt, whereas with most other card games, at least one card is dealt to the players before bets are made. Usually, the cards are dealt so the players can see all the cards, with the exception of the dealer. His hand is dealt so that one is visible and the other is face down, called a ‘hole card’. That is where the typical strategies come in about hitting, doubling, or standing based on the upturned card of the dealer. Doubling is done when a player has two cards of the same value, which can be split to form two hands.
Statistically, the easiest winnings come from hands with a total of 20 or higher, to ensure that you have the stronger hand against he dealer. While you can win the hand on a 17, it is more difficult, as the dealer has to stand on 17 when following the traditional blackjack rules. If the hands are the same, then the face value of the cards is taken. Standing on 17 is rarely a good idea unless the dealer has a 6 or below in his hand, or your hand consists of an Ace (a soft hand). In the same way, hitting on a hard 17 is inadvisable due to the increased chance of busting.
The difference between a hard and a soft hand in blackjack is described as follows. A hard hand is known as such because it is a straight hand. The values are not interchangeable, and therefore the next card dealt will decide whether or not the player busts. Therefore, a hand without an Ace or an Ace that is counted as 1 is called a hard hand, and a soft hand is a hand with an Ace that can only be counted as 11. In traditional blackjack hands, the Ace is automatically counted as 11 unless it is necessary to reduce the value. It is known as a soft hand because it can never be broken before the third card is drawn.