Thanks to its combination of simple rules and exciting gameplay, blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in the world. Although there may be some variations between casinos, the rules of blackjack are the same almost everywhere.
However, there are some small differences between the rules that apply to players and the rules that apply to the dealer. In this blog post, we’ll explain the blackjack dealer rules to help you be a more efficient dealer the next time you play.
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The fundamentals of blackjack
The basic rules of blackjack are the same for players and dealers. All cards between 2 and 10 are worth their face value. Kings, queens and jacks are worth 10 points per card, and aces are worth either 1 point or 11 points in a player’s hand.
Players who hit until their hand is worth more than 21 points are bust, and players whose hands exceed the dealer’s win. Players whose hands are worth less than the dealer’s hand lose and surrender their bets at the end of the hand.
These rules are common for both players and dealers. However, there are several rules which are unique to dealers regarding hitting on a hand and standing when a hand exceeds a certain value.
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Basic blackjack dealer rules
While blackjack players have total freedom regarding how to play their hands, the dealer’s choices are limited by the blackjack dealer rules. The dealer rules prevent the dealer from standing or hitting on certain hands.
If the dealer’s hand is worth less than 17 points, the dealer must hit. This is the case regardless of how many cards the dealer has – even with four of five cards that are worth less than 17 points, the dealer must continue to hit until they reach 17 points.
If the dealer’s hands is worth 17 or more points, the dealer must stand. Even if the players have hands that will beat the dealer – for example, a hand of 19 or 20 – it’s against the rules of the game for the dealer to hit on any hand worth 17 or more.
The limitations of the dealer affect the probability of players having a winning hand and doubling their bet. If you’d like to learn more about the probability of a winning hand in blackjack, read our blog post on basic blackjack strategy.
Additional dealer rules
As well as having limited options for hitting or standing on hands, the dealer needs to follow certain rules regarding the order of play. The dealer deals cards to players before themselves, dealing their first card after all the players have been dealt to.
The dealer also has to offer certain extra to players throughout the game. These are the ability to double down on a good hands, the ability to split matching cards into a pair of hands, and the ability to purchase insurance or surrender a hand.
If your first card is an ace, you should ask players if they want to buy insurance. This is a payment that’s half of their original bet that guarantees their bet back if the next card in your hand (the face down card) is a ten, giving you a blackjack.
If players take insurance and lose, you return their bet at the end of the game. As the dealer, you should keep their insurance payment, even if your hand isn’t a blackjack or one of the players wins the game.
Doubling down is when a player doubles their bet before playing their hand. As the dealer, you can’t double down. If a player chooses to double down, you can deal just one card to them before they’re forced to stand.
Splitting is when a player divides their hand into two hands. Players can only split if their cards are of a matching value. This means that players can split a queen and a king, for example, since both cards are worth the same amount of points.
When players split, they need to place an additional bet equal to their first bet. Keep dealing them cards for each hand as if they were playing a single hand, and move on to the second hand once they’ve finished playing the first.
There are two extra blackjack dealer rules regarding splitting. The first is that if the split cards are aces, players only receive one additional card per hand. Also, a split hand that gets blackjack pays out even odds instead of the usual 3:2 bonus odds.
Finally, surrendering is when a player gives up half of their bet if they aren’t very confident in their hand. Not all casinos allow players to surrender, and none allow players to surrender against an ace or other high-value cards.
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Card counting and other tricks
Under the standard rules, blackjack has a slight house advantage. Depending on the rules regarding splitting, surrendering and doubling down, the house has an edge of anywhere from 0.2 percent to two percent on every hand.
One of the ways players can beat the odds is by using card counting. Card counting is a basic mathematical trick that calculates the odds of a high or low-value card being dealt. It’s only effective in games where the card aren’t shuffled between hands.
As the dealer, you need to be able to spot card counters to prevent them from having an unfair advantage. Learn the basics of card counting and how to spot players that count cards with our course, How to Count Cards for Profit at Blackjack.