Dealing Blackjack is one of the most common casino pit jobs, and also one of the most nuanced to deal. If you master it you can almost guarantee that you’ll pass most auditions and be that much closer to landing a job in a big casino. Almost everyone here at IHP can deal blackjack to some degree. While we here at IHP we don’t necessarily take a rigid stance on proper procedure (fun gambling vs. actual gambling, you know), knowing how to deal the most popular casino card game in proper style will help you move up in levels, meaning more job opportunities, meaning more money, meaning more exposure in IHP, meaning eventual fame and fortune, naturally. And who doesn’t like that?
This will be a three part series, as Blackjack is a deceptively simple game to deal, and what will separate you from the rest of the skilled dealers are the little things. The first installation will be about the basics. The second installment will be about the differences between single and multiple deck Blackjack. And finally, the third installment will be about tips and mechanics of dealing Blackjack.
Blackjack Basics – a Refresher Course
Blackjack is a one-on-one game between each player and the dealer. The basic rules of Blackjack are simple – players try to score as close to 21 as possible without exceeding 21. Cards 2 through 10 count as their face value, while face cards (Jack, Queen and King) are worth 10 points each. The Ace counts as 11 points, unless that would make your total exceed 21 – in that case, the Ace counts as 1 point. The player goes first, hitting/standing/splitting/doubling-down/surrendering/taking insurance, and then the dealer takes his or her turn. Since dealers are responsible for paying out bets, they can’t take insurance. They also can’t split their hand, double down, or surrender. All of these options will be discussed in detail below.
Before any cards are dealt, they must be shuffled. Procedures vary depending on how many decks you are using. See the blog “The Differences Between Single and Multiple Deck Blackjack” for specifics on the differences.
Once the cards are shuffled, it’s time to deal. Make sure all players have placed their bets before you start dealing cards – players can’t touch their bet once the cards are dealt, and no more betting occurs unless they’re doubling down or splitting their hand.
Deal to the player on your left first, then move left to right to the remaining players, giving them one card each. Finish by dealing yourself one card face down. Deal another card to each player, and deal your final card facing upwards. If your card is an Ace, ask the players if they want to purchase Insurance.
Insurance – A side bet that can be up to half of the original bet. Blackjack Insurance pays 2:1 when the dealer’s hole card is a face card or 10, giving the dealer Blackjack. Any other card in the hole and the bet loses, but the player can still win or lose on their original bet. When a player has Blackjack and your up card is an Ace, the insurance bet may be offered as “even money”, paid immediately at 1:1 (instead of 3:2) before checking the dealer’s hand. (This is done on the player’s end to avoid a push in case the dealer has Blackjack.) Turn your hand sideways, offer Insurance bets by waving your hand over the Insurance banner. After insurance bets are made, discreetly check your hole card by slightly bending the corner up, without creasing the card, while shielding the cards with your hands (most casinos will have a mirror set-up in the table to check the corner of the card). If you have Blackjack, turn your hole card face up, collect bets, and pay out insurance winnings at 2:1.
The Players’ Turns
Starting from your left, all of the players play their hand in turn. Players have several options, as covered earlier. Here are the choices in detail:
- Blackjack – If the player has Blackjack on their first two cards, they win their original bet back with a 3:2 bonus (for example, a $20 bet receives $30+$20).
- Stand – To take no more cards and play with the count they currently have (i.e. a King and an 8 would be 18, and the player would likely Stand). If the player stands, move to the next player.
- Hit – To take another card, adding that card’s value to your count. A player can hit as many times as he or she would like. If the player continues drawing cards until their hand exceeds 21, they’ve busted – collect their bet, place it in the tray, and move on to the next player.
- Double Down – When a player has a total of 11 (some houses allow with 11 or 10, while some houses allow a player to Double Down on any two cards), he or she may choose to double their original bet, and receive one card only with no further option to hit. When you deal this card, place it perpendicular to the other cards, face up (some players prefer face down, most houses allow for this).
- Split – When a player has any pair, they have the option to Split, and turn one hand into two different hands. You as the dealer will take the cards, face up, and place them by their respective bets. Deal one card face up to the first hand, and the player has all of these options again. If they receive another card of the same value, they can split again, up to four times total. (The only exception being if the player splits Aces – as in a Double Down, only one card is dealt per Ace, in perpendicular fashion, and most houses do not allow for further splits. Any split blackjacks should be paid out at 1:1 odds instead of the typical 3:2 bonus payment.) The player will play each hand independently, starting with the hand to your left.
- Surrender – Some houses allow for a player to surrender half of their bet for no further action on their hand. This is signified by the player drawing a line with their finger, perpendicular to the cards, and just below their bet. You would then take their bet, return half the bet total from your tray, and then retrieve the cards.
The Dealer’s Turn
After all the players have had their turns, and the bets and cards of players who either busted or had Blackjack are removed, it’s the dealer’s turn. As the dealer, you face rules that limit how you can hit or stand. In most casinos, the dealer is required to hit on hands worth less than 17 points, regardless of the cards that make up their hand. Hands worth 17 points or above can’t be hit on.
Begin by turning over your hole card. If your hand’s total value is 16 points or less, deal yourself another card and continue until your hand’s value is 17 or more points. If your second card is an Ace, count it as 11 only until your total exceeds 21, at which point the ace has a value of 1 point.
If the value of your hand exceeds 21, you’re bust and the remaining players win. If your hand is worth less than 21, pay any players with a higher value than you, and collect bets from players whose hands have a lower value than yours. Finally, if you tie with a player, refund their bet. Once you’ve dealt with all of bets and finished playing, collect cards from all players and prepare for the next hand.
It’s that simple! Read the next two installments to get the full lesson in!
“There are many harsh lessons to be learned from the gambling experience, but the harshest one of all is the difference between having fun and being smart.”
–Hunter S. Thompson