How to Play Casino Black Jack

By Monique Finley
Suited Black Jack
All Images: Monique Finley

Practiced black jack players and professional dealers can always tell when a novice sits down at the black jack table. Novice casino players often will come to a table under the impression the point of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible. This is incorrect. The major difference between playing black jack at the house and playing black jack at the casino is that, at the casino, the object is to let the dealer bust. Following these rules to learn casino etiquette to increase your odds of having a good time. And, if luck is on your side, perhaps you may increase your bankroll (money).

Know that black jack dealers must hit all hands which equal 16 or lower. The dealer stays on 17 through 21. Should your hand equal 17 through 21, give the stay sign. Stay on hands 12 through 16 against dealer up card 2 through 6. The premise is to “let the dealer bust.” A dealer 6 or less implies the dealer will have to take another card. To “stay,” wave your hand horizontally, palm down. This indicates to the dealer and the security cameras you do not want a card. Once your hand gets to 17, it is unsafe to take a card. Seventeen is called the “mother-in-law” hand because you want to hit it, but you know you shouldn’t.

Tapping/scratching for a hit card

Hit hands which are less than 11. If your black jack hand equals 12 through 16, and the dealer’s up card is 7 through 10, you should hit. Assume the dealer’s “hole” card is a 10. Thus, if the dealer’s up card is a 7, the assumption is the dealer has 17 and stays. A soft hand is any hand with an Ace. An Ace plus a 6 can be 7 or 17. The wise choice is to hit all soft 17s. Stay on hands which show soft 18 through soft 20. Does your hand beat 17? If not, then take a “hit” by using your pointer finger (index finger) to tap/scratch the table next to your bet. A dealer cannot give you a card without the hand gesture of tapping/scratching the black jack table.

The split sign

Split or double down on hands to make more money. If your first two cards are a pair (for example, two 6s), place the same number of chips about 1 inch from your initial bet. The hand signal for splitting is to stick out your index and middle fingers, making a horizontal “peace sign” which points to the two bets. At this point, the dealer will split the hand by moving one card next to the second bet. (Do not touch the cards; use the hand signals.) On the first bet you will be dealt another card. Once you decide to stay on the first hand, the dealer will deal a card to your second hand. During normal play you may double down on any two cards. Likewise, you can double down after splitting any hand other than split Aces. Split Aces will receive one card only.While you split to break even, the object of doubling down is to double your money. Use caution when doubling any hand against a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace. Only double when your hand is 10 or 11 against a dealer up card of 3 through 6. However, gambling and having a good time may find you doubling on a soft 13 through soft 17 against a dealer up card of 3 through 6. Some choose to double any time their cards read 9 through 11.

Overwhelmed by the noise of the slot machines and the sounds of a yelling screaming crowd surrounding a table? Loud noises are part an parcel to the casino experience. Sound out when you win a good split with double downs on both hands. Make some noise friend, you’re playing black jack in a casino. By the way, if you've got a great dealer who is keeping your night lively, don't be afraid to tip. Dealers provide entertainment for tips.

About the Author

Monique Finley has been writing avidly since 1990. Her first poem was published in 1994, when she was 14. She has contributed a variety of pieces (poetry, essays, commentaries) to various writers' sites, including Demand Studios, eHow, Associated Content, Helium and Triond.