In blackjack, number cards are worth their face value in points (from 2 to 10). Face cards are each worth ten points and an Ace is worth either 1 or 11. The player decides. This makes an ace a highly desirable card.
As a face card, a queen is worth 10 points – the same as kings and jacks.
The best hand in blackjack is an ace with a face card as it will score you an unbeatable 21 points and many casinos pay higher odds on that combination.
The Goal of Blackjack
Every player is aiming to beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21 points in total.
How to play
- Number cards from 2 through to 10 are worth their face value in points.
- ‘Face’ cards (i.e., jack, queen, and king) are each worth 10 points.
- An ace is worth either 1 or 11.
At the initial deal, players receive two cards, face down. The dealer places one of his cards face up. (Some casinos will play a ‘no hole’ version of the game where the dealer only gets one card at the first deal thus leaving an extra card in the deck for the players.)
The dealer will ask each player, in turn, to call for more cards (by asking for a ‘hit’).
As soon as you think you have the best possible hand you no longer ask for a ‘hit’ but choose to ‘stay’, ‘stand’, or ‘stick’.
Once your total score goes over 21 you are ‘bust’ and have lost your bet.
After all the players have completed their hands, the dealer reveals his second card and plays his hand. Once the dealer’s hand score is established, all players who beat the dealer’s score without going ‘bust’ win and the dealer pays them. Different casinos will have varying payoffs for winners so make sure you check before you play.
Some casinos refund the player’s bets in case of level points (or push) but others may count it as a loss for the player. It’s important to find out the rules before you start playing as it will affect your decision-making.
Kings, Queens, and Jacks
There are four kings, four queens, four jacks, plus four tens in a standard pack. This means the chances of receiving a card worth 10 points is 16 from 52 or 4 in 13 (30.7%). The chance of drawing an ace is 4 in 52 or 1 in 13.
Obviously, if the dealer’s face-up card is a queen, your chances of drawing a face card will reduce.
If you are dealt a hand with two cards of the same value you may be allowed to ‘split’ them. You will then receive another two cards to play with each of the split pair. By having two hands you can double your chances of winning.
Some casinos will allow you to re-split. For example, if you are dealt two 8’s and split them and are then dealt another 8 on one of the original 8s, you can split again. Other houses have different rules. A few will even allow you to split cards of the same value (e.g., a 10 and a jack). Check out the house rules before you play, so you understand all your options.
Should you Split Queens?
Previously, we noted that splitting a pair creates two hands so arguably you double your odds of winning.
If you were dealt two queens, your score would be 20. By splitting them, you have two chances to be dealt an ace and achieve the unbeatable blackjack. However, there are only 4 aces in a pack and some may already be in other players’ hands. That means your chance of being dealt an ace to reach the magic 21 score is relatively low. In that instance, you may want to consider simply standing.
After all, 20 is only beaten by 21, so you have a strong hand.
Therefore, splitting face cards may not be such a good idea. Statistically, you would be swapping the high probability of winning with a 20 for the risk of losing twice!
Should you Split Aces?
Splitting aces gives you a much better chance of a strong hand regardless of what the dealer’s card is showing.
If you are dealt two aces, your starting value is 2 or 12, so you’ll need a 9 to achieve 21. Tens, jacks, queens, and kings all score ten so there’s a higher probability of getting ten points than any other as your next card. If your next card has a value of ten points your total hand would be back to 12 (a ten plus two 1’s).
Alternatively, split the aces into two hands, and you have four ways of getting to 21 in either hand by being dealt a 10, jack, queen, or king.