The Blackjack Table

The blackjack game is played on a table about six feet long, and sort of oval in shape. The table is covered in felt, usually of a green shade, though some casinos have their own color schemes. Green is the best, however, for it is the most soothing of all the colors to the human eye, and looking at cards for any length of time is hard on the eyes.

At the top of the table, we see a series of rectangles, which stands for the rack. This is where the casino chips are stored, and used by the dealer to pay the players' winning bets. The dealer stands behind the rack, facing the players. As you look at the rack, to its right will be a slot, where cash is deposited into a drop box. A player may come to the game with cash and have the dealer exchange it for casino chips, also called casino checks.

A player may play with cash, and if lost, it will end up in the drop box rather than in the rack. If a player bets with cash, and wins, they will be paid off with chips, for two reasons. First of all, it's easier to figure out. If a player puts down several bills, they have to be carefully separated and counted by the dealer, as well as turned over to make sure they are genuine.

Secondly, chips are abstract symbols, while the cool green cash we know can buy the essentials of life. Mentally, it doesn't effect gamblers as badly to lose chips, as to depart with cash. Playing with chips makes gamblers into bigger players.

If a game is played with four-or-more decks, instead of a deck, or two decks, held in the dealer's hand, the cards will be dealt from a shoe. This is a plastic device which allows the dealer to easily deal out one card at a time in a smooth manner. The shoe is always to the dealer's left, and thus to the right of the rack.

In most casinos, the cards already played, "the discards", will be placed in a plastic case, on the other side of the dealer, to their right. This is a pretty standard feature at a casino blackjack table.

Below the rack, we see the notation, "Blackjack pays 3 to 2". This means that when the player is dealt an original holding of a 10 together with an ace, a "blackjack", they will get $3 for every $2 they have bet.

Next, we see the notation "Dealer Must Draw to 16 and Stand on All 17s". This means that if the dealer holds any hand below 17, they must automatically hit till their total is 17-or-better, and then they must stand. Let us explain this with a couple of examples.

Suppose the dealer holds a 10-2. they have a total of 12, and by the rules of the game, must hit the hand. Let's say they draw another card, and that card is a 4. They now hold 10-2-4 for a 16. They must still hit because their total is below 17. Suppose they hit and get a 9. They are over 21; they have busted.

Let's assume that the dealer holds the following hand A-3. They have a soft 14, so they must hit. They hit and get an ace. Now they hold A-3-A, or a soft 15. They hit again and get a 2. Now they hold an A-3-A-2, or a soft 17. They must use one of the aces as an 11. They can't value their hand as a 7, using both aces as 1s. Since they have a 17, by the rules of the casino they must stand.

In some casinos the dealer must also hit all soft 17s. This will be spelled out on the felt cover as follows "Dealer must draw to all 16s and soft 17s". If that is the case, in the previous example of A-3-A-2, with a soft 17, the dealer must hit again. As we shall see, when a dealer must hit soft 17s, it is a slight disadvantage to the player.

Finally we see rectangular boxes at the edge of the table. Each box represents a place or spot for a player. The table holds five players or other tables may hold up to seven players. In front of each box is a chair or stool for the player to sit on while playing.

The players sit and the dealer stands during play, though a player may want to stand also. Some nervous types do stand. Sometimes you may see a hyperactive individual who not only stood, but paced around talking to themselves while playing. Blackjack draws all kinds.