There are many options available to you once the cards have been dealt. Your decisions over time will be the ultimate decider of whether you win a fortune or lose your shirt.
The player elects to “stand” with the current total and not to draw any additional cards. If you are in a game where the cards are dealt face-down, you slip your cards under your chips. The dealer will understand the message. If you are in a face-up game, wave your hand back and forth in a wiping motion just above your cards, which is the signal for standing. All casinos insist on some form of hand signal; verbal statements are not accepted. Casinos can get rather noisy, and it is easy for a dealer to mishear a player. Also, the cameras hidden in the casino’s ceilings can be used to resolve disputes only if hand signals are used, since they do not have an audio component.
The player elects to draw an additional card or cards. If you are in a face-down game, draw your cards toward you with a quick scratching motion against the felt once or twice. In a face-up game, make a similar motion with your fingertips or, preferably, point to your cards with your index finger.
If your first two cards are of the same value, you may split them and play each as a separate hand. To indicate a desire to split your cards, place an additional wager equivalent to the original one to the side of it. If you are playing in a face-down game, you must expose your cards. After splitting a pair, various other options become available. You can re-split if a third like-valued card appears. Or you can double down on the split hands should an appropriate card be drawn. For example, if you have split 8’s and catch a three on the first 8, you may now double down on this total of 11. Both re-splitting and doubling and doubling down after a split are to the player’s advantage.
The player may double the size of the original bet and elect to draw only one additional card. The typical doubling situation is where you have a hand that stands a chance of becoming a very good hand with one additional card; for example, your first two cards total 10 or 11. To indicate a double down bet, slide the second wager to the side of the original bet. This wager may be as much as but no more than your original bet. If you are playing in a face-down game, you must expose your cards. Virtually all casinos permit doubling on 11 and 10; most on 11, 10, and 9, and many will allow it on any two cards. The latter rule is the most advantageous to the player.
When the dealer shows an A, players are given the option of taking insurance against the dealers’ having blackjack. Calling this “insurance” is a bit misleading. It is nothing other than a side bet that is paid at 2 to 1. If you wish to take insurance (which is only recommended in very specific circumstances recognizable by an expert card counter only), place a bet equal to half your original bet in the semicircle running just in front of your betting spot. If the dealer has blackjack, you will lose your original bet but win the insurance wager and break even on the hand. If the dealer does not have blackjack, you will lose the insurance bet, and the hand will be played out normally.
If your hand looks particularly unpromising against the dealers’ exposed card, you have the option of surrendering half of your bet and retiring from the hand. For example, should you have 9, seven against a dealer 10 and your chances of winning the hand are slim — fewer than.5 — and it would be to your advantage to give up half your bet. There are to forms of surrender: “late” and “early.” In the late form, the player may surrender after the first two cards provided that the dealer does not have blackjack. In early surrender, the player may surrender after the first two cards even when the dealer is later revealed to have blackjack. Both forms of surrender are to the players’ advantage, with early surrender being most beneficial. Not all casinos permit late surrender, and those that do don’t necessarily post it at the tables. Except for the occasional promotion, no casino offers early surrender any longer.
Surrender, by the way, is the only play at the table that re-quires a verbal response; there is no hand signal. If you wish to surrender your hand, just say “Surrender.” The dealer will remove half your bet and return the other half.