Of all the “banking” games at the casino (the games where it’s you against the house, so pretty much everything except poker), blackjack is easily the most popular. It’s a relatively simple game to play, and it’s been around in some form or another since the early 1600s, when Miguel de Cervantes wrote about the Spanish game of ventiuna – literally “twenty-one.”

Blackjack is also the most popular table game at Ignition Casino. And the second-most popular game is The New Blackjack, one of seven variants now available at Ignition. Each variant has slightly different rules that you can read by mousing over the game in question and clicking “Learn More”. If you know how to play basic blackjack, you should be able to pick up each game without any difficulty. If you’re new to blackjack, here’s a primer to get you started.

My Super Sweet 21

The object of blackjack is to win money by having a stronger hand than the dealer. Each card in the deck is given a value; Kings, Queens, Jacks and Tens are worth 10 points, Aces are worth either one point or 11, and the remaining cards (Deuce through Nine) are face value. The strongest hands possible add up to 21. If either you or the dealer goes over 21, that hand is a “bust” and an automatic loser.

Blackjack can be played with up to seven players in a live setting, but the players are all competing against the dealer, not against each other. Each player starts with two cards, face-up, while the dealer starts with one upcard. The player then decides whether to stand and keep the cards she has, or to take another action in hopes of improving. If you get dealt a 21 (an Ace and any card worth 10 points) with your first two cards, that’s called a blackjack or a natural, and you win immediately – unless the dealer also has a blackjack, in which case it’s a push and bets are returned.

The Big Hit

If you don’t think your first two cards are good enough, you can choose to hit and receive another card, hoping to get closer to 21 without busting. You can also choose to double down, split or surrender, depending on the variant you’re playing, but hitting and standing are the primary decisions you’ll make. Once you decide to stand and all the other players have completed their action, the dealer will turn over a second card next to his hole card. If he’s still behind your hand without going bust, he’ll draw a third card, and keep drawing until he either busts or wins.

Well, almost. There’s a rule in blackjack where the dealer has to keep drawing cards, as long as his hand is worth 16 (sometimes 17) or less. And if his hand is worth anything above that cut-off point, he’s not allowed to draw any more cards. That means there are situations where it makes sense for you to stand when all you’ve got is a 12. Learning the optimal play for each situation will allow you to reduce the house edge to a razor-thin margin, so hit the books, and use the Practice Play mode to get your feet wet.