Having friends over to play Blackjack can be a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. The equipment needed to play the game at home can be as simple as a table, chairs, and a standard deck or two of 52 cards. Counters or poker chips can be used for wagering in place of cash.
Those with more elaborate visions of their home game may wish to check out Blackjack accessories offered by gambling supply stores or online. They include specially marked felt tablecloths, folding tables, or table tops; dealer shoes for use with 2~8 decks of cards; professional-grade acrylic discard holders; and colored plastic, poker-size “cut cards” for cutting the decks. Professional dealer tables with dedicated Blackjack layouts made for home game rooms are also available, with prices ranging from $550 to $2,000.
When inviting others over for Poker or Bridge, more thought usually goes into the snacks and beverages to be served than preparing for the game itself. But when setting up for Blackjack at home, a bit of extra attention needs to be given to how the game will be played. That’s because the house holds an advantage over the player and rules need to be established so that the game is fair to all participants.
It is a good idea to involve the other players in creating the rules, so that nobody feels disadvantaged. The organizer can use the following list of questions as a guideline, then write down the choices made so that they can be referred to during play should any disputes arise.
- How many decks will be used for play?
- What minimum/maximum bets are allowed?
- Does the dealer hit or stand on soft 17?
- On what two-card totals can players double down?
- Can players double down after splitting?
- How many splits are allowed?
- Can Aces be split/re-split?
- Can split Aces be hit or doubled down?
- How are pushes (ties) settled?
- Is early/late surrender allowed?
- Is insurance offered?
- What is the payout for a natural blackjack?
Just as important as preparing the list of game rules is deciding how the bank will be handled. The simplest approach is for the game’s organizer to take on the role of banker, putting up the funds for which the others play, assuming all risk in return for the house edge. In effect, the organizer becomes a casino owner. The unfairness of this to all involved should be rather obvious, but some home Blackjack games thrive this way.
A more fair procedure is to collect a fixed “subscription” fee from every participant and use that as the bank’s initial pool of funds. Alternatively, chips can be sold at face value and all money collected becomes the bank’s fund. Players then attempt to recoup their investments and some profits as they play. Re-purchase of chips or re-subscription may be allowed to let players back into the game if they “go broke” during play.
A third way of organizing is for players to take turns being the bank for a fixed number of deals, one shoe, or a limited time period. Whatever is won or lost during the turn is kept, and the next banker puts up the funds for a new round. This procedure avoids some of the problems associated with maintaining a central pool of funds and how to divide it up at the end of the session.
Hoyle’s “Rules of Games” is a much referenced guide to home card parties. It recommends changing the bank/deal on the occasion of any natural Blackjack, with the winner becoming the new banker/dealer. It also suggests spicing up the game by allowing the dealer to win on all pushes and collect double from each player when he/she has a natural Blackjack. As long as everyone has an opportunity to be the banker/dealer, this can be a fun way to play.
The main thing is to avoid disputes and enjoy the game. The best way to achieve that is to make sure everyone agrees on the format and rules before setting up a home Blackjack game.