Blackjack 101

December 21, 2018

A quick refresher if you are going to have friends over and you plan to play Blackjack!

Extract Source:


The point of the game is for you to get a count as close as possible to 21, without going over that number. Ideally, your count will equal 21 naturally or you will get to 21 by hitting a time or two. If your hand does not equal 21 and you have not gone over that mark, you want your hand to be closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand is. If it is, you win. It does not matter what your tablemates’ hands add up to because you are only competing against the dealer.

Card values

* Ace: One or 11
* King: 10
* Queen: 10
* Jack: 10
* [2-10]: go by their facevalue


Every blackjack table in a casino has minimum and maximum betting limits that are clearly visible. Before the dealer deals, players place bets within these limits. Once everyone has wagered, the dealer gives every player a single card working in a clockwise rotation, with the dealer getting the last card. All of the cards in this first pass are dealt face-up. The dealer then hands out a second round of face-up cards, but deals their second card face down. Because the players’ cards are dealt face-up, there is no need for players to touch them.

If the first two cards you are dealt are an ace and a face card or a ten, your hand is a “natural” or “blackjack.” If you have a natural and the dealer does not, you will receive one-and-a-half times the amount of your wager. If you and your dealer have blackjacks, the round is a stand-off or a tie, and you get to keep your bet. If the dealer has a natural and you do not, the dealer will collect your wager.


The action at a blackjack table begins with the person to the left of the dealer and moves from one player to the next in succession. When it is your turn, you will need to decide if you want to “stand,” which means not asking for another card, or “hit,” which means requesting another card to bring the overall value of your hand closer to 21. When you hit, you will receive one card at a time until your hand equals 21, you are satisfied with your hand’s total or your hand goes “bust.” If your hand goes bust, it means the value of your hand exceeded 21 and you lost your bet.

If your initial two cards include an ace and a card that does not have a value of ten, you have a “soft hand.” This is because you have the option of treating the ace as if it has a value of 11 or a value of one. If you are using a value of 11 and you get a card that would put the value of your hand over 21, you can simply change the value of your ace to one in order to keep playing.

Whereas players have options during play, a dealer’s actions at a blackjack table are formulaic and they are dictated by the cards. Here are the actions you will see a blackjack dealer take depending on the first two cards in their hand:
* Total is 17 or Greater: Blackjack dealers must stand if the total value of their first two cards is equal to or greater than 17.
* Value is 16 or Less: If the combined value of the first two cards a dealer gets is 16 or less, the dealer must take cards one at a time until the value of their hand is 17 or more without going over 21.
* Dealer Has an Ace: When dealers have an ace and giving the card a value of 11 would bring their hand to a total of at least 17, they have to use the value of 11 and stand.

In addition to hitting or standing, you have the option of doing the following when it is your turn to act:
* Splitting Pairs: If your first two cards are the same, you can split them into two separate hands. Your original bet will go on one hand and you will have to place another wager of the same amount on the second hand. You will play the hand on the left-hand side first and then you will play your second hand after you are done with the first one. If you split aces, you will only be able to hit once per hand. If you get a ten card to pair with one of your aces, the payout will only be one-to-one instead of the usual one-to-one-and-a-half you would normally get for a blackjack.
* Doubling Down: When your first two cards have a combined value of nine, 10 or 11, you can double down by doubling the amount of your bet. If you do this, you will get just one more card, dealt face down. That card will not be turned over until all of the other bets are settled at the end of the hand.

When players go bust, they lose their wagers, even if the dealer ultimately goes bust in the same round of play. When dealers go over 21, they pay the players who stood the amount that they bet. When dealers stand with a 21 or a lesser value, players who have a higher value while remaining under 21 win. Players whose hands have a value lower than the dealer’s cards lose their wagers. When there is a stand-off or a tie between a dealer and a player, no chips are exchanged between the dealer and that person.

Basic Blackjack Strategy for Beginners

It really does not matter if you are a new player or a seasoned veteran, the basic strategy for blackjack is the same. When you play
blackjack, you should do your best to stick to the following guidelines:

* If the dealer’s face-up card is a seven, eight, nine, 10, face card or an ace, you should continue hitting until your hand has a value of at least 17.
* If the dealer’s face-up card is less than seven but more than three, you should only hit until the value of your hand hits a minimum of 12.
* If the dealer’s face-up card is a two or a three, you should hit until your hand is worth 13 or more.
* If you have a soft hand such as an ace and a five, you should continue hitting until the value of your hand is 18 or more.
* You should double down if your initial two cards have a combined value of 11.
* If your cards total 10, you should double down if the dealer’s up card is an ace, face card or a ten.
* If your initial two cards have a total value of nine, you should only double down if the dealer is showing a two, three, four, five or six.
* If you have a pair of aces or eights, you should split your hand.
* If you have a pair of twos, threes or sevens, you should split your hand unless the dealer is showing an eight, nine, ten, face card or ace.
* You should only split sixes if the dealer’s face-up card is a two, three, four, five or six.
* Do no split your hand when you have a pair of fours, fives or tens.


(चिड़िया और चुरुंगन, श्री हरिवंश राय बच्चन (translated for a friend))

The lil’ birdie hopped out of the nest-

I saw the branches swaying in the wind,
I heard the rustling of the leaves,
And eavesdropped on the leaves whispering to each other;

“Ma, can I fly away?”
“No my dear, just wait wee bit more.”

I hopped from branch to branch,
I saw the delicate buds, and saw them bloom into flowers,
I flew to the higher branches, and saw the quivering tendrils,
I hopped to the lower branches, and saw the mighty gnarled roots.

“Ma, can I fly away?”
“No my dear, just wait a wee bit more.”

I learned to recognise- the raw fruits from the ripe ones
I ate some, I dropped some others,
And I felt, I could hear my buddies call out for me,
Friends who wanted to share with me, to sing with him.

“Ma, can I fly away?”
“No my dear, just wait a wee bit more.”

I can fly from tree to tree, I can swoop down to the earth,
I can spot a grain flying in the sky,
I know a good grain from a bad one.

“Ma, can I fly away?”
“No my dear, just wait a wee bit more.”

The clear blue sky beckons me,
Someone deep inside urges me to take flight.

“Ma, do I know how to fly?”
“Yes, your wings are strong, they can take the wind,
Your are grown up and ready to take on the world”


I am often quizzed about where I buy books for Aru.  While I do visit Crossword and Landmark occassionally, I have to admit that I am not exactly thrilled by the choices offered by them.  So, I generally keep hunting for kids’ books via different sources.  The list below covers most of our current sources.

In addition to these, there are local bookstores in Pune, who keep a good collection of kids’ literature. I do plan to post a review of the local bookstores in Pune sometime soon 🙂

1) Pratham books

I have ordered quite a few books from them for Aru and they are quite a hit at our place.

I discovered Pratham Books through a friend who has illustrated some of their books.  Her mother works as a Content Director for Pratham, Mumbai.  Pratham is an NGO that works in the field of child education. Pratham Books come from their not-for-profit publishing division.  They endeavour to develop good quality, reasonably priced, supplementary education material primarily for Pre-Primary and Primary school kids. (They are also coming out with curricular and other books for older kids, but that seems like a more recent project.)  The study material gets used primarily in Municipal schools and other schools in relatively poorer neighbourhoods.  So, naturally their books are mainly written in regional languages, which then get translated to different regional languages and also English.

I had seen their Marathi books and found that the content and quality of books was superior to lot of children’s books you’d find in many popular bookstores in Pune. Aru quite liked them when I read them out to her.  So, I went ahead and ordered quite a few books in English.  When they arrived, I was slightly disappointed, mainly with some of the stories, but the disappointment was short-lived.  They instantly clicked with Aru. For one, she could read the ones from the ‘Pre-school category’ all by herself and others with a little help from me – so naturally she was thrilled.  The stories are quite simple and uncomplicated, which I think works very well for kids who are just learning to read, because they can concentrate on reading and still ‘get’ the story.  Personally, I think their books under the ‘Pre-school’ category are great for kids who are just beginning to read.

(Lesson for me – you are not always a good judge of what your child would like to read and like to be read!)

So, there!  Do hop over to their site and discover the khazana of some of the most reasonably priced, very good quality reading material for your kids 🙂

2) Katha

Katha is another popular source of kids’ literature for us.  Their books, however, are more relevant for 3 year and above – though thats my personal opinion.  I bought a couple of Katha books when I visited ‘Sreebhumi’ in Kolkata; Aru was around 2 year old at that time.  They did not click with her.  However, recently Katha books are one of her favourites.

The quality of their books is very good and quite a few of their books have won the ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ awards.  Good stories, very good illustrators who experiment a lot with different forms and styles – overall a very good experience.  They have also come up with some very good books in the ‘Katha World Series’.  ‘Katha World Series’ presents works of some European authors translated into English.

‘The song of the Scarecrow’, ‘The Princes with longest hair’, ‘Mo…aaaning Morris’, ‘A Lion in Paris’ are some of our favourites these days.

3) Tulika Books

Tulika offers a wide variety in kids’ literature.  Their books are very Indian and the stories are based in various parts of India. Various cultures, traditions, behaviours are very naturally incorporated in the stories.  The illustrations depict very Indian images, are mostly in Indian folkart and hence very rich in colour and their form and styles.  Thanks to Tulika, Kolam and uruli are part of Aru’s vocabulary 🙂

Tulika is also a very good source of bi-lingual books.  This may appeal to Indians settled in other countries who want to introduce their kids to their mother tongue.  They also have picture books for very young kids – 6 month – 1yr olds 🙂

4) Karadi Tales

Karadi tales are also integral part of our lives these days 🙂  From the site you can see that they have audiobooks, picturebooks, video books a.k.a DVDs etc., however, our experience is limited to their audiobooks.  In audiobooks they have a good collection of mythological stories, folk tales, panchatantra stories, kids’ rhymes (rhymes which have a very indian theme).  The Karadi Rhymes are simply loved at our place.  The stories are narrated by Karadi, the bear, their main storyteller.  Lending their voice to Karadi are some very well known theatre personalities in India like Saeed Jaffery, Naseeruddin Shah, Tom Alter, Girish Karnad, so you can rest assured that the narration will be superb.  The style of narration is very good, the characters are very colourful and have very interesting names – a crow couple is called Kala and Karupi, the stories are interspersed with songs, there are very vivid descriptions of the settings.

They also offer bi-lingual books.  We own their audiobooks in both English and Hindi.  However, I have to admit that we like their Hindi books more than the ones in English.  I think the drama, songs and dance etc. creates more impact in your own language.  In English they sound too polished and sophisticated 🙂  This is ofcourse my personal opinion!

5) Jyotsna Prakashan

Jyotsna guys are fairly well-known in Pune.  I think, in general, they are pretty well-known amongst the Marathi speaking populace.  I was introduced to Jyotsna by a friend when he gifted Aru a set of 6 booklets by Madhuri Purandare.  During same time Jyotsna had come up with some very good set of books for teenagers – Marathi translations of Iranian stories by some famous Iranian authors.  These books retained the original illustrations from Iranian books.  I bought a couple of them and quite liked them.  Lateron, English translations of these books were also published by Jyotsna.  I liked the books so much that I bought the entire set of books for Aru; to be read when she grows up 🙂  ‘Vachu Aanande’ by Madhuri Purandare, also from Jyotsna is another very good compilation from them – a must for all Maharashtrian households with kids.  So, the crux of the matter is that they have very good Marathi books for kids.

Their website is not of much use, however, if one is in Pune one can easily find their books in local bookstores.

6) Tara Books

Tara books are a class apart!  And no, we don’t own any Tara books nor have we seen any, but I surely have reasons why I want to own some.  Their books are presented in a lot of Indian folk styles – Patua from West Bengal, Warli from Maharashtra, Gond Tradition from MP and many mmore.  Their books are priced slightly on the higher side, however, I think if you have a look at the books, the prices will seem justified.

I’ve been meaning to put this up here for a while, however, I just kept postponing for various reasons.  The other day I promised a friend I would send her the recipe, and by the time I got it all written, I realized the writeup was decent enough for the blog.  So, here goes.

This dahi chicken is kind of comfort food for the entire family.  It is light on the tummy and really easy to make.

Ingredients: (for 2 adults)

  1. Chicken                        – 1/2 kg (boneless)
  2. Potatoes                       – 2 nos. (medium size)
  3. Tomatoes                       – 2 nos. (medium size)
  4. Onions                         – 2 nos. (medium size)
  5. Curd                           – 1 or 1.5 cup
  6. Tej patta (bay leaves)         – 2 or 3 nos.
  7. Badi Ilaichi (cardamom)        – 2 nos.
  8. Dalchini (Cinnamon)            – 2 or 3 sticks
  9. Dried red chilli (saboot)      – 2 nos.
  10. Ginger                         – 1/2 inch ginger
  11. Sugar                          – 1/2 tea spoon
  12. Salt                           – 1 or 2 tea spoon (or according to taste)
  13. Turmeric                       – 1/2 tea spoon
  14. Cooking oil                    – 1 or 2 table spoon (whichever cooking oil you use at home groundnut/soya bean/sunflower oil)


  1. I generally use Godrej boneless chicken as I’m not very confident of buying chicken on my own.  Godrej chicken has neatly cut chicken pieces.
  2. Wash the chicken thoroughly and keep it under running water for couple of minutes.
  3. Marinate the chicken with salt and turmeric for around 8-10min.
  4. Beat the curd slightly so that it becomes smooth and does not show its natural granules.
  5. Peel the onions and potatoes.  Cut the tomatoes, peeled potatoes and onions each in eight pieces.
  6. Crush the ginger slightly or cut it into small pieces.
  7. Crush the badi ilaichi slightly so that you get the aroma in the stew.


  1. Heat the cooking oil in a pressure pan.  Once it is hot, add tej patta, badi ilaichi, dalchini and turn them in oil.  Add the dried red chillies.  You can break the chillies in two halves or more depending on how spicy you want it.
  2. Add potatoes and onions and turn them in oil for a while till they become slightly brown.
  3. Add tomatoes and turn them in oil till they become slightly soft.
  4. Add the marinated chicken and turn everything together.
  5. Sprinkle 1-1.5 tea spoon salt on the mixture.  Remember the chicken has been marinated in salt so accordingly you will need slightly less salt.
  6. Add 1 cup of water and close the pressure pan lid.  We don’t need lot of water as the chicken itself releases water.
  7. Give 3 whistles, the chicken should get cooked with 3 whistles.  If you are sceptical, give 1-2 more whistles, but that would mean you have to increase the water in step 6 by 1/2 cup or so.
  8. After the whistles, let all the steam escape.
  9. Open the pressure pan lid and check that the water has dried up.  If not, reheat on slow flame till the water dries up.  Keep turning the prepared chicken slightly while evaporating excess water.
  10. Let the chicken cool.
  11. When the chicken is just warm, not hot, pour the curd on the prepared ingredients, sprinkle half spoon sugar and nicely mix the curd and the prepared chicken.
  12. The stew/dahi chicken is ready.

Chicken biryani

November 16, 2009

This recipe is for a very gharelu (homely) chicken biryani – meant only for the family or friends who are family 🙂 !

Ingredients: (for 2 adults)

  1. Chicken              – 1/2 kg (boneless or otherwise)
  2. Basmati Rice         – 1 cup
  3. Curd            – 1 or 1.5 cup
  4. Tej patta (bay leaves)    – 2 or 3 nos.
  5. Badi Ilaichi (cardamom)    – 2 nos.
  6. Dalchini (Cinnamon)     – 2 or 3 sticks
  7. Kali mirch (Pepper)           – 4 – 5
  8. Biryani Shahi Garam Masala    – 1 tea spoon
  9. Dried red chilli (saboot) or green chillies   – 2 no.
  10. Ginger             – 1/2 inch ginger
  11. Garlic             – 2 or 3 nos.
  12. Onions            – 1 or 2 medium size
  13. Potatoes            – 1 medium size
  14. Ghee/Butter            – 1 tea spoon
  15. Sugar            – 1 or 2 tea spoon
  16. Salt            – 2 tea spoon (or according to taste)
  17. Turmeric            – 1/2 tea spoon
  18. Cooking oil         – 2 or 3 table spoon (whichever cooking oil you use at home – groundnut/soya bean/sunflower oil)


1) Marinate the chicken for 20min.  Basically mix chicken, dahi, salt and pinch of turmeric and keep it aside for 20min.
2) Cook the rice just so much that it does not stick and stays firm.  It should not be completely cooked as otherwise it will start sticking to the pan when it is mixed with chicken and cooked further.  Drain all the water and cool down the rice.
3) Crush or grind the ginger, garlic, onion and keep the mixture or paste aside
4) Peel the potato and cut it into two pieces

Cooking procedure:

  1. Heat 2-3 table spoon cooking oil in a pan
  2. When the oil is heated, add the crushed ginger, garlic, onion to the oil and turn it till it turns red/brown.
  3. Add tej patta, slightly crushed badi ilaichi, dal chini, kali mirch and green/red chilli and turn them in the oil.
  4. Add chicken and turn it and mix it properly and keep turning for a while on slow flame.
  5. Add water and bring it to a boil.
  6. When the water evaporates add salt, sugar, a pinch or quarter tea spoon turmeric and biryani shahi garam masala and make the chicken completely dry.  The chicken should be completely cooked by now.
  7. Add rice and mix well.
  8. Add a tea spoon of ghee or butter, lower the flame, cover the pot and let the rice cook in steam – this cooking takes only 2-3 minutes.  If the rice starts sticking before you are done just switch off the gas and keep the lid closed.  The rice will cook in the steam.
  9. Your Biryani is ready!  You can garnish it with chopped coriander leaves and/or fried onions.