How to Play Blackjack
A blackjack game starts with each player at the table putting up a bet and receiving two cards face up.
The dealer also receives two cards, one card face up and one card face down. Remember, it doesn't matter that other players can see your cards since you’re only playing against the dealer.
Each player around the table now acts in turn and decides what he or she wants to do – take an additional card, stand, double down etc. But before we go into that, let’s look at what you want to achieve.
The Goal in Blackjack
Your goal is to get closer to 21 than the dealer – without going over 21.
Add the card values to find out your current total.
Aces are counted as 11 or 1
Face cards are counted as 10
Numeric cards are counted as their face value
How to Count Your Total
When you don’t have an ace, it’s simple to count your total.
Say that you have K-5-4. Your hand’s value is 19. It can’t be counted as anything else and is therefore called a hard hand.
However, if you have an ace in your hand, the total can be two numbers at the same time, which is called a soft hand.
Say, for instance, that you have A-5. Your total is now both 6 and 16 and you could take another card without going bust (if you get a 10, you will have a hard 16 since the ace only can be counted as 1.)
The Player’s Options
If you receive an ace and any card valued 10 on your first two, you have blackjack (also called a natural) and the dealer pays 3 to 2 on your wager right away. If you bet 20 you win 30.
In any other situation, you have to choose between one of the following options.
Stand: If you stand, you're not dealt any additional cards and your hand value remains the same. You now wait for the dealer to complete his hand.
Hit: If you hit, you will be dealt an additional card that will add to your hand value. When you’ve received a card, you can choose to stand or to take another.
Split. When your first two cards are a pair, you can split your existing hand into two separate hands. Each hand will be accompanied by a bet that's equal to your original wager. You then play these hands individually.
Tip: Don't ever split 10s, 4s or 5s. Split aces and 8s, always
Double Down: Doubling down means that you are doubling your wager. In this situation, you announce the move, double your wager and receive one additional card. After this, you’re not allowed to take any more cards and it’s the dealer’s turn to act.
Surrender: Some casinos allow players to surrender hands. When you think that you've been dealt a bad hand, you can cut your losses, give up half of your initial wager and surrender the hand.
Insurance: This is a side bet that you make when you suspect that the dealer has been dealt blackjack. If the dealers up card is an ace, you'll be offered insurance before any further game action happens.
The side bet is equal to half of your wager and is paid 2 to 1 if the dealer has blackjack. So if he does, you break even.
Tip: It's a good idea to avoid insurance bets, simply for the reason that it’s bad business.
How the Dealer Plays
When you’re finished, it’s the dealers turn to act.
First he turns over his second card, which up until now has been face down on the table. After this, his actions are predetermined.
If the dealer has 16 or below, he must hit
If the dealer has 17 or above, he must stand.
If the dealer has a "soft" 17, meaning A6, where a hit can’t bust him because he can use the ace as a one-point card, the rule varies from casino to casino as to whether or not he must hit.
If the dealer busts, everyone who has not already busted wins.
If he doesn’t, he pays even money to players who have a higher point total than him.
If the dealer and the player end up with the same total, the bet is tied and the wagered money goes back to the player.
Whilst the precise rules of BlackJack can vary from casino to casino – and you should always check the casino-specific rules when you start playing – understanding the general rules will help you a lot.
But just knowing the rules isn’t enough to play well. To do so, you’ll have to study the basic blackjack strategy. In this article you’ll learn how to reduce the house advantage to a minimum.
There are also other variants of blackjack available online – for instance blackjack switch, blackjack surrender and pontoon. If you’re interested in the rules and strategy of these games, go tou our page describing different blackjack variations.