By Ethan Parker - November 8, 2023

Ready to dive into the thrilling world of blackjack? This comprehensive guide will teach you about one of the most popular casino games. Starting with the objective and going through table setup, card dealing procedures, player and dealer actions, and decisions, we break it down for a smooth gaming experience. Additionally, you’ll also learn how to determine the winner, as well as understand payouts and betting. So, embark on this exciting blackjack journey and master the art of the game!

Ever wondered how to play blackjack? As someone who loves a night out at the casino, Blackjack is my game of choice. The rules are simple to pick up but take time to master. In this article, I have shared the basic rules and gameplay of Blackjack so you can hit the tables with confidence.

Blackjack is a game where you try to get a hand as close to 21 without going over. You play against the dealer to get your hand closer to 21. The number cards are worth their face value, face cards are worth 10, and an ace can be worth 1 or 11. You make a bet, get dealt two cards, and then decide whether to hit, stand, split, double down, or surrender based on your hand and the dealer’s visible card. The goal is to have the higher hand in the end – if you go over 21, you lose! 

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Blackjack, also known as Twenty-One, is a popular casino card game played by experienced gamblers and casual card enthusiasts. The game aims to get a higher hand value than the dealer, without exceeding 21 points. You need to understand essential game elements such as card values and scoring to achieve this.

The primary goal in Blackjack is simple – to obtain a hand with a higher point value than the dealer’s, without exceeding 21 points. The players and the dealer (also called the House) will each receive two cards. The players’ cards are usually dealt face-up, while the dealer’s cards are dealt with one face-up and one face-down, known as the ‘hole card.’

Players will decide the next moves, which can be ‘hit’ (request an additional card), ‘stand’ (keep a current hand), ‘double down’ (double the initial bet and take one more card), ‘split’ (separate a pair of similar cards and play them as two hands), or ‘surrender’ (give up half of the bet and end the hand). Ideally, the goal is to achieve a winning combination: any hand that does not exceed 21 points, a ‘Blackjack’ (an Ace and a 10-value card), or a hand with a higher value than the dealer’s hand, provided it does not exceed 21 points.

The dealer’s hand must abide by specific rules; often, they must hit a hand value of 16 or less and stand on 17 or more, depending on the casino’s settings. The player wins if the dealer goes over 21 points or has a lower score than the player, the player wins. The player loses if the dealer has a higher score than the player without exceeding 21 points, the player loses. If both players have the same value, this results in a ‘Push’ or a tie, and the player gets their initial bet back.

Card Values and Scoring

Blackjack uses a standard deck of 52 playing cards, and the game’s card values are as follows:

01

Number cards (2 through 10) have face values, meaning that the scores for these cards are equal to their number. For example, a 5 of hearts will be worth five points.

02

Face cards (Kings, Queens, and Jacks) are worth 10 points each.

03

Aces have a unique value as they can be counted as either 1 or 11 points, depending on which value would give the best hand. If counting an Ace as 11 points would cause your hand’s total score to exceed 21, it will be counted as one point to avoid going bust.

A hand’s total score is calculated by adding up the card values in that hand. As mentioned earlier, a ‘Blackjack’ hand is an Ace and a 10-point card, which forms 21 points. It is the best possible hand in the game, and it will usually pay a premium to the player. The next highest score would be 20 points, which could be formed by having two 10-point cards or other combinations that achieve that total without exceeding it.

Scoring also considers the actions of ‘splitting’ or ‘doubling down.’ For instance, if the player has two cards of the same value, they can split them into two hands, requiring an additional bet equal to the original. Each new hand will be played independently and can win or lose according to the standard rules.

Table Overview

The blackjack table is designed to accommodate between five and seven players, making it the ideal choice for both small and medium-sized parties. The table’s surface is often covered with a green-felt material, giving it a distinctive look for the casino environment. The table itself is typically semi-circular in shape, with the dealer standing along the straight edge of the table and the players sitting around the curved part.

The layout of the table includes marked areas for players to place their chips and for the dealer to distribute cards. The layout features several key sections that help facilitate gameplay. These areas include:

01

Dealer’s card area: This is the space on the table that the dealer uses to draw cards from the shoe or deck. In most cases, the dealer will deal two cards to each player and themselves.

02

Shoe or deck area: This is the place where the dealer keeps the card shoe or deck. If a shoe is being used, it typically contains between four and eight decks of cards. Dealers use the shoe to deal cards more efficiently and protect against card counting.

03

Chip tray: The dealer’s chip tray, located in front of the dealer, holds the many chips they use to accommodate bets and payouts throughout the game.

04

Betting spots: Each player’s betting spot is clearly designated on the table, marked by a small circle or box. Players place their bets within these designated areas before the start of each hand.

05

Insurance line: In the event a dealer has an Ace as their upcard, this line is where players can place chips to participate in the optional insurance bet.

06

Rules placard: The table also features a small sign that outlines the specific rules and betting limits for that particular table.

Dealer's Role and Position:

The dealer plays a critical role in a blackjack game, ensuring smooth gameplay, managing bets, dealing cards, and enforcing the established rules. The dealer is stationed on the straight edge of the semi-circular table, right across from the players. This positioning allows them to clearly communicate with all players and manage the game effectively.

In addition to dealing cards, the dealer will be responsible for:

Making sure bets are placed within the outlined betting limits.

Paying off winning bets and collecting chips from losing bets.

Ensuring players follow appropriate gameplay rules, including correctly using hand signals.

Confirming player card totals and making decisions, such as when to hit or stand, based on the game’s specific rules.

The dealer’s position and role at the blackjack table are crucial for maintaining a fair and enjoyable gaming experience for all players.

Player's Seats and Bets

If there is an open seat at the blackjack table, players will first need to purchase chips from the dealer or cashier to begin playing. Once seated, players must place their initial bet within the designated betting spot on the table before the dealer starts the first deal.

Any number of players up to the table’s maximum capacity can play at the same time, and all players can participate in multiple hands concurrently, as long as there’s an available betting spot. Each player assumes individual responsibility for their hand, and decisions made by other players will not affect their gameplay or results. Players must adhere to that table’s minimum and maximum betting limits set for that table.

During the game, players may be required to make additional bets, such as splitting a pair of cards into two separate hands or placing an insurance bet if the dealer has an Ace as their upcard. These bets also must be placed within the designated betting areas to maintain the game’s flow and organization.

In card games, the dealing of cards ensures fair play and adds an element of chance. The card dealing procedure can vary depending on the game, the number of players, and whether it is a home or professionally regulated game. Here is a detailed understanding of the card dealing procedure, including the order of dealing, face-up and face-down cards, and the dealer’s upcard and hole card.

Order of Dealing

The order of dealing refers to the sequence in which cards are distributed among players. In some games, a specific dealing method must be followed. A few common dealing orders are used in various card games:

01

Clockwise Dealing: Cards are dealt in a clockwise direction, starting with the player to the dealer’s left and continuing until all cards have been distributed. It is the most common method of dealing in card games such as Poker, Rummy, and Bridge.

02

Counterclockwise Dealing: Cards are dealt in a counterclockwise direction, starting with the player to the dealer’s right and continuing until all cards have been distributed. This method is used in some traditional card games, primarily in regions where reading right-to-left is customary.

03

Alternate Dealing: In some games, cards are dealt alternately to either clockwise or counterclockwise players. For example, the dealer might deal one card to the first player, then two cards to the next, and so on. This method can be used in games like Chinese Poker, where the number of cards dealt to a player increases each round.

04

Simultaneous Dealing: Cards are dealt to all players at the same time, either face-up or face-down. This method is typically used in games like Blackjack, where all players compare their hands to the dealer’s hand and not each other’s hands.

Regardless of the dealing order, it is essential to shuffle the cards properly before dealing to ensure a random and fair distribution. Additionally, many games require a cut in the deck before dealing, usually by a non-dealer player.

Face-up and Face-down Cards:

Depending on the card game being played, cards may be dealt face-up or face-down. Face-up cards are revealed to all players, whereas face-down cards, also known as ‘hole’ cards, are kept hidden from other players. The choice between face-up and face-down cards can affect a game’s dynamics and the level of strategy involved.

In games like Poker and Texas Hold’em, face-up and face-down cards are used. The face-up cards, known as community cards, are shared by all players and are visible on the table. The face-down cards, called pocket or hole cards, are private to each player and remain concealed until the showdown.

In casino card games like Blackjack, the dealer typically has one card face-up, the upcard, and one face-down card, the hole card. Players make decisions based on the dealer’s upcard and their hand, without knowing the dealer’s hole card.

Dealer's Upcard and Hole Card

In card games where the dealer has both an upcard and a hole card, players need to strategize based on the limited information provided by the dealer’s upcard. In a game like Blackjack, the dealer’s upcard is critical to the strategy that each player employs.

Understanding the dealer’s potential hand based on their upcard can help determine whether to hit, stand, double down, or split. For example, if the dealer’s upcard is a low card (2-6) in Blackjack, the dealer’s chances of going bust are higher, and players might decide to play more conservatively.

On the other hand, the dealer’s hole card, on the other hand, is an unknown factor and can only be guessed based on the visible upcard and the players’ understanding of the game. In some games, rules specific to the dealer’s hole card exist, such as whether the dealer must hit or stand on a soft 17 in Blackjack.

In blackjack, a player’s actions and decisions can significantly impact the outcome of each hand. To make the best choices, a player must understand basic blackjack strategy, hand value, and the available actions, including hitting, standing, doubling down, splitting pairs, insurance, and surrender.

  • Understanding Your Hand Value
    1

    The value of a player’s hand in blackjack is based on the sum of card point values. Each card carries a point value, with cards 2-10 being worth their face value, face cards (kings, queens, jacks) worth 10 points, and aces worth 1 or 11 points, depending on which value best benefits the player’s hand. The game’s main goal is to have a hand with a total value of 21 or as close to 21 as possible without exceeding it, which is referred to as “busting.”

    When evaluating your hand, consider whether it is a “hard” or “soft” hand. A hard hand is one without an ace or with an ace that must count as 1 to avoid busting. On the other hand, a soft hand is one with an ace that can be counted as either 1 or 11 without exceeding 21. Soft hands generally offer more strategic possibilities due to their flexibility.

  • Hit or Stand
    2

    Deciding whether to hit or stand is one of the most fundamental blackjack decisions. Players can “hit” by taking additional cards to increase their hand value. Choosing to “stand” means ending your turn and keeping your current hand value.

    When considering whether to hit or stand, considering both the value of your hand and the dealer’s upcard is crucial. One basic strategy principle proposes standing on a hard 17 or higher, as hitting at this point carries a higher risk of busting. Conversely, hitting with a value of 11 or lower is advisable since there’s no chance of going over 21 with a single card. For values between 12 and 16, the decision relies on the dealer’s upcard – if it’s weak (2-6), the player should generally stand; if it’s strong (7-ace), it’s often better to hit.

  • Doubling Down
    3

    Doubling down allows players to double their initial bet and receive only one additional card, forfeiting the option to hit again. It can be a beneficial move in certain situations – primarily when a player has a strong hand that could potentially beat the dealer’s hand with just one more card. Some common moments to double down include having a hand of 10 or 11 when the dealer’s upcard is a 9 or lower or holding a soft hand with a value between 16 and 18 while the dealer’s upcard is a 6 or lower.

  • Splitting Pairs
    4

    When a player receives two cards of the same value, they can “split” their hand into two separate hands. An additional bet equal to the original is placed on the new hand, and each hand is then played independently of the other. Splitting can be advantageous when a player has a pair of cards with a low combined value, like two eights, which together form a weak hand of 16. By splitting the eights, the player increases their chances of getting a better hand on at least one of their new hands.

    However, not all pairs should be split. Pairs of 10s, face cards, and 5s are typically not recommended for splitting because they already form strong or promising hands.

  • Insurance and Surrender
    5

    Insurance is a side bet offered when the dealer’s upcard is an ace, and it protects the player against the dealer having blackjack. Insurance pays 2:1 and costs half the original bet. However, it’s generally recommended to avoid insurance as the odds are seldom in the player’s favor for this bet.

    Surrendering allows players to forfeit their hand and half of their bet instead of continuing to play. This option is typically only available after receiving the initial two cards and can be a strategic move when the player believes their hand value is unlikely to beat the dealer’s. There are two types of surrender – early and late. Early surrender is rare and can be executed before the dealer checks their hole card for blackjack, while late surrender takes place after the dealer’s check. However, surrendering should be approached with caution as it can lead to a significant loss of money if overused.

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In blackjack, understanding the dealer’s actions and decisions are essential to grasp the game effectively. The dealer has a predetermined set of rules that they must follow. These rules dictate when the dealer hits or stands on a hand. All of these decisions are based on their card values. As a player, knowing these rules can help you strategize and improve your chances of winning.

Dealer's Hand Value and Rules

Unlike players who can decide whether to hit, stand, split, or double down based on their hand values, the dealer usually plays by a strict set of rules. The purpose of these rules is to prevent the dealer from making any conscious decisions that can favor any player. It means that the dealer’s actions solely depend on the total hand value at a given point in the game.

Generally, the dealer draws cards until their hand value is 17 points or higher. The dealer is not allowed to choose other than following this rule. It’s also worth noting that these rules can vary slightly from one casino to another, though the basic premise remains the same.

Two primary dealer rules are followed in most blackjack games:

01

Dealer stands on hard 17: This rule is followed in most blackjack games. Under this rule, the dealer must stand on any hard 17 hand. If the dealer’s hand comprises an Ace and a six, which can be counted as 7 or 17 points, the dealer must stand, as it is considered a hard 17.

02

Dealer hits on soft 17: In some casinos, the rules stipulate that the dealer must continue hitting on a soft 17, which means a hand with an Ace and a six, where the value can be counted as 7 or 17. This rule favors the casino, as the dealer has a higher chance of improving their hand.

Knowing the dealer rules specific to the table you are playing at is crucial, as this information can be used to make more strategic decisions as a player.

When the Dealer Hits or Stands

Now that we have discussed the value of the dealer’s hand and the rules they must follow, it’s essential to understand when the dealer hits or stands.

If the dealer’s hand value is 16 or below: In these cases, the dealer must continue drawing cards, hoping to reach a value of 17 or higher. The dealer will hit until they reach a hand value of 17 or more or bust by exceeding 21 points.

If the dealer’s hand value is 17 or above: Based on the rules we discussed earlier, the dealer will either hit or stand. In the case of a hard 17, the dealer will usually stand, depending on the table rules. They must also stand if the dealer’s hand value is 18 or higher, they must also stand.

If the dealer has a soft 17: Depending on the table rules, the dealer will either hit and try to improve their hand or stand.

Players can better strategize their decisions by comprehending when the dealer will hit or stand, players can better strategize their decisions effectively. For instance, if the dealer shows a weak upcard, and the player knows the dealer is more likely to bust, they can be more conservative and not risk busting themself. Blackjack is a game of skill, and understanding the dealer’s rules will certainly improve your gameplay.

Blackjack is a popular casino game where players compete against the dealer. The game’s goal is for each player to get a hand closer to the value of 21 without exceeding it. Several steps are taken to determine the winner when the betting round is completed.

At the beginning of a round in blackjack, the dealer deals two cards to each player and themselves. The dealer’s cards consist of one face-up card (called the “upcard”) and one face-down (called the “hole card”).

The dealer reveals their hole card once all players have completed their actions (hit, stand, double down, split, or surrender), the dealer reveals their hole card. It is an important step in determining the winner because it allows for comparing the player’s and dealer’s hand.

In blackjack, the winner of the round is determined by comparing the hand values of the players and the dealer. A hand’s value is calculated by adding up the values of its cards, with face cards (jacks, queens, and kings) counting as 10, aces counting as 1 or 11 (whichever is most favorable for the hand), and all other cards counting as their numerical value.

If the dealer’s hand exceeds 21, all players with hands of 21 or less are considered winners. If the dealer’s hand is 21 or less, each player’s hand is compared to the dealer’s hand individually. A player wins if their hand value is closer to 21 than the dealer’s or if their hand value is 21 or less, but the dealer’s hand value has exceeded 21. The player loses their bet if the dealer’s hand is closer to 21 the player loses their bet.

A natural blackjack occurs when a player is dealt an ace and a 10-value card (10, jack, queen, or king) as their initial two cards. It is the best hand in the game because it automatically wins, and the player receives a higher payout than they typically would from just winning a hand – usually 3 to 2 instead of an even money payout.

If the player and the dealer have a natural blackjack, this results in a push (discussed in detail below), and the player’s bet is returned. If the dealer has a natural blackjack and the player does not, the player loses their bet, regardless of their hand’s value. Conversely, if the player has a natural blackjack and the dealer does not, the player wins and receives a 3 to 2 payout.

Push: When Hands are Equal

In blackjack, a push occurs when the player and dealer have hands of equal value. This means that neither the player nor the dealer wins the round, and the player’s bet is returned.

A push can occur in several scenarios:

01

Both the player and dealer have the same numerical hand value (e.g., both have a hand value of 20).

02

Both the player and dealer have a natural blackjack. In this case, the player’s bet is still returned, but they do not receive the 3 to 2 payout typically associated with a blackjack.

03

The player and dealer both have hands that exceed 21. While this is a rarer case, it still results in a push as neither party has a valid hand.

In all push scenarios, no money is exchanged between the player and the casino, as the original bet remains intact and returned to the player. The game continues with a new round of betting and play.

Betting and understanding payouts are essential aspects of Blackjack. By placing bets strategically, players can increase their chances of winning and maximize their potential profits. This section will discuss the different types of bets, standard payout ratios, natural Blackjack payouts, and insurance payouts.

  • Chips and Placing Bets
    1

    The most common method of betting in Blackjack is using chips representing a specific monetary value. The chip values typically range from $1 to $500. Before placing a bet, a player should understand the minimum and maximum betting limits at a particular table.

    To place a bet in Blackjack, a player must put their desired chips within the designated betting area, typically a circle or rectangle on the table layout. Players must place their bets before the dealer deals the cards.

    Placing bets in a particular sequence or pattern will not directly impact a player’s chances of winning, as the results are determined by the random shuffling of the deck or decks in use. However, betting strategies, such as the Martingale system or Paroli system, can help manage bankrolls and adjust risk levels according to a player’s preference.

  • Standard Payout Ratios
    2

    Blackjack payout ratios refer to the amount a player will win based on their initial bet when they have a winning hand. The standard payout ratios in Blackjack are:

    1. The player wins with a higher total hand than the dealer: 1-to-1 (also known as even money)
    2. The player wins with a natural Blackjack: 3-to-2 or 6-to-5, depending on the game variant and house rules
    3. The player wins with an insurance bet: 2-to-1.

    It’s important to note that while the payout ratio for winning hands may seem relatively low compared to other casino games, the frequency of winning hands in Blackjack, combined with optimal strategy play, can lead to greater overall returns.

    Furthermore, players need to be aware of the house edge inherent in the game. Different game variations and rule sets can affect the house edge. For example, a game using 6-to-5 payouts for natural Blackjacks has a higher house edge than one paying 3-to-2.

  • Natural Blackjack Payouts
    3

    A natural Blackjack occurs when a player is dealt an Ace and a 10-value card (10, Jack, Queen, or King) as their initial two cards. A natural Blackjack is the most advantageous hand, as it automatically beats all other hands, except when the dealer also has a natural Blackjack.

    The standard payout ratio for a natural Blackjack is 3-to-2, meaning that if a player bets $10, they would win $15 for a natural Blackjack. However, some casinos may offer a 6-to-5 payout ratio, which reduces the payout to $12 for a $10 bet. Players should seek out tables with a 3-to-2 payout ratio for natural Blackjacks, as they provide better odds and higher potential returns.

  • Insurance Payouts
    4

    When the dealer’s up card is an Ace, players can make an insurance bet. This side bet is typically half the original and pays 2-to-1 if the dealer has a natural Blackjack.

    For example, if a player has a $10 bet and places a $5 insurance bet, and the dealer does have a natural Blackjack, the insurance bet wins, paying $10. However, the player’s original bet was lost. In this situation, the player breaks even.

    Insurance bets are generally considered unfavorable for players due to their low odds of winning and the increased house edge. However, some experienced players may use card-counting strategies to determine when taking an insurance bet may be statistically favorable.

FAQ

What is the main objective of playing blackjack?

The primary goal in blackjack is to have a hand value closer to 21 than the dealer’s without exceeding 21. Players compete against the dealer, not against each other, making strategic decisions based on the cards they hold and the dealer’s upcard.

How is a hand value calculated in blackjack?

In blackjack, hand value is the sum of the cards’ point values. Cards 2-10 are valued at their face value, face cards (kings, queens, jacks) are worth 10 points, and aces can count as 1 or 11 points, depending on which value helps the player’s hand reach 21 without busting.

How do players determine whether to hit, stand, double down, or split?

Decisions in blackjack depend on the player’s hand value and the dealer’s upcard. Players usually hit when their hand value is low and stand when closer to 21. Doubling down is used when players have a favorable hand (totaling 9, 10, or 11), and splitting is done with a pair of cards with equal value.

What does it mean if a player busts in blackjack?

A player busts in blackjack when the hand value exceeds 21. If this occurs, the player immediately loses the game, regardless of the dealer’s hand value. It is a crucial aspect of blackjack strategy, as players must balance risk and reward when deciding to hit or stand.

What is a blackjack, and how is it different from a hand totaling 21?

A blackjack is a two-card hand consisting of an ace and a 10-point card (10, jack, queen, or king), totaling 21. This hand is called a “natural” and typically pays out at 3:2 odds, rather than the standard 1:1. A hand totaling 21 made with three or more cards does not have the same increased payout.

What is insurance, and when is it offered in blackjack?

Insurance is a side bet offered when the dealer’s upcard is an ace. The bet is half the original wager and pays 2:1 if the dealer has a blackjack. This option serves as a hedge for players, potentially protecting against some losses when the dealer is highly likely to get a blackjack.

What are the basic rules of playing blackjack?

The basic rules of playing blackjack involve players aiming not to bust (exceed a total of 21) by hitting as many times as they wish. However, if a player busts, they lose their bet immediately. After players have played and either stood or busted, the dealer takes their turn, deciding to hit or stand as well. Remember, the goal is to have a hand closer to 21 than the dealer without going over.

Should i change stakes based on wins and losses?

Bankroll management refers to allocating a specific amount of money to play online blackjack and strategically managing your bets to minimize losses while maximizing wins. It is vital because it helps prevent overspending, promotes responsible gambling, and increases the chances of a positive gambling experience.

How often should i add money to my bankroll?

Bankroll management refers to allocating a specific amount of money to play online blackjack and strategically managing your bets to minimize losses while maximizing wins. It is vital because it helps prevent overspending, promotes responsible gambling, and increases the chances of a positive gambling experience.

Can i ever withdraw money from my bankroll?

Bankroll management refers to allocating a specific amount of money to play online blackjack and strategically managing your bets to minimize losses while maximizing wins. It is vital because it helps prevent overspending, promotes responsible gambling, and increases the chances of a positive gambling experience.