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How to Play Blackjack

The Basic Rules of Blackjack

Blackjack, known as ‘Vingt-et-Un’ or 21 in French, is a popular card game, but when was Blackjack invented? There is some debate about this, but the general consensus is that it was approximately back in the 1700s. Blackjack is a fairly straightforward game, played with anything from 1 to 8 decks. Each player aims to build a hand worth 21, or less if that total still beats the dealer’s hand. Each player only plays against the dealer. In this article, we’ll cover the basic rules of how blackjack is played and provide some helpful tips.

  1. Player places bet.
  2. The dealer deals the player two cards face-down, and two to himself — 1 face-up, 1 face-down.
  3. Player chooses to hit, stand, stick, double down or split.
  4. Dealer hits or stands
  5. If the player beats the dealer without going bust, the player wins.
  6. When the dealer’s hand is 21 or less, and better than the player’s hand, the dealer wins.
  7. If the player and dealer have the same value hands, it’s a tie, and the player’s bet is returned.

Blackjack card values

  • The King, Queen, Jack and 10 cards are each valued at 10 points
  • Ace is worth either 1 or 11 points
  • All other cards are worth face value

How Blackjack works

Table and bet basics

In Blackjack, the table is laid out in a semi-circle. Placed along the curved edge are the betting spots for players. The dealer sits opposite, controlling the game. Players must first place their bets in the betting spot in front of them. Using colour-coded casino chips representing different bet values, players can try different betting strategies. New players must wait until a round ends before placing their chips and trying their luck.

When to stand or stick

When a player sees their cards, they must first add up the value of their blackjack hand. Next, they must decide if they want to stick with that hand or ask the dealer for another card. Players should stand if their hand totals between 12 and 16. They keep the cards they currently have in their hand, and the dealer can move to the next player. They’ll then wait to see what hand the dealer has.

When to hit

If the value of the player’s hand is less than 12, they should choose to ‘hit’, requesting a third card from the dealer. Players can do this either by beckoning to the dealer with their hand or tapping or knocking on the table behind their cards. The dealer will then pass over another card. The player adds this card’s value to their current hand and decides whether to stand or hit again.

Hard and Soft Hands

Aces count as 1 or 11, depending on the value of the other cards in the hand. A hard hand is any hand that the player gets dealt that either does not include an Ace or the Ace counts as 1. A soft hand is when a player gets dealt an Ace that is counted as 11. For example, a 10 and 2 would be a hard hand, while an Ace and 2 would be a soft hand.

When to split in Blackjack

If a player gets dealt two cards with the same value, such as two 4s or two Aces, they can split the pair. This gives the player two hands to play instead of one. However, when splitting, a second wager equal in value to the original bet must be placed. Furthermore, when deciding whether to split or not, players should also consider the value of the dealer’s up-card. Splitting strategies can be found online.

What is doubling down?

Doubling down is an option that allows a player to double their initial wager. This is done after they have inspected the first 2 cards they were dealt. By doubling down, the player receives one extra card but forfeits the right to receive further cards. In deciding when to double down, players should consider the value of their hand and the value of the dealer’s up-card. In some casinos, this option is restricted to specific hand values.

When To Surrender

Some casinos allow early or late surrender options. Players check their cards and the dealer’s up-card. If the player’s hand looks unlikely to win, the player can surrender early, losing half their bet. In a late surrender, if the dealer’s up-card is Ace or 10, the player can only surrender after the dealer checks their hole card. The risk is that if the dealer gets a Blackjack, the player can no longer surrender and loses their entire bet.

Going bust

A player goes bust in Blackjack when they have chosen to ‘hit’, but the new card pushes the value of their hand over the target of 21. This means that they are out of the round and lose their bet. For example, suppose the first 2 cards dealt to a player are a 3 and a 10. The player decides to hit but is dealt a Queen. Their hand is ‘bust’ because this equals 23.


Some casinos offer players the chance to place insurance bets. If the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, players can place an insurance bet. This acts as a separate bet on the side. The wager must be equal to, or less than, the value of the player’s original bet. In essence, players are gambling that the dealer’s face-down or hole card will be a 10. If the insurance bet wins, the payout is 2 to 1.

Even money

Even money is an option that is available if the player gets dealt a Blackjack and the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace. The dealer will offer the player ‘even money’. The dealer must make this offer before checking their hole card to see if it makes a Blackjack. If the player accepts the ‘even money’ deal, they automatically receive a 1 to 1 payout, even if the dealer also gets a Blackjack.

Dealer rules

The overall aim of Blackjack is to beat the dealer. However, the dealer has to follow specific rules laid down by the casino or the game variant, rather than having the different playing options open to players. For example, if the dealer gets a hand worth less than 17, they have to draw another card. If their hand is worth between 17 and 21, they have to stand. In some casinos, the rules specify that if the dealer gets a soft 17 (contains an Ace worth 11), they must hit, while in others they must stand. Dealers standing on a soft 17 is the best option for players.

Summary of Blackjack Basics

Blackjack is a game of skill and chance. However, various betting strategies can be used to lower the house edge to as little as 0.5%. This makes the odds much more favourable to the player than other casino table games like roulette, for example. The betting rules are very easy to learn and once players are familiar with the different betting strategies, Blackjack is a fun game to play with friends, family or at a casino. Here is a selection of our most popular Blackjack games.

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