Simple guide to playing Blackjack

How to play blackjack

Blackjack is a popular casino game that is played between the player and the dealer. The objective is to try and beat the dealer by picking up a score of 21 on the first two cards, which is why the game is also referred to as 21. You can do this by:

  • Scoring 21 on the first two cards dealt, as long as the dealer does not have the same hand. This hand is called a blackjack.
  • Beating the dealer’s final score without getting over 21.
  • Allowing the dealer to extend his hand with additional cards and getting his score to go over 21.

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Whatever happens, you cannot let your hand value overshoot 21. That is an automatic loss and called a ‘bust’. The dealer then wins automatically.

Playable Standard Blackjack game:

Small video showing how the game is played:

 

What are the card values in blackjack:

  • Cards from 2 to 9 are valued at face.
  • 10, J, Q, and K are valued at 10 points.
  • The Ace has a dual value – 1 point or 11 points.

How Blackjack game is played

Blackjack is played with a standard 52-card deck. Most games have between 2 and 8 decks of cards, without the joker. Online casinos also have multi-hand blackjack. The number of decks directly impacts the house edge.

  • Single deck: House edge of 0.17%
  • Two decks: House edge of 0.46%
  • Four decks: House edge of 0.60%
  • Six decks: House edge of .64%
  • Eight decks: House edge of 0.65%

There are 2 types of hands in blackjack:

  • Hard hands: The sum of the cards in it have a unitary value. For instance, a hand with a 5 and a 7; this has a singular value of 12. Even a 3- or 4-card hand with an Ace could be a hard hand if the Ace can have only the value of 1. For instance, a hand with a 3, 5, 7, and Ace: here the Ace can be valued at only 1 as valuing it at 11 would cause the hand to bust.
  • Soft hands: The sum of the cards in it can have more than one value. For instance, a hand with the cards 4, 5, and Ace. Here the Ace can have a value of 1 and also 11.

How to Play Blackjack : Basic Rules

The basic rules of blackjack are simple. When it comes to online blackjack:

  • Register with the casino and sign in to play. For real money play you must have funds in your casino account.
  • Click the Game tab on the online casino’s home screen. The list of games is displayed.
  • Click the variant of blackjack you want to play. Some casinos list the game variants under a sub-tab within Games – the Table Games tab.
  • Place your bets before you start playing by clicking on the chips displayed towards the bottom of the home screen. There is a minimum and a maximum betting limit.
  • Once the bets are placed the cards are dealt, two to you and two to the dealer, alternately. The dealer’s first card is face up while the second is face down – the second card is called the ‘hole’ card. Based on your hand and the dealer’s option you need to make the next move; we discuss these in the next section.
  • Once you have made your move, it is the dealer’s turn. The dealer also has the option of dealing himself additional cards to strengthen his hand. The hand with the higher value or closest to 21 wins.
  • Some games grant the dealer an automatic win on a blackjack hand.
  • Once the game is over you can play again. You can place the same bets as before or modify your bet by placing a wager again.

Basic Strategy and Player’s Moves in Blackjack

Once you are dealt the two cards you can use any of the following moves:

  • Hit: When you opt to hit you are dealt another card. This option is good if you have a low or moderately good first hand.
  • Stand: You opt not to be dealt another card. This option is good if you have a strong first hand, like a pair of 10-value cards.
  • Double down: You opt to increase your initial wager by a maximum of 100%; however, you must agree to stand after you are dealt one more card.
    • This option is not available in all variations of blackjack.
    • The amount you can increase your initial wager by varies from game to game and also depends on the software provider.
  • Split: This option becomes available only if your first two cards are identical, i.e. a pair. In such a situation, you are given the choice of splitting the base hand into 2 separate individual hands.
    • When you split the cards you are dealt an extra card to complete each of the two hands.
    • You then play each hand separately and can win or lose on either or both hands.
    • There are limitations on the kind of cards you can split; with 10-value cards many casinos allow only cards of identical numeric value to be split. So you could split a hand that is a pair of Kings but not hand that has a King and a Jack. A number of casinos, however, allow you to split 10-value cards regardless of the numeric value.
    • A split hand with a value of 21 is counted as just that – 21 – and not a blackjack hand.
    • Some blackjack variants allow for re-splitting as well. Re-splitting requires placing of an additional wager.
    • Most variants do not allow doubling down on splitting.
  • Surrender: The surrender option is not available at all casinos and all blackjack variants.
    • When this option is available, you end up losing only half your bet and retain the remaining amount.
    • Whether the dealer wins or loses becomes irrelevant when you opt to surrender.
    • There are two types of surrender seen in blackjack:
      • Late surrender: This option is not available against a dealer blackjack in some games. The dealer’s hole card can be checked to ensure it is not a blackjack hand in case his first card is a 10 or an Ace.
      • Early surrender: In some games the player is given the surrender option before the dealer checks for blackjack.
    • Insurance: The insurance option allows you to take an additional bet, the ‘insurance’ bet, if you see the dealer’s first card is an Ace. When this happens, the probability of the dealer having a 10-value card as the ‘hole’ card is high; that is why the insurance bet is offered.
      • Some game variants offer the insurance bet even if you have a blackjack hand to counter the chance of the dealer having a blackjack hand as well. This is an even-money bet that is paid out immediately.
      • The insurance bet is an additional wager you need to place and pays 2:1. So even if you lose the original wager you have a shot at winning money with this side bet.

Basic Blackjack Strategy

You get blackjack strategy charts for the different blackjack games. The basic strategy we list for you below is based on the different moves you can make.

You can hit when your hand is a:

  • Soft 17.
  • Soft hand valued lower than 17.
  • Soft 18 and the dealer has an 8, 9, or 10. The preferred option is to double down.
  • Hard hand between 12 and 16 and the dealer’s hand is 7 or higher.

You can stand when your hand is a:

  • Hard hand between 12 and 16 and the dealer’s hand is between 2 and 6.
  • Hard 17.

You can split when your hand has:

  • A pair of Aces
  • A pair of 8s
  • A pair of 6s and the dealer has a hand value of between 3 and 6
  • A pair of 7s and the dealer has a hand value of between 3 and 7
  • A pair of 9s and the dealer has a hand value of 2-6, 8, or 9

You can double down when your hand is a:

  • Soft 13 or 14 and the dealer’s hand is 5 or 6
  • Soft 15 or 16 and the dealer’s hand is 4, 5, or 6
  • Soft 17 or 18 and the dealer’s hand has between 3 and 6
  • 9 and the dealer’s hand has between 2 and 8
  • 10 and the dealer’s hand has a maximum of 9
  • 11 and the dealer’s hand has an Ace or a 10-card

Here are a few strategic moves to avoid:

  • Do not split a hand of:
    • Two 10s
    • Two 5s

Blackjack Hand Signals

When you play blackjack at a land-based casino there are hand signals you need to follow to indicate what move you are going to make based on the strength of your hand. Hand signals are important because they let the dealer know, above the noise around, of what you intend to do. The following are the hand signals for a face-up blackjack game.

  • Hit: Tap the table; you also have the option of pointing with your fingers at your cards.
  • Stand: Wave your hands horizontally; do move your arm. The direction of motion is left to right.
  • Double down: Place an additional bet in a separate stack on the table and then hold up a finger.
  • Split: Place an additional bet in a separate stack on the table and then hold up two fingers.

The following are the hand signals for a face-down blackjack game.

  • Hit: Scrape the table lightly with your index finger.
  • Stand: Slide your cards under your chips without disturbing the chip stack.
  • Double down: Turn your cards face up first. Then, add a second bet to the original chip stack and hold up a finger.
  • Split: Turn your cards face up first. Then, add a second bet to the original chip stack and hold up two fingers.

For the surrender option, regardless of whether it is a face-up or face-down game, you have to call out the word to the dealer; there is no separate hand signal available.

Blackjack FAQ

FAQs and Detailed Answers

Blackjack is probably the most popular casino game in the world. Learning how to play Blackjack isn’t too difficult and this is the best place to start.

Where can I play Blackjack, is it offered by most casinos?

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in the world, it has millions of fans and it is offered at ever more significant casino. So, if you can find a casino nearby, or you’re on a trip to some of the leading gaming destinations in the world, you’ll definitely have no trouble finding a good Blackjack table.

What is the goal in Blackjack?

The goal in every variant of Blackjack, and there are plenty of them, is to reach 21, or get as close to 21 as possible without going over. If you get cards valued more than 21, you go bust and it’s game over. Each player is initially dealt two cards. All cards have their face value, except Jack, Queen and King which are valued 10, whereas the ace can be valued either 1 or 11, whichever suits you more. In Blackjack the player competes against the dealer and not the other players (if there are any other players sat at the same table). So, the goal is to reach 21, or get as close as possible and have a stronger hand than the dealer.

What if both I and the Blackjack dealer are at 21, or have hands of equal value?

In that case the game ends in a push, i.e. you get your wager back. If you get 21 with your first two cards, then it’s a Blackjack and you get a 3 to 2 payout, otherwise it is a 1 to 1 payout. Once you’ve been dealt the two cards, you can choose whether you want to get another card (hit) or keep your current pair (stand). On some occasions, in some versions of the game you can also double your wager or split, where two new hands are formed from the original one.

What happens if I choose to hit and I go over 21, do I lose right away?

Yes, you don’t get to wait and see whether the dealer also goes bust, you lose right away. In all major variations of Blackjack, the dealer has to obey strict rules when to hit and when to say. Furthermore, the dealer isn’t allowed to split or double.

How should I decide whether to hit or stand, or do something else, in Blackjack?

The answer to that question determines your Blackjack strategy and it isn’t easy to answer, as it depends on the variation of the game, as well as the strategy that you want to employ. Generally speaking, the farther you are from reaching 21, the more it makes sense for you to hit, whereas if you’re pretty close to reaching 21, you should consider standing. Whether and when you’re allowed to double and split depends on the specific rules of the game. Surrender and the insurance side bet, are two more rarely offered options, available only under certain circumstances.

Your hand isn’t the only thing that should influence your decision. In many variations, including Standard Blackjack, one of the cards that the dealers deal to themselves is turned face-up, which means that you can see it. That may help you choose your next step.

What is the house edge in Blackjack?

The Blackjack house edge may vary, depending on the rules of the game, i.e. the variant that you’re playing. The version which is considered standard, where the Blackjack payout is 3 to 2, there are 8 decks and you get to see one of the cards of the dealer the house edge is about 0.44% up to 0.5%, depending on other details, like whether the player is allowed to double on any two cards etc.

Does that mean that Blackjack players lose, on average 50 cents with every $100 that they wager?

Technically yes, but it should be noted that unlike some other casino games, Blackjack is a game which involves skills and the players and their decisions can influence the outcome of the game, i.e. it is not all about luck. The average house edge quoted above is based on the assumption that the player plays wisely, or to be more specific that s/he employs the basic Blackjack strategy. Otherwise the house edge is higher. Typically, if an average player who doesn’t employ a strategy can expect a house edge of about 2%, and if they make unwise decisions than the house edge might grow even more.

Will I have higher chances of winning if I choose a Blackjack variant with a lower house edge?

Generally yes, and the house edge depends on things like the number of decks and the options that are available to the players. The more options the players have at their disposal, the more favorable house edge. Similarly, restrictions on what the dealer is allowed to do also result in a lower house edge. But, you should bear in mind that casinos won’t offer a house edge that is too low and usually, if one rule is bent in your favor, another rule will be changed in order to make the game more restrictive.

How much money should I play with?

It depends on your bankroll and how long do you plan on staying at the casino. Of course, you should never spend more than you can afford to lose, that’s a given. Also, you should separate your bankroll, so that you can afford to play at least 25 hands, at the lowest limit that is available at the table. New players should start wagering lower amounts of money before they get more experienced and well-versed.

Is there a time limit in Blackjack?

No, there is no time limit, which means that you can take your time when deciding what you should do next. However, be aware that if there are other people at the same table, they might get upset if you take too long. The dealer might not be too happy as well. Most decisions in Blackjack shouldn’t take too long, but there are certain cases when you might need a few extra seconds to think.

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