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Blackjack Rules

S. Stoynova (editor) |

Blackjack Rules and Their Role in Strategic Play

IntroMany casino enthusiasts enjoy playing blackjack as the card game is based on skills and luck, allowing strategic play. Of course, before you learn the optimal playing strategy, you need to be familiar with blackjack’s rules, which are pretty straightforward. Even though you can come across different variations of the card game, the basic gameplay remains the same, meaning you will be able to play any blackjack variant once you master the basic rules of the game.

While blackjack rules are pretty easy to understand, there are some nuances of the game you should keep in mind. In this article, you will find a detailed explanation of the game’s rules, decks used in blackjack, and other specific features of the card game. We will also cover possible player moves, which will help you to understand strategy charts and use the optimal move on every hand you play.

Basic Rules of Blackjack

Basic Rules of BlackjackThe main rules of blackjack are very straightforward and simple which makes it even more enticing. Even though the game is played with several players at once, all of them compete only against the dealer. Each participant has to form a hand whose total value is as close to 21 as possible, without surpassing this number. The game gets its name from its main objective and this is the reason why it is often referred to as twenty-one, instead of blackjack.

Just like in many other casino games, in blackjack, the cards are valued according to a unique card system. It should be noted that the suits in this game are irrelevant since they don’t play a part in the total value of the hand. All of the cards are counted as their pip value, except for the face cards – a King, a Jack or a Queen as they get ten points each. The card values in blackjack are as follows:

  • All face cards, including Jack, Queen, and King count 10
  • Aces can be either 1 or 11 (players can choose whether an Ace is worth 1 or 11)
  • Number cards are worth their face value

The most desired card in the deck is the Ace due to the fact that its value can be either 1 or 11. It gives players the chance to be flexible with their hands and form winning combinations much easier. Once they get an Ace, players can decide whether it counts 1 or 11. A hand that consists of a Ten and an Ace is considered a natural blackjack and a hand that contains an Ace, that can be valued as 11 without surpassing twenty-one, is referred to as a soft hand.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Play Blackjack

The Objective of Blackjack: Your goal as a blackjack player is simple – beat the dealer. Sounds simple, right? But there’s a twist – it’s not just about getting 21. The real goal is to win by outdrawing the dealer without going over 21.

  1. Understanding Winning Criteria:

    • Score a hand total higher than the dealer’s without surpassing 21.
    • Hope the dealer busts by exceeding 21.
    • Achieve a natural 21 with your first two cards (aka blackjack), and pray the dealer doesn’t match that.
  2. When Does the Player Lose:

    • If your hand total surpasses 21, you’re out and lose the round
    • Ending the round with a hand total lower than the dealer results in a loss for the player.

Decks of Cards in Blackjack

Decks of Cards in BlackjackIn blackjack, the number of the decks involved depends on the variation of the game as well as the casino. From one to eight standard packs can be used in the game. The most common blackjack variations use six to eight decks of 52 cards. The place where the cards are dealt from is called a shoe and this term is used in other table games as well. The shoe is a box designed to hold multiple decks of cards. A blank plastic card is placed toward the bottom of the deck by the dealer. This card is also referred to as the cut card and once it is reached, the dealer reshuffles the cards.

In general, the house edge is higher when the game uses more decks. Years ago, blackjack was played with only a single pack of cards, however nowadays this is not the case. Due to the fact that a number of efficient card counting systems have emerged, the casinos increased the number of the decks in an attempt to prevent card counters from successfully gaining an advantage.

Understanding Hand Totals in Blackjack

Cracking the Code on Hand Values: To be a successful blackjack player, you must know your hand’s worth. Here’s a breakdown that will have you calculating totals in next to no time.

  1. The Basics of the Deck:
    • Forget about the suits as they are completely irrelevant here. Blackjack’s all about adding up numbers.
    • Cards 2 through 10 are as straightforward as it gets. Their value coincides with the number of pips.
  2. High-Value Cards:
    Face cards like Jacks (J), Queens (Q), and Kings (K) all count as 10. Think of them as the royalty of the blackjack table as they are some of the strongest cards you can possibly get.
  3. The Ace Up Your Sleeve:
    The Ace is a real game-changer in blackjack. It can either be a 1 or 11, shifting its value to best suit the total of your hand. Its flexibility is highly useful to both the player and the dealer.

Players’ Moves

Players’ MovesOnce players have received their first two cards, they have the chance to choose whether to hit, stand, double down, or split. In order to indicate any of these moves, blackjack fans have to use an already established gesture or clearly state them to the dealer. It should be noted that most casinos have their preferences when it comes to this matter and thus, it is best to get familiar with them in advance.

The first move is hit and it is used when players want to take another card in order to form a stronger total in their hand. In face-up games, they should either point at their cards or tap the table with their fingers in order to make this move.

The opposite move of hitting is standing and in such cases, players are not dealt any cards. In order to indicate it, they should move their hand above the cards horizontally. The next available move that can be made is doubling down and it is used when players want to increase their intial bet by two times. In order to do so, they have to put an amount that is equal to their original wager and after that, they are dealt one more card. To indicate it, players have to place their extra bet next to their initial wager and simply point at it.

One of the card combinations that players are bound to get at some point during the game is a pair of two cards of the same rank. In such cases, it is possible to split them and this way, form two new hands that are completely independent. If players want to make this move, they are required to put the same amount as their initial bet and spread their fingers as if they wanted to show the letter V. If players get another pair, it is also possible to resplit it. However some casinos have certain restrictions on the number of times that they are allowed to do so.

Besides these main options, players also have the chance to take advantage of two additional moves – ‘surrender’ and ‘insurance’. Whether these moves are allowed or not, depends on the casino and the variation of the game. When available, players can surrender by giving up their current hand, without playing it and in return, they get to keep half of their bet. The rest of their wager goes to the casino. Since there is no established signal for this move, it is made verbally.

Provided that the dealer’s up card is an Ace, blackjack enthusiasts can take the so-called insurance bet. As its name implies, it will make up for their loss if the worst-case scenario occurs and the dealer has blackjack. The insurance bet offers a payout of 2:1. In order to make this move, players are required to place half of the amount of their original wager.

Even though rookie fans might be tempted to insure their hand, every blackjack expert can tell you that the insurance bet is not worth it. If the dealer has a blackjack, you will lose your original wager, win the insurance, and break even. On the other hand, if the dealer has no blackjack, you lose the insurance and keep on playing with your original hand. However, you still have the chance to lose your original wager if you bust (the total value of your hand goes over 21) or the dealer’s hand is stronger than yours.



Double Down

Double Down









The Gameplay

The GameplayOnce all bets are placed, the dealer gives a card to each player that is usually face-up. On rare occasions, the players’ first cards are dealt face down. This is a common practice in single- and double-deck blackjack variants. The cards are dealt in clockwise, meaning that the player who sits on the left side of the dealer is the first to receive a card. After all blackjack enthusiasts on the table have a card, the dealer gives a card to themselves. Then, every player and the dealer receive a second card in the same order.

One of the dealer’s cards is face up and the other one is face down. The exposed card is also known as the dealer’s up card, while the other card is also referred to as the hole card. Since blackjack is a game with many variations, it may not surprise you to learn that in some variations, the hole card is absent. If you play blackjack at a land-based casino, you should not touch the cards on the table. After all, that is one of the reasons why the players’ cards are usually dealt face up.

In the next stage, players should make up their minds and choose one of the above-mentioned moves. Their final decision should be based on the total value of their hand and the up card of the dealer. In order to manage to make the best possible move, players should follow a basic strategy and stick to it throughout the game.

While players can choose from different moves, dealers have to play according to the rules established by the casino. They cannot split, surrender, or double down. They can either stand on all 17s or hit on Soft 17.

Key Takeaway: Being able to calculate your total in a split second is the first step to mastering blackjack. Remember, cards 2-10 are counted as their face value, face cards always count as 10, and the Ace is your secret weapon, adaptable as a 1 or an 11. Keep these basics in mind, and you’re on your way to understanding the game’s core.

The Process of Playing a Hand in Blackjack

  1. Buying In:
    First things first: Exchange your cash for chips. Walk up to the table and lay your money down but don’t hand it directly to the dealer. The dealer spreads the banknotes out for the cameras, a pit boss confirms, and you get chips equal to the amount you have given to the dealer. Now, you’re ready to bet.
  2. Placing Your Bet:
    Place your chips in the corresponding betting circle on the layout. The table sign will clue you in on the minimum and maximum bets. Remember, it’s about strategy, not just splashing the pot.
  3. The Deal:
    With bets placed, the dealer deals cards clockwise: one face up for players, one face down for themselves, then another round of face-up cards. You’ll have two cards facing up, while the dealer has one up and one face-down card.
  4. Making Your Move:
    Now, calculate the total of your starting hand. Got a blackjack (an ace and a ten-value card)? That’s a big win unless the dealer matches it. No blackjack? Then decide your next move:

    • Stand: Happy with your hand? Signal to stand, and the dealer moves on.
    • Hit: Want more cards to reach closer to 21? Signal for a hit.
    • Double Down: Feeling confident? Double your bet to receive one more card.
    • Split: Got a pair? Split the cards into two hands for another bet.
    • Surrender: Not liking your odds? Surrender and reclaim half your bet.
  5. Dealer’s Turn:
    Once players have acted, the dealer reveals their hidden card. Dealers must hit on 16 or lower and stand on 17 or higher. The dealer’s rules are fixed but may vary from one casino to another.
  6. Payouts or Busts:
    If the dealer busts, players still in the game win even money. If the dealer stands, it’s a showdown: higher hands win, equals push, and lower hands lose.

Different Blackjack Games

Different Blackjack GamesAs we mentioned above, the dealing of the cards and their position can differ from one casino to another. For instance, games that contain a face-down card are called Hole card games and in them, the dealer peeks for blackjack. These games are considered more advantageous for players as in them, they are prevented from placing large bets when the dealer is bound to win.

It is also possible to play No-Hole-Card blackjack variations in which the dealer doesn’t peek for blackjack. Players also have the chance to try the so-called hand-held games in which their first two cards are dealt face down. In contrast to hand-held games, in shoe games, the first two cards of the players are dealt face up.

Next to that, the number of decks varies greatly between the different blackjack variations. Needless to say, games with fewer decks favor players. In other words, it is always better to play single-deck blackjack. However, casinos tend to change other rules of the game to compensate for this and keep their advantage over players.

Common Rule Changes

Common Rule ChangesAn important rule that defines the game is whether the dealer stands on all 17s or hits on Soft 17. If the dealer must stand on all 17s, it means that they do not draw another card and have no chance of improving their hand. Following that stream of thoughts, blackjack variations in which the dealer must stand on all 17s are more advantageous for the players. Provided that the dealer must hit on Soft 17, they receive an extra card if their hand consists of an Ace and 6. This rule stacks the odds in favor of the house.

When it comes to the players’ possible moves in the game, we can outline several other rule variations. Let us start with doubling down. Most casinos allow blackjack fans to double down on the first two cards dealt to them. A few casinos provide players with the opportunity to double down on any number of cards.

Doubling down on split hands is a common player-friendly rule that allows players to double down after splitting a pair. Some casino operators allow blackjack devotees to double down on hands consisting of two cards only on the occasion that they are totaling a certain value. As you might guess, the rule favors the house.

Splitting is a blackjack move that also has its variations. Perhaps, you know that if you split Aces, only one more card is dealt to each of your newly-formed hands. Some casinos allow for more draws – a rule that favors players. Even though most casinos provide blackjack fans with the opportunity to split a pair of cards of the same value, a few casinos allow splitting only if the pair is of the same rank. For example, only a pair of Kings or Queens can be split.

Split any time is yet another split rule that stacks the odds in favor of the players as they can split a hand even after drawing additional cards only if the hand consists of two cards of the same value. While on the subject, we have to mention that resplitting is a common rule that provides players with the opportunity to resplit an already split hand.

Surrender is a move that is not available in all blackjack variations. However, there are two types of surrender, and more precisely early and late surrender. Early surrender allows players to give up their hand before the dealer peeks for a blackjack. As for the late surrender, it is more common and blackjack devotees can forfeit their hand only after the dealer checks for a blackjack. If you want to surrender, you have to know that the house will keep half of your original wager. On a more positive note, you can collect the other half.

In most cases, blackjack pays 3:2 but players should bear in mind that the payout can differ from one casino to another. Some casinos pay 6:5 for hitting a natural blackjack that increases the house edge. In addition, you will pocket less money for hitting a blackjack. For example, if you bet $10 and you play a blackjack variation that pays 3:2, you will get $15. On the other hand, if you play a variation that offers a 6:5 payout, you will receive $12 for your natural blackjack. Hence, players are advised to avoid blackjack variations that pay 6:5.


ConclusionBlackjack is a card game whose basic rules are fairly easy to learn. In order to be able to play the game properly, novice players should learn the assigned value of the cards, the possible moves they can make, and how the gaming process is conducted. When it comes to blackjack, knowing the rules is not enough to win as the game also requires skills and a strategy. However, every expert was once a beginner, and learning the basics of the game is surely a decent start.

FAQ: Blackjack Rules and Strategic Play

The main goal is to form a hand as close to 21 as possible without going over, competing solely against the dealer. Achieving a “natural blackjack” with an Ace and a Ten and obtaining a “soft hand” with an Ace valued as 11 or 1 are the ideal scenarios for the player.

An Ace can be either 1 or 11, providing flexibility in forming winning hands. Its dual value allows players to adjust their strategy dynamically, making it the most coveted card in the deck.

Games with more decks generally have higher house edges. Casinos use multiple decks to counteract card counting, which makes single-deck games more favorable to players but less common.

Players can hit (take another card), stand (decline drawing additional cards), double down (increase the bet for one additional card), split pairs (form two new hands), or surrender (forfeit the hand for half the bet). Each move is signaled to the dealer with specific gestures, preferably accompanied by verbal commands.

Dealers must follow the casino’s fixed rules, typically standing on all 17s or hitting soft 17 (Ace and six). They cannot split, surrender, or double down, which strategically limits their options compared to players.