How To Play BlackJack – Learn the Rules and Basic Strategy
Are you ready to hit the casino floor (or online table) and learn how to play blackjack?
The Blackjack game is one of the most popular casino games out there, and it's easy to see why. The goal is simple - get as close to 21 points as possible without going over, and at the end of the day, make sure you beat the dealer!
How to Get Started - Basic Strategy
Without further ado, let's explain how to play blackjack and master this casino game.
If you want to increase your chances of victory, we highly recommend learning basic strategy. This is a set of rules that tells you exactly what move to make in any given situation based on your hand and the dealer's upcard.
It's like having a cheat sheet for blackjack, and it's been proven to lower the house edge to less than 1%. That means you'll be more likely to win in the long run if you follow the basic strategy.
So, don't be afraid to hit the books (or the internet) and brush up on your blackjack knowledge. The more you know, the more fun you'll have at the tables - and the more money you'll potentially win!
We're going to be writing a guide quite soon diving more into the world of Blackjack strategies, so stay tuned!
The Rules of Blackjack Games
Now, let's get down to business.
If you're serious about winning at blackjack, you need to know blackjack rules inside and out. It's not just about knowing the card values - you need to understand how the game works and what options you have at each turn.
That way, you can make the best decisions for your hand and avoid costly mistakes.
Aim of The Game
The objective of blackjack is to have a hand that's worth more points than the dealer's hand, without exceeding 21 points. If a player's hand exceeds 21 points, it's called a "bust" and they automatically lose the round.
The game is played with a deck of standard playing cards (however multi-deck games are common), with all decks containing the standard 52 cards.
Numbered cards, that is to say,d those between 2 and 10, retain their face value, so a 5 of hearts is worth 5 points. Every face card will be considered a ten-value card, which will include the jacks, queens and kings.
The ace is the most interesting card in blackjack, as it possesses the ability to be worth 1 or 11 points depending on which value benefits the hand more. For example, if a player has an ace and a 6, the hand can be worth either 7 or 17. If they choose to take another card and the total value of the hand goes over 21, the ace will be counted as 1 point to prevent the hand from busting.
The ability to switch between the two values of an ace is a powerful tool in blackjack, as it allows players to adjust their strategy according to the cards they have been dealt.
Basic strategy charts, which outline the best course of action for different hands based on the dealer's upcard, take the flexibility of the ace into account when making recommendations.
It's important to note that the suits of the cards are irrelevant in blackjack. Unlike in other card games like poker, the suits have no impact on the game's outcome.
At the beginning of a round of blackjack, the dealer shuffles the deck(s) of cards and places them in a shoe, which is a device used to hold and dispense the cards.
The dealer then deals two cards face-up to each player at the table and deals two cards to themselves, with one card face-up and the other face-down.
This face-down card is what is known as the "hole card." The dealer's hole card will be the card the dealer plays second.
Once each player has their two cards, they have several options to choose from:
- Hit: ask for another card to try to improve their hand.
- Stand: keep their current hand and decline any additional cards.
- Double down: double their bet and receive one more card.
- Split: if the two cards are of the same value, they can be split into two separate hands (aces and eights are the most common)
- Surrender: forfeit their hand and half of their original bet.
The dealer's actions are governed by a set of rules that dictate when they must hit and when they must stand. If the dealer's hand is worth 16 points or less, they must hit until they reach at least 17 points. If their hand is worth 17 points or more, they must stand.
It's important to note that the dealer's actions are fixed and do not depend on the players' hands. This means that the players can win even if their hands are worth less than the dealer's, as long as the dealer busts or their hand is worth less than the player's hand.
Knowing the dealer's actions is crucial for players who want to follow basic strategy, as it allows them to make informed decisions about their own hands based on the dealer's upcard.
For example, if the dealer's upcard is a 6, the basic strategy dictates that the player should stand on any hand worth 12 or higher, as the likelihood of the dealer busting is high.
Walkthrough of a BlackJack Game
To give you a better understanding of how the flow of playing blackjack works, let's walk through a sample game.
Let's say that you're playing at a casino with a minimum bet of $10. Here are the steps that would typically take place:
- You place your bet by putting $10 in the betting circle in front of you.
- The dealer shuffles the deck(s) of cards and deals two cards face-up to you and two cards to themselves. The dealer shows one card face up and one card face down.
- You look at your hand and decide whether to hit, stand, double down, split aces or eights, or surrender.
- If you choose to hit, the dealer gives you another card. You can continue to hit until you're happy with your hand, or until your hand is worth more than 21 points, at which point you bust and lose the round.
- Once all players have made their decisions, the dealer's hole card is revealed and must hit or stand.
- If the dealer's hand is worth less than 17 points, they must hit until they reach at least 17 points. If their hand is worth 17 points or more, they must stand.
- If your hand is worth more points than the dealer's hand without going over 21, you win and receive a payout of 1:1. If your hand is worth less than the dealer's hand or you bust, you lose your bet.
If you interested in a more visual guide, we recommend watching a wiki video about how to play blackjack.
Placing Bets at The Blackjack Table
Placing a bet in blackjack is easy, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, check the minimum and maximum bet limits at the table before you start playing. Each table may have different limits, so it's important to know what you're working with.
To make your initial bet, simply place your chips in the betting circle in front of you (or when prompted if you're playing online). You can bet as much or as little as you want within the limits set by the table. If you're not sure how much to bet, start with a smaller amount and gradually increase it as you gain more experience.
Remember, betting in blackjack is all about finding a balance between risk and reward. While it can be tempting to bet big and potentially win big, it's important to know what your limits are and not break them.
By finding the right balance, you can enjoy the game while also giving yourself the best chance of success.
There's a lot more to blackjack than trying to minimise the house edge, master the even money bet and know when cards of equal value are on the way.
People who have played blackjack for a while have developed some seriously advanced strategies to ensure they maximise their chances of coming out on top. Let's start with the one you've most likely heard of, card counting.
Card counting is one of the most famous features of the blackjack game, and you've probably seen it used in movies like Rainman and the Hangover, in quite hilarious scenarios.
While technically not illegal, most casinos will not look too fondly upon a player counting cards, and there are many dealer checks and prevention strategies (such as multi-deck games at Blackjack tables).
If you'd like to learn a bit more, we've written a guide diving deeper into the world of card counting (and how you can do it too).
Other Advanced Blackjack Strategies
Much like card counting, most advanced blackjack tactics will take quite a lot of practice to master.
Let's take a look at shuffle tracking, for example. As the name states, to successfully carry out a shuffle tracking plan at a casino, one needs to observe the shuffling patterns the dealer is showing before the dealer deals.
Due to the highly regulated nature of many online casinos
Common Mistakes to Avoid
When you play blackjack, it's not only useful to know the house rules and strategies you can use at most casinos.
It's also handy to know what mistakes not to make. Here are the biggest mistakes that beginners often make in their first blackjack games.
Not knowing when to hit or stand.
This is probably the biggest mistake that people make when playing blackjack. You need to know when to ask for another card (hit) and when to keep what you have (stand). The basic strategy is to hit until you have at least 17 or higher.
But if you have a soft hand (a hand that contains an ace that can be counted as either 1 or 11), you should hit until you have at least 18.
When the dealer's face-up card is an ace, some players will make an insurance bet. This is a side bet that pays out 2:1 if the dealer has a blackjack. However, the odds are against you and taking insurance is not a smart bet.
Stick to the basics, carry on with your original bet and focus on beating the dealer with your hand.
Splitting pairs incorrectly.
When you have a pair, you can split them into two separate hands. This can be a good strategy, but you need to know when to do it. Never split a pair of 10s or face cards. Always split a pair of aces or 8s, and split a pair of 2s, 3s, 6s, 7s, and 9s against a dealer's up card of 7 or less.
Playing too aggressively.
Yes, blackjack is a game of strategy, but it's also a game of luck. Don't try to force a win by doubling down or splitting too often. Stick to the basic strategy and let the cards fall where they may.
Not managing your bankroll.
This is probably the most important mistake to avoid. Set a budget for yourself before you start playing and stick to it. Don't keep playing if you've lost all your money, and don't go running after your losses by throwing in more cash than you can afford to lose, or that is out of your budget.
Naturally, a game as internationally enjoyed in everyday casino play as Blackjack will have developed a few variations with varying rules over its eventful lifetime.
Here are some of the most famous blackjack variants:
European vs. American Rules
The two most common variations are European and American rules. In European rules, the dealer only receives one card face-up, and players are not allowed to surrender. In American rules, the dealer receives two cards, one face up and one face down, and players can surrender.
Aside from European and American rules, there are other variations of blackjack that you may come across. One popular variation is Pontoon, which is played with a deck of 48 cards instead of the standard 52.
In Pontoon, the dealer's cards are both face down, and players must have a hand totalling 21 or less to win.
Another variation is Spanish 21, which is played with a deck of 48 cards and includes additional bonus payouts for certain hands.
In Spanish 21, players can also double down on any number of cards and can surrender at any time.
If you would like to try out Blackjack on an online casino, we recommend that you have a look at our list of casinos offering Blackjack and find a casino that suits you.
Noah Adams has been working as a Senior Editor at Casinocrawlers.com since 2022. Here, he has gained first-hand experience with the iGaming industry and how he can help readers find top NZ casinos. Previously, Noah held positio... Read more about the author