Blackjack is one of the coolest and most exciting casino games. It’s unique, thrilling, and involves a good amount of decision-making and strategic thinking.
Regardless if you’ve never played blackjack before or have played it on occasion, this page will help you master all of the blackjack’s rules and game mechanics and make you a winning blackjack player.
How to Play Blackjack
Unlike in poker or other card games, where you’re playing against other players, in blackjack, you’re only playing against the dealer.
The goal of every blackjack game is simple. To win the game, you need to have a total hand value higher than the dealer, without going over 21. If the dealer goes over 21, you win automatically if your hand is valued at 21 or any lower number.
The dealer is responsible for everything in the game and must make sure everything goes according to casino protocols.
Besides dealing cards, the dealer also handles all bets, pays out the winners, and maintains the game at a tempo suitable for every player at the table.
The average blackjack table is semi-circular shaped and usually accommodates up to seven players.
If you’ve never played the game before, the game may seem confusing at first sight. However, it’s one of the easiest casino games. You’ll have no problem picking up the basic gameplay elements within minutes of sitting down. This step-by-step guide will help you learn how to play blackjack:
- Every blackjack game starts with the bets
- After everyone has made their bet, the dealer deals two cards to every player and themselves. They will place one of their cards face up.
- The players decide
The steps above are how every blackjack game will play out, no matter the venue you’re playing at. Another important rule to remember is that the dealer must hit if his hand is valued at 16 or less and stand if his hand is 17 through 21.
What are the Card Values According to Blackjack Rules?
Blackjack card values are easy to learn, as they follow a simple value pattern like most other card games. The suits have no meaning in a blackjack game, which makes it even more straightforward to follow.
Here are the essential pointers regarding blackjack card values:
- All non-picture cards count their face value.
- All picture cards count as ten points.
- The Ace can count either as one or eleven.
- The total of any hand is the sum of all of the cards that make it up.
- The Ace is always primarily counted as eleven points unless it makes you go over 21. In that case, it’s counted as one point.
The five tips we’ve shared with you above are everything you need to know to play the game. To make the rules of blackjack a bit easier to digest, let’s walk you through a couple of examples.
For instance, if you have a hand of 3-7-10, you have a total of 20. This is a solid hand, as you’re only one point short and should stop at it.
On the other hand, if you have a face card and a number six card, you’ll have a 10-6 hand, totaling 16. This is a tough hand to have, and you’ll have to make your decision carefully.
Rules of Blackjack – Soft vs. Hard Hand
Since Aces in blackjack can count both as one and eleven, this brings up another aspect of this exciting 21-card game, hard vs. soft hands.
In simple terms, a hard hand in blackjack is every hand that doesn’t contain an Ace or contains an Ace that is valued at one.
For example, a Q-8 is a hard hand, but so is an A-10-5-2 hand. Both are valued at 18 in total, and both leave very little room for maneuvering.
Oppositely to this, any hand with an Ace valued at eleven points is called a soft hand. For example, an A-7 and an A-4-3 are both soft 18s. To give yourself the best chances of winning, you should always have a mindset that the Ace is valued at eleven, even with a soft hand.
As you continue to draw new cards, you can convert your hand to a hard hand. With this in mind, a soft hand is always better to get, as you can never bust when you draw the first card on a soft two-card hand.
When to Bet in Blackjack – Playing Options
When betting in blackjack, you’ll have a handful of options you can resort to depending on the strength of your hand or the dealer’s hand. Of course, some of your options may vary depending on the variation, as rules aren’t exactly the same for Single Deck Blackjack and AC Blackjack, for example.
This betting action signals to the dealer that you want another card. When playing live blackjack, you can tap the table behind your cards (in shoe games) or scratch the felt gently with the edges of your cards (in hand-held games) to indicate that you want another card.
If you have a pair of cards, you can split it and play each of the two cards as a separate hand. To do this, you’ll also have to make an additional bet equal to your initial one. Most venues allow you to split any ten-point card, and you can draw as many cards you like for each hand.
The only exception is if you get split Aces. In this case, you’ll only be allowed to draw one card for each ace.
If you’re happy with the hand you’ve been dealt, you can opt to stand with the cards you have. If you decide to stand, you don’t have to make any other decisions until the next round.
Most casinos allow you to double down on your initial bet after you receive your first two cards and before you draw the next card. That said, doubling down is often a poor decision, and you should stay away from it unless you know exactly what you’re doing.
This option is available in some venues, and you can take advantage of it to forfeit the hand and lose just half of your original bet. You can surrender your two-card hand after the dealer checks their initial hand and determines it doesn’t contain a blackjack hand.
If the dealer has a blackjack hand, you can’t surrender. Additionally, if you’ve also drawn the third card, the surrender isn’t available anymore.
Becoming a Winning Blackjack Player – Key Takeaways
Blackjack is a game of both skill and chance and is different from any other casino game out there. From a mathematical standpoint, blackjack is a unique game inherently favorable towards players who understand it.
If you take the time to learn and understand the mathematical side of blackjack, you can minimize the influence of luck and emphasize the effect of skill on the outcome.
Additionally, to be a winning blackjack player, you should also understand the game’s house edge. For most casual blackjack players, the house edge in blackjack is around 1.5% to 2%. But, with a basic betting strategy and a solid understanding of how the game works, you can bring this number under 1%.
There are many different strategies for reducing the house edge in blackjack, card counting being the most effective one. But this is a broad topic on its own and deserves a separate page covering the best tactics depending on each specific hand.
With the tips we shared with you on this page, you know everything you need to play and win in blackjack. But, before you sit at the blackjack table, make sure you know all of the rules and all of your betting options, so you don’t miss out on any winning opportunities.
Bear in mind the house advantage, follow proper etiquette, and don’t rush any hand. If you consider all of these aspects, you’ll undoubtedly have great fun at the table and book some nice wins along the way.