How to play Blackjack

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Blackjack is one of the world’s most popular casino games. It is fun, fast-paced, and easy to pick up, though hard to learn. The popularity is booming in both the offline as well as online Blackjack versions. Many online platforms have got European Blackjack, Vegas Strip Blackjack, Atlantic City Blackjack and much more for you to enjoy.

However, you have to make sure that you understand how to play Blackjack before you get started at any table. See below for a lot of helpful Blackjack rules detail, although you’ll want to note that these rules are for regular Blackjack games and certain games will have special rules of their own.

What is the aim of Blackjack?

How to play Blackjack

Blackjack is a game of cards pitting players against dealers. It is played with one or more card decks. Cards are counted as their respective numbers, face cards are counted as ten, and ace is counted as eleven or one. Blackjack is focused on defeating the dealer. This can be done by making Blackjack without dealer Blackjack (first two cards equal 21), making the final card count higher than the dealers without exceeding 21, or by not exceeding 21 and busting the dealer by exceeding their card count of 21.

How is it that you beat the dealer?

  • By drawing a hand value that is greater than the hand value of the dealer. 
  • By drawing a hand value from the dealer that goes above 21.
  • By playing the first two cards with a hand worth of 21, if the dealer does not.

How is it that you lose to the dealer?

Your value in hand exceeds 21. At the end of the round, the dealer’s hand has more value than yours.

It is also important to remember that the hands of the other players at the table have little to do with winning the Blackjack game as they do in poker games. It is all you against the dealer for all practical purposes. Unskilled game managers are going to try and convince you that “it’s a team sport,” so don’t be fooled.

How can you find the overall worth of a hand?

  1. With a traditional deck of 52 playing cards, Blackjack is played and suits don’t matter.
  2. 2 to 10 count at face value i.e. 2 counts as 2, 9 counts as 9.
  3. Face Cards (J, Q, K) are 10.
  4. Depending on which value most benefits the hand, the Ace will count as a 1 or an 11.

How to play Blackjack

(The values of cards)

The design and layout of Blackjack tables

Blackjack is normally played on a semicircular table that can handle varying numbers of players. 7 players accommodated are the most common tables, but some tables only allow 5 players while other tables have 12 spots! Behind the table and chip rack sits the dealer, and the players rest on the other side.      

How to play Blackjack

(Traditional Blackjack table layout)

Playing Blackjack

Blackjack games come with many combinations of rules and numerous deck numbers. A 6-deck or 8-deck “shoe” handles the most popular Blackjack game. Single and double-deck games are still alive and well, but not all Blackjack casinos can have single and double decks, so the “shoe games” are a touch more popular. The method for the most common Blackjack game played with 6 decks will be our example. This is the fundamental outline of a Blackjack round:

  1. The player purchases chips
  2. The player makes a wager
  3. The dealer gives players cards
  4. The player chooses how to play the hand.
  5. Dealer’s playing the hand
  6. Payouts

The player buys chips

How to play Blackjack

Before you can play at your table, you need chips. Most casinos will not allow “cash play” wagers anymore, so you’ll have to let the dealer exchange your cash for casino chips. To do this, you just go up to the table and place the money on the felt of the table. About the price you pay, the dealer will count chip denominations and guide the chips to you. Right now, you’re free to treat the chips and make a bet.

The player places a bet

How to play Blackjack

The first thing you do at the beginning of a round is to put a bet in the betting circle. On the far right or left side of the table, the table would have a tiny sign showing you what the betting limits are. Most tables require a minimum of at least $5 per hand, but depending on what casino you go to and the legal framework where the casino is based, the minimum and maximum bet you will make would be different.

The dealer deals the cards

How to play Blackjack

After you put your bet, the dealer will deal clockwise, one card, face-up, to each player at the table and then one face down card for himself/herself. Then she will give each player one more face-up card, and one more face-up card for herself. Each player has 2 face-up cards in front of him, but the dealer has one face-up and one face-down card. Now it is time to play.

The player chooses how to play the hand

How to play Blackjack

The dealer will start (also known as “first base”) at the person on their left and wait for that player to play their hand. You’ve got two face-up cards in front of your bet. First, you put the card values together to play your hand and get a hand limit anywhere from 4 to 21. If you are dealt the first two cards with a 10-value card and an Ace, that means you’ve got a Blackjack! Those are automatically paid 3 to 2 (or 1.5 times the wager), without playing through the round, as long as the dealer doesn’t have a Blackjack as well. You wouldn’t win much if the dealer just had a Blackjack, but you wouldn’t forfeit the initial wager either. This is referred to as push. Your dealer will gesture to each player in succession if YOU don’t have a Blackjack AND the dealer doesn’t have a Blackjack and wait for you to determine how you want to play your hand. You will have to make your choice using the right-hand gesture when it’s your turn. There are 5 ways to do this.

Stand – You can stand if the first two cards are acceptable, and the dealer will move on to the next player. [Hand signal: Wave your hand over the felt or stretch out an open palm.]

Hit – If you choose more cards to boost your total hand, the dealer can give you more cards, one at a time, before you either “bust” (go over 21) or want to stand. There is no limit (other than going past a max of 21) to the number of cards you will take. [Hand Signal: With your finger, tap the felt.]

Double Down – You can double your original wager if you have a hand limit that is favourable to you, but you need to take an extra card, and the dealer can give you just 1 extra card. [Hand signal: Just place a wager on the left side of your original bet, equal to your initial wager, and the dealer will give you an extra card, turned sideways to indicate that you may not take extra cards.] Note: most casinos will also allow you to “double for less,” meaning that you don’t have to place a wager equal to your initial wager. Nevertheless, mathematically speaking, there is never a time when doubling for less is a smarter option than doubling for the full sum, but even though the casino lets you, we will avoid “doubling for less.”

Split – You have the option to place a second wager if you are dealt a pair (2 cards of equal value) and the dealer will split the two cards so that each card on two new hands will become the first card. It also relates to face cards. Since they both have the same worth, you are permitted to break a hand composed of a King and a Jack, but they are not a set. [Signal of the hand: place a second wager equal to the first. Then show a “peace symbol” to indicate that you want to split and not double down. From your first hand, the dealer will create two hands and you will be dealt a second card on each of them.]

Surrender – You have the choice of giving it up in return for half the original bet back if you don’t like the initial hand. [Hand signal: draw a line behind the bet across the felt as if you were carving a slit with an imaginary knife through the felt. Often verbalise the term “surrender” to be secure.

The dealer’s hand

You must be thinking that there are a lot of options, how do you decide which one is the best choice? That depends on the “up-card” of the dealer (the face-up and visible dealer card for the players) 

Fundamental strategy

You make the decision based on what the dealer shows, and what you have in your hand, which fits the simple strategy. The fundamental strategy is the mathematically efficient way to play for every combination of player hand and dealer up-card. It was built by a program that played millions of Blackjack rounds and decided the best way to play each variation of hands based on what most frequently turned out best for the player. It takes the guesswork out of the decision if you follow simple tactics.

Resolution of player’s hand

One of three things can happen when you follow the fundamental strategy and play your hand by using one of the 5 choices mentioned above.

  1. You stood immediately, you were given a hand that simple strategy says you cannot take any cards on.
  2. You made a hand – You chose to take more cards (hit, double or split) and achieved a complete hand of 21 or fewer and didn’t bust.
  3. Your hand is out of play – One or two times you hit your hand and “busted” or you want to forfeit your hand. When your hand busts, you forfeit the wager instantly. That’s why the casino has a house edge on the game. First, the player must act, so that even though the dealer finally busts, they still keep your cash because it is you who busted first.

If you have not busted your hand and not surrendered, it is time for the dealer to play their hand. 

  • First, the dealer will turn over their “hole card” (the card with face down) and add their 2-card hand. He/She would immediately stand if he/she has a hand total of 17 or more. He/She can take extra hit cards if he/she has a hand limit of 16 or lower. 
  • The dealer is powerless as he/she cannot double, split and surrender and has no choice of how to play their hand as the player did. Each time, the dealer must play their hand in the same way. The only exception is if the dealer gets a 17 that consists of an ace and a six. This is considered a “soft 17” because this hand is also hit by the dealer, depending on the casino, as it can often qualify as a 7 (due to the dynamic nature of an ace), allowing the dealer more options than 17 to get a stronger hand. This offers a greater value to the casino than if the dealer stood on ALL 17s.
  • Whether the dealer hits a soft 17 or not will usually be shown prominently so that you know how the dealer will play their hand. Again, dealers do not have the option of deviating from the casino’s fixed rules.

Now you’re done playing your hand and, and as per the aforementioned constraints, the dealer is done playing his/her hand. Either of the following two things is going to happen.

  • The dealer is going to bust, and they will pay even money to each hand that is still in play on the table.
  • A hand will be made by the dealer (17 through 21). If you already have your hand in play, it’s a simple fight for the higher hand. They will sweep your bet if the dealer has the higher hand. The dealer pays you your wager once if you have the higher hand. If you and the dealer have the same total hand, it is called a “push” and you hold your money, but your wager is not paid.

Now the round is over! This is all that there is to it. The cards are swept up and you start a new round.

Unique situations

There are a few cases where a Blackjack game can deviate from the above-mentioned procedures.

Insurance/Even Money

How to play Blackjack

Insurance is a side bet that is provided when the dealer has an ace as the up-card. The dealer can sell protection (or even money if you have a Blackjack) before someone plays their cards. If the dealer has a ten as their whole card, you can put up a wager equal to half the initial wager or less, which would be paid 2 to 1. So, to put it plainly, you bet on whether the dealer has a Blackjack or not. If you score, you’re going to be paid 2 to 1. You should still say no to insurance and even money as a key strategy. Only a card counter is qualified enough to perform this side bet. The dealer will inspect his/her hole card after all the players who want to buy insurance place their bets (using a special viewing window in the table). If they have a ten below, the dealer gets a Blackjack and takes the initial wager from everybody.

Someone who acquired insurance will get paid 2 to 1 on their insurance wager. If the dealer does not have a ten beneath, he/she will take all insurance wagers that have been made and the game will proceed as normal. If you keep a Blackjack while the dealer shows an ace, “even money” will be given to you. Don’t be fooled! It is just another name for what is the same as insurance, mathematically. If you take even money, your Blackjack won’t get paid 3 to 2 as it usually does. It will only get the original wager (even money) once, regardless of whether the dealer has a Blackjack or not. If you don’t take it, your wager will push and your Blackjack won’t be paid if the dealer has a Blackjack. Even if you don’t even cash and the dealer doesn’t have a Blackjack, you’re going to be paid 3 to 2 like you usually would. Again, if you are not competent in card counting, you should never take even cash.

Non-Insurable dealer Blackjack:

How to play Blackjack

Without providing protection or even money, the dealer can get a Blackjack. If the dealer displays a ten, their hole card will be reviewed immediately before anyone can play their cards. The dealer has a Blackjack if there is an ace underneath, and all bets on the table will be taken except for Blackjacks by either player, which will only push. Insurance is given only when an ace is shown by the dealer.

Dead hand: 

How to play Blackjack

When the dealer plays his hand, all players at the table bust, it is called a “dead hand” and the dealer flips over her hole card (so the cameras will see it) and then sweeps up the cards and places them in the discard tray. Since the dealer has already beaten the player(s), there is no need to pay the dealer’s hand and waste cards.

Side bets:

How to play Blackjack

Side bets on Blackjack have been common in the last 2 decades or so. Insurance is the only side bet given universally on all Blackjack tables and is a large part of beating a card counter game. But these days, there are hundreds of other forms of side bets. Many of them would require you to place a bet at the same time as you place your key wager. Those side bets are everywhere and have separate pay tables and methods. Only remember that they are not part of the Blackjack game itself, but can control the game’s regular dealing process. We never recommend such side bets to be played. They are sold by casinos only because they have a big advantage over you. Find out how to count cards.

The significance of Blackjack odds

How to play Blackjack

The trick to becoming a good Blackjack player is to understand the probability of winning, as well as to take Blackjack odds into account. It’s extremely important to be mindful of the chance of winning and the possibility of busting, no matter what cards you’ve been given and what condition you face at the table.

The House edge

It is inevitable to get away from the fact that the house has an advantage over the players in Blackjack, as in all other casino games. It’s important to be aware that even if you master Blackjack and learn how to play it strategically, the house will still have an edge and win in the long run. If you played perfectly and also knew how to count cards, the exception would be that you could potentially get a small edge.

Playing Blackjack online

With different Blackjack games to choose from, you are spoilt for choice at online casinos. Websites like Winissimo provide many different variations of Blackjack including Live Blackjack, which allows you to face a human dealer in real-time thanks to HD live-streaming, bringing the glamour of a real casino to the comfort of your own home. So what are you waiting for? Get started today with the Blackjack game of your choice.