How to Play Blackjack: Rules and Game Play

El crupier revela una mano de blackjack en la mesa de juego del casino.

Learning how to play blackjack might seem complicated, considering the rules vary from casino to casino. However, the basic blackjack rules are pretty much the same everywhere you go and, bonus, you can even purchase or download blackjack strategy charts to help you throughout the game.

The blackjack card values are the same everywhere: number cards count as their number, face cards are worth ten, and aces are worth one or 11, while the goal remains the same: to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over (bust). To score ‘Blackjack’, the dealer or player must be dealt 2 cards with a value of exactly 21.

Now that you know that, let’s start from the beginning and see how to play blackjack with our step-by-step guide.

How to Play a Hand of Online Blackjack: Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s go through a hand to see exactly how it works when playing blackjack online at Casino.com. For this example we are using the Premium Blackjack game, although many other versions of blackjack are available.

1. Choose Your Bet Amount

Playing blackjack online: select bet limit

We have selected a table with a $0.50 minimum bet, which can be made on one or multiple hands. For this example we will choose to play just one hand, and this time will not make side bets such as ‘Player’s Pair’ or ‘21+3‘ but will simply play ‘straight’ blackjack.

2. Cards Are Dealt

Click the green ‘Deal’ button and you will receive two cards into your hand and one card will be dealt face-up to the dealer. In our example the player receives a 2 and a 2 versus the dealer’s 7. Your hand score is obtained by adding your cards together, so we have a total of 4 in this hand.

The player has the option to stand (take no more cards), hit (take one or more cards), double (double your bet and take one more card) or split (when cards are the same we can divide and play two individual hands).

If the dealer’s first card is an Ace, the player is offered Insurance against the dealer having a blackjack. If the player chooses to accept, they pay the amount of their stake and will win at odds of 2:1 if the dealer reveals a blackjack. In our example the dealer was dealt a 7, so no insurance is offered.

To play this hand we will follow Michael Shackleford’s blackjack betting strategy which recommends to Split the cards in this situation. (Note: Michael’s betting strategy suggests the optimal statistical play, but of course this does not guarantee that every hand will win).

3. Choose Player Action: Stand/Hit/Double/Split

By choosing to Split, the player now plays two hands versus the dealer. Cards are drawn and the two hands are now 2 & 8 (=10) and 2 & 10 (=12). Again, following Michael’s betting chart the player will Double Down with the 10 v the dealer’s 7.

4. Player Continues to Act Until Stands or Busts

By Doubling Down the player doubles his/her bet and takes just one more card. The new total is 14 and after Doubling the player must stand, even though this is not a great hand.

The player Hits on their second hand, getting a 6 to make a hand total of 18. The player Stands on this amount, taking no further cards, as to take another card would likely result in going over 21 (bust).

5. Dealer Takes Cards Until Stands or Busts

The dealer is required to keep taking cards until their hand totals a minimum of 17 points. Here the dealer had a score of 16 (7+3+6) and was therefore obliged to take another card. This final card was an 8, meaning that the dealer went Bust by going over 21, and so the player won with both of their hands.

6. Winnings Are Claimed

In this game the player has won $3, which is double the amount of $1.50 bet on this game. The player will always win an amount equal to what they bet, except in the case of blackjack (Ace & 10 hand) in which case there is usually a bonus percentage awarded, or on side bets which have varied odds. We will take a quick look at the three side bets available on this particular game here:

Side Bets Explained

Player’s Pair: This type of side bet wins when the first two cards in the player’s hand form a Perfect Pair (2x exact same card, e.g. 4 Hearts & 4 Hearts), a Coloured Pair (same number and colour, e.g. 4 Hearts & 4 Diamonds) or a Red/Black Pair (same number, different colour, e.g. 4 Hearts & 4 Clubs).

Dealer’s Pair: As above, but for the dealer’s first two cards.

21 + 3: This side bet wins if the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s first card form a Flush, Straight, Three of a Kind, Straight Flush or Suited Three of a Kind combination.

Here are the payouts for all winning hands, including the above-mentioned side bets:

Winnings Pays
Winning Hand 1:1
Insurance 2:1
Blackjack 3:2
Perfect Pair 25:1
Coloured Pair 12:1
Red/Black Pair 6:1
Suited Three of a Kind 100:1
Straight Flush 40:1
Three of a Kind 30:1
Straight 10:1
Flush 5:1

Note that the odds listed above refer to the Premium Blackjack game at Casino.com, and odds may differ slightly when playing different blackjack variations.

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Choosing the Best Actions in Blackjack

After the cards have been dealt, the player must make one of the following plays:

  • Hit(take another card)
  • Stand(take no more cards)
  • Split (divide a hand of equal card numbers into two hands)
  • Double(double bet and take just one more card)
  • Insurance(pay for insurance against blackjack if dealer is dealt an Ace first)
  • Surrender(fold the hand and lose half of player bet)

Not all of these options will be available for every hand, or even every type of blackjack table. However, by following the advice of the strategy table below you will maximise your opportunity of winning at the blackjack table. The numbers along the left-hand side of the table represent the player’s hand, and the numbers along the top are the dealer’s first visible card. So for example, if the player has a 7 and a 3 (totalling 10) and the dealer has a 5, the best option statistically is to Double Down, to double the player bet and take just one more card.

Board with basic strategies for blackjack
Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart

As a general rule of thumb, it is generally a good idea to assume that the next card to be dealt will always be worth 10. This is because more cards – 10, J, Q & K – have a value of 10, while every other number is represented by just one card.

Make sure to check out the Blackjack Strategy Guide written by the ‘Wizard of Odds’ Michael Shackleford, which goes into more details as to the best way to play blackjack.

Conclusion

Blackjack is one of the most famous table games around, whether you play online blackjack, live blackjack, or at a land-based casino. What makes this game so popular is its odds, which, unlike many other card games, give players a great chance to win if they follow the best strategy.
To get a fully immersive blackjack experience, you can browse our state-of-the-art games and modern casino rooms that also feature a variety of bonuses and promotions for new customers. Remember, if you are not sure of something, just check the blackjack rules chart again to refresh your memory.

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Did you know?

A lot of people assume that the key to winning at blackjack is in getting 21. The truth is that you win by beating the dealer. This means that you can even win on a weak hand like 13 or 14 if the dealer goes bust. For this reason, blackjack strategy has to take the dealer’s first card into account.

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Heather Ferris is the CEO & Founder of Vegas Aces, with over 15 years of experience in the casino industry. She’s also an adjunct professor at UNLV, as well as a table games consultant. Heather has been writing articles and making videos about the casino industry for a decade and her marketing business helps new table game inventors break into the industry.

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