How to Play Blackjack: Rules and Game Play

Blackjack Rules

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 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.

Now that you know that, let’s start from the beginning and see how we proceed with a blackjack hand.

Blackjack Hand

After the player has approached the table, the first order in a game of blackjack is the exchange of cash for chips. The dealer will call ‘change’ and hand the chips to the player, which they will be using throughout the game. The chips will then be placed in the betting circle by the player.

If they are on a six or eight deck shoe game, two face-up cards will be handed to the player. If they’re on a single or double deck game, their cards will be facing down. Also in the latter, the player is not allowed to show the cards to other players, whereas on a six or eight deck shoe, the player is not allowed to touch the cards and the cards are shown to everybody.

Following that, the player will hit, stay, split, double, or surrender, to advance their hand. After they make their decision, it is the dealer’s turn. The dealer has to hit to 17, stay between 18 and 21, or bust. These are the simple, basic blackjack rules. Each round will follow this same structure. When the shoe is done, the dealer shuffles the cards and a new game begins. 

When the player is done playing, they have the chance to ‘colour up’ their chips for a higher denomination chip (e.g. exchange 100 red chips for 1 black).

For those players who are completely new to blackjack, there is something very important to remember: you can take the blackjack rules chart to the table in case you forget any of the rules highlighted in this guide.

Hit and stand

Hit and stand are the two options that a player has once they start the blackjack game. The hit instruction is a request to the dealer for an extra card and it is indicated by tapping the table on a shoe game or scratching the table with your cards on a handheld game. Meanwhile, if the player waves their hand horizontally it is a request to stay, thereby ending their turn. Players can hit on any number as long as they don’t bust. A bust is when their hand or the dealer’s hand goes over 21. The player is allowed to hit at any time, except after a bust.

Split

If the two cards dealt to the player are a pair, then the player gets the chance to split the cards into two standard hands. This strategy is strongly recommended when the player gets a pair of aces or eights because there is a better chance of getting good hand when splitting those cards.

Double Down

Doubling down is a great strategy to use if the value of your hand is equal to ten or 11 because there is a high chance of hitting another 10-value card. The casino will even allow you to double down on a blackjack (a ten and an ace), instead of getting the instant payout.

When the player gets handed the initial two cards, they get the chance to double their bet before the dealer hands them another card. The player places the bet, then the dealer gives them another card before settling all bets at the end.

Remember: Whether a player chooses to split or double down will depend on the table they are sitting at, as the rules are not the same on a six deck shoe as they are on a single or double deck. The best advice here is to always check the basic strategy card that is associated with the table you are playing at.

Insurance

In the case of the dealer’s card being an ace, the player is offered insurance, which is a side bet players take if they think the dealer has a blackjack.

It doesn’t have a big win, but it helps the player to break even if they lose to the dealer’s blackjack. This type of side bet is placed before the dealer checks the hole card, which is the card the players were not allowed to see.

When the players bet insurance, they can only bet up to half of their original bet. So, if you have a $10 bet, the most you can put on insurance is $5. If the dealer does have blackjack, the player keeps their insurance bet and their original bet. If the dealer does not have blackjack, they lose their insurance bet.

Most experts recommend that you do not take insurance; as it’s a side bet, it actually increases the house edge. Two-thirds of the time, the dealer does not have a blackjack.

Surrender

If you are wondering how to win at blackjack when you have a bad hand, surrender is the solution. In the eventuality the players get a hand they don’t like, they can ‘surrender’ and only lose half of their bet.

In some situations, this is actually really good for the players to do, because they don’t have to play a horrible hand like a 16 against the dealer’s 10 up card. Plus, they can get some of their money back.

Now that you have a better understanding of blackjack rules and strategies, let’s see what the main rule differences between European and American blackjack are.

American vs. European Blackjack

The major difference between the two is that in American blackjack, the dealer receives one card face up and one card face down. They get that card face down at the very beginning of the round when everyone else gets their cards. Before anyone hits, doubles, or splits, the dealer can check to see if they have a blackjack. If they do, then all the bets are taken and the hand is over.

Meanwhile, European blackjack rules are a bit different. The dealer only receives one card and it will be facing up. Then the players can hit, split, or double down, as they see fit. Only at the very end of the hand does the dealer take a second card. If the dealer has a blackjack, the players lose all the money that was bet.

In American blackjack, players don’t double down before the dealer reveals their blackjack, they just have the original bet taken. However, in European blackjack, if you double down and the dealer ends up getting a blackjack, then your double down gets taken. So it’s really much better for the casinos when the dealer gets the second card after the fact.

Another difference in blackjack rules is that in the European game, players can only double down on nine, ten, or 11, whereas in American blackjack players can generally double down on anything. It doesn’t matter whether they have a 5 or a 16, they can still double down. A game that allows the players to double down at any time is a better game for the players, rather than the house.

The split also differs. In European blackjack, players can only split once, while in American blackjack, players can split up to four times. Again, it depends on the table, because they all have their own rules.

Finally, the surrender rule in European blackjack allows players to surrender late. Meanwhile, in American blackjack, there are some games where early surrender is available. Late surrender means the players may only surrender their hand after the dealer checks for a blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, you can’t surrender, as the dealer takes the whole bet. With early surrender, you can surrender before the dealer checks for a blackjack. So it’s much better for players to have an early surrender than it is to have a late surrender.

Conclusion

Blackjack is one of the easiest and most famous table games, whether you play online blackjack, live blackjack, or land-based casino blackjack. What makes this game so popular is its odds, which, unlike most other card games, give players a fair chance to win.
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.

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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