How to Play Blackjack: Rules and Game Play

Dealer reveals a hand of blackjack at the casino gaming table.

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.

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

Playing 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. In this example the player does not make side bets such as ‘Player’s Pair’ but is simply playing ‘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. 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 and 2 & 10. 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.

The player Hits on their second hand to get a total of 18, and Stands on this amount.

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.

How to Play Blackjack for Beginners

Let’s take a closer look at some of the rules for how and when the player can act during a game of blackjack.

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. Of course when you play online this happens automatically.

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.

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

  • Hit
  • Stand
  • Split
  • Double
  • Insurance
  • Surrender

Not all of these options will be available for every hand, but we will look at these options in more detail later.

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. 

Dealer deals a third seven to a blackjack player to make a total of 21.

For those players who are completely new to blackjack, there is something very important to remember: you can take the blackjack strategy chart to the table in case you need a reminder of the best cards to play in any given situation.

Hit

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. 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.

Note: the dealer MUST hit if his hand shows less than 17. The player can hit at any time.

Stand

The option to stand means that you do not wish to receive any further cards. For example, if the first two cards dealt to the player total 19 he may well decide that no further cards are required. In a physical casino, if the player waves their hand horizontally it is a request to stay, thereby ending their turn. Playing online, simply click the ‘Stand’ or ‘Stay’ button.

Note: the dealer MUST stand if his hand shows between 17 and 21. The player can stand at any time.

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. Check the strategy chart below to see other examples of when splitting your hand is a good idea.

Board with basic strategies for blackjack
Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart

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. When playing online there is no set limit of decks as cards are randomized.

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. Only some variations of blackjack allow the option to surrender.

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.

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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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