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How to Play Blackjack: Our Expert Guide

Ready to learn how to play blackjack like a pro? We love nothing more than teaching beginners how to beat blackjack at land-based and online casinos. Our easy to understand yet comprehensive guide teaches you everything you need to know about the beautiful game of blackjack in a matter of minutes.

We give you the lowdown on blackjack rules and their common variations, game terms you’ll need to know, and help you understand why blackjack etiquette is so important. We even provide a list of fun blackjack game variants that you can play for free right here on our website.

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Blackjack Rules: A Full Overview

Before we go ahead into our step-by-step guide on how to play blackjack, we want to familiarize you with the game’s rules, the card values and everything else you need to know.

Blackjack is an extremely popular card game that pits you against the dealer. The objective is to beat the dealer by scoring as close to 21 points as possible without “going bust.” The rules of blackjack dictate that you or the dealer bust – simply another term for lose – with a hand value that totals more than 21.

There are three ways to win when you play blackjack. The first method of victory is to hit a blackjack when the dealer doesn’t. Also known as a “natural,” a blackjack is when you score 21 with the first two cards you are dealt. The second way to win is by scoring higher than the dealer without busting. The third and final way to win when you play blackjack is to watch the dealer bust by exceeding 21.

The simplicity of blackjack rules and a favorable house edge make it a favorite among gamblers. By using a basic strategy, you can swing the blackjack odds in your favor with a house edge of just 0.5%.

Card values

Blackjack Card Values

Blackjack is typically played with six decks of 52 cards, although it can be played with just one or even more. The number of decks used by the dealer has a direct impact on the house edge. The house edge is just 0.17% when you play single deck blackjack versus 0.64% when six decks are used by the dealer.

Regardless of how many decks are used, it’s vital that you know card values in blackjack like the back of your hand. Blackjack card values be divided into three categories: Aces, faces, and numbers.

Let’s take a closer look at the value of each card:

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Numbers 2 through 10 are worth their numerical value

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Face cards (J, Q, K) are worth 10 points

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An Ace can count as 1 point or 11 points

Soft hands vs hard hands

Soft Hands vs. Hard Hands in Blackjack

There are two types of hands in blackjack: a soft hand or a hard hand. According to blackjack card game rules, soft hands contain an Ace that can be valued at either 1 or 11. It’s impossible to go bust with a soft hand. In contrast, a hard hand is when you haven’t been dealt any Aces or must count Aces as 1 point. Busting is possible with a hard hand, which often leaves you with a difficult decision to make.

It’s important that you understand the difference between a soft hand and a hard hand before you head to the blackjack table. You may see blackjack dealer rules like “dealer must hit soft 17” printed on the felt. This means that the dealer must hit when holding an Ace and a six for a total of 17 points. Other blackjack variations force the dealer to stand on 17 regardless of whether the hand is soft or hard.

Table

The Blackjack Tables’ Layout

As we are teaching you how to play casino blackjack, we’ll assume that you have never seen a table.

Shaped in a semicircle, a blackjack table typically holds a maximum of seven players. The dealer can be found sitting or standing behind the table, with players seated around the table. Each seating position is known as a base, with first base being the position located furthest to the right. Cards are dealt from a shoe in a clockwise direction. Blackjack rules and payouts are also printed on the felt of the table.

A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Play Blackjack

To give you a better understanding of how to play blackjack at a casino, we have broken down each step of the game. Our step-by-step guide walks you through a typical round of blackjack, covering everything from placing your bets at the start of a hand to the big reveal when you find out if you’ve won or lost.

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Common Variations in Blackjack Rules

After learning how to play blackjack, you may be amazed by the number of rule variations and conditions that can affect a blackjack game and how it’s played. Being aware of some of these rules is extremely important, as they can impact the odds of the game and the likelihood of you winning.

Five of the most common variations include:

  • Early Surrender – This rule allows you to forfeit your hand for half your bet before the dealer checks their hand for a natural blackjack. It’s considered one of the most confusing blackjack rules, but it’s actually very straightforward. Saying that, not too many online casinos offer it.

  • Re-Splitting Aces – You’ll be rubbing your hands if you are dealt another Ace after the first split. You now have a chance to hit to two natural blackjacks for a big payout. Even if you fall short of scoring 21 with both hands, they should still be in a strong position to beat the dealer’s hand.

  • Split Any Time – It might be rare, but this rule allows you to split a hand after drawing additional cards as long as you have two cards of the same value touching each other. An example of this would be a hand containing cards valued at 3, 2, and 2. You could choose to split the deuces.

  • Doubling After Splitting – There is a reason why this blackjack rule isn’t allowed in many blackjack variants. Your odds of winning increase when you split a pair. For example, if you were dealt two 10s, splitting and then doubling would give you a significant edge over the dealer.

  • Insurance – This is a side bet that allows you to buy insurance when the dealer’s up card is an Ace. It costs half of your original bet and pays 2:1. If you choose to take insurance, you’ll be hoping that the dealer reveals a 10, Jack, Queen, or a King to make a natural blackjack.

Our Easy Guide to Blackjack Etiquette

Considering a visit to your nearest land-based casino now that you know how to play blackjack at casinos? Then we must emphasize the importance of blackjack etiquette. While you just click a button and have nothing else to worry about when you play blackjack games online, there is an unwritten code of conduct that you must abide when playing at land-based casinos. The main dos and don’ts are:

Do:

  • Place cash in the middle of the table to get chips
  • Treat your dealer and fellow players with respect
  • Pay attention and act quickly when it’s your turn
  • Consider tipping the dealer when you win
  • Use blackjack hand signals to confirm your play

Don't:

  • Touch any cards or chips on the table
  • Blame the dealer when you lose a hand
  • Take a long time to make your decisions

Try These Fun Blackjack Games Online

Feel like you’ve mastered how to play standard blackjack? Then it’s time to experiment with some of the most popular blackjack variants offered at online casinos. While the goal remains to beat the dealer without busting, these exciting variations put a welcome twist on traditional blackjack dealer rules.

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Atlantic City Blackjack

Played using eight decks, Atlantic City Blackjack requires the dealer to draw to 16 or less and stand on 17 to 21. You can double down on any initial hand and split any initial pair. These player friendly rules make it one of the most popular blackjack variants.

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Blackjack Switch

This blackjack game requires you to make two bets of equal value. In return, you are dealt two hands. What sets Blackjack Switch apart from other variants is your ability to increase the strength of your hands by switching the second card that is dealt to each hand.

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European Blackjack

The rules of European Blackjack are quite similar to American Blackjack. The key difference between the two variants is that the dealer is not allowed to take a second card until all players at the table have made their decisions. This creates plenty of suspense!

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Perfect Pairs

Fans of side bets will certainly approve of Perfect Pairs. Mixed, colored, or perfect pairs are required to win your side bet. As the title of this blackjack game suggests, the best payout is reserved for a perfect pair. This side bet makes the dealing process far more exciting.

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Spanish 21

Considered one of the newer blackjack variants, Spanish 21 uses six to eight Spanish decks. The key difference between Spanish 21 and standard blackjack is that all 10s have been removed from the decks. As you can imagine, you’ll be “hitting” a little more often.

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How to Play Blackjack FAQ

The aim of blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21. While you have the power to make any decision you like, the dealer’s actions are governed by a specific set of blackjack rules. These rules differ depending on which type of blackjack game you are playing. However, as long as you have a basic understanding of how to play blackjack, you won’t have any problem switching between variants.

Basic blackjack strategy encourages you to hit when your hand totals 10 or any number between 12 and 16. An Ace makes 21 when you hold a 10, while any face card or a 10 gives you a strong total of 20. Hitting when your hand totals 12-16 is encouraged because it likely isn’t strong enough to beat the dealer’s. You must request an additional card in the hope of boosting your total without going bust.

For starters, you can play blackjack variants that offer the lowest house edge. Why would you take a seat at a Super Fun 21 table with a house edge of 1.30% when you could play Blackjack Switch with a house edge of just 0.17% instead? Of course, making optimal plays also plays a key factor in getting the best odds in blackjack. Stick to a basic blackjack strategy to improve your chances of winning.

The best time to double down is when your hand totals 11. It gives you a great chance to hit 21, but you should find yourself in a strong position even if you aren’t dealt an Ace. Our experts also recommend doubling your bet when you have a hard 9 or 10 when the dealer’s up-card is low in value. The same is also true when you have soft 16, 17, or 18 – double down if the dealer is showing a lower card.

Any hand without an Ace, or a hand in which all Aces are valued at 1, is known as a hard hand. Such a hand has limitations and makes busting a real possibility. In contrast, a soft hand gives you the flexibility of determining whether your Ace is worth 1 or 11. It’s impossible to bust with a soft hand, as your total cannot exceed 21 regardless of which card is dealt.

You can’t. Blackjack is a card game that pits you against the dealer. Without the dealer, who would accept your bets, deal cards, and ask you to act when it’s your turn? While we understand how boring RNG blackjack games can be, there are plenty of other options if you don’t fancy a trip to your nearest casino. Try live dealer blackjack for an immersive experience from the comfort of your own home.

Most casinos offer a 3:2 payout for hitting a natural blackjack. You must be dealt an Ace and a face card (J, Q, K) or a 10 to total 21 with your first two cards. If you hit blackjack after requesting additional cards from the dealer, you’ll secure a payout of 1:1 instead. A payout of 1:1 is also awarded for beating the dealer. Another payout to be aware of is before placing your bets is insurance, which pays 2:1.

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