Let us guide you to learn the basics of Blackjack. This card game is one of the most popular table games in the casino, and if you’re good at it, it’s got one of the lowest house edges. It can be a bit intimidating to sit down at a blackjack table for the first time so in this article we will explain the basics of blackjack so you can play the game with confidence. Check out our recommended casinos for Blackjack as well!
The goal of blackjack
The goal of blackjack is to get a hand that beats the dealer’s hand without going over 21. If you exceed 21 you go “bust” and you lose, no matter what the dealer’s hand is. If you and the dealer get the same hand value, you tie.
Blackjack is played with ordinary card decks and the value of the cards are the same as their number for the cards 2 to 10. The face cards (J, Q, K) are worth 10, and the ace is worth either 1 or 11, your choice. The suit of the card doesn’t matter except for some side bets which we won’t go into here. Your hand value is the value of the cards in it added together.
The cards are drawn from a card holder called a “shoe”. Most online blackjack games will have 8 card decks of cards in a shoe when newly shuffled. To lower risk for the casino, only 4 of these card decks will be dealt before the shoe is re-shuffled.
The name of the game comes from the hand combination of an ace and a value 10 card, called a blackjack. If you get this hand as your starting hand, you automatically win (unless the dealer also gets a blackjack, then you tie), if the dealer gets a blackjack you lose, even if you have a value 21 hand.
Winning a round of blackjack pays out 1 to 1, if you get a blackjack, it pays out 3 to 2, and if you tie you get your money back.
Playing the game
A round of blackjack starts with the players placing their bets. The dealer then deals two cards to each player and one to the dealer, face-up. Depending on the rules at the table the dealer might also deal another card to the dealer face-down, if they do, this will be the first card the dealer draws when it’s the dealers turn to play. Each player then plays their hand before the dealer plays his.
As a player you have a couple of choices available when you play your hand:
Hit – Draw one more card. If you don’t bust (go over 21) you get to choose to hit or stand again.
Stand – Decline to draw a card and finish your hand.
Hit and Stand are the base of the game and they are always available, there are some more play choices you can take if you have the right cards.
Double – Double your bet and draw one more card, then the hand is finished. Usually only allowed on the initial hand. On some tables it might only be allowed on specific hand values like 9, 10 or 11. Used when you think you have an advantage over the dealer, like if you have 11 against a dealer 6.
Split – Only allowed when you have a pair on your starting hand. This divides your hand into two different hands and costs one more bet, so you have your original bet on one of the hands and the new bet on the other. The dealer will deal one card to each hand and then you play each hand separately. Depending on the rules of the table you might be allowed to double or not on these new “starting” hands. You will not be allowed to split again if you get a pair on one of the new hands when playing online, something that is usually allowed on a physical table.
Insurance – This is technically a side bet that is only available when the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. It costs half the main bet, and you win if the dealer gets a blackjack. It pays out 2 to 1, essentially winning the main hand bet back since it will lose against the dealer’s blackjack.
The players basically hit until they’re happy with their hand and then stand. Players can stand at any time.
The dealer then plays their hand. Unlike the players the dealer isn’t allowed to stand until their hand is 17 or better. The hands are then compared, and winnings are paid out.
Some tips and strategies
So now that you know the rules you might want to know some basic tips and strategies as well. When should you stop hitting, when should you double, and should you split or not? It turns out that this is more complicated than it seems at first.
An extremely basic strategy could be something like:
- Hit until your hand is 17 or more.
- Except when the dealer’s face-up card is 2 to 6, then stand if your hand is 12 or more.
- Don’t split 5’s or 10’s.
- Always split 8’s.
- Double if your starting hand is 10 or 11.
- Never use insurance.
This is far from optimal however, but the optimal way to play will take a whole article to explain, so we will do just that. If you can’t wait, search for our own blackjack basic strategy or go to Wizard of Odds and look up the same thing.