Learn how to play blackjack

Our first lesson will familiarise you with the basic rules of blackjack.

Most rule guides on blackjack will tell you that the objective is to get a hand with a value close to 21. This is incorrect – the real objective is to beat the dealer. To begin with, our guide will introduce the basic rules of blackjack, before discussing betting optimisation in lesson two.

Blackjack table

As you can see, the blackjack table is very simple, containing relatively few components. Each player has one ‘betting box’ for placing wagers and the croupier is located in the centre, dealing to the left.

Online Blackjack Rules blackjack table

How to play

Blackjack is a card game played with between one and eight 52-card decks. Each card has its own value:

  • Aces : 1 or 11 points
  • Face cards (the royals) : 10 points
  • Two to ten : pip value (their numerical value)

Suits have no bearing on blackjack. The value of a blackjack hand is the sum total of the point values of cards in that hand. For instance, a hand of one king and an eight has a value of 18.

The exception to this rule is ‘blackjack,’ which consists of an ace and any card with a 10 point value (any royal or a ten). This is the highest possible hand that outranks all others (except the dealer’s blackjack). Play begins when players place chips in front of them to indicate their stake. The dealer then distributes two cards to each player and him/herself.

All of this is done via an electronic interface in virtual blackjack. Also, the dealer is replaced with a computer that automatically distributes cards and manages its own hand.

One of the dealer’s cards is played face up – the unseen card is the ‘hole’ card. If the visible card is an ace, the dealer will offer players a side bet called ‘insurance.’ This pays at odds specific to the casino.

The dealer will then look at his or her hole card (without showing the players). If it is a 10-point card, the round will end immediately and all players who did not take insurance bets will lose.

Play begins with the player on the dealer’s left. Each player is given five options:

  • Stand : the player sticks with his or her cards.
  • Hit : another card is drawn and added to the player’s hand.
  • Double down : the player doubles their initial stake and gets one more card. They cannot receive another.
  • Split : if the player has a pair or two 10-point cards then they can double their bet and separate their cards into two separate hands. Each ‘hand’ receives a second card. The player then continues as normal, with two hands.
  • Surrender : the player gives up on their hand and keeps half their original stake. This option is only available if the player has not previously hit and is sometimes not permitted by casinos.

If a player’s total hand value exceeds 21, they are ‘bust’ and lose their stake. After all players have had their turn, the dealer uncovers his or her hole card. If the hand value is lower than 16, the dealer must draw again. However, in the case of a ‘soft’ 17 (made up of the two initial cards) the dealer can choose to stand.

If the dealer busts, then all players who haven’t already bust will win. In the event of a tie, there is a ‘push’ and all bets are returned. Winning wagers are paid even money.

To recap…

Online Blackjack Rules blackjack initaldealInitial deal

After bets are placed, the dealer will distribute two cards to each player and themselves, starting with the player on their immediate left. The dealer leaves their second cards dealt visible. If their visible card is an ace, the dealer will offer an ‘insurance’ side bet at specific odds.

Online Blackjack Rules blackjack hitPlayer action

Starting from the left, players must choose to stand, hit, double, split or surrender. If the player’s card value goes over 21, they lose and their stake is collected.

Online Blackjack Rules blackjack 21Dealer’s hand revealed

The dealer reveals their hidden ‘hole’ card. If the dealer’s hand value is lower than 16, they must draw a new card, except in the case of a soft 17, where the dealer can choose to stand. If the dealer busts then all players still in the game are paid even money.

Online Blackjack Rules blackjacks betsBets settled

Once the dealer has chosen to stand, all higher value hands on the table are paid even money and all lower value hands are collected. The dealer distributes money accordingly and deals for the next round.

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Lesson two: the right strategy