Learn how to play Blackjack

The basic premise of the card game Blackjack or 21 is for the players to beat the dealers hand with a hand value up to or equaling 21.

I should emphasise that beating the dealer does not necessarily mean having to get 21.

Mathematicians over the years have formulated a basic playing strategy. This can be used to help you enjoy the game more and increase your chances of winning. It works by providing you with guidance on the playing action you should take. This is dependent on the value of your cards and the dealers up card.

You can visit my specific Live Blackjack site where there is further information on how to play blackjack and the strategies you can use to win more often.

Game Setup

Card Values

In the game of Blackjack the cards have the following values:

  • Ace – is treated as a 1 or 11.
  • 2 – 10 are the face value of the cards.
  • J-Q-K are valued as 10.

The game can be played with anything from 1 deck of 52 playing cards up to 8 decks.

In multiple deck games the cards are shuffled either manually or by machine. The shuffled decks are placed in a dealing shoe from which the dealer can take the cards.

A re-shuffle of the cards including the discarded cards from each of the hands is performed when approximately half the shoe has been dealt.

However it’s becoming an increasing trend for casinos to use a continuous shuffling machine. Discarded cards are put straight back into the dealing shoe and the whole shoe is re-shuffled before the next game round begins.

How to play Blackjack

The Players hand

At the start of a hand each player places a bet on the table.

Play proceeds from the dealers left. He deals one card face up to each player in turn and repeats that until each player has two cards.

The dealers first card is dealt face up while his second is dealt face down. In European Rules Blackjack the dealer will only take one card. His second card is dealt after all players have completed their hands.

The first player then makes his playing decision.

This is based on the value of his hand and what the dealers up card is. His options are:

  • Stand – The player decides not to take any cards and stands on what he has.
  • Hit / Draw – The player receives another card from the pack until he either hits 21 or decides to stand.
  • Double – The player can choose to double his initial bet and take one more card. He must stand after this card is taken, regardless of the value of his hand.
  • Split – If the player has been dealt two cards of the same value, he may choose to split them into two hands. They are then treated as separate hands and played as such, by either standing, hitting, doubling or even splitting again. When splitting, a bet equal to the amount of the initial bet is placed on the second hand.

If a player draws cards more than the value of 21 he is said to have “busted” and loses the hand and his initial stake money.

Play proceeds until all the players have completed their hands by either standing or busting out.

The Dealers Hand

The dealer can then play his hand but under certain restrictions:

  • He must stand if his hand equals 17 or more. (Some variations of the game allow him to hit on a soft 17. This is a hand with an ace counting as 11).
  • He must take a card if he has 16 or less.
  • He cannot split.
  • He cannot double.

If the dealer has 17 or more he stands and will make a pay out to those players that have beaten the value of his hand. Payout is 1 to 1.

If the dealers hand equals the value of a players hand, the player has his bet returned to him and the result is known as a “Push”.

If the dealer has busted he pays out to all players still in the game. Payout is 1 to 1.

If the dealer beats the value of the players hand the player loses and his bet is forfeited.

Blackjack occurs when a player or dealer is dealt an Ace and a 10 card. This hand cannot be beaten, but a push occurs if both the player and dealer have blackjack.

In multiple deck games Blackjack pays 3 to 2 and in single deck it normally pays 6 to 5.

Blackjack Definitions

Splitting

This is the term used to define the action of creating two hands form one hand that contains a pair.

It’s advantageous to create two hands depending on what the dealers up card is showing.

You’d do this because it’s an opportunity to put more money on the table when the dealer has a weak hand (i.e you have more chance of winning).

Two hands are created from your one hand.

When you split you have to place a bet equal to your initial bet on the second hand. Each hand is then played independently. In some places, if you are dealt another pair you can re-split again.

Doubling or Double Down

This term is used to signify that you want to double your bet. When you do that you’ll receive only one extra card.

Again this is a tactic to use when the dealer has a weak hand and you hand is in a position to be improved without risk.

You place a bet equal to the amount of your initial stake and the dealer gives you one extra card. You cannot then take another card.

The dealer then plays his hand out and only then will you know if you’ve won!

Blackjack Side Bets

To make the game more interesting there are a range of side bets that can be placed alongside the main hand.

These have no bearing on the main hand, but can only be played if an initial Ante bet has been paced.

For further details see my information on Blackjack Side Bets.