How to Play Blackjack
Learn how to play blackjack in minutes. We present you with a complete guide that will take you from beginner to master. Learn rules, odds, bets, and the best blackjack variants with the lowest house edge.
Beyond the basics, we offer tips on maximizing your winning chances and other essential details about blackjack.
Basics of Blackjack
To learn how to play blackjack, we must start with the basics. These are the essential elements of every blackjack table.
The table layout is where the game is played out. Usually, there’s room for 5-6 players, a card slot, and an insurance slot for each. The dealer stands opposite the players.
The chips are a mandatory part of blackjack, even online. You wager on blackjack by placing your chips on your wagering spot on the table.
Deck of cards
Blackjack is played with 1 to 8 decks of cards, depending on the table. The deck is regularly shuffled to minimize risk of blackjack card counting.
In Blackjack, the dealer deals you cards, and its against the rules to hold them in your hands in an ongoing round.
Each table has betting limits per round. The limits vary, as there’s “regular” and high-roller tables around.
How to Play Blackjack
If you want to get started right away from practice or even real money, follow our step-by-step guide.
Select a blackjack game of your choice
Place your bet and wait for cards to be dealt across the table
Hit, stand or double down. Optional: Consult Basic Strategy for the best move.
Wait for hand resolution (see who’s closer to 21)
Collect winnings (play another round)
Blackjack has a reputation for being a skill-based game in part. It has a reputation for being may be difficult to master, but it’s also easy to get into. As an added benefit, the game rounds are played out rather quickly.
Complete Guide to Blackjack
Now that you know what the table looks like and how to play a blackjack round, we can look at the game’s rules, card values, useful terms, and similar important aspects.
The objective of blackjack is beating the dealer. At the end of each round, whichever player had a better hand than the dealer will get paid out. It doesn’t matter how many players are on the table.
Since Blackjack is famously known as “21”, there’s a misconception that reaching 21 is the game’s objective, but that is only one of the win conditions.
Here are all win/lose conditions in Blackjack:
- Having a hand value that's higher than the dealer’s hand value, at the end of the round.
- The dealer drawing a hand value that goes over 21.
- Drawing a hand value of 21 on your first two cards, when the dealer does not.
- Your hand value exceeds 21.
- The dealer's hand has a greater value than yours, at the end of the round.
The card values are the first things you should know in the rules of blackjack. Without this knowledge, it’s impossible to play seriously. Fortunately, there’s not much to learn since the card values are split in 3 categories.
Clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades numbered from 2-10 are worth their face value.
Picture cards are worth 10 points each, so the King, Queen and Jack are each valued at 10 points.
The ace is worth either 1 point, or 11 points; it’s the player’s choice and depends on the hand.
There aren’t many hand names to remember like you would in poker, but these basics are essential to knowing how to play blackjack. Meaning, how to evaluate your hand, and the dealer’s hand, during gameplay.
Blackjack means getting 21 immediately from your first two cards.
King + A = 21 (Blackjack)
Queen + A = 21 (Blackjack)
Any hand that has an Ace can be a soft hand, since Ace (A) is counted both 1 or 11 – whatever suits the player in the moment of gameplay. Meaning, a hand of a 7 and an Ace is both 8 and 18 at the same time, which is why it’s called a “soft” 18.
A hard hand is a hand with a fixed value, meaning it has no Ace in the combination.
King + 7 = Hard 17
Ace + 7 = Soft 18
Queen + 5 = Hard 15
Ace + 5 = Soft 16
A push means a draw. It happens when the dealer and player have the same hand value.
When your hand total goes over 21, it’s called busting or “bust”. This means you lose.
Now that we’ve established the basics of calculating your hand value, mastering the game’s rule set is the next step in learning how to play blackjack.
In blackjack, there are different rules for players and dealers, adding a layer complexity and dynamic to this game.
Request another card, a common term shared between several card games.
Stating you don’t want more cards. A stand can’t be “reversed”, it lasts until next game round
Split your hand into two hands, which you proceed to control independently, as if you were controlling two players. This option is only available if certain conditions are met, and in certain tables only.
Double or “double-up” is your only choice of increasing your bet once a round is underway. Doubling up is only available on certain tables, and in specific conditions.
Additional Player Rules
These rules are a bit more advanced, but far from complicated. It just means you should master the basic rules of blackjack first, before tackling these presented below.
As for the dealer, their options are more limited in blackjack compared to players. Here’s what dealers can and can’t do.
- Take insurance
- Split hands
- Double down
The table rules determine the house edge. As such, they are one of the most important basics you should know. They will help you pick a table with the best odds for maximizing your chances of winning.
Here are the typical table rules and their values common in blackjack tables in US online casinos.
*limits vary by casino and table.
Table Rule Variations
Table rules are different to player rules. In blackjack, the variation of these rules greatly influences the house edge.
- 3:2 blackjack
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Early/late surrender
- Resplitting aces
- Single or double deck
- Doubling down on soft hands
- Doubling down after resplitting
- 6:5 blackjack
- Dealer hits on soft 17
- No surrender
- No resplitting aces
- Respliting one time
- Doubling down (on 9, 10 or 11)
- No doubling down after splitting
- 6-8 decks
The perfect blackjack table doesn’t exist. When looking for a table to play, look for a good portion of player-friendly rules, and only a couple unfriendly ones. The best blackjack tables offer a fine balance of rules.
The most important rule you should never ignore is Blackjack Pays 3:2. Try to always find a table that pays 3:2. The outdated tables that pay 1:1 or 2:1 are extinct, and good to avoid if somehow found. More recently, 6:5 tables have started to appear, but they should also be avoided in favor of 3:2 Blackjack tables, because of the higher house edge.
Blackjack Odds, House Edge and Payouts
We won’t go in-depth at how each rule affects the payout dynamic, but instead present easy to memorize, basic probabilities of common scenarios in each game round of blackjack.
Odds and Probabilities
Looking at odds and probabilities, we explain the probability of going bust if you request an extra card. This dilemma happens in every round, so knowing when it’s safe to Hit or Stand is essential.
Probability To Go Bust on Extra Card
Using the logic in the table below, we should always Hit up to 13, but always stand on 14 or higher.
|11 or lower||0%|
By following these odds and placing the right bets while they’re in your favor, you are essentially following Blackjack Basic Strategy. This strategy officially called “Basic Strategy” advises following a determined set of rules and always making the move with the highest chance of winning. We’re only presenting a small portion of the strategy, to ease you into learning how to play blackjack.
Dealer’s Probability To Go Bust
On the other hand of the table, here are the dealer’s probabilities of going bust.
|Dealer’s up card||Probability (when standing on soft 17)||Probability (when hitting on soft 17)|
Sometimes, it’s useful to compare the dealer’s probabilities of going bust, versus your own, and deciding on the best possible move. However, even just focusing on your own hand, and ignoring the dealer, will give you better odds over playing paying attention to the odds.
You are free to compare your hand vs the dealer’s hand and doing the math yourself, but Blackjack Basic Strategy simplifies and automates the decision-making process. It tells you exactly what to do for the highest odds, in every imaginable scenario that includes your hand vs the dealer’s hand.
Following Basic Strategy is the best way to increase your odds and win at blackjack.
To effectively reduce the house edge when playing blackjack, look for high-impact player-favored rules (blackjack pays 3:2, more freedom to split and double down, option of surrender) and avoid tables that have a bad balance of favorable vs unfavorable rules. In some games, the house edge is publicly displayed, so you don’t have to do much work, but that is not always the case.
Here is how the house edge is affected by various player rules, in practice:
|Blackjack rule||House edge influence||Blackjack rule||House edge influence|
|8 decks||+0.61%||1-2 decks||-0.48%-0.19%|
|Dealer hits on soft 17||+0.21%||Dealer stands on soft 17||-0.21%|
|No double down after splitting||+0.14%||Doubling down after a split||-0.14%|
|Double down on 9-11||+0.09-0.15%||Double down on any first two cards||-0.23%|
|Double down on 10 or 11||+0.17-0.26%||Resplitting aces||-0.08%|
|No resplitting aces||+0.08%||Surrender||-0.08%|
|No surrender||+0.07%||Blackjack bonus payouts of 3 to 2||-0.32%|
|6 to 5 payout||+1.30%|
The possible combinations of a blackjack player, dealer, and table rules are nearly infinite. This is why it’s possible to have so many Blackjack variants, yet all of them are similar.
Blackjack Variants and Their House Edge
You’ll find the following main types of blackjack across all US online casinos. However, their availability may vary between casinos.
|Blackjack game||House edge|
|Single Deck Blackjack (Atlantic City Pro)||0.58%|
|Atlantic City Blackjack||0.36%|
|Vegas Strip Blackjack||0.35%|
|Vegas Downtown Blackjack||0,30%|
The house edge data clearly indicates that every Blackjack variant offers great odds. Your choice of game should come down to preference. For the best experience, we recommend any live blackjack variant, as they all have at least 99% RTP and offer the best entertainment value.
Have a look at the payout ratio of all possible outcomes from the resolution of a blackjack round.
|6 to 5 Blackjack||6:5|
|3 to 2 Blackjack||3:2|
|Push||Bet is returned|
The 6 to 5 and 3 to 2 payout ratios of Blackjack refer to payouts of a “natural” hand, which is an A (ace) + a 10, J, Q or K from the first two dealt cards. This is an instant win. 6:5 tables pay an extra 20% for hitting 21 (a natural), whereas 3:2 pays an extra 50%. That difference in house edge is 1.4%. That is massive within this context of these blackjack rules, and the reason why 6:5 blackjack tables should be ignored when possible.
Blackjack Variants You Should Avoid
Most blackjack variants have pros and cons, but some games shouldn’t be considered. We will also outline the reasons why you should avoid these games.
How To Play Blackjack and Win?
Follow our basic tips and unofficial rules that will greatly increase your odds while playing. Every blackjack player has this knowledge ingrained in their head, as they are more a casual list of dos and don’ts rather than rules. These tips don’t require following a complex strategy like card counting, and let you play in a more laid-back manner.
Have a look at common blackjack terms you’ll find in offline and online tables, as well as various blackjack guides.
Sometimes, the dealer peeks before the players draw any cards.
A card that has been dealt face down, not visible to other players and dealer.
A side bet is an extra bet in addition to your main bet.
(If a player’s first two cards are an ace and a “ten-card” (a picture card (J, Q, K or 10), giving a count of 21 in two cards, this is a natural or “blackjack.
Shoe is the box that holds the decks/cards used by the dealer on the table.
Ready To Play Blackjack?
Learning to play blackjack is easy, especially if you follow Basic Strategy. The game’s rules have created many variants, such as Atlantic City Blackjack, Multi Hand and Single Deck Blackjack. In truth, their differences are very slim. The house edge is the ultimate deciding factor.
We encourage you to play blackjack for free in demo mode, before digging in with real money. Choose a top-rated online Blackjack casino to get started. Don’t forget, you can always boost your real money deposit with a welcome bonus.
What is a soft 17?
A soft 17 is a hand combination that consists of an Ace and a 6. This hand is called “soft” because the Ace is counted as either a 1 or 11, at the player’s discretion. Therefore, this hand value is 7 and 17 at the same time.
Is it better to play 1 or 2 hands in Blackjack?
It makes no difference with how many hands you play in Blackjack. The odds, rules and payouts don’t change, no matter the number of players. Each hand you have will be treated separately.
Can you win at Blackjack without counting cards?
Yes, players win at Blackjack all the time, and card counting is not possible online. Offline, it’s possible in some circumstances to turn the house edge in your favor through card counting. The house edge of Blackjack is so low that you won’t feel the need for card counting anyway.
What are the rules of Blackjack?
Blackjack has many rules that vary per table. The most important ones are the number of decks used, if the dealer stands or draws on soft 17 and hard 17, and various splitting and re-splitting rules.
How to win Blackjack every time?
It’s not possible to win at Blackjack every time. Even though Blackjack has elements of skill, the ultimate factor of winning will always be luck. The house edge indicates that you will lose out in the long run, as with any casino game.
How to play Blackjack online?
To play Blackjack online, you must register with a US online casino by creating a free account. Top-rated Blackjack casinos offer demo mode of any Blackjack variant, excluding live Blackjack.
How much does Blackjack pay?
Blackjack can pay 2:1, 3:2, or 6:5. The best Blackjack table to play at is the one that pays 3:2. This rule also decreases the house edge and increases your odds of winning. Mathematically, a table that pays 2:1 can be better than a 3:2 table, if different rules are player-favored.
What happens if you tie in Blackjack?
In the case of a tie in Blackjack, all bets are returned as they were. You don’t win or lose or anything.
What is the house edge in Blackjack?
The average house edge in Blackjack is 0,35%. This is one of the lowest house edge games in casino history, and some variants take it down even further. Typically, fewer decks used grants a high house edge, which is why Single Deck Blackjack is one of the best variants by default.