Blackjack Rules

How to Play Blackjack

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Blackjack Rules: Important Points

To begin with, there are a few general Blackjack Rules that need to be understood before reviewing actual gameplay.

Objectives

The objective of Blackjack is to have a hand of cards whose sum is equal to or closer to 21 than the Dealer’s but never goes over 21. If your hand exceeds 21 this is called a bust and you automatically lose your bet to the house. When you place your bet, you are actually betting on your own chances (and ability) to have a hand closer to, but not over, 21 than the Dealer.

Card Values

The sum of 21 is reached by assigning a value to each card and then adding up the values in each hand of cards. Cards 2-10 are equal to themselves meaning that an 8 counts as eight and a 9 counts as nine. All face cards equal 10. An ace equals either 1 or 11 depending on your choice which will be discussed later.

Suits

Suits like Clubs, Hearts, or Spades have absolutely no bearing on the card value or any other aspect of gameplay.

Dealer Rules

While there are a variety of decisions you can make in regards to your own hand, the Dealer must follow a list of set rules, so keep in mind that you are using strategy to beat the Odds, not the ability of the Dealer.

What is Blackjack?

Blackjack is the name given to a hand of two cards that reaches the sum of 21. This can only be achieved by receiving an ace and a card with a value of 10 in your original hand.

These are the most important Blackjack rules to remember before placing your bets, but keep in mind that Blackjack is a game of strategy and there’s more than you need to know so that you can make the best decisions possible, so let’s get into the Game.

How to Play Blackjack: Important Decisions

Blackjack begins with each player receiving a hand of two cards. These hands can be played face up or face down depending on the variation of Blackjack you are playing. The Dealer also receives two cards, the first of which is face up.

The next step is examining your cards. If your hand adds up to 21 then you have a Blackjack! You’ve won this round and can collect your winnings. If you have any other amount, there are a number of choices you now have to make that will decide the outcome of your bet. The list below is a simple explanation of your available options. Our strategy guide discusses in depth what to choose under which circumstances.

Hold

If you feel confident that your hand will beat the Dealer’s (like if you have the high sum of 19 or 20) you can choose to ‘hold’ your hand just as it is and wait to see if your hunch pays off.

Hit

If your hand holds a lower sum, you have the option of receiving a third card to get you closer to 21. You can be hit as many times as you choose but be careful! If you draw and third card and your sum suddenly exceeds 21, this is a bust and you lose your bet without further play. An Ace can count as 1 or 11 by your choice. If having an 11 in your hand would put you over 21 than the Ace automatically reverts to a value of 1.

Double Down

Variations of Blackjack rules treat this option in different ways, but in certain cases, you may choose to double your bet. In the case that you choose this option, you will receive one and only one more card which will hopefully get you to 21.

Split

The split is another option that varies slightly in Blackjack’s different versions. In general, however, this option is available when you are originally dealt two cards of the same value.

Remember that all face cards equal 10 so anything from a 10 to a King and potentially be split.

Splitting means that you choose to create a second hand by separating the two cards of identical value that were in your original hand. You now have two hands and a second card is automatically added to each. An identical bet from the first hand is placed on the second and you can now choose to hit or hold on each of your two hands.

Surrender

If you deduce from the examination of your cards and the one face-up card in the Dealer’s hand, that you are going to lose, many Casinos give you the option to surrender and receive half of your bet in return while losing the other half.

Insurance

In the case that the Dealer’s face-up card is an ace he will offer players insurance since the chance is relatively high that the Dealer has a Blackjack. As a player, you purchase insurance for the amount of half your original bet. If the dealer does indeed have a Blackjack, then you will receive your insurance at a Payout of 2 to 1 though you lose your original bet. Other words, you break even. If the Dealer doesn’t have a Blackjack, after all, you lose your insurance though you may still win your original bet.

Do not take insurance, even if you have a blackjack. Card counters can get away with making smart insurance bets when the deck is rich in tens but the non-counting player should always decline it. The following table shows the house edge on the insurance bet depending on the number of decks used.

House Edge on Insurance

Number of Decks

House Edge

1

5.882%

2

6.796%

4

7.246%

6

7.395%

8

7.470%

Blackjack Card Values
Blackjack Card Values

Dealer’s Blackjack Rules

Once you are satisfied with the cards in your hand, the Dealer must play out his own hand by a set of strict rules that he is obligated to follow. This means that there is no strategy or ability figured into the Dealer’s gameplay. Again, he MUST follow rules depending on the variation of Blackjack being played.

Firstly, the Dealer must hit his own hand if it sums up to 16 or less. Though this puts him at risk of a bust which means all the players winning their bets, he is required to do this. If the dealer has a sum of 17 or more, he will hold with one exception and even this exception depends on house rules.

Many Casinos play by the rules “Dealer stands on all 17s”. This means as mentioned above that as soon as the Dealer reaches 17 or higher he will hold and see if his hand or that of the player is higher. This rule requires that the Dealer always counts Aces as 11.

Casinos may choose to play with the rules “Dealer hits on soft 17s”.

These rules state that if the dealer has an Ace in a hand that would normally equal 17, the Ace counts as 1 and the Dealer must continue hitting until he reaches 17 again. The term ‘soft’ refers to a hand with a flexible Ace or an Ace that can count as 11 or 1. The term ‘hard’ refers to a hand without an Ace or with an Ace that must count as 1.

These are all of the Blackjack rules required to make you an educated contributor at the Blackjack Table. If you want to increase your Odds, however, and delve into the strategy of a truly fascinating game, check out our guide on strategy and tips.