Blackjack Basics

Blackjack is a popular casino game that was given to us by the French about 250 years ago. The game was previously known as vingt-e-tun, which translates to “21″ in French. French Canadian fur trappers and other immigrants traveled to America brought blackjack with them, causing the game to erupt in popularity. The casinos in the states changed the game’s name and rules to make the odds a bit more favorable to the player – one of those rules being a ten-to-one bonus payout if the player drew the jack of spades with the ace of spades. The belief that blackjack can be beaten was enough to spark an increase in play.

If you’re new to the game of blackjack, visiting an online casino is a fun and easy way to learn the rules and move past the beginner stage of play.

Rules of Play

Blackjack is played with one or more standard 52-card decks, with each number assigned a point value. The cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, while kings, queens and jacks are each worth 10. Depending on the game, aces can either be counted as high or low – 1 or 11. The suits of the cards don’t have meaning in the game.

The object of the game is for players to reach a value of 21 without going over it. Ultimately, players are trying to beat the hand of the dealer. The best total of all is a two-card 21, or a blackjack.


An Ace and a Jack equal 21 points for a blackjack.


While it’s not necessary for game play, some blackjack players like to place a bet on the game. Each person at the table has a circle or box to place their bets in. There will always be a minimum and a maximum bet for the table. The maximum wager is normally 10 to 20 times the minimum bet. Each player decides how much to bet on a hand before the cards are dealt. Depending on the outcome of the game, a few things can happen:

  • Win: If a player wins, he or she wins as much as he or she bet.
  • Lose: The player’s bet is taken by the dealer.
  • Blackjack: This means the player wins 1.5 times the original bet.
  • Push: The hand is a draw and the player keeps his or her bet, neither winning nor losing money.


After the betting is over, each player at the table, along with the dealer, receives two cards. The players’ cards are dealt face-up, while the dealer has one face-down (called the hole card) and one face-up. After all the cards have been dealt, the game goes on with each player taking a turn in clockwise order starting to the dealer’s left.


Once the cards have been dealt, players do their best to reach a perfect blackjack, or 21. There a number of routes you can take:

  • Hit: If a player “hits,” he or she takes another card in hopes of getting his or her hand closer to 21. However, if the player hits and exceeds 21, he or she loses the bet.
  • Stand: If you think your hand is high enough to beat what the dealer has, you can stand, or elect to draw no more cards.
  • Double Down: You can choose to double your original bet and receive only one more card regardless of its denomination.

Two kings equals 20 points.

  • Split: If your first two cards have the same rank, you can opt to make a second bet equal to your first and split the pair, using each card as the first card in a separate hand. Players may split up to four separate hands if they continue to receive pairs. However, players are generally not allowed to play their hands after splitting with aces.
  • Insurance: If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, you can choose to take insurance, which is a bet that the dealer has a 10-value card down to complete a blackjack. Insurance can be taken for half of the original bet. If you win the insurance bet and lose the hand, you can come out even. For example, the player has 18 with a $10 bet down and the dealer has an ace up. The player can take a $5 insurance bet. If the dealer has blackjack, the player loses the $10 bet on the hand, but wins $10 with the 2-1 payoff on the $5 insurance bet.
  • Surrendering: If a player has a bad hand compared to that of the dealer, that player can give up his or her hand and reclaim half of his or her bet, but the hand is over. This usually only happens when the dealer has an overwhelming advantage, and saving half of the original bet is preferable to risking the entire wager. Not every table offers surrender, but those that do fall into two categories:
  • Early Surrender: A player must choose to surrender before the dealer checks his or her cards for a blackjack, offering a way out even if the dealer turns out to have 21. Because this method is so beneficial to the player, it is rarely offered.
  • Late Surrender: This is found more often than early surrender. It happens when a player opts to check his or her cards after the dealer checks for a blackjack. It allows the player to give up half the bet rather than playing that hand after the dealer checks for 21.

The Dealer’s Turn

Once all of the players have completed their actions and either decided to hit, stand, double down, split, take insurance or surrender, it’s the dealer’s turn. If the dealer has a blackjack, he or she won’t take anymore cards. All players lose, except those who also have a blackjack, in which case it’s a draw.

If the dealer doesn’t have 21, he or she will either hit or stand, depending on the value of the hand. The dealer must hit if the value of the hand is lower than 17, otherwise the dealer will stand.


If the dealer goes bust, all the players left in the game win. If not, players with higher point totals than the dealer win, while those with lower totals do not. Players with blackjack win a bet plus a bonus amount, which is generally equal to half their wager.