Learn to Play Blackjack


Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games around the world because it is both fun and easy to play. The game saw a boom in the 1960s when information about how to gain an edge over the house was revealed. Today, blackjack is so popular that more people play the game than roulette, craps and baccarat combined. In blackjack, the house always has a slight advantage because it is the last to play. While you’ll need to become a very skilled blackjack player to consistently beat the house, you can still have fun and improve your chances of winning by mastering the basics.

What is Blackjack?

It is a common misconception that the object of the game of blackjack is to get as close to 21 points as possible without exceeding that number. In reality, the goal is to beat the dealer. This is accomplished by putting together a hand that contains more points than the dealer’s hand. However, it is still true that you want to get as close to 21 as possible – if the value of your hand surpasses that number, you automatically lose. Blackjack is a unique game in that it is a combination of skill and chance. Having a clear understanding of the basic strategies behind when to hit, stand and double down will help you narrow the house advantage and become a better player. But first, you will have to learn the rules of the game.

The Rules of Blackjack

If you are going to play blackjack, it’s best to start with the basics. While there are many variations of the game, multi-deck is most popular. Here are the rules:

A third card will be laid on top of the first two cards when hitting.

A third card will be laid on top of the first two cards when hitting.

Card Values: In blackjack, face cards (J Q K A) are each worth 10 points. Cards 2 through 8 are equal to their face values. Aces are worth either 1 or 11 points, it’s up to the player. Jokers are removed from the deck.

Getting Started: The game of blackjack begins after each player has placed his or her bet in his or her respective betting circle. When playing multi-deck blackjack, the dealer then deals each player two cards face up. The dealer receives one card that is face up and one that is face down. The player to the left of the dealer will act first. Players make their decision about how to play the hand based on their own cards as well as the dealer’s card that is facing up. Players have six options:

Hit: If you take a hit, the dealer will give you a third card. If the total of your cards exceeds 21 points after hitting, you’ve gone “bust” and automatically lose. If your total has still not reached 21, you can elect to take more cards until you are satisfied or go bust.

Stand: If you stand, you draw no more cards.

Double Down: When doubling down, you can double your original bet but can only receive one more card regardless of its point value.

Split: If the first two cards you were dealt have the same point value, you have the option to split the pair and make a second bet that is equal to your first bet, with each card being used in a separate hand.

1-1-2H-10C-JD-AS

A losing hand (showing 12) and a winning hand (showing 21 or Blackjack).

Insurance: If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, players may take insurance. This means you are betting that the dealer’s face-down card is worth 10 points, creating a blackjack (21 points). If you win the insurance bet but lose the hand, you come out even.

Surrender: Some casinos and gaming websites will allow you to surrender, declaring your hand dead and giving up half of your bet.

End Game: Once all of the players have completed their hands, the dealer then flips over his or her face-down card. Dealers must then play according to set rules. If the dealer has a total of 16 points or less, he or she must draw cards. If the dealer has 17 or more, he or she must stand. Players who have less points than the dealer lose. If a player has the same amount of points as the dealer, it is a push (neither of you win).

Blackjack Tips

While blackjack is partially a game of chance, there are still some basic strategies you can use to increase your odds of beating the dealer. These strategies are based on math, but you don’t have to be a mathematician in order to decipher them. Keep these basic rules of thumb in mind and you will be well on your way to being an expert blackjack player.

  • Always assume that the dealer’s face-down card is worth 10 points.
  • If you have a stiff hand (the total of your first two cards is worth between 12 and 16 points), that means you could go bust with a hit.
  • If you have a stiff hand and the dealer also has a stiff hand (the card facing up is a 2 through 6), stand.
  • If you have a stiff hand and the player has a pat hand (the card facing up is a 7 through ace), hit.
  • If the total of your first two cards adds up to 17 or more, it is called a pat hand. If you have a pat hand, you should stand.
  • If you have a pair of aces or 8s, split.
  • If you have a total of 10 points and the dealer’s face-up card is a 9 or lower, then it’s a good idea to double down.
  • If you have a total of 11 points and the dealer’s face-up card is a 10 or lower, then you should double down.
  • If your first two cards amount to 8 points or less, always hit, no matter the value of the dealer’s face-up card.
  • If your first two cards amount to 17 through 21 points, always stand, no matter the value of the dealer’s face-up card.