Complete Guide to Blackjack

Blackjack TableBlackjack is the most popular casino game in the world thanks to its simple rules and low house edge. Players who use a proper blackjack strategy can often lower the house edge to as low as 1% or less. The rules of the game are simple to learn, the bets are easy to make, and there are a wide range of limits available at most casinos.

The object of the game is to get a card total as close to 21 as possible without going over. As you draw cards, each card adds to your point total until you decide to stop receiving cards (stand), or you go past 21 (bust).

Rules of Blackjack

  • The object of the game is to get closer to 21 (without going over) than the dealer.
  • Each player places a bet at the beginning of each hand.
  • Each player plays against the dealer only, not against the other players.
  • Cards ranked 2-10 are worth their rank in points. A Five is worth 5 points and a Nine is worth 9 points.
  • Face cards Jack - King are all worth 10 points.
  • Aces can be worth either 1 or 11, depending on what's better for the hand.
  • Each player is dealt two cards face up. The dealer gets one card face up and one card face down.
  • The players take turns drawing more cards (hitting) or standing.
  • If you go over 21, the dealer automatically wins your bet.
  • If the dealer goes over 21, all the players who didn't go over 21 automatically win.
  • If neither the player nor the dealer busts, the winner is determined by whoever got the closest to 21.
  • If the player and the dealer bust, the dealer wins the hand.
  • If there is a tie it's called a push, and nobody wins or loses.
  • The dealer can win against some players and lose against others in the same hand.

How to Win in Blackjack

  • Get a point total closer to 21 than the dealer.
  • Get a total of 21 points with your first 2 cards by receiving an ace and a face card or an ace and a ten. This is an automatic win and is called a "blackjack". If you have Blackjack you'll win more money than a normal winning hand would.
  • You win if the dealer busts but you stay at or under 21.
  • Draw 3 additional cards (for a total of 5) without going over 21. The player automatically wins unless the dealer has a blackjack.
  • The dealer has to play the game according to a predetermined set of rules. When a dealer has a point total of 16 or less, he must hit. If the dealer has 17 or higher, he must stand unless it's a "soft 17."
  • A soft 17 is when the dealer has a total score of 17 that consists of at least one ace. For example, a dealer would have a soft 17 if he had an ace and a 6. At some casinos the dealer must hit again on soft 17s and at other casinos, the dealer has to stand on all 17s.
  • Blackjack is an even-money game which means bets are paid back 1:1. If you bet $5 on a hand and win, you'll win an additional $5. If you get a blackjack, you will be paid 3:2 by most casinos which means they'll return $3 to you for every $2 you bet.

Player Actions

Hit

If you want to receive an additional card, you may hit as many times as you wish until you either stand or go bust. You can say "hit" or tap the table lightly with your finger when it's your turn.

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Stand

If you are satisfied with your point total and wish to receive no more cards, you can stand. You can say "stand" or wave your hand palm down left and right across the table.

Double Down

If, after receiving your first two cards, you are confident that you only need one more card to win, you can double down. This means that you get to double your original bet after seeing your cards but you'll only be able to hit one time. If you wish to double down, place another bet of equal size next to your original bet.

Split

If you are dealt a pair of cards (two card of equal rank), you can split those cards into two separate blackjack hands and play them separately. To do this, place another bet of equal size next to your original bet.

Surrender

In some casinos you may forfeit half your bet and give up the hand if you don't like the two cards you receive. This is allowed after the dealer checks for blackjack and is called "late surrender."

In even fewer casinos, there is an "early surrender" option which is even better because it allows you to surrender before the dealer checks for a blackjack.

Insurance

Insurance is offered to the player when the dealer's face-up card is an ace. You may take insurance as a protection against the dealer having a ten-value card face down, which would give the dealer an automatic blackjack win.

You may make an additional bet equal to half the size of your original bet if you wish to take insurance. If the dealer has a blackjack, you'll be paid 2-to-1 on your insurance bet. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, you'll lose the insurance bet but can still play your hand normally.

Blackjack Etiquette

By following a few basic rules of blackjack etiquette, you can help make everyone's experience at the table a more enjoyable game. As with any group activity, manners make everything run much more efficiently.

In addition to that, casinos expect players to follow certain rules of etiquette for security reasons. If players were allowed to reach out and handle their bets all the time, you can imagine the security nightmare it would pose.

  • Once you have placed your bets, don't touch the chips again
  • As a spectator, don't crowd the players who are actually playing at the table
  • Tip the dealer occasionally. You can tip the dealer by placing a bet for him on the next hand. Just place some chips on the edge of the betting area between you and the dealer
  • Don't touch the cards if they are dealt to you face-up. You are only allowed to touch cards in face-down games
  • In games in which you are allowed to handle the cards, make sure you only touch them with one hand and keep the cards above the table and in plain sight at all times
  • Use hand motions to signify "hit" and "stand"
  • Don't berate the dealer or ask him for advice
  • Pay attention so people don't have to wait on you to figure out what's going on
  • Don't get drunk and obnoxious at the table
  • Know the rules before you join the game
  • Buy chips in between hands, not during hands
  • Try not to smoke at the table, but if you do, keep it to a minimum
  • Don't complain about your bad luck

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