There are many reasons why blackjack is such a popular game in the casino. One of the biggest is the fact that it is such a simple game. You can pick it up in just a few minutes, as the rules are really quite easy to learn. There aren’t a ton of different bets you can place and, for the most part, the decisions you have to make are fairly straightforward.
On this page we’ve explained the rules of blackjack in detail, starting with the basics. We’ve then provided a step by step guide of how the game is played, covering the various options you have in different scenarios.
Blackjack is a card game where players compete directly against the dealer. It’s played using one or more standard deck of cards, on a specially designed table which will usually feature between five and seven betting spots. Any number of these betting spots can be active during a game, and a player can choose to play at more than one spot if they wish.
Before a round starts, players must choose how much to stake and then place the relevant number of chips in a betting spot. The dealer will then deal a two card hand to each active betting spot. They will also deal a two card hand to themselves, with one card exposed. Play then goes around the table in a clockwise fashion, with each player choosing whether to stick with the cards they have or take additional cards. In some circumstances they also have some other options, which we’ll discuss later.
A player may take additional cards until their hand values 21 or over. If a card takes the value of a hand to above 21, then the player is said to have gone “bust” and they lose their stake. When all players have completed their action, the dealer plays their own hand. The dealer must take additional cards until their hand values at least 17 or they go bust. Each card in the deck is valued as follows.
- An ace can be valued at either 1 or 11.
- All cards from 2-10 are valued at their face value.
- All picture cards (jack, queen and king) are valued at 10.
- Suits are irrelevant.
Once the dealer has reached 17 or gone bust there is no more action. Bets are then settled on the following basis.
- A player wins an amount equal to their stake if they avoid going bust and have a higher valued hand than the dealer.
- A player wins an amount equal to their stake if they avoid going bust and the dealer does go bust.
- A player is paid out at 3:2 if they are dealt a blackjack (any card valued at 10 plus an ace), and the dealer does not have a blackjack.
- A player loses their stake if they go bust, regardless of the dealer’s hand.
- A player loses their stake if the value of their hand is lower than the value of the dealer’s hand.
- A player’s stake is returned if the value of their hand is the same as the value of the dealer’s hand.
- A player’s stake is returned if they and the dealer are both dealt a blackjack.
The round is over once all bets are settled, and a new round begins.
Step by Step Guide To Playing Blackjack
To help make the rules of blackjack as clear as possible, we have provided the following step by step guide to playing. We’ve included some screenshots from playing blackjack at an online casino to illustrate certain scenarios.
Starting a Hand
At the start of a hand, you must place your chosen stake in an available betting spot. All blackjack tables have a minimum and a maximum stake, so the amount you place must be within those limits.
You will be dealt two cards once you have placed your stake. Both will be face up. The dealer will also receive two cards, but only one will be face up. You’ll notice in the screenshot below that the player has been dealt an ace as one of their cards. This can be valued at either 1 or 11, so the player’s hand at this point could be worth 8 or 18.
Hitting or Standing
After you have been dealt your hand, you must decide how to act. The two standard options are to hit or stand. If you stand you will receive no more cards, so you then just have to wait to see what happens with the dealer’s hand. If you hit, you will receive another card. You can keep hitting until your hand values 21 or you go bust. If you go bust, you will lose your stake at that point.
In some circumstances you may have other options available to you, in addition to standing or hitting.
If the dealer’s exposed card is an ace, you will be given the option to insure against the dealer having a blackjack. An insurance bet will cost you half your original stake. It pays out at 2:1 if the dealer does have a blackjack and loses if they don’t.
If you are dealt two cards of the same value, you will have the option to split those cards into two hands. You have to place additional chips to the value of your initial stake if you choose to do this. Each card will then form a new hand, and a further card will be dealt to each new hand. You then play those two hands as normal, with your initial stake on one hand and your additional stake on the other.
In some situations you will be able to double your stake once your initial two cards have been dealt. The exact rules of the blackjack variant you are playing will determine when you can double. In some variants you can double on any two cards, in others you can only double when your initial two cards equal a total value of 9, 10, or 11.
When you double you are dealt one more card only. You then have to stick regardless of what this additional card is. It can be a very attractive bet in some circumstances, such as the one illustrated in the screenshot below. There is around a 40% chance the dealer will go bust when showing a 6, so this is an excellent spot to double. There is also a good chance of the next card being a 10 value card (around 30%), resulting in 21 for the player.
In some blackjack variants you have the option to surrender after your initial two cards are dealt. When you surrender you forfeit half your stake, and take no further part in the round. This might seem like a crazy thing to do, but it can actually be the right decision in some circumstances. For example, if the dealer is showing a ten and you have 16 then your chances of winning the hand are below 50%. Surrendering in this position would save you money in the long run.
When the play gets around to the dealer, their options are limited. They can’t split, double, or surrender. They can only hit or stand, and they don’t actually get to make a decision as they have to follow fixed rules. They must stand if they have 17 or above, and they must hit when they have 16 or below. If they go bust then all the players still in the round will win.