How to Play BlackJack

Play Blackjack - Ace & Jack playing cards

Blackjack is a card game where you compete against the dealer (not other players), to make the best hand up to a value of 21. A perfect hand of two cards totaling 21 is called Blackjack.

To play blackjack in a live casino, you place a bet on your hand before the cards are dealt. The aim of the game is to beat the dealer (not the other players), and win money.

How to play Blackjack

The game is played with one or more decks of 52 playing cards. It is quite common for live blackjack games to be played with 6-8 decks. Aces are valued at 1 or 11, other cards are at their numerical face value and face cards (Kings / Queens / Jacks) are valued at 10.

The games starts with the players placing their bets.  The dealer then deals two cards to each player. The cards are dealt face up, except for one of the dealers cards which is kept face down or not dealt until the players have completed their hands (depends on which variation is in operation at the casino). This is done to help with betting and playing strategies, and to ensure there is no cheating (in land based casinos you are not allowed to touch your cards).

Each player completes his hand before the dealer plays his.

You have the following options available to you when playing your hand.

  • Stand – You can chose not to take any more cards as you consider the hand you have to be good enough to beat the dealer.
  • Hit – Take another card to add to your existing total. You can keep taking cards until you choose to stand, make 21 or bust (go over 21 and lose).
  • Double – You can choose to take one additional card. This is normally done when your initial cards total up to 11 and the dealer is showing a 2-6 card. To double-down you have to place another bet to the value of your initial stake. You are then dealt one more card and have to stand regardless of the result. This is a standard strategy for increasing your bet and you can read about this and other strategies here.
  • Spilt – If you have been dealt two identical valued cards, i.e. 8’s, you may split them and create two new hands each with an 8 in them. An additional card is then dealt to each hand. You are required to replicate the initial bet on the second hand to be able to proceed. Both hands can now be played independently, until you stand or bust.
  • Surrender – This option is available on the initial two cards you are dealt. You have the option to surrender your hand for half of your wager. In online live dealer blackjack this option is quite rare and you can read the reviews here.

Once all players have completed their hands the dealer shows their second card and plays their hand. The dealer must do one of the following:

  • Stand on 17 or more
  • Take a card on 16 or less.

Aces can be counted as 1 or 11. In some variations of the game the dealer can be asked to take a card on a soft 17 (Ace + 6). This is normally displayed on the table. If it’s not then ask.

The dealer cannot split or double his hands.

Possible outcomes

You win:

  • 1:1 even money for beating the dealer.
  • 3:2 for a Blackjack.
  • 2:1 if the dealer has Blackjack and you have taken insurance.
  • Your bet returned if you have the same as the dealer, otherwise known as a Push.

You lose ­čÖü

Playing Variations

It’s not unusual for there to be slight variations in the rules of blackjack. These primarily exist to give the house (casino) a greater edge in winning. I discuss the house edge in more detail in the Blackjack strategies section of this site. Whilst this is interesting, you should be aware that Blackjack carries the least amount of house edge (it’s less than 1%) of any casino game and therefore offers the player the greatest opportunity to do well. I personally believe that Blackjack is a slow build game, one to be played for the long term, as that is where I have seen the best returns.

  • Split Aces – When you split aces you are only permitted to add one card to each ace. Any 21’s are counted as 21’s not blackjack, so you will only be paid 1:1.
  • No Double After split – Normally you can double down after splitting a pair, but at some establishments they do not permit this.
  • Re-splitting – Normally you can re-split if one of your split hands are dealt the same card as the original split cards. Sometimes a limit is placed on the number of times you can do this.
  • No Hole card – This is when the dealer does not deal his second card until all players have completed playing their hand.
  • Double on 9/10/11 only – Some casinos place restrictions on what value hands you can double on. Normally its on 9/10/11. (another restrictive practice designed to increase the house edge).
  • Dealer wins ties – Normally when the dealer ties your hand its called a push and your bet is returned to you. In this instance the dealer wins.

That’s it! the basics of how to play blackjack online. However to be successful you do need to understand some basic playing strategies. If you follow these then you stand a good chance of maximising your enjoyment and winning. You can always test them out at the free play sites┬ábefore playing for real at one of the sites that I’ve reviewed on Liveblackjacksites.com.