How to play Blackjack

How to play Blackjack

If you’re looking for online Blackjack you’ve come to the right place!

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games by far – and also one of the most intimidating for newbies.

The basic rules of Blackjack are simple, but you need to know a bit about strategy, probability, and how to trust your instincts.

Casino Football has compiled this handy Blackjack guide to how to play this genuinely skillful and fast game.

Atlantic City Blackjack (8 decks, Surrender option)

Bonus Blackjack (2 decks, bonus side bet)

European Blackjack (2 decks)

High Limit Blackjack (5 decks)

Multi-hand Blackjack (5 decks, 5 separate hands)

Spanish Blackjack (8 special decks, bonus hands)

Triple 7s Blackjack (5 decks, progressive jackpot)

Vegas Downtown Blackjack (2 decks)

Vegas Strip Blackjack (4 decks)

Single Player Blackjack (8 decks, Surrender option)

Multi-Player Blackjack (8 Decks, Chat feature)

Multi-Hand Blackjack (5 Decks, 5 separate hands)

Blackjack (2 Decks, No Surrender)

Multi-Hand Blackjack (5 Decks, 5 separate hands)

Multi-Split Blackjack (8 Decks, up to 8 hands)

Single Deck Blackjack (1 Deck, Insurance option)

Multi-Hand Blackjack (5 Decks, 5 separate hands)

Multi-Player Blackjack (8 Decks, Chat feature)

Blackjack (4 Decks, Surrender)

Single Deck Blackjack (1 Deck, Split option)

Double Exposure 21 (Fun Blackjack variant)

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How to Play the game of Blackjack

Premise of the game of Blackjack You are trying to have a hand value that is closer to 21 than that of the dealer, without going over 21. The game of Blackjack is strictly between you and the dealer. The rules of play for the dealer are fixed in each variant of the game, leaving no decisions up to the dealer. The player cards are all dealt face up.

Card Values In Blackjack, the cards are valued as follows:

An Ace counts as either 1 or 11, as explained below.

The cards from 2 to 9 are valued as indicated.

The 10, Jack, Queen, and King are all valued at 10.

The suits of the cards have no significance in the game.

The value of a hand is simply the sum of the point counts of each card in the hand. For example, a hand containing a 5, a 7 and a 9 has the value of 21.

The Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11. You need not specify which value the Ace has as it’s assumed to always have the value that makes the best hand.

For example, suppose that you have the beginning hand Ace and 6. This hand can be either 7 or 17. If you draw another card to the hand and now have Ace, 6 and 3, your total hand is now 20, with the Ace counting as 11. Why not take a look at our Mobile Blackjack games on offer today and see how to play the game yourself.

If you had instead drawn a third card which was an 8, your hand is now Ace, 6 and 8 which totals 15. Now the Ace is counted as 1 to avoid going over 21.

A hand containing an Ace is called a “soft” total if the Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11 without the total going over 21. E.g., Ace and 6 is a soft 17. The description stems from the fact that the player can always draw another card to a soft total with no danger of “busting” by going over 21.

The hand Ace, 6 and 10 is a “hard” 17, since now the Ace must be counted as only 1, to prevent the hand go over 21.

Dealing the cards Bets are made first. After the bets are made, the dealer deals the cards to the players. You and the dealer have two cards each in most variants of the game at this stage. One or both of the dealer’s cards are exposed, depending on the particular variant of the game. Both of your cards can be seen.

Once the cards are dealt, play begins.

How the dealer plays his hand The dealer plays his hand in a specific way, with no choices allowed. There are two popular rule variations that determine what totals the dealer must draw to. In any given game, you can see which rule is in effect by looking at the Blackjack tabletop. Examples are:

Dealer stands on all 17s. This is the most common rule. In this case, the dealer must continue to take cards (“hit”) until his total is 17 or greater. An Ace in the dealer’s hand is always counted as 11 if possible without the dealer going over 21.
Dealer hits soft 17. This rule is identical except for what happens when the dealer has a soft total of 17. Hands such as Ace and 6; Ace, 5 and Ace; and Ace, 2 and 4, are all examples of soft 17. The dealer hits these hands, and stands on soft 18 or higher, or hard 17 or higher. This rule slightly increases the house advantage against the players.

The dealer cannot split pairs, but must instead simply hit until he reaches at least 17 or busts by going over 21.

What is a natural Blackjack? A Blackjack, or natural, is a total of 21 in your first two cards. A Blackjack is an Ace and any ten-valued card, with the additional requirement that these be your first two cards. If you split a pair of Aces for example, and then draw a ten-valued card on one of the Aces, this is not a Blackjack, but rather a total of 21. This is an important distinction, because a winning Blackjack pays the player odds of 3 to 2.

A player Blackjack beats any dealer total other than a dealer’s Blackjack, including a dealer’s regular 21. If both a player and the dealer make Blackjack, the hand is a tie or push.

Playing the Game of Blackjack

Surrender Certain variants of Blackjack allow you to surrender. If offered, this decision must be made before any other choice about playing your hand. The Blackjack games that offer this option fall into two categories: Early vs Late.

Surrender offers you as a player the choice to fold your hand, at the cost of half of the original bet. You must make that decision prior to taking any other action on the hand. For example, once you draw a third card, or split, or double down, surrender is no longer an option.

The two varieties of surrender, early and late, differ only in the way a dealer Blackjack is handled. In an early surrender game, a player may choose to surrender before the dealer checks his cards for a Blackjack, offering a cheap way out even if the dealer turns out to have a Blackjack. Because this offers a healthy advantage to the player, early surrender is rarely offered. The much more common variation is late surrender, where the dealer checks for Blackjack first, and then only if he does not have Blackjack will allow players to surrender their hands.

Surrender is a nice rule to have available if wisely used. Unfortunately, many players surrender far too many hands. If you play in a Blackjack game with surrender, use basic Blackjack strategy as explained in our other pages to determine when surrender is the appropriate play. Mega Moolah is another fantastic game on offer at Casino Football, go on try it out.

To lose less with surrender, you must be only 25% likely to win the hand (ignoring pushes). That is, if you lose 75% of the time, and win only 25% of the time, your net loss is about 50% of your bets, equal to the amount you’ll lose guaranteed by surrendering. So, learn to use the surrender option, but make sure you know when it is appropriate.

Hit or Stand? The most common decision a player must make in Blackjack is whether to draw another card to the hand (“hit”), or stop at the current total (“stand”). This is easily done online by choosing one of the options onscreen.

Doubling Down This can only be done with a two card hand, before another card has been drawn. Doubling down allows you to double your bet and receive only one more card to the hand. E.g., when you hold a total of 11, say a 6 and a 5 against a dealer’s exposed hand of 5. In this case, you have a good chance of winning the hand by drawing one additional card, so you might as well increase your bet. The option will be available to you onscreen.

In land-based casino Blackjack games, players are allowed to double down for any amount up to the original bet amount, so you could double down “for less” if you wanted. In online Blackjack it is only possible to double down the full value of your original bet.

Look at the basic Blackjack strategy to see when it is appropriate to double down.

Blackjack cards

Blackjack cards

Splitting Pairs When you are dealt a matching pair of cards (matching values only, suits are ignored), you have the ability to split the hand into two separate hands, and play them independently. Let’s say you are dealt a pair of 8’s for a total of 16. Sixteen is the worst possible player hand in Blackjack, since it is unlikely to win as is, but is very likely to bust if you draw to it. Splitting offers you a chance to improve the odds.

Choose the split option, and the dealer will separate the two cards, and treat them as two independent hands. If for example you draw a 3 on the first 8 you now have a total of 11 for the first hand. Many Blackjack game variants will allow you to double down on that hand total of 11 at this point. When this is allowed, the rule is called “Double after Split”. You then play the first hand to completion. Then the dealer will deal a second card to the second hand, and you can begin making play decisions on it.

If you get additional pairs (in the first two cards of a hand), many casinos will allow you to re-split, making yet another hand. The most common rule allows a player to split up to 3 times, making 4 separate hands, with 4 separate bets. If double after split is allowed, you could have up to 8 times your initial bet on the table if you chose. Some casinos and Blackjack variants restrict re-splitting, and some allow unlimited splitting. It is not a good idea to split pairs of 10’s. Keep the 20.

The other complication for pair splits concerns splitting Aces. Casinos restrict you to drawing only one additional card on each Ace. Also, if you draw a ten-valued card on one of your split Aces, the hand is not considered a Blackjack, but is instead treated as a normal 21, and therefore does not collect 3 to 2 odds. However, it is always good Blackjack strategy to split pairs of Aces.

Insurance Insurance is perhaps the least understood of all the commonly available rules for Blackjack. Our resident Blackjack expert Pete thinks that this is not necessarily a bad thing because the insurance bet is normally a poor bet for the player, with a high house advantage.

For example, if the dealer turns an up-card of an Ace, he will offer “Insurance” to the players. Insurance bets can be made by betting up to half your original bet amount by selecting the insurance button onscreen. The dealer will check to see if he has a 10-value card underneath his Ace, and if he does have Blackjack, your winning Insurance bet will be paid at odds of 2:1. You’ll lose your original bet of course (unless you also have a Blackjack), so the net effect is that you break even (assuming you bet the full half bet for insurance). The bet is described as “insurance” as it seems to protect your original bet against a dealer Blackjack. Of course, if the dealer does not have Blackjack, you’ll lose the insurance bet, and still have to play the original bet out.

Insurance is actually a side-bet, where you are offered 2:1 odds that the dealer has a 10-valued card underneath (“in the hole”). In a single deck Blackjack game, there are 16 ten-valued cards. Assuming that you don’t see any other cards, including your own, the tens compose 16 out of 51 remaining cards after the dealer’s Ace was removed. For the insurance bet to be a break-even bet, the hole card would have to be a ten 1 out of 3 times, but 16/51 is only 1 in 3.1875.

The basic Blackjack strategy player should simply never take the insurance bet.