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Blackjack Rules

Blackjack is the most popular casino table game in the world. It is also one of the few games where players have an actual edge over the house. The game is simple to understand and very easy to learn. This tutorial will cover the basic rules needed to play Blackjack.

Blackjack Basics
Blackjack can be played with anywhere from 1 to 8 decks of cards. More decks equals more of an advantage to the house, where as less decks equals more of an advantage for the player. Most casinos will offer a limited amount of tables with single or double-deck blackjack, with some not offering it whatsoever.

Table limits normally start at a minimum of $5 and have a maximum betting cap ranging anywhere from $100 to $50,000 (note: this figure ONLY exists at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas). Tables will normally accommodate up to 6 players, with the action starting from the dealer’s left to right. The dealer will always be the last to act in the game of Blackjack.

The game starts as soon as the player pushes in their bet into the appropriate betting circle. It should be noted that higher-denomination chips should be placed on the bottom of the stack, with lower-denomination ones being stacked towards the top. Once the dealer has instructed the players that no more bets can be placed, the cards will then be dealt out.

All cards that are dealt out to the player(s) are dealt face-up, with the dealer taking their first card face-down and their second card face-up. Players have a variety of options to choose from after their first 2 cards are dealt out. However, analyzing the dealer’s up-card is essential to making the decision to “hit” or “stand” on your own hand.

Players will normally stand on anything from 16 to 21, and will normally take a hit on anything 11 and below. Players can hit as many times as they please as long as they don’t go over 21. Taking multiple cards (hits) is a calculated risk that must be taken if the dealer is showing a strong up card such as a face card or an Ace.

Playing and Winning in Blackjack
Blackjack, also referred to as “21,” is played on a points system that gives numeric values (see “Blackjack Card Values” below) to every card in a single deck of playing cards. 21 is the best score one can achieve in the game, and players should be focusing on getting as close to that number as possible without “busting.” Players who score a 21 on their hand will not only have “Blackjack,” but they’ll automatically win and also get paid 3:2 on their bet.

Players who beat the dealer’s hole cards will also get paid double their original bet, provided they have a number equal to or less than 21. If the dealer busts, players will also get paid out accordingly as long as they too have not busted.

Note: If the dealer is dealt Blackjack - or 21 - all losing bets are immediately collected from the players. The only time a player will not forfeit their bet on a dealer Blackjack is if they too have 21.

Blackjack Card Values
  • Each card numbered at 10 and below (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) have a value equal to their actual number. Suits have no effect on the value (4 of clubs will have the same value as a 4 of diamonds). For example, if a player draws the following cards: 2, 5, and 8 - the value of all three would be 15.

  • Face cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings) all have values equaling 10. Like numbered cards, different suits have no effect on the value of the face cards. For example, if a player draws a Jack and a King for their first two up-cards, that will equal a 20 - the second-highest score behind a Blackjack or 21.

  • The last card - the Ace - has a special value in Blackjack. It can count as either 1 or 11, with the actual number being dependent on what helps out the most with a particular hand. Being dealt an Ace and any face card is an automatic Blackjack and the player will be paid out 3:2 immediately.

Blackjack Terms

When a player chooses to take another card after their initial 2 are dealt out. Players can hit as many times as they wish, provided they do not bust.
When a player chooses to not take any more cards. This will normally occur if a player has a semi-decent holding or if the dealer is showing a weak up-card.
Double or Double Down
This occurs when a player doubles his wager after the first two cards are dealt. When a player chooses to double it normally means they feel they have a great chance of making a winning hand on their 3rd card, subsequently winning more money. When a player doubles, the wager must be placed next to their original bet before the request for a 3rd card is made.
This can be done when a player has two identically numbered cards dealt to them on the initial deal. Basically, both cards are split and a new wager is made - essentially making 2 hands. To split, a player must put in an identical wager to their original one before the next cards are dealt out to the split hand.
An option given to players that allows them to give up their cards and half their original wager if he/she feels they have a hand that cannot win against the dealer’s. This is only allowed in some land-based casinos.
Bust or Break
If a player’s cards exceed 21, then they have gone “bust.” Their original bets are immediately taken by the dealer once this happens.

For further reading on gambling related rules you may want to check out the poker rules section at our sister site.