Last Updated on 09/22/2022
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
While the rules of blackjack can vary, the aim is to beat the house without going over 21. This can involve drawing a higher hand than the dealer, or a value of 21 (blackjack) on your first two cards.
The game – one of the most popular in the world – is played on a table with a deck of 52 cards and a number of other players. Whether you’re planning on gambling in a land-based or online casino, these blackjack rules will help you to get started and feel like a pro in no time.
At TheGruelingTruth.com we are seasoned experts, and we understand that if you’re brand new to betting you may be confused by what’s involved. In this article, we present blackjack rules in simple, easy-to-understand terms. While there’s never a guarantee of success in what’s ultimately a game of chance, our guide to the rules of blackjack will help prevent the common errors made by beginners and provide you with some basic strategy.
While it may be easier to get your head around the rules of Baccarat, many experienced gamblers find a greater level of satisfaction when playing games like casino blackjack. And rules can be mastered, so if Blackjack tickles your fancy, it’s well worth investing a little time into understanding the way in which it works.
There’s so much choice when it comes to blackjack. It’s a really fun game, with different casinos offering a wide range of wagering options to suit all budgets. You’ll frequently find new bettors staking small sums alongside high rollers in the same game. With many different strategies and options incorporated into the rules of blackjack, it has an incredibly broad bettor suitability.
The game is thought to have originated either with the gambling loving Romans, or in France as Vingt-et-Un. It was brought to the US by French colonists sometime in the late 17th or early 18th century. But it wasn’t until the 1930s, when casinos experienced a golden era, that it really became a staple across America’s gambling institutions. If you’d like to find out more about its history, you can visit the Blackjack Hall of Fame in the Barona Resort and Casino, San Diego.
A casino’s blackjack rules may vary, however, there are some basic principles that are applicable across the board. Firstly, between two and seven players will take their seats (real or virtual) around the blackjack table and place their bets in ‘boxes’. Whether you play Blackjack rules simple or more complex, the same basic principle applies.
We’ve established that the aim of blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand without exceeding a total of 21. So you therefore need to know the value of each card. These are as follows:
Everyone in the game, including the dealer, is dealt two cards. The players’ cards are placed face up, but one of the dealer’s cards remains hidden until the end. If at this stage – or at any point in the game – you get a score of over 21 you ‘bust’ and the round goes to the dealer. A bust may also be referred to as a ‘dead hand’.
If you get a score of 21 exactly, you have a blackjack, winning in the region of one and a half times your bet. In the event both the dealer and the player have 21 points, it results in a ‘push’ meaning neither wins or loses.
According to casino blackjack rules, if you land a score somewhere beneath 21 you can choose to ‘hit’, which requests a further card from the dealer. Or you can maintain your score and miss your turn by choosing to ‘stand’.
Players can also choose to ‘double down’ after the first two cards have been dealt. This allows the player one additional card and doubles the value of the bet. But you’ll need to stand after this turn. So it can be a risky strategy unless you have a lot of confidence in your hand.
The other option built into the rules of blackjack, is the ability to split, creating two separate hands. To do this you must have two of the same cards. As with doubling, this increases the bet’s value by 100%, as the player now has two different hands, both of which are in play. And, like doubling, you can only implement this after your first hand (including the first move of the new hand that’s created by splitting). Once two aces are split they can’t be played. However, you are able to double one or even both of your split hands, which effectively ups your original wager four times over. Be aware that some casinos will limit the number of occasions on which you can split.
Another term you may hear in relation to casino’s blackjack rules, is a ‘hard’ hand. This refers to the sum of your cards, based on numbers or face cards. A hard 8 for example, would be cards that add up to the number 8, but without using an Ace. This comes into play particularly when deciding whether to double down, as there are certain scenarios when this is a good strategy – sometimes involving hard hands.
When in possession of a hard nine, it’s a good idea to double down, provided the dealer’s visible card is a three, a 4, 5, or a 6. (Similarly, if you have a total of 10 or 11, double down, if the dealer’s upcard is not a 10 or an Ace). So always pay attention to your dealer’s hand.
You’ll also hear the term, a ‘soft’ hand. This is where a player holds an Ace, that can be used as either a 1 or an 11, ensuring they’re able to manipulate a hand to avoid going bust.
When calculating your strategy, it’s a good idea to use a blackjack rules chart that’s independently computer-generated or based on probability theory. The math of every possible outcome gets pretty complicated, so a science-based system is far more effective than your own hunches.
Players may be offered additional betting options. This includes a side bet called ‘insurance’, made available when the dealer’s upward-facing card is revealed as an Ace. In the event the dealer gets a blackjack on the second card, the player can still break even on the hand. The caveat is that this must be played before the face-down card is checked.
Some versions of the game include the opportunity to ‘surrender’. This enables the player to fold (based on the assumption they’ll be beaten by the dealer on the next draw), losing half, rather than the whole bet. Players must surrender ahead of receiving their next card, not after.
Another kind of bet you may come across in large brick-and-mortar casinos is the ability to ‘bet behind’. Gamblers can place a stake to bet behind any player at the table winning.
But ultimately you can make your game of blackjack as simple or as complex as you wish. While there is an opportunity to follow any number of avenues, you are free to just stick to the basics.
If you can’t get to a physical casino, you can still get involved. In fact, digital platforms provide a much wider range of choices with lots of juicy offers to incentivize new bettors. Blackjack can be played via a live video link, or in a virtual casino. Online casinos generally have the same blackjack rules, however, there may be specific caveats relating to the platform or brand – like bonus exclusions on certain games, minimum wagers, and the number of players involved. So do check your provider for the specific casino’s blackjack rules.
A great way to find your feet in blackjack is to play without using purely your own money. Most online casino brands will offer a reward for signing up, so check out those with a bonus geared to table games. This will give you some financial room to make your rookie errors, as the promos often provide cash back deals when wagering or give you bonus funds to extend your gameplay.
If you’d like an upbeat atmosphere for your game, look out for providers offering Blackjack Party, a version involving two dealers, good music and an entertaining premise. Or if you want to get the adrenaline pumping, you can try an online variation of the traditional game, such as Speed Blackjack, where the fastest players get their cards first. It eliminates the waiting around, as others take time over their next move decisions. Or if you want additional excitement, there’s Lightning Blackjack where lightning cards with multipliers attached, are dealt within each round, giving you the opportunity to win even bigger prizes!
Then there’s Power Blackjack, a live dealer game where all 9s and 10s have been removed from play. Do be aware if you try this one, that it has a strategy all of its own, so is probably better suited to those already au fait with the standard game. Infinite Blackjack enables you to win if you gather a total of six cards without going above a score of 21: a Six Card Charlie. This win applies regardless of whether the dealer gets 21.
Table games aren’t for everyone, especially as they can be a little more complicated than some other online casino games. You may find it easier to learn the bingo rules or work out how to win at slots as a means to gamble successfully. But blackjack has among the best house edge in the casino, making it a great game to enjoy for many. And if you’re struggling to remember all the blackjack rules you can always use a chart to help you. A blackjack rules chart displays all the possible outcomes and optional moves in those situations. Carrying a piece of paper may look a little strange in the casino pit, but if you’re playing online, no one needs to know you’re referring to a table for help. Remember that the cards are in your favor when you have a soft hand, and against you with a hard hand, and you’ll be off to a good start.
While the basic rules of blackjack are broadly the same, how each online platform and land-based casino operates, will vary. You should therefore check out casino guides before wagering any cash.
You’ll need to do some research before starting to play any game at a casino. Learning the rules of blackjack is a basic starting point, but to avoid rookie errors, it’s worth reading up on everything you need to know before playing live blackjack.
There could be any number of reasons for this. The first thing to do is to familiarize yourself with the rules of blackjack. Or you could try learning the rules of poker instead – this is a more strategic game to which you may be better suited.
Casinos have blackjack rules for a reason. This enables them to identify any issues with cheating and prevent unfair outcomes. Nevertheless, it can be hard to tell which brands are legitimate, so it’s always worth checking out our online casino guides and reviews before signing up to a site.
What constitutes the ‘best’ game is subjective, as it depends on your personal preferences. However, there are a number of platforms that are considered to be especially good for this particular game. As we have a great deal of experience playing across hundreds of brands, we’ve produced in-depth guides on the US’ most popular online casinos.