How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is definitely a household name. But sadly, the game seems to be lagging behind Poker when it comes to popularity. That’s a shame, because Blackjack is still one helluva kickass game. It’s not as telegenic as Poker (if TV and online coverage is any indication), but Blackjack still has all the tension and strategic depth than its more popular cousin.

But don’t take my word for it! You gotta try Blackjack for yourself to discover how great this game is. Luckily, Blackjack is pretty easy to learn (but difficult to master – and that’s something I always look for in a game). This article will serve as your introduction to Blackjack. I’ll be teaching you how to play Blackjack, providing basic Blackjack rules, as well as providing you with some tips on how to succeed at the game. Hopefully, this blog post will reduce the learning curve, and make your journey to Blackjack mastery a bit quicker. This article will be your first step to Blackjack card rules. So let’s get started, shall we?

how do you play blackjack

The History of Blackjack

Blackjack has enough history to fill a book, but you don’t need to know all of it to be able to enjoy the game. For now, a short history will suffice. Blackjack has been around in some shape or form for hundreds of years. But in the early 20th century, casinos and gambling houses decided to promote the game by offering additional cash incentives. Players would receive a bonus if they held an Ace of Spades, and either a Jack of Spades or a Jack of Clubs, hence the name “Blackjack.”

history of blackjack

The Object of the Game

But before being called Blackjack, the game was called “Twenty One” (and other minor variations). And that’s exactly what the goal of the game is: to build a hand that beats the dealer. You achieve this by getting as close to twenty-one as possible, without going over.

Cards have their written, or pip, value (for example, a 2 of any suit has a value of 2; a 10 of any suit has a value of 10, and so on). Face cards have a value of 10, and aces are worth either 1 of 10. As you could tell, aces offer the most options for players, and that is why aces are more often than not the best card you could hope to draw.

Like Poker, Blackjack has several variations. But getting a hand value of 21 twenty-one is always the general goal. That said, there are two common variations you should know about: house rules, and casino rules. House rules are played at home, and each player takes turns being the dealer. Under casino rules, the house is always the dealer. Unlike in poker, players in casino-rules games play against the house, not each other. This leads to a slightly better edge for players, which partly explains the popularity of this game.

objective of blackjack

The Set-Up

For home games, all you will need is a pack of standard 52-card playing cards. This will form the deck suitable to all rules of Blackjack. Some casinos will use six decks combined to create a pool of 312 cards.

52-card playing cards

Betting and Dealing

Players place their bets before the cards are dealt. Betting limits depend on the rules of the house game or casinos, but they are generally a minimum of $2 per game, to a maximum of $500 per game. Bets made cannot be returned. This puts the dealer at a distinct advantage, since he or she will be able to see how the other players make their bets.

After betting each player gets two cards dealt face-up. The dealer gets one card face-up, and another face-down.

If a player’s total hand value is 9, 10, or 11, that player can opt to double down. If the player has two 5 cards, that player may choose to split the pair (which will be discussed later). If the player chooses to double down, he or she must double the original bet. After which, a third card is dealt.

blackjack betting

The Natural

If any player’s opening hand totals 21, this is called a Natural. If the dealer’s face-up card is either a 10 or an ace, they are allowed to look at the second card to check if they have a Natural.

If you’re lucky enough to have a Natural while the dealer doesn’t, the dealer will pay you back one and a half times your bet. If the dealer has a Natural, he or she collects all the bets of players who don’t have Naturals.

If a player and the dealer both have Naturals, that is considered a tie, and the player gets to take back their bet.

blackjack natural

Playing Blackjack

Under blackjack rules, once bets have been made and Naturals, if any, are accounted for, play goes clockwise from the dealer’s left. Each player can either opt to “stand” (not ask for a third card) or “hit” (ask for a third card). Standing means the player is as close to 21 as they think they can reasonably get, while hitting means the player feels they have a chance at making 21 without going over it. A player may keep asking for additional cards, but this, of course, increases the risk of going over 21. If a player does go over 21, this is considered a “bust.” When a player busts, they lose, and the dealer collects their bet.

Playing Blackjack

How to Signal Like a Pro

Players can verbally mention if they’d like to stand or hit, and that’s perfectly fine. But the coolest way to signal your intention to the dealer is via some established hand signals. Flicking a couple of fingers on the table towards yourself means “hit” while moving your hand across the table with the palm facing down means you’d like to stand.

blackjack hand signals

Soft Hand

A hand with an ace and any card other than a 10 card is called a “soft hand.” The ace, as mentioned a while ago, can be counted as either a 1 or a 10. For example, a hand that has an ace and a 9 is a soft hand. The hand can total either 10 or 20, and it’s up to the player to decide whether to stand or risk it all by hitting.

If the total of a player’s hand with an ace and another card will result in a bust, that player can (and should) count the ace as a 1 instead. In which case, the player can keep asking for additional cards to get as close to 21 as possible.

blackjack soft hand

How the Dealer Plays

Under Blackjack card game rules, all the moves of the dealer are pre-determined. After all players have received their cards, the dealer reveals his or her face-down card. If the total value of the cards is 17 , the dealer has to stand. If less than that, the dealer has to hit. If the dealer has an ace, and if counting it as 11 would result in 17 and more (but not over 21), the dealer will count that ace as an 11 and stand.

how the blackjack dealer plays

Splitting Pairs

According to the rules to Blackjack, if the two cards in your opening hand are of the same value, you can treat them as two separate hands. Your bet will apply to one hand, and you will have to bet an equal amount on the other hand. You then put one hand on the left, and the other on the right. You decide to hit or stand with the left hand, then do the same with the right hand.

blackjack splitting pairs

Beginner-Friendly Strategies

So the above items included the basic rules for Blackjack. Now it’s time to give you a few basic strategies. These tips hardly scratch the surface of the game, but they’re decent, beginner-friendly ways to improve your game.

General Strategy

You win in Blackjack by playing your hand optimally. If the dealer has a good face-up card, say, 7 to 10, or an Ace, you should not stop hitting until your hand reaches 17. If the dealer’s face-up card is bad, say 4 to 6, you shouldn’t stop hitting until your hand reaches 12 or higher. Basically, never hit if there’s a big risk of you going bust. Also, you’ll want to let the dealer keep hitting, and hopefully go bust.

17 blackjack


Always split your hand if you are dealt a pair of 8s or aces. A hand with two 10 cards should never be split, as is with a hand with two 5s. Doubling-down would be a better strategy for these hands. Generally, you shouldn’t split hands that total 8 or above.

blackjack splitting


If your hand totals 11, a rule of thumb is always to double down. If your hand totals 10, you should not double down if the dealer gets a 10 or an ace. If your hand totals 9, you should only double down if the dealer gets a crappy hand.

blackjack Doubling-Down

Soft Hands

If you get a soft hand, you’ll want to keep hitting until you get at least 18. The variable value of the ace will offset some of the risks of hitting, while maximizing your chances of getting 21.

blackjack soft hands

One Comment
  1. Darren Esperilla January 24, 2019

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