How to Play Blackjack
Blackjack is a simple card game that has more
players than roulette, craps, and baccarat
Blackjack is mainly a luck and chance game,
but also a strategy game.
You too can have a dalliance with lady luck
on one of the most popular casino games on
For the True Beginner
Learn the value of the cards.
In Blackjack, each card has a value that remains
constant throughout the game.
The goal is to beat the dealer and also not
bust with a 22 or more.
Here are their values: Number cards: The number
is the value of the card.
Face cards: The value of face cards is 10.
Ace: Either 1 or 11.
It is counted as 11 (…generally) unless
it would put you over 21, in which case it
counts as 1.
Therefore, an ace and a ten card are 21 in
two cards, which is Blackjack/Natural.
A hand containing an ace is called “soft”
Learn your choices: There are two basic options
when it’s your turn:
Hit: Get another card.
You are able to hit until you go over 21.
Stand: Keep your current cards and do nothing.
You do not receive more cards.
There are also a few extra possibilities you
can use for certain hands:
Taking insurance: This is only available when
the dealer is showing an ace.
You place a new bet that will then pay at
2-1 if the dealer does indeed have a blackjack.
You lose your other bet (which would pay 1-1)
but win the insurance, resulting in breaking
Double Down: You double your bet, and get
only one more card.
This is generally only used when your initial
two cards equal 8-11 or soft 12 to soft 19.
Split: Make two hands from one hand, if both
cards are the same value.
Tens, Jacks, Queens, and Kings are usually
counted as 10 each.
If both of your hands win, you get double
the amount of money.
If only one wins, you break even.
If both hands lose, you lose double the money.
Split the hands by separating the cards and
placing a duplicate bet.
Surrender: In many casinos, you can (before
playing and after determining if the dealer
has a blackjack) choose to give up half of
your bet without playing.
Surrender is only desirable when the dealer
is showing a 9-A, and the player has a 5-7
When the dealer has an ace, he or she automatically
checks to see if a blackjack is had.
Early surrender is when you opt out of half
your bet before the dealer checks for a blackjack
on his/her behalf.
In order to win, the player has to be closer
to 21 than the dealer, without going over.
If the player goes over, he has “busted.”
If it’s a tie, it’s a “push” — neither the
player nor the house wins.
A blackjack is when your starting hand is
an ace and 10, or face card.
The dealer will go around the players until
each one decides to stand.
He then plays his own hand, which determines
the outcome of the game.
Obviously, each hand is different.
Generally, players using copy the dealer hit
on 16 or less.
This is a bad strategy.
The never bust strategy is a little better,
but it is still a bad strategy.
The casino’s greatest advantage (the “house
edge”) is that the player has to act first.
If a player “busts” (goes over 21), the casino
immediately takes the player’s money.
If the casino then “busts” on the same hand,
the player still loses.
The dealer is the last one to play the hand.
Rules & Strategy
Understand the “House rules.”
Most casinos always “stand” on 17 and greater.
Some will “hit” a “soft 17” (any 6 and an
Some casinos (though rarely) require an “ante”
like in poker (play in those casinos favors
the house as much as 20%).
You’ll quickly gather your casino’s rules
when you sit down to play.
Casinos have varying rules on insurance, splitting,
and doubling down when it comes to how and
when you can do it.
Your dealer will surely let you know it if
comes to this.
For example, some casinos won’t let you split
a third Ace; for surrendering, some abide
by early or late surrender only.
Recognize the implications of insurance, splitting,
doubling down and surrender.
All of the extra actions favor the house when
used incorrectly — it wouldn’t be a casino
game if the opposite were true!
When making an insurance bet, you are betting
that the dealer’s hole card is a 10, Jack,
Queen or King.
There are 13 potential ranks of cards in the
You have less than a 1 and 3 chance of it
The best time to make an insurance bet is
when the count is (whatever you found it to
If the dealer turns out to have a blackjack,
you will have a “push” (tie) with the dealer;
your insurance bet will pay 2-1 which pays
better than the original bet of 3-2!
When doubling down, you only get one card.
You may not like the hand you end up with.
In fact, that is what the casino is counting
Never double down if the dealer is an ace
or a face card (unless you have 11).
Splitting can turn an excellent hand into
a terrible one, and vice versa.
Here are some rules of thumb: Never split
5’s — your total is 10; you are likely to
Always split 8’s and Aces.
Splitting 8’s will change probable losers
to probable winners.
Splitting Aces is advantageous, but understand
this: You are only allowed to split Aces once
(sometimes), and you can only take one card
for each new hand (sometimes.)
Some casinos did this because splitting Aces,
without any restriction, is a great advantage.
Once you have “surrendered” your hand, the
dealer’s actions are unimportant (to you).
If the dealer’s hand goes sour, you have already
Understand card counting.
You’re not literally counting the value of
all the cards.
What some players do (when they’re really
good) is count the “value” of the deck, or,
more specifically, how many aces and tens
are left to be played (or this and that.)
If lots are still to be seen, they up their
bets, knowing the likelihood of them getting
a good hand is better.
Casinos have caught onto this, however, and
most now use multiple decks in the shoe or
cut the deck or both.
With six decks in play and more cards taken
out, it’s not likely with low penetration
to track the number of good cards in the deck.
Because of this, card counting will not be
Refer to wikiHow’s card counting page if you’re
interested in the details.
Casino Play & Etiquette
Grab a seat at an open table.
When the hand is over (if you’re not alone
at the table), whip out your stack of money
and tell the dealer what denomination of chips
He or she will take your money and exchange
it for a pile of chips.
Then, you place your bet in the betting box
and away you go!
If you’re a newbie to the blackjack game,
you may want to avoid the seat on the far
left of the table (third base.)
Since this is the spot that comes right before
the dealer, you’re likely to get a lot of
heat if you’re the reason the dealer turns
up a 5, or any good card for themselves, though
you may be congratulated if you make the dealer
Though obviously not logical, no one said
humans, and gamblers especially ever were.
Start using your hands.
At a casino’s blackjack table, being mute
would go entirely unnoticed.
You don’t need a single word to play the game.
In fact, you’d blend into the crowd more if
you never opened your mouth.
For hitting, either tap the table with a finger
or two or scrape the table with the edge of
For standing, place your chips on top of your
cards, face down or wave your hand palm down
horizontally over your cards.
For splitting, add another bet and point 2
For doubling down, add another bet to your
betting box and point 1 finger.
Assume the dealer has a ten.
When it comes down to it, that card facing
down has better odds of being a ten (or worth
10) than any other value. If he or she
is showing a 6 or lower, the idea is they’ll
That’s the basic strategy.
You should take into account both your cards
and their cards.
If you have sixteen and the dealer is showing
a six, stand.
They have to take a card unless they have
But if you have sixteen and the dealer is
showing a 7…well, that decision is up to
If you’re alone at a table or with a friendly
group, people and/or the dealer will probably
be happy to give you advice if you ask.
Know when to walk away.
Just like in poker, blackjack has hot and
It doesn’t take a pro to be able to recognize
this — you’ll know when you’re running out
If you’re observant, you’ll probably be able
to tell which table is running hot just by
A good rule of thumb is to up your bet in
If you win two $5 bets and then lose a $10
bet, you’re still even!
When your winning streak stops, resume your
initial minimum bet until the table goes hot
Basic rules of thumb are to always stand hard
17 and over, never stand a soft 17, double
soft hands A,2 and A,3 vs 5-6, A,4 and A,5
vs 4-6, and A,6 and A,7 vs 3-6.
In informal blackjack games, the last player
to have a Blackjack is the dealer.
This may seem unfair, but here’s why: The
dealer might lose to multiple players at one
He is risking far more per play, and he has
to stay within the boundaries of when he must
hit and stand.
A good place to double down is at 11.
A common misunderstanding of the rules is
that, on a push (a tie), the dealer wins.
This is only true in a bad party (informal)
At the casino, a “push” means no one loses
money and the dealer does not win.
“Stand” on hard 17+.
Most casinos will not allow the dealer to
take a “hit” if there is 17 showing in the
dealer’s hand, so it is usually “safe” to
stand on 17.
Forget card counting unless you will put a
whole year of effort into it.
It converts the casino’s .36% advantage to
a .5% advantage for you.
Which means if you make $1000 total bets over
an hour, you will win $5 on average, if you
don’t screw up!
Such strategies break down when many players
are at a table.
Card counters are notoriously easy to pick
If you are playing at a table by yourself,
you will be even more obvious.
Better idea: Go and have a good time playing
basic strategy, if you are careful, you might
even win some.
If the dealer is showing a face card or an
ace (especially an ace), consider if you should
If you are holding 15 or 16, the chances are
you will bust (more likely than not).
If the dealer is showing an ace, no matter
how bad his first draw is (if he needs to),
he will always be able to draw again.
This is a tremendous advantage to the house.
Try not to take another “hit” when you have
You will usually go over (30% chance) and
lose the round, especially if the dealer is
Learn the basic blackjack playing strategy.
The casinos only have a 0.36% advantage if
you use it.
They would have a 0.2% if you played according
to your individual cards too.
If you don’t have enough money to double or
split, hand some cash for the chips.
The edge for the house goes up 1.9%.
Do not play while drunk.
You will lose your money by doing silly things
with your hand.