How to Play Blackjack: A Complete Guide

When gaming staples like chess and checkers lose their spark, you need something with that extra dash of danger and high stakes other games miss out on. If you live in a state with legalized gambling, casinos are a great place to play these kinds of games, but you’re setting yourself up to lose some serious funds if you go in half-cocked without any idea how to play these games.

So what options do you have?

Well, we’re glad you asked. With our complete guide on how to lay blackjack, you’ll be all set to become an expert at one of America’s most popular gambling games! Now draw those cards and let’s get into things!

How to Play Blackjack

In most casino settings, blackjack will consist of around 4-8 people sitting around a semi-circular table facing a dealer. Different games also utilize a different number of decks, which helps further randomize the odds and allows for more players.

If playing an in-person game, pay attention to whether or not the dealer holds the deck in their hands or uses a shoe (a translucent box that stacks multiple decks together, reducing the ability of others to manipulate the deck). This is because many casinos that use shoes in blackjack games will not let you touch the cards the dealer gives you to avoid cheating. 

To win blackjack, you want your cards to equal a value of 21. If they don’t, you want to aim for a value as close to 21 as you can get without going over. Exceed 21, and you “bust”, which means an automatic loss. 

If you get the same value as your dealer, you tie (or push), meaning that neither party gets any winnings. 

While there are other players at the table, the only person you need to beat is the dealer. You win the round if the dealer either busts or has a lower-value hand than you do. That said, you do take your winnings from the betting pool all players (sans the dealer) put their bets into. 

Card Values

It’s also important to note how cards are valued within blackjack. All number cards are worth their base value (i.e, a 2 of any suit is still worth 2). Face cards (jack, queen, and king) are worth 10 points, while an ace is worth either 1 or 11 points.

You decide which value you want the ace to have based on the cards you have in your hand. For example, if you have a 5 and a 9 in your hand and drew an ace, you’ll want to treat the value as 1 because counting it as an 11 would bust your hand. 

A Standard Game

Every game starts with bet placement from the players. Unlike poker, this happens before you see your cards.

Once that’s done, the dealer will give each player two cards from the deck face-up and give themselves one face-up card and one face-down (or hole) card. Starting with the leftmost player to the dealer, each player chooses what action they want to take based on the cards in their hands.

For those who don’t hit 21, the most common action is asking for a hit. You do so by tapping in front of you on the table or gesturing at the dealer.

This action tells the dealer to give you another card to add towards your point total. You can hit as many times as you want until you either reach 21 or bust. 

Once you’ve gotten as close as you can to 21, wave your hands over your cards. This tells the dealer that you want to stand, or pass the turn to the next player. 

Bonus Actions

If your hand consists of two cards you think could pull more weight apart, you can put an equivalent second bet into the circle to tell the dealer you want to split the pair. This lets you play with two hands, each one holding one of your original cards.

The dealer will then hit your first hand with a new card. From there, you can either get more cards or pass the turn, at which point you decide your actions for the second hand.

Finally, you can place added chips beside your initial bet to show the dealer you want to double down. This means that you get bigger winnings if you win, but the dealer takes more if you lose and you’re limited to one hit that turn. Unless you’re sure you’ve got a game-breaking hand, use this option with caution. 

Bonus Rules

Of course, all sorts of in-person and online casinos play blackjack differently, and there are often special house rules you’ll need to watch out for (though all tables will tell you what these rules are in advance). 

For example, some tables use a “must hit soft 17” rule, which will force the dealer to keep hitting cards if they have a soft hand (using an ace for 11 value) until they have a hard hand (where the ace has to count for 1 point, otherwise the hand would bust) that equals 17 or more.

Some casinos will also let you surrender your hand, or only lose half your bet in exchange for admitting defeat that round. You must take this action at the start of your turn, or the option is gone for you until the next game. This is useful if you get dealt a terrible hand and don’t see a way to turn it around.

Finally, you can take an insurance option if the one card your dealer reveals, in the beginning, is an ace. This lets you put a small bonus bet into play that the dealer’s face-down card is a 10 at an increased payout. Thus, even the dealer gets a bigger score than you, you can make that money back if you make the right prediction. 

There is also a variation of this rule that you can use if your opening hand has blackjack and the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. In exchange for reduced winnings, you can negate a push with your dealer if you both have 21. If the dealer didn’t have a facedown 10, however, you reduced your payout for nothing. 

Playing Your Way to Victory

Now that you have this ultimate guide on how to play blackjack, it’s time to get out there and sweep up the casinos with your new skills! And for more tips on fun activities and games you can play out at the casino, make sure to check out the other articles on our website!

Leave a Reply