Information on How to Play Blackjack

As a relatively simple game to learn, Blackjack is the most popular card game casinos offer. The basics are simple but there are also a few advanced bets that can be confusing to new players. In this article, we'll cover the basic blackjack rules as well as the advanced bets that you're likely to run across at the blackjack tables. After learning this how to play blackjack article, you will be on your way to looking like a veteran player at the tables.

Blackjack Basics

The objective when you play blackjack is to use your cards to get as close to possible as 21 without going over. Your only competition is the dealer, who is also trying to get as close to 21 as he can without going over. The person who gets the closest wins the hand. Anyone who goes over 21 loses the hand.

Each face card is worth 10 points, numbered cards are ranked according to their value and aces may count as 1 or 11. After the initial deal of the cards, the players may draw as many times as they wish to try to get closer to 21.

Any time a player goes over 21, the dealer wins the hand against that particular player no matter what happens. Even if the dealer also goes over 21, the hand is still considered a loss to the player. Any time a player and a dealer tie, the bet is called a "push" and the player's bet is returned.

If a player is dealt an ace and a face card, the hand total is 21 and this is called a "natural blackjack." Natural blackjacks are considered automatic wins unless the dealer also catches a natural blackjack. In that case, the bet is considered a tie. Casinos usually pay out at 3 to 2 odds for players who catch blackjacks. For example, if a player bets $5 on a hand and catches a blackjack, that player will win $7.50 instead of $5.

Mechanics of the Game

Live casinos usually deal from a wooden box (the "shoe") that contains 6 to 8 decks of cards and online casinos use a constant shuffling mechanism to deal from what is effectively an infinite deck of cards. These methods are used to deter card counters and to prevent cheating.

Each player is then dealt two cards face up while the dealer is dealt one card face down and one card face up. In a live casino setting, players are not allowed to touch their cards but in some private and casual games, players receive their cards face down and may touch them to look at them.

After the cards have been dealt, each player is allowed to draw as many cards as he or she wishes in an attempt to get as close to 21 as possible without going over (going over is called going "bust").

Optional Bets

In a regular game of blackjack, players may also make several optional bets in an effort to win more money or prevent further losses. Insurance bets are usually a bad bet but other bets such as splitting, doubling down and surrendering can give the player an advantage.


Splitting allows you to separate your two cards into two separate blackjack hands. You do this by placing an additional bet next to your original one on the table. Splitting is only allowed when you are dealt two cards of the same rank.

Double Down

If you feel like you're in a strong position after getting your first two cards, you can double your original bet. The catch to this bet is that once you double down, you must draw exactly one more card. No more, no less.

Early Surrender

Early surrender allows you to give up half your bet and concede the hand if it looks like you're in a bad position against the dealer. This is done before the dealer checks for blackjack.

Late Surrender

This is the same thing as early surrender except it's done after the dealer checks for blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, he gets the automatic win and you are not allowed to surrender.

Even Money

If you are dealt a natural blackjack and the dealer is showing an ace, you can receive even money your bet instead of the 3 to 2 payout. This is done to prevent the dealer also having a blackjack and causing a tie.

Hard Hands vs. Soft Hands

Hard hands are hands that do not contain an ace. A hand like King-Seven is worth 17 points and there's no question about it. Soft hands contain an ace so they can be worth any one of two different values. For example, a hand containing Ace-Seven could be worth either 18 or 8.