Blackjack is the most popular casino table game for good reason – the player has a better chance at winning over the long run than practically all other casino games, due to a house edge of approximately 0.5%. Blackjack is also a very simple game to play and master – so let’s talk about how Blackjack works, and what the Blackjack rules are.
Each card in Blackjack has a numerical value, and suits don’t matter. For the purpose of this article we will use cards from the Spades suit.
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Every card has their standard numerical value – the :5s: is the 5 of spades for example, and it’s the same for all cards from the :2s: to the :10s:. When it comes to the face cards, the :js:, :qs: and :ks:, they are all worth exactly ten. The :as: however is worth 1 or 11, and it is up to the player to decide what value the ace should be, which we’ll go into more detail about in a minute.
Before any cards are dealt in Blackjack, you must place a bet. There is nothing complicated about this – you are betting on whether or not you win the hand, simple as that. Each player that participates in the game and places a bet are dealt two cards, dealt out one at a time by the dealer. This starts with the player at the dealers left, and moves clockwise around the table. The cards each player receives are dealt face up.
The dealer also deals himself two cards. One card is dealt face down, and the other card is dealt face up. Each player must then add the value of his cards and see what their hand is worth. For example if you have the :7s: and :8s: then 7 plus 8 totals 15, so your current hand value is 15.
The purpose of Blackjack is to beat the dealers hand. You are not playing against other players – you are playing against the dealer, and must have a higher hand value than him. However your hand value cannot go over 21, because if it does then you go “bust”. Upon receiving your cards, you have the option to “Hit” or to “Stand”. When you “Stand” you are stating that you want no more cards, and that your hand should be good enough to beat the dealers hand. When you “Hit”, you are requesting another card from the dealer to add to your hand value. You can “Hit” and take as many cards as you want, however you cannot go over 21 otherwise you will bust.
As an example – lets say the dealers face up card is the :7s:. You have the :7s: and :8s: (Blackjack usually uses multiple decks, so two seven of spades is standard), and decide to hit. You then receive the :4s: which gives you a hand value of 19 total. So you want to stand with a hand value of 19.
The dealer then flips over his face down card, however here’s the catch – the dealer can’t just keep taking cards until he either beats you or go bust. If the dealers hand value reaches 17-21, then he must stop hitting even if he is losing. So if the dealer turns over the :qs: to give him 17 – then he must stick, and with your 19 points you win the hand.
Now lets talk about the ace card, and how it is used. As mentioned, the :as: can stand for either 1 or 11, and you can change it throughout the hand. So if you are dealt the :as: and :3s: then you have either 4 or 14. If you hit and get dealt the :js: then your hand value is now forced to be 14, as the ace has to stand for 1. If it stood for 11, you would be bust. As mentioned you can change the value of the card throughout the game. So if you have the :5s: and :as: and hit, and get the :2s: you can then declare the ace value as 11, and stick with a blackjack hand value of 18.
If your hand ties the dealers hand, then it is declared a “push” and your initial bet is returned. You do not lose or win money on a push.
There is of course a little more to Blackjack, which really adds to the fun of the game. There are four other options when it comes to Blackjack which are Split, Double Down, Surrender and Insurance. Let’s talk about these four options separately:
Blackjack Rules: Split Pairs
If you are dealt two cards of the same value by the dealer, for example two sevens, then you are allowed to split the pairs. What this does is split the cards into two separate hands, so that you are playing two hands at once. One hand will contain one 7, while the other hand will contain the other 7. However to do this you need to place an equal bet on each of your hands – you have already placed one bet before being dealt the cards, so you simply place another bet of the same value on the other hand.
Splitting pairs is a very key part of Blackjack strategy, and should not be done randomly if you want to make the move with the most positive expected value.
Blackjack Rules: Double Down
Doubling down is an option you have for any hand that you are dealt – except for 21 of course! There are a few casinos that only allow you to double down if your first two cards total 9, 10 or 11 but that is very rare. When you choose to double down, you place the same amount as your initial wager as a bet, and then get dealt one more card. You cannot hit after this.
For example, you bet $50. You get dealt the :5s: and :6s: totalling 11. The dealers face up card is the :6s:. There is a very good chance that the dealer will go bust, and also the odds of you getting 21 with your next card are a lot more likely. So you would bet an additional $50 and get dealt one more card.
Blackjack Rules: Surrender
In Blackjack, surrendering means you are giving up your hand. If you are dealt two cards that you don’t like, you have the option of surrendering and forfeiting half your bet. If you get dealt a hand value of 16 and the dealer has the :ks: showing for example, this is a spot where you may be interested in surrendering.
Blackjack Rules: Insurance
When the dealers face up card is an ace, you have the option of taking insurance. This is an additional bet in Blackjack, where you are basically placing a bet that the dealers upcard is a ten, therefore the dealer has a natural hand value of 21.
When you take insurance, you must bet exactly half your wager. If the dealer has blackjack, then you win at two to one odds. Please note that this is a very bad bet and has a negative expected value, as the dealer has a very likely chance of having a pat hand(17-21) or reaching 17-21 with the ace, therefore there is a strong possibility you will lose both bets.
Unless you are a card counter, you should avoid placing insurance bets at all costs.
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Additional Blackjack Rules Questions:
What are the payouts in Blackjack?
If you win your bet in Blackjack, then you win the total amount of money that you wagered. So if you bet $25 you get your initial $25 bet returned to you plus an additional $25. You always get an even money return, unless you won with a Blackjack, which is an ace and a card which has a card value of 1. Then you win with 3-2 odds, or your bet plus half your bet. So a $25 bet where you get Blackjack would see a return of $25 for your initial bet, plus winnings of $37.50.
The answer to the question What are the rules to Blackjack? is also applicable for the following questions: