Blackjack, the classic game of 21… of all the casino games in Vegas, there’s just nothing that really compares to the debonair ambiance of the Blackjack card table; the most widely played casino game in the world. Player versus dealer in a swift, fierce battle to achieve perfection, the ultimate hand of 21.
What you can find in this Blackjack guide:
Official Blackjack rules
When it comes to playing Blackjack there are a few rules that we should take to the tables before we start betting our money. Obviously, the best place to start is learning how Blackjack works. Once you learn the basics you can then begin to develop your skills further as you become more comfortable playing. In this guide on the official rules of Blackjack, we take you through step by step to show you exactly how Blackjack works.
How to play Blackjack
Blackjack is played against the casino, specifically the dealer. They are the ones who deal the cards and have a slight edge in terms of the probability of winning. At the beginning of the round you are dealt two cards and so is the dealer. The difference is that only one of the dealer’s cards is showing.
The aim of the game is to get your cards to add up as close as possible to 21 without going over. If you get closer than the dealer you win, but if you go over 21 you automatically lose. You also lose if the dealer gets closer to 21 than you. If you end up with the same amount as the dealer then this is called a “push” and the original bet will be returned to you.
Rules you should know before playing Blackjack
Blackjack is a simple game, pitting dealer against the player. The official Blackjack rules are easy to learn and just as easy to remember. There can be 5 players at a single table, but none competing against each other, only the dealer, or “house”. Each player is dealt a single card face up, followed by the dealer receiving a single card face down. Players are then given one more card, also face up, while the dealer takes his second card face up as well. Players then decide whether to:
- Hit: Take another card.
- Stand: Keep their current hand (no more cards).
- Double: Take one, and only one, more card, whilst doubling their original bet size.
- Split: Split a pair (ex. 9-9 or K-K), creating two hands, each containing one of the original paired cards. The player must place another bet on the new hand, equal to the original bet.
The player can Hit as many times as he wishes, provided he does not exceed a total hand value of 21.
The dealer must follow strict rules, enforced by the house when playing his hand. If the dealer’s hand is 16 or below, he must Hit. If his hand is 17 or above, he must Stand. According to most casino rules, if the dealer has a “Soft 17”, meaning his hand involves an Ace valued as 11, he must Hit.
Value of the cards in Blackjack
The next rule that you have to learn is what the value of each card in Blackjack is. It isn’t very hard to work out what the values are of each card that can be dealt to you in Blackjack. The value of each card in Blackjack is basically what you would expect it to be because they are similar to other card games. Below I have outlined exactly what each card means and how it applies to the game of Blackjack.
This card is one of the most valuable in the game because it has a value of either 1 or 11. Depending on the situation will determine its value. For example if your other card is a 5; that means that you have a total of 6 or 16. You don’t have to designate which one it is. If in the event that you go over 21, the value of the Ace will automatically change to a value of 1. This is the only somewhat tricky part when it comes to card values, that means you do not select what value you want it to have.
All of the Face Cards are worth 10. This includes the King, Queen and Jack. If you receive any King, Queen or Jack all you need to know is that they always have a value of 10. Whenever you receive one of these all you have to do is add 10. It is as simple as that.
Numbered Cards 2 to 10
All of the numbered cards have that same value. Every numbered card has exactly the value that it shows. So for the numbers 2-10 they have the same value displayed on the card. For example, a 7 is worth 7 and so forth. It is fairly straight forward and all you have to do is add the number on that it shows to your total.
Hard Hands in Blackjack
Any hand that does not contain an Ace is referred to as being a Hard Hand when people are talking about Blackjack. The reason for this is because each card only has one value so you do not have the option of having a value changed. If we use an example of what a Hard Hand is, it really is simple. Say you are dealt a King and a 5; because neither of these hands contains an Ace then we now have a Hard Hand.
Soft Hands in Blackjack
As you have probably already gathered, a Soft Hand is one that contains an Ace. So if you are dealt two cards and one of them has an Ace you are said to be holding what is referred to as a Soft Hand. An example of this would be if you were dealt an Ace and a 4. Obviously because you hold an Ace, you now have a Soft Hand.
A Soft Hand can easily become a Hard Hand
This happens when the option of having two values for the Ace is taken away. For example, if you are holding an Ace and a 5 that has a total of 6 or 16. At this point you still have a Soft Hand because the Ace can have two values still. If the next card you receive is a 9 then that gives you a total of 15. You can’t have a total of 25 because you would go bust, thus leaving you with 15 being the only option. This puts you in a position where you now have a Hard Hand again.
Final Note on card values
When it comes to figuring out what the value of each card in Blackjack is, don’t make it any more difficult than it has to be. All you have to do is learn how much each card is worth so you can begin to start playing Blackjack casino games at the tables.
Remember these important Blackjack rules
There are few more Blackjack rules that appear in some land-based an online casinos. We’ll go over these now.
- Surrender: The player is allowed to surrender his hand before taking a Hit, losing only half of his bet. The player must wait until the dealer has checked his own hand for Blackjack, which would result in an instant loss for the player.
- Push: If the dealer and player tie with the exact same hand value, it is a push and no one wins. The player’s bet is returned. This is the most common casino Blackjack rule.
- Dealer Wins Tie: If a casino does not use the Push rule, the dealer will win in the case of a tie. This is a very strong disadvantage for the player. Avoid playing by this rule when possible.
How to split your cards
One of the other betting options that we have available when we play Blackjack is to split our cards. If you are dealt two of the same cards then you can split them into two different hands. The best time to split your hand is when you are dealt two aces. This is one of the fundamental rules of the game. Make sure you split this hand every time that it happens.
To split your cards all you have to do is tell the dealer or press the split button if you are playing online. You will then be dealt one more card to each hand. You finish the round by playing just as you would with any other hand. The only difference is now you are playing two hands instead of one. The pay outs are still exactly the same; but each hand is considered completely separate from the other.
Tips for splitting cards in Blackjack
The basic theory behind splitting pairs in Blackjack is simple and easy to work out. There are some simple rules to learn about splitting pairs in Blackjack that you can follow. If you abide by them you won’t run into too much trouble.
What does splitting pairs mean?
When a player is dealt their two cards and they are given the same card twice (two fives for example), then the player is given an option to split their cards. These two hands are played completely independent of each other. In other words, you are now effectively playing two hands instead on one. That of course means you have double the amount of money on the line.
When to split pairs in Blackjack
If you are reading this article you probably want to know when the best times to split pairs are. I can safely say without a shadow of a doubt that the best time to split your pairs is when you are dealt two Aces. When this happens you should split them 100% of the time.
Always split Aces
When you are dealt two Aces and you split them it provides a situation that is a little bit different from the rest of the pairs that you split. When you split Aces you are only dealt one more card to each hand. You don’t get the choice of hitting again after you receive the next hand. While that might sound like a distinct disadvantage, you shouldn’t be too worried about it. Having an Ace in your hand is with another card to be dealt to you is a great position to be in.
Don’t split Face Cards
If you are dealt two Face Cards you have a total of 20. It is silly to give this up by gambling to win on two hands instead of one. The safest way to play this hand is to stand on the 20. This assures you of a win in most cases and is a solid play to make. There is no reason to give up the advantage by splitting your Face Cards. Of course the same principle applies if you have a pair of 10’s.
Always split eights
The main reason that you should split eights is because quite frankly, it is a terrible hand. Having 16 is not a nice position to be in because the dealer is going to beat you more often than not. The only chance that you have of winning is if he busts. If the dealer is showing a low card you could be excused for sitting, but even then you are still much better off splitting.
If you have a pair of 7’s or 6’s the rules to follow are simple. If the dealer is showing a 7 when you have a pair of 7’s then you split them. On all other occasions you just simply hit. If the dealer is showing a 6 when you have a pair of 6’s then you split. If the dealer is showing another card you hit.
Never split fives
You should never split 5’s because you should be doubling down instead. You have a total of 10 so you have a great chance of winning the hand. If on the other hand you decide to make the silly mistake of splitting, you will more than likely be left with two terrible hands. The worst case scenario for you here is that you could be left with 15 on both hands. This puts you at an extreme disadvantage so I strongly urge you to never split 5’s in Blackjack.
Splitting baby pairs
If you have a baby pair like 2’s, 3’s or 4’s then splitting them is a good option if the dealer is showing a low card. I recommend splitting these pairs because you have an opportunity of getting to 10 or 11 when the next card comes. If this happens then you can double down. This makes it even more worth your while. If you happen to hit a Face Card then you can stand and hope the dealer busts.
Double down in Blackjack
Before we begin a discussion on the best Blackjack strategies to use when we have the option to double down, we must first fully understand the concept and how it works. Doubling down is essentially doubling the size of your bet. There is a cost associated with this though; you only get one more card to complete your hand. So in other words if you want to double the wager you have on the hand you will only be dealt one more card no matter what.
Some people are of the opinion that you should never double down because if you happen to lose you will have lost two bets instead of one. This is a weak argument to say the least. It has been mathematically proven that if you use the doubling down strategy at the right times then you are reducing the house edge. I’m not sure about you, but when I play I want to give myself the best possible chance of winning. To do this we need to use the doubling down option as a weapon.
These are the most important double down rules
When to double down in Blackjack is a much asked question? Now that I have made my point about the importance of doubling down in Blackjack we must now discover the best situations to use it in. Below I have given an outline of the optimal way to play the double down bet.
- Always double down on a hard 11 when the dealer is showing anything but an Ace
- Double down on a hard 10 if the dealer is showing anything in the 2-9 range
- If the dealer is showing 3-6 then you can double down if you have 9
For soft hands it can become a little bit trickier when you are trying to work out what the correct decision is. If you practice it enough it becomes almost like a second instinct so don’t be too concerned if you think you will never remember. The more you practice the easier it will become, so keep that in mind when you begin to use these strategies.
Below I have given some pointers on when you should double down if you have a soft hand.
- If you have A-2 or A-3 then double down if the dealer is showing a 5 or 6
- If dealt A-4 or A-5 and the dealer has a 4, 5 or 6 then you should double down
- With an A-6 or A-7 double down if the dealer has a 3, 4, 5 or 6
That sums up all of the situations in which it is mathematically correct to double down in Blackjack. Remember, the more times that you do it at the right times, the smaller the house edge will become. If you are playing at the right Blackjack betting limits then you shouldn’t have any problem with doubling the bet. Be smart about the way you play and take every advantage that is given to you. In this case it is using the double down bet.
Insurance in Blackjack
When it comes to insurance in terms of Blackjack it is relatively easy to understand. The way the insurance rule works is that you are given an option to protect yourself from losing to a Blackjack. If the dealer is showing an ace then there is good chance that they could have Blackjack. It will cost an extra half of the original bet.
To make this a little bit easier to understand an example will simplify the process. If you are betting $10 and the dealer is showing an Ace then you will be given an option to buy insurance. If you take them up on this offer it will cost you an extra $5. If the dealer does indeed have a Blackjack then you will only lose $5 (because you won $5 back). If on the other hand the dealer doesn’t have Blackjack then you lose that $5. The outcome of the original $10 bet is determined by the winner of the hand.
Keep this in mind when it comes to insurance
Insurance in Blackjack is one of the sucker bets that inexperienced players lose money on. It is a mathematically incorrect bet and is easy to avoid. There might be some cases where it may be in your interest to purchase insurance, but if you decline insurance every single time you will be better off for it. Later in the article I will provide a scenario where it could be of some use to you.
What is insurance in Blackjack?
Insurance in Blackjack is the option that is given to you when the dealer is showing an Ace. You will be given the opportunity to make a bet that is half the size of your original bet. If you do choose to take insurance you are betting that the dealer has Blackjack. If you win you will break even because it is paid out at a rate of 2-1. If you lose, you will be forfeiting that bet and may well be losing the initial bet as well.
How to take insurance in Blackjack
If you are playing Blackjack at a live casino then it is a little different than playing Blackjack games online. When the dealer is showing an Ace they will say “insurance open.” When this happens it is time to place your bet on to the insurance section of the Blackjack table. When everyone has finished making their bets the dealer will say “insurance closed” and will proceed with the hand.
If you happen to be playing online Blackjack then things are easier for you. When the dealer is showing an Ace the option to purchase insurance will pop up on the screen. The software will automatically recognize that it is time to offer you insurance. All you have to is click the “Yes” or “No” button to make your decision. Again, this is all automated so you don’t have to worry about anything.
Why you shouldn’t take insurance
There is one clear reason why you shouldn’t take insurance in Blackjack. That reason is because it is mathematically incorrect. When you do the sums you can recognize the fact that you are worse off if you take up this option.
There are 9 cards in the deck that don’t give the dealer Blackjack and only 4 that do. Even though it is paid out at 2:1 you are still losing money in the long run. That is why you should never take insurance if you can avoid it.
Times when you can take insurance
Blackjack players can have a hard time deciding whether or not to take Blackjack when they themselves have Blackjack. The reason for this is because they see insurance as a win/win situation. If the dealer does have Blackjack then they win the insurance bet. If the dealer doesn’t have Blackjack then that is paid for by the 3:2 payout that the Blackjack provides them.
Even though the above scenario makes taking insurance sound like a good option; it really isn’t. You are still making the wrong decision based on the odds so you should try and avoid it if you can.
The only time I would advise making this play is when you have a large bet on the line and you want to protect yourself. If the bet is much larger than normal and is a large portion of your bankroll than it may be an option for you. Other than that I cannot see another scenario where you should take insurance in Blackjack. If you can remember never to take insurance then you have a much better chance of winning at Blackjack.
The most common payout schedule for Blackjack is:
- Player wins without Blackjack: 1:1
- Player wins with Blackjack: 3:2
- Dealer wins: Player loses amount wagered
Some casinos, however, change the payout rules for the player when he has been dealt Blackjack. Be sure to check the pay table for these pay outs, as they increase the house edge and lower the player’s odds of walking away with a profit.
- Player wins with Blackjack: 6:5
- Player wins with Blackjack: 1:1
Another payout rule you may encounter is called the “Six Card Charlie”, where a player automatically wins for taking 6 cards without busting.
Official Blackjack payout rules
The most exciting part is of course winning, when it comes to playing Blackjack. So how much do you actually win when you make a bet in Blackjack? In most cases the answer to this is double the amount that you bet. So if you wager $10 on a Blackjack hand and win you will receive $20 back for a profit of $10.
There are a few other rules to learn though when it comes to the payouts in Blackjack. If the two cards that you are dealt add up to 21 that is called a Blackjack. This happens when you are given an Ace that is accompanied by either a King, Queen, Jack or 10. This is paid out at 1.5 times the size of your bet. So if we use the same example as before; you will receive $25 back for your $10 bet. This gives you are profit of $15 instead of the regular $10.
Blackjack card counting
Blackjack card counting systems have used for years now. Casinos have increased the number of decks being used to 2, 4, 6 or even 8, but this does not eliminate the player’s advantage for counting cards. Blackjack card counting systems range from basic, where the player only keeps track of three groups of cards, to extremely advanced, involving side counts of Aces, Face Cards and 10s.
Note that card counting is futile in online casino Blackjack as the deck is reshuffled with each new hand. Instead to waste time you are better of reading our Tips and Strategies for Blackjack to make the house’s edge as small as possible.
Conclusion of this fundamental rules of Blackjack guide
The basic rules of Blackjack are easy to learn and follow. If you read and understood everything I just explained to you then you are well on your way to having a good grasp of how the game works. If on the other hand you didn’t quite understand everything than make sure you read more of our guide to playing Blackjack.
If you could only take away one thing from reading this article than I would want it to be this; learn how to play optimally and then stick to it. When you think about it, it isn’t very hard at all. All you have to do is learn the official rules of Blackjack and follow them accordingly. There is no secret betting system that anyone uses to sway the odds in their favor. Just make the right bets at the right times by following the simple rules of the game.