The rules of blackjack are fairly consistent across different variations of the game. There are subtle nuances, but the below basic set of rules will feature in some capacity across all games.
1 Card Values
In blackjack, each card has the value represented on the card itself with the exception of picture cards (which have a value of 10) and Aces, which can be either an 1?or 11. A hand comprised of a 7 and a 9, for example, is worth 16. A hand of an Ace and an 8 can be worth either 9 or 19 depending on how you play the hand.
Valued as 10
Valued as 1 or 11
2 Chip Value
Most casinos use standardized chip colors – white $1 chips, red $5 chips, green $25 chips, black $100 chips, purple $500 chips and orange $1,000 chips – but this can vary in online casinos. You may see some casinos using names to describe colored chips, with red $5 chips and green $25 chips being called nickels and quarters respectively. Purple $500 chips are sometimes called Barneys, while orange $1,000 chips might be referred to as Pumpkins.
3 Number of Decks
Six to eight decks are most commonly used in blackjack, but this is entirely dependent on the casino. A smaller number of decks is beneficial to players because it means there’s a higher probability, you’ll draw a Blackjack. The more decks used, the more your odds drop.
4 Hand Types – Soft/Hard
A hand which contains an ace functioning as an 11 is said to be soft. This is because if cards are added to the hand which causes it to go over 21, the value of the ace can reduce to 1.
When a hand exceeds 21, it (and the player it belongs to) are said to have gone bust.
Let’s say that you hit a hand of 16 and receive a 7. That puts the value of your hand at 23 and you’ll go bust, unless your original hand was an Ace and a 5. In that case, the new value of your hand will be 13.
If you want another card, this is the button or command that will get you one from the dealer. Whether you should hit or stand (see below) depends on the dealer’s upcard.You can typically hit hands as many times as you want, with some online casinos offering a win for a “5 Card Charlie” (a hand comprised of 5 cards that doesn’t go bust). If the dealer’s upcard is a 6 or lower, it’s rare that you should be hitting unless your hand is 12 or lower.
If you think the dealer will go bust trying to beat your hand, pressing or indicating that you want to Stand is how to finish your hand. You’ll usually be standing on hands worth 17 or more, as well as hands valued 13-16, unless the dealer has an upcard of 7 or more. Once you stand, the dealer (and other players) will then draw until all of their hands are also complete.
When presented with two cards of the same value, you can split your hand and play it as two separate hands. This does mean, however, that you’ll have to match your original bet to cover your new second hand. Pairs of Aces and 8s are always worth splitting, as are MOST pairs of 2s, 3s, 6s and 7s as long as the dealer’s upcard is 7 or lower.
4 Double (Down)
Doubling down allows you to double your bet and receive an additional card. However, it’s a risky move because you only receive ONE extra card and can’t hit your hand afterwards. It’s worth doubling down on almost all hands of 10 or 11 and doing so can pay dividends on many hands that contain an Ace and 2-7 as long as the dealer has a low upcard.
If you’re not impressed with your hand, some variations of Blackjack will allow you to surrender your hand (usually once the dealer has checked that they don’t have a Blackjack). If you want to surrender, you’ll need to do so before drawing any additional cards. The dealer will then take your cards and return half of your original bet to you.
This side bet is available when the dealer has a face up Ace and is effectively a wager on the dealer’s hole card being worth 10. A winning bet pays out at 2:1 in most Blackjack variations, but the insurance bet is not typically recommended because of its high house edge.
7 Even Money
When a player has a Blackjack and the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, they may ask the player if they want “even money”. This means accepting a 1:1 payout on their original bet before the dealer checks for Blackjack. Like insurance, this bet isn’t generally advisable because players are statistically better off not taking the bet.
1 Placing Bets
You must get all of your bets in before any cards are dealt when playing blackjack offline or in live dealer blackjack. In online blackjack this won’t apply, since you control when the cards are dealt.
2 Hard/Soft Hands
Any hand with an ace is considered a soft hand, as you can change the value of the ace from 11 to 1. A hard hand is one which doesn’t contain an ace, or one with an ace which can’t be counted as an 11, offering less flexibility with the option to hit.
In standard blackjack, getting a 21 pays out 3 to 2, which is often indicated on the table itself. However, there are some blackjack variations in which landing a blackjack pays 1 to 1, in order to offset other rules that are more favourable for players.
If you’re playing in an offline gambling venue or live dealer blackjack online, then there are certain rules of etiquette you need to follow. While these won’t be relevant to most online blackjack players, it’s still important to know the right way to act at a blackjack table.
1 Leave Face Up Cards Alone
Nervous or fidgety players may feel inclined to rotate, flip or fiddle with their cards. This isn’t something that will be well received in brick and mortar venues, where there’s no need to disturb cards that have been dealt face up.
2 Don’t Take Too Long
There’s taking some time to make your next decision and then there’s dragging your feet for no good reason. If you’re playing in person, or in live dealer games with other players, make your next move as quickly as you’re comfortable doing.
3 Handle Cards with One Hand
Casinos are understandably concerned about players tampering with their cards and using two hands to handle dealt cards. Stick with your dominant hand and don’t remove cards from the table.
4 Signal AND Say Your Decision
Signals are appreciated by casino security camera operators but also serve to avoid errors due to confusion at the table.
Tap the table
Place extra bet outside of usual betting area and split fingers
Waving hand over cards
Place extra bet on in the same area as previous bet
1 Don’t Hand Bets To The Dealer
When placing a bet, the correct process is to simply place your chips on the table. Although dealers are happy to help you, they can’t place chips down on your behalf.
2 Hard/Soft 17
In a standard game of blackjack, the dealer stands if their hand is equal to 17 or higher, although they’ll hit on a soft 17. If the dealer’s hand contains an ace and is worth between 17 and 21, they will stand. In some variations, dealers stand on ALL hands worth 17 or more.
3 Remember To Tip Your Dealer
Dealers in reputable land-based venues are paid well but, especially in US venues, tipping is common. We wouldn’t expect you to tip the random number generator powering your game of online blackjack, but there’s certainly nothing stopping you tipping a friendly dealer you’ve encountered elsewhere.
Best Blackjack Casino in USA
While online casinos will display blackjack tables slightly differently, many of the features will be the same. Below is a screenshot from one of our top partner’s online blackjack games, with labels to help you understand the layout of an online table.
This is where the dealer’s upcard and hole card are dealt.
This is where all cards in the game are dealt from.
Each circle represents a potential player bet, and is where your cards will be
Choose your chip denominations for setting your bet level here.
This refers to a side bet in this variation of Blackjack, in which you wager on
This refers to a side bet in which you can wager on the appearance of pairs in
Here you’ll see the total amount of casino credit you have to play with.
This is where the dealer’s upcard and hole card are
In addition to a space for the dealer’s cards, you’ll notice that this area contains
information about payouts and at what points the dealer must hit and stand. It’s a useful
cheat sheet for the rules of this particular type of Blackjack.
This is where all cards in the game are dealt from.
In online Blackjack, multiple decks are used and all cards are automatically shuffled
between hands. In other words, this means that there’s no benefit in trying to count cards
unless you happen to be playing live dealer Blackjack.
Each circle represents a potential player bet, and is
where your cards will be dealt.
While circles are usually allocated to different players at a brick and mortar casino, you
can play a number of different hands at once online by placing bets on multiple circles.
Just be aware that this might increase the rate at which you go through your bankroll.
Choose your chip denominations for setting your bet level
Using these colored chips offers an easy way to set your desired bet level with just a few
clicks. If you’re playing multi-hand Blackjack and lose track of how much you’re spending,
the Total Bet field in the bottom right of the screen will tell you.
This refers to a side bet in this variation of Blackjack,
in which you wager on your hand.
This is a lucrative side bet available in this variation, with payouts of 100:1 available.
You’ll notice that it uses poker terms to describe the winning hands in the upper left
corner of the screen. These side bets have high payouts but also a high house edge
associated with them.
This refers to a side bet in which you can wager on the
appearance of pairs in your hand.
This side bet, with payouts of up to 25:1 on offer, allows you to place wagers on whether
your hand (or the dealer’s) will contain a pair. The payout chart is visible in the upper
right of the screen, with “perfect” referring to two cards of the same suit and value.
Here you’ll see the total amount of casino credit you
have to play with.
The more bets you’re placing, and the more hands you play, the quicker this number might
change. We suggest keeping a watchful eye on the rate at which you’re losing or winning so
you know how long you can expect a typical Blackjack session to last.
Justin Flynn boasts over 6 successful years of traveling the world, playing blackjack and spending countless hours methodically analyzing the game. Now, as the Blackjack Innovator, Justin is sharing his extensive learnings and educating players on the best way to play blackjack.
What does double down mean in blackjack?
When a player doubles down in blackjack, they double their bet in the middle of the hand in exchange for one card only. This wager is risky as it can end a player’s betting early on a low second card. However, many players incorporate doubling down into their blackjack strategy, particularly if their cards equal 11 and the dealer has a low card.
What is free bet blackjack?
Free bet blackjack is a variant of the traditional game. The main differences are in the bets. Players can double down for free anytime on hard 9, 10 or 11, and enjoy free splits on all pairs except 10s and fours. For the dealer, free bet blackjack means all hands equaling 22 become a push instead of a win for the player.
What does push mean in blackjack?
When the dealer and a player have the same hand value in blackjack, that is a push. When this happens in the game, the dealer returns the player’s bet. This means the player has not lost any funds in that round of the game, but hasn’t won anything, either.
What happens when you get blackjack?
Blackjack rules state that when a a player or dealer reaches 21 in their first two cards they get blackjack. If a player gets blackjack, this beats any other hand in the game, unless the dealer also hits blackjack. The payoff for reaching blackjack is 1.5 to 1.
What are face cards in blackjack?
Face cards refer to jack, queen or king cards of any suit in blackjack. Each face card has a value of 10, which makes them particularly valuable to players in a game of blackjack. When paired with an ace card, face cards can make blackjack.
How do side bets work in blackjack?
These are additional wagers players can make at the beginning of the game alongside the main bet. Casinos offer a variety of blackjack side bets, but the most common are perfect pairs, blackjack insurance and 21+3. The odds and payouts of side bets vary, so players should research these before using them in blackjack games.
How much is an ace worth in blackjack?
Ace cards are worth either 10 or one in blackjack – it depends on the player’s choice. Paired with a face card (jack, queen or king) an ace can make blackjack, which is why it is a popular hand with players.
How much is a king worth in blackjack?
A king card has a value of 10, regardless of suit. Besides ace cards, which can be worth 11, kings have the highest value in blackjack, alongside queens and jacks.
How much is a jack worth in blackjack?
A jack is a face card, which is worth 10 in blackjack. Along with king and queen cards, jacks have the second-highest value in blackjack. When paired with an ace, face cards can hit 21 (blackjack).
How much is a queen in blackjack?
In blackjack, a queen is defined as a face card. Face cards are worth 10 per card, the highest value (besides aces) in the game. When a queen is paired with an ace card, the player hits blackjack. As a result, face cards are an integral factor to any blackjack strategy.