Blackjack is one of the most popular gambling games found in casinos around the world. You can also play on your computer or phone.
It’s an easy game to learn, but if you’ve never played before it can be scary the first time you sit down to play.
Here’s a step by step guide to show you the easiest way to learn blackjack. Just follow the steps below, and you’ll learn the rules, how a hand works, and the best ways to practice and play.
I’ve also included sections with good books for beginning blackjack players and a couple of software recommendations. You can also occasionally find casinos who offer blackjack classes and tutorials.
Blackjack: A Winner’s Handbook was written by Jerry L. Patterson and published in 1990. Patterson’s book covers everything you need to know about blackjack from playing in a casino to playing on the internet.
This book starts by teaching you basic blackjack strategy and how to maximize each hand. Here are some other topics covered in the book:
A five-step strategy
Table, dealer, and player biases
Home practice information
And team play
Blackjack: Take the Money and Run was written by Henry J. Tamburin and published in 1994. Tamburin’s book is focused around teaching you how to leave the table with profit, every time. Tamburin covers his three steps to winning which include the play, the betting, and the card count. He also gives an easier and harder approach to blackjack based on how much experience playing you have.
The Most Powerful Blackjack Manual was written by Jay Moore and published in 2006. Moore’s book focuses on the mental side of playing blackjack. He covers calm decision making, analytical thinking, and the self-discipline required to win. His book has over 20,000 blackjack hands and how to use them to your advantage. Moore calls his noncard-counting method the Delayed and Up method.
Beat the Dealer was written by Edward O. Thorp and published in 1966. Thorp’s book covers basic blackjack rules and then teaches you winning strategies that range in difficulty for simple to advanced players.
Thorp also covers how to spot cheating at your table and includes key concepts that are laid out in easy to understand charts and tables. Thorp’s book includes perforated cards that you can rip out and carry to the casino with you.
Blackjack: Play Like the Pros was written by John Bukofsky and published in 2006. Bukofsky’s book focuses on increasing the odds you have of walking away from the table with profit. Topics covered in this book include:
Basic blackjack game strategy
Gaining an advantage on the house
Managing your bankroll
Countermeasures to take at the casino
Camouflaging your techniques
And a negative swings sections
Casino Verite software is available on Windows PC and Android and Apple mobile devices. Casino Verite can be used as a practice tool for both amateur and professional blackjack players. Casino Verite software focuses on a real world casino setting, blackjack card counting, and strategy guide but it also covers shuffle tracking and ace prediction.
The Blackjack Apprenticeship is a web based blackjack software that offers a basic strategy, drills, and a card counting drill. The basic strategy trainer tests your knowledge on the basics of blackjack and keeps track of your percentage right and your overall score.
After a hand is dealt to you and you make your decision, it gives you a new one; it doesn’t play out. The card counting trainer plays hands out automatically with basic strategy. The trainer asks you the count of every hand, and you can adjust how quickly they deal knew hands. Both trainers have a timer available to see how long it takes to make your decisions.
The rules of blackjack are fairly simple. In this section, you’ll learn the rules by following how a hand plays out step by step.
Blackjack uses a standard deck of 52 playing cards or multiple decks of playing cards. The suits don’t matter in a normal game of blackjack, but some side bets offered have suit related bonuses.
Each card has a numerical value which is added up to get a point total. Tens and all of the face cards count as 10 points, aces can count as 11 or one, and all of the other cards are worth their pip value. This means nines are worth nine; sevens are worth seven, etc.
Players sit around a half table all facing a dealer. The players place their bets, and the dealer starts dealing the cards. Cards can be dealt from hand or from a shoe holding multiple decks of cards.
The deal starts to the immediate left of the dealer, and each player receives a single card, and the dealer receives one card face down. The player’s cards can be dealt face down or face up, depending on where you play.
Then each player receives a second card, and the dealer gets a second card face up. Now each player decides what to do, starting with the player to the dealer’s left and working around the table one player at a time until all players have acted.
The goal of blackjack is to either get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over 21, or have less than 21 and have the dealer go over 21. Going over 21 is called a bust or busting, and if you go over 21 you lose and if the dealer goes over 21 they lose and every player still in the hand wins.
Players have the following choices depending on their cards:
This means you don’t draw any more cards and you’re going to play the cards you have against the dealer at the end of the hand. You can stand after your first two cards or at any point after as long as you don’t go over 21.
When you hit you get another card from the dealer. You can hit as many times as you want as long as you don’t go over 21.
Double Down. When you double down, you place another bet equal to your first bet and receive exactly one more card. After you receive the additional card, you can’t do anything else. The rules about when you can double down vary from casino to casino. Some casinos let you double on any two cards, and others restrict when you can double. Read the house rules or ask the dealer for clarification before you start playing.
If you have a pair you can split them by placing another bet equal to your first one and separating your cards. The dealer will give you another card on each of your original cards creating two independent hands. You then play each hand out as a regular hand. Some casinos allow you to split multiple times if you receive another pair after the first split and others don’t. See the house rules where you play.
In some blackjack games you can surrender after you receive your first two cards. When you surrender you give the dealer back your cards and receive half your bet back. Not all games offer to surrender.
When the dealer has an ace showing, they offer you the chance to take insurance. If you take insurance, you place a bet equal to half your original bet in the insurance spot on the table. If the dealer has a natural blackjack, which is an ace and a 10-value card, you lose your original bet and win 2 to 1 on the insurance bet.
Once all of the players have completed their hands, the dealer turns over their down card and completes their hand. Dealers follow specific rules on how they play their hand. Only one dealer rule differs from casino to casino. Dealers either hit or stand on a soft 17.
A soft 17 is a hand that has an ace that’s counted as an 11. This rule is usually printed on the felt of the table or a card at the table.
Dealers always draw another card when they have less than 17 and always stand learn blackjack when they have 18 or over. They also stand on a hard 17 at all times and follow the house rule on a soft 17.
Once the dealer completes their hand, they collect losing bets and pay out winning bets.
Bets are paid out 1 to 1 so if you bet $20 and win you get back your $20 and win $20.
The only exception to this is if you have a natural blackjack. If you have an ace and a ten value card you have a natural blackjack and are paid the house payout for a blackjack. Most games pay 3 to 2, but some bad games only pay 6 to 5. Don’t play a blackjack game that offers less than 3 to 2.
If you have a blackjack and get paid 3 to 2 on a $20 bet you get back your $20 and a $30 win.
The only time you don’t win when you have a blackjack depends on the house rules. If the dealer also has a blackjack you might tie or push, which means you don’t win or lose, or you might lose. Check the house rules before you play.
Blackjack is an easy game to practice by yourself. Grab a deck of playing cards, shuffle them, and start dealing out hands.
Deal out at least one hand for the player and a dealer hand. You can deal out more than one player hand and practice multiple hands at the same time.
Once you deal out the hands, play them one at a time and then complete the dealer hand following the dealer rules listed above. Keep practicing this way until you’re comfortable with how the game works.
This isn’t required, but you should get a strategy chart or card and use it while you’re practicing. A strategy chart or card tells you the best play to make on every hand. The best strategy has been computer generated to show the play that makes the most money or loses the least amount of money in the long run.
By using a strategy chart while you learn how to play you start memorizing the best plays so when you start playing for real money you can play with the house edge as low as possible.
The way to use a strategy chart or card is to find your hand down the left-hand side, and the dealer’s up card along the top. Where the row and column meet, it shows the best play.
Playing blackjack with friends or family is fun. You only need two people to play, but you can play with up to eight at a time. Take turns being the dealer and everyone can learn how to play together.
You can play without any way to keep track of who wins or you can use chips or pennies to make bets. It’s fun to give everyone 100 pennies or chips and set a time limit for the playing session and see who has the most chips at the end. You can even have a fun prize for the player who wins to make it more competitive.
Don’t worry about playing too fast and everyone can help everyone else learn how to play.
The next step is to sign up for a free account at an online casino and practice at the free blackjack tables. You can’t walk into a land-based casino and play free blackjack, but almost every online casino lets you play for free.
Sign up at one of the best online casinos for a free account. All you need is an email address for most of them.
Once you sign up log in and find the free blackjack games, you can also play at most of the casinos on your phone or other mobile device.
You start by placing a bet, and then the software deals the cards. Your choices are displayed on the screen after you receive your cards and you can click on what you want to do. Once you stand the dealer’s hand is resolved, and you see if you win or lose.
When you play for free online or on your phone, you should use a strategy chart or card like I mentioned earlier. You can also use your chart or card when you start playing for real money, either online or in a land-based casino.
The nice thing about playing free online blackjack is the software takes care of everything. All you need to do is make your playing choices, so you don’t need to worry about making mistakes.
Now you’re ready to play real money blackjack. The best place to start playing for real money is online because the software takes care of everything and you only need to decide how much to bet and how to play your hand.
Only your choices display on the screen so you can’t make a mistake or get confused. If you can’t double, the choice won’t be available to double, and if you can’t split the choice won’t be available.
You should be able to start playing real money blackjack at the same online or mobile casino where you’ve been practicing for free. Some casinos only accept real money play from people in certain countries, so if you can’t play where you’ve been practicing, find another casino listed on this site.
Look for the cashier area or the deposit button and follow the instructions to put your money in the casino. Once you’ve made your deposit, you can start playing for real money.
Make sure you read the terms and conditions before you start playing. This is especially true if the blackjack sites you’re playing at offer a sign-up bonus. Bonuses usually have a playthrough requirement. This means you need to play a certain amount of hands and wager a certain amount before you can cash out your balance.
You need to make sure you understand all of the terms and conditions before you play so you don’t have any surprises when you want to cash out. Not all bonuses allow blackjack play.
Here are a few pointers to help you have the best chance to win when you start playing blackjack for real money.
Never take insurance. It’s a bad bet and increases the house edge.
Always use your strategy card or chart. Every time you make a play that isn’t the best one it costs you money over time. Not every play shows a long-term profit, but by making the best play, you lose as little as possible.
Look for games that offer good rules. Rules that are favorable for you include when the dealer stands on a soft 17, games that offer surrender, games where you can double on any two cards, and games that let you re-split multiple times. You usually won’t be able to find games that have every good rule, but if you find ones that have most of them it lowers the long-term house edge.
Avoid any of the side bets that may be offered. Most of them have a much higher house edge than the normal blackjack game, so they’re a waste of money.
Sign up for the player’s club wherever you play. You should always make sure you’re getting comps or comp points when you play for real money. You can find player’s clubs in almost every land-based casino and in many online ones.
The final step is to play blackjack in a live casino. You can go to the closest land-based casino to where you live or travel to a major gambling destination like Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
The nice thing about blackjack is that almost every casino in the world offers at least a table or two of blackjack so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a game.
Find an open seat at the table and put your money down in front of you. When the current hand is over the dealer will exchange your money for chips. You can also visit the chip cage before you start playing and buy chips there if you prefer.
Most blackjack tables have a circle or spot for your bets. If this is the case simply place the amount, you want to bet in the designated area. If the table doesn’t have a spot for bets just slide the amount you want to bet forward and let the dealer take care of it.
After the dealer gives you your cards get ready to act when it’s your turn. Make sure you don’t bend the cards, or the dealer will get on you about it.
I usually play poker, so I bend my hole cards up to look at them so when I play blackjack, I have to be careful, or I bend the cards the same way. The last time I played blackjack in Las Vegas the dealer had to get on me about bending the cards several times before I finally retrained myself not to do it.
The reason the casino doesn’t want the blackjack cards bent is because some card mechanics try to alter the cards to gain an illegal edge at blackjack.
You should use hand signals and spoken commands when you play in a land-based casino. If you want to stand, say stand and pass your palm over your cards. If you want a hit say hit and tap your cards. If you want to double down say double down and slide another bet out beside your first one. If you want to split turn your cards over, say split, split the cards into two hands, and slide another bet out behind the second hand.
You can use your strategy chart or card at the table. Just try to use it as quickly as possible, so you don’t hold up the game. If you’ve been using it while you practice by this point, you probably know all of the main plays and will only need to study it from time to time.
Be wary of taking any playing advice from the other players at the table. You should also be careful about taking playing advice from the dealer. While the other players and dealer may mean well unless their advice agrees with the strategy chart you should ignore it.
Also, be aware that players who are ignorant of the way mathematics works often complain when the last player to act hits and gets a card that would have busted the dealer. They may make comments about taking the dealer’s bust card.
Ignore all of the players who think this way and if they get too obnoxious ask for a floor person.
A final word of advice: Always start playing for the table minimum until you get used to the game and are comfortable. This way if you make mistakes they don’t cost you as much as when you’re playing for higher stakes.
The easiest way to learn how to play blackjack is to follow the step by step advice on this page. Even if you’ve never played a hand in your life if you follow along with what you just read you’ll be playing like a pro in no time.