In this section we'll focus on how to play blackjack by providing you with an overview of the basic rules of the game as well as the decisions that the player and dealer can make during play. We'll start with some main points about the game and then show you how a typical game of blackjack would be played. If you are looking for a more brief overview see ourblackjack rules page for a bulleted list of how to play that briefly touches on the major rules required to become a competent blackjack player.
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Basics of Blackjack
- Objective: The objective of blackjack is to make a hand as close to 21 as possible, without going over and while having a higher total that the dealer.
- Setup: The game is played on a felt semi-circle table, there can be as little as one player and as many as eight players participating in each round.
- Betting: You place your wager in the circle in front of you on the table, you are always playing against the dealer NOT the other players at the table.
- Deal: All players that have wagered will be dealt two cards face up to start, the dealer will be dealt one card face up and one card face down.
- Decision: Once all cards have been dealt to players and dealers, players must make a decision about their hand, order is from left to right until dealer.
- Dealer: Once all betting players have completed making decisions on their hands, the dealer will now act according to specific dealer rules for playing.
Overview of Game Play
Now that we know some of the basic principles of playing 21, let's take a look at a typical game to help you further understand how to play blackjack. Once you've taken a seat at the table and bought chips, you'll be asked to place a bet in order to participate in the next round of play. The table limits will be marked on a plaque at the table and your wager must be between the minimum and maximum bets for each round, although you are usually allowed to play multiple hands at the same table if you so desire.
Once you've placed your bet, the dealer will begin giving out cards to all players that placed a bet, each player will receive 2 cards face up. The dealer will receive 2 cards however only one of their cards will be exposed (called the up card) and the other card will be face down. At this point the dealer will start with the player to their left and work clockwise around the table, players must make a decision about their hand at this point and the decisions are as follows:
- Hit: A player may choose to hit, which means they want to add another card to their hand to increase its total, if this card pushes your hand over 21 you bust and lose your bet. If it keeps you under 21 you can stop hitting or continue hitting until you get a total you are happy with or have busted.
- Stand: The opposite of hitting, when the player announces they'd like to stand they mean they no longer want to add any cards to their hand and are happy with their total. For example if your first two cards were two 10's you would probably want to stand with your total of 20 against the dealers hand.
- Split: If the first two cards that you receive are the same (for example two 4's) you will be given the option to split your hand into two separate hands. To do this, you'll need to place another wager equal to your first bet and then will have two hands to play against the dealer for that round of play.
- Double: The last option for the player is to double (also called doubling) which as the name suggest allows you to place an additional wager less than or equal to your first bet. If you double, you will only receive 1 more card on your hand and may not hit again, you must stand with whatever is dealt.
Once you have made the decisions outlined above for your particular hand it will be the dealer's turn to play, if you have not busted (not gone over 21 and still have a hand in play) this is the point where the winner of the game will be determined. Remember that the object of the game is not only to get as close to 21 as possible but also to have a higher total than the dealer so you'll need to beat their total as well in order to win a specific round of play.
Note On Getting Blackjack
If at the beginning of the round when the cards are dealt the player receives a 10 or a face card with an ace they will have gotten blackjack and will paid 2:1 on the wager they've made immediately assuming that the dealer does not have an ace as their up card. If the dealer has an ace as their up card, the player may request an even money 1.5:1 payout immediately or in turn can purchase insure or gamble that the dealer does not have blackjack. If both you and the dealer have blackjack then the hand is a push and your bet is returned with no winnings since you've achieved the same have value as the dealer.
At the beginning of the round if the dealer's up card is an ace everyone at the table will be offered insurance on their hand in the case that the dealer has blackjack. The insurance bet is basically you betting that the player has blackjack and can be used to save your hand. If you take an insurance bet, you will put a bet up to the amount you've bet on the hand in the insurance spot on the table. The dealer will check their cards, and if they have blackjack then you will lose your original wager however will be paid out 1:1 on your insurance bet, essentially breaking even. If the dealer does not have blackjack, then you lose your insurance bet and will continue to play your hand with your first wager. Generally speaking, taking insurance is not a good idea since it's a house heavy bet that loses over the long run.
Rules for The Dealer
Unlike the player the dealer has certain restrictions on how they must play their hand and they don't have the same flexibility as the player does when it comes to making decisions. Once all players have acted, the dealer will expose their face down card to show their current hand total. At this point, if the dealers hand is 17 or less, they will take a card(s) until they've achieved over 17 total or have busted and gone over 21. The dealer also may not split or double down ever so they have to play their hand straight up against the players by either hitting or standing according to the rules above.
Did I Win or Lose?
After the dealer has completed their hand according to the dealers rules, the dealers total will be compared with the total of each player hand and the higher hand of the two wins. If the dealer wins, they will take your chips and you will need to wait until the next round to bet. If the player wins, the dealer will pay them out at even money 1:1 for their hand. This means if you won with a $50 bet, you would be paid $50 for a total of $100 in winnings. The exception to this would be if you were dealt a winning blackjack in which case if you bet $50 you would be paid $75 (1.5:1) for a total win of $125 that round.