Blackjack is one of the most popular games at any casino. No matter where you go in the world, a good casino will always offer some form of Blackjack. The game has been around for a long time, which means there are lots of different rules and game types out there. The main aim of any game of Blackjack, however, is to beat the dealer without going over twenty-one.
Blackjack is incredibly straightforward to learn, one of the reasons for its massive popularity. However, there are still lots of things to consider when playing, and the game involves a surprising amount of strategy and skill. Whereas a lot of casino games are all about pure luck, you can actively increase your odds at Blackjack is you know how to play. Of course, there’s still a fair amount of luck involved, but good Blackjack players can consistently land big wins if they get lucky.
At Xfire, we’re huge fans of Blackjack and enjoy helping new players to join in the fun. If you’re completely new to the casino or have never played Blackjack before, it can be a little confusing. We’ve put together this guide to help you understand the rules of Blackjack so you can start playing today.
We’ll go over some of the main rules to consider and how to get the most out of certain hands and situations. Before you know it, you’ll be playing Blackjack like a pro and hopefully winning big too! Remember that because different variations of Blackjack exist, the rules can sometimes be different. Be sure to check the rules of the game before you play.
The basic rules of classic blackjack
If you’ve never played before, don’t worry, the rules of Blackjack are fairly simple and easy to learn. We’re going to cover all the basic rules of classic Blackjack, including winning conditions and how to play.
First off, you’ll need to remember that the objective of the game is to beat the dealer by having a higher value hand. Remember that you can’t go over twenty-one or you’ll bust, and the dealer will automatically win regardless of their hand. Having a hand of Ace and a ten card is known as a Blackjack. A Blackjack will give you an automatic win and usually 1.5x your stake. The only time you won’t win with a Blackjack is if the dealer also has one. In this case, you’ll have your stake returned to you.
Your hand value is based on the values of each card. These values are signified on the card itself, with cards 2-10 worth between two and ten. Face cards such as Jacks, Queens, and Kings are all worth ten. An Ace is worth either one or eleven, depending on which makes a better hand. A Blackjack can only be formed with an Ace and a ten or face card.
The dealer is your opponent and at the start of the game will deal you, and any other player at the table two cards. They’ll deal themselves one card to begin with. In classic Blackjack, you’ll be able to see the dealer’s card, but some game types don’t show it until later. Once you’ve taken your turn, the dealer will always take new cards until they reach a total of seventeen or more.
Once you’ve received your hand of two cards, you’ll have several different options available to you. You can choose to stand, that’s to end your turn without taking an action. You can choose to hit, that’s to ask the dealer for another card. You can choose to double down, that’s to ask for another card while doubling your stake. Finally, you can also split. Splitting can only be done if you receive two of the same card on your first turn. For example, if you received two eights or two sevens, you’d be able to split them. This gives you two hands, and you’ll receive two new cards, one for each hand. Some games types will also let you surrender after receiving your hand. If the dealer has an Ace as their face-up card, you can also take out an insurance bet.
As a new player, some of the terms and descriptions of Blackjack might be a little confusing at first. We’ve written a short list of some of the key terms and an explanation of what each term means.
- Soft hand – A soft hand is any hand that contains an Ace. As Aces can be either a one or eleven, they’re a useful card to have and can give you an advantage. You also need an Ace to make Blackjack, the best hand in the game.
- Hard hand – A hard hand is a hand without an Ace or a hand that has an Ace with a value of one. For example, if you had a hand value of seventeen and received an Ace. The Ace would have to have a value of one, or your hand value would exceed twenty-one.
- Bust – Bust is where either the player or the dealer has their hand value go over twenty-one. At this point, the person who bust loses and the other wins. Can also be known as a break.
- House edge – The house edge is the advantage that the casino has in the game. Casinos are sometimes known as the house. Most Blackjack games have a very low house edge, but some situations, bets or rule changes will change the house edge slightly. You can look up the house edge of a game before you play to give you an idea of how fair it is.
- Push – A push bet is the result of a tie, where both the dealer and player reach the same hand value. If you have a push bet, your stake is returned to you in most cases.
- Even money – Even money describes odds that are 50/50 or 2 to 1. In other words, if you bet a stake of $20, you can win $20, or you can lose $20. Winning at Blackjack will payout even money, but landing a Blackjack usually pays out at odds of 3 to 2 or 1.5x your stake. This means that from a bet of $20 you can win $30.
- Shoe – The shoe is the box that holds the cards. In most online games of Blackjack, it’s a virtual shoe. Live games will still use a real shoe as you would see at the land-based casinos.
- Upcard – The upcard is the face-up card of the dealer. Most Blackjack games will allow you to see the dealer’s first card, giving you an idea of what strategy to follow.
Player actions explained
We’ve covered the actions you can take in Blackjack, but now we’re going to look a bit closer. Here we’ll explain the details of each action and when they can be performed. If you want to play Blackjack, you’ll need to know this information well, especially if you want to win.
Stand – Standing will effectively end your turn and allows the dealer to then make their move. You should stand when you’re happy that your hand is high enough to beat the dealer. Remember that you don’t necessarily need to be close to twenty-one, provided the dealer busts or ends their turn with a lower hand, you’ll win. If you hit a twenty-one in online Blackjack, the game will automatically put you in stand. At this point, the only way the dealer can beat you is with a Blackjack.
Hit – If you’d like to add more cards to your hand to get a higher value, you’ll need to hit. The dealer will pass you one extra card, and you’ll be able to take another action after that. Whether it’s a good idea to take a hit or not will depend on the hand of you and the dealer. A low value will mean you’ll want to hit but be careful not to hit too much as you can bust if you go over twenty-one.
Double Down – Doubling down is similar to a hit, only instead of receiving an extra card, you’ll also increase your stake. Your stake is doubled, hence the name. Usually, this will also end your turn. Some game types will allow you to make other actions after the double down, however.
Splitting – If your cards are a set of pairs, you’ll be able to split. You’ll receive two more cards, so you have two hands with two cards each. You can only split on your first action of the round. Sometimes, however, you may be able to split twice in a row if you receive another pair. Bear in mind that splitting will give you multiple hands and will also increase your bet. Your stake is increased by the number of hands you have in play. So two hands will be 2x your stake.
Insurance Bet – If the dealer draws an Ace, you can take insurance out against them having a Blackjack. If the dealer lands a Blackjack, you’ll lose even if you have a twenty-one. The insurance bet is half your stake and pays out at odds of 2 to 1. You’ll lose your stake from your original bet, but you’ll at least be able to break even if the dealer has a Blackjack.
Surrender – When you first receive your hand, you’ll be able to surrender as your first action. This will mean you effectively give up for that round and your cards are returned to the dealer. It may seem like a bad idea, but the upside is that you get half of your stake returned to you if you surrender. If you have a particularly bad hand and the dealer has a good upcard, it can be a smart choice to surrender and wait for the next round.
Basic blackjack strategy
Now you know how the rules work you’re almost ready to start playing. Before you join a table, it’s a good idea to brush up on some basic Blackjack strategy. You don’t have to follow these rules, but they will help you to increase your chances of winning, so it makes sense. We’ve listed a few examples of when to perform each action to help give you improved odds when you play Blackjack.
Knowing when to hit
You should take a hit in Blackjack if any of the following is true:
- Your hand is between eight and twelve, and the dealer’s upcard is a seven, eight, nine, ten or Ace.
- Your hand value is eleven, and the dealer has an Ace.
- You have a total of ten, and the dealer’s card is showing a ten.
- Your hand has a value of nine and the dealer has a seven, eight or nine showing.
Knowing when to stand
You should stand if any of the following is true:
- Your hand totals seventeen or above.
- You have a total of thirteen or above, and the dealer’s upcard is a six or below.
- You have a pair of tens or face cards. You might be tempted to split them, but it’s much better to stand.
Knowing when to double down
You should double down if any of the following is true:
- Your hand value is at eleven, and the dealer doesn’t have an Ace as the upcard.
- You have a total of ten, and the dealer doesn’t have an Ace or a ten.
- You have a hard nine or ten, and the dealer has a three, four, five or six upcard.
Knowing when to split
You should ideally split your pairs if any of the following are true:
- Split twos or three if the dealer has an upcard between four and seven.
- Sixes or sevens can be split if the dealer has a six or below showing.
- Always split eights no matter what upcard the dealer has.
- You have a pair of Aces and the rules allow for them to be split.
Knowing when to surrender
Surrendering isn’t always accepted at every casino, but if it is, you can choose to surrender if any of the following is true:
- You have a sixteen that’s not made of a pair of eights, and the dealer has a nine, ten or Ace.
- You have a hand value of fifteen, and the dealer has an upcard with a value of ten.