Basic Blackjack Rules

There exist enormous variations in Blackjack rules, but some of common to nearly all casinos. The popularity of casino Blackjack has increased greatly over the last thirty years since it was discovered that this is the one of the few casino games that can be regularly beaten with expert play. Despite this, the casinos have profited handsomely because very few players have the patience to practice sufficiently to beat the casinos. Interestingly, Blackjack also provides one of the greatest advantages for the casino when a bad player plays. This section contains a brief description of the basic casino Blackjack rules. For additional Blackjack rules see Blackjack Rule Variations.

Blackjack Objective

A casino Blackjack game consists of a dealer and one to seven players. You do NOT play Blackjack against other players; You play against the dealer. In fact, other players are not relevant to your play. They are mainly a distraction. You are betting that you have a better hand than the dealer. The better hand is the hand where the sum of the card values is closer to 21 without exceeding 21. A hand that is greater than 21 is referred to as "busted" and automatically loses.

Card values

The value of cards two through ten is their pip value (two through ten). Face cards (Jack, Queen and King) are all worth ten. Aces can be worth one or eleven. A hand's value is the sum of the card values. Soft hands and hard hands exist. A soft hand contains an Ace that is being counted as eleven. (Remember, an Ace can count as one or eleven.) For example, if a hand has an Ace and a Six, this is a soft 17. This hand cannot be busted by drawing another card. If a ten is drawn, the Ace would be counted as one instead of eleven, and the hand would still have a value of 17. However, this would now be a hard 17, because the Ace now counts as one and an additional draw could cause a bust.

The Play

Once players have placed their bets, the deal begins. Players are each dealt two cards, face up or down depending on the casino and the table at which you sit. The dealer is also dealt two cards, normally one up (showing) and one down (hidden). The players are allowed to draw additional cards ("hit" their hand) to improve their hands. When all of the players have finished, the dealer's hand is completed. The dealer plays by strict rules set by the casino. Generally, the dealer will draw additional cards until the dealer hand is above hard 16. In some casinos, the dealer will hit a hand with 17 if it is a "soft" hand. This is a bad Blcakjack rule.

Note: the dealer has an advantage because the players play first. If the player busts, then the dealer does not need to risk a bust. On the other hand, players also enjoy an advantage because they get to see one of the dealer's cards and are allowed to vary their play accordingly. Other player advantages will be explained below:

Blackjack or Natural

This Blackjack rule developed in the early part of last century defines a bonus for which the game was named. If the player's first two cards add to 21 (an Ace and a ten value card), this is called a "Blackjack" or "natural". As long as the dealer does not also have a Blackjack, the player is guaranteed to win the hand and the payoff is 3:2 instead of the normal 1:1. This is a valuable bonus that occurs about every 20 hands. If the dealer also has a Blackjack, the hand is "pushed". That is, there is a tie and the player's chips remain in the bet box.

Hitting and Standing

Hitting refers to drawing additional cards. You may draw as many cards as you wish as long as you do not pass 21. Standing refers to staying with the cards that you have.

Splitting Pairs

If your first two cards have the same value, you may split them into two hands. For example, two eights can be split into two hands each having one eight. You can then play the two hands separately. You must add an additional bet for the second hand. If you draw yet another card of the same value, some casinos allow you to split into three hands (or even four with an additional eight). This is called a resplit. Most casinos impose limitations when splitting two Aces. You can only draw one card to each Ace, and you cannot get a Blackjack. Note: Blackjack rules like this must be correctly used to obtain decent results.

Doubling Down

An additional option, "double down", allows you to double your bet on your first two cards. You draw exactly one card with double down. This is common practice if you have a good hand that cannot be busted and the dealer has a bad hand. Remember, because face cards all count as ten, there exist more cards with a value of ten than any other value. If the dealer has a six showing, there is a good chance that the dealer has a 16. Since a dealer must draw with a 16, there is a good chance that the dealer will draw a card that carries the dealer hand over 21 causing a dealer bust. If you have an eleven (say a seven and a four), you cannot bust with one card. You are likely to end up with a good hand. This option allows you to double your bet when you have a better than even chance of winning.


If the dealer's up card (the card that is showing) is an Ace, you are allowed to make an "insurance" bet. This is a side bet that the dealer has a ten-value card as the down card giving the dealer a Blackjack. The dealer will ask for insurance bets from all players before the first player plays. You make this bet by placing chips equal to half of your current bet on the "insurance line" just above your cards. If the dealer has a ten, the insurance bet pays 2:1. In some casinos, the dealer then peeks at the down card and pays or takes the bet immediately. In other casinos, the payoff waits until the end of the play. Note: This Blackjack rule should never be used by a Basic Strategy player.


A few casinos allow an option referred to as "Surrender". In these casinos, you can Surrender a lousy hand before you have drawn any additional cards. You will lose half of your bet.

For additional Blackjack rules see Blackjack Variations.






Gambling problem, contact the National Council on Problem Gambling.
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