How to Play Blackjack – Rules and Tips

Blackjack is a casino game that is easy to understand, but takes considerable time and effort to master.

Blackjack Rules

The object of the game is to have a higher total than the dealer. The closest to 21 without going over is the winner.

  • Aces count as a 1 or an 11.
  • Face cards count as 10 points.
  • Blackjack is when a player has an Ace and a 10 or face card.

Starting to the immediate left of the dealer, each player receives 1 card with the dealer receiving a card past. The process repeats and all players have 2 cards. The dealer then turns up one card.

Action then starts on the player to the left of the dealer and player can hit, stand or double down. Once a player stands, reaches 21 or busts (hits until total is 22 or more), action moves to the next player. Once all players complete their action, it is the dealer’s turn.

Dealer’s Action

Once the dealer exposes both cards, the action is based on the hand total.

  • Hit if the total is 16 or less.
  • Stand if the total is 17 or more

In some casinos, dealers hit on all ‘soft 17’s’. A soft 17 is when the dealer has an ace and a 6.

Blackjack Tips & Tricks – How to Play with Basic Strategy

Basic strategy calls for a specific way to play every hand. The chart below shows the optimal way to play each hand on games with 4 of more decks.

Some other things to consider when playing your hand include:

  • Never take insurance.
  • Never take even money on a blackjack when the dealer is showing an ace.
  • Never split 5’s or 10’s. Play as a hard total hand.
  • Split as much as you can when the table says to split. When you can no longer split, treat you hand as a hard total.

Sample Blackjack Hands

Winning Blackjack Hand

Dealer showing 8♦

Player: J♠ 5♥ – Hit 4♣

Dealer shows 8♦ Q♥

Player wins.

Losing Blackjack Hand

Dealer showing J♣

Player: J♠ 5♥ – Hit A♣ – Hit K♠ – Player busts.

Dealer shows 8♦ Q♥

Dealer wins.

Blackjack Odds and House Edge

There are a number of factors that go into calculating the house edge in Blackjack including:

  • Number of decks in a shoe
  • Payout on a Blackjack
  • Split rules
  • Double Rules
  • Dealer hits or stays on soft 17

No matter what the rules are for Blackjack, the house edge is 0-1%. The one exception to the house edge is if the house pays Blackjack at less than 3 to 2. A sample of house edge gained from various Blackjack rules are noted below when compared to an 8 deck shoe.

Blackjack Rules Variations
Rule Variation Player Edge (Dealer Edge)
1 Deck 0.48%
2 Deck 0.19%
4 Deck 0.06%
6 Deck 0.02%
No double after aplit -0.14%
Double on 10 or 11 only -0.18%
Dealer hit on soft 17 -0.22%
6/5 Blackjack payout -1.39%
Even money Blackjack payout -2.27%

Blackjack Betting Strategies

There are very few betting strategies that help the player except for 1, counting cards. Counting cards can give the player a mathematical advantage over the house, which is completely legal. As such, the casinos frown on counting cards and can refuse you further action, no questions asked.

Another Blackjack betting pattern is the Martingale system. If a player loses, the bet is doubled. This is repeated until a hand is won. The only way this strategy works if you have unlimited funds in your bankroll, which even Bill Gates essentially doesn’t even have.

Another problem you run into with the Martingale system is table maximums. Casinos can set the maximum bet allowed in a game which can cut off your system by the balls.

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Blackjack Variations

There are a number of different variations of Blackjack. Each version offers a slight rule change, usually resulting in an additional house edge.

Spanish 21 – The game features a 48 deck card where all of the 10’s have been removed from the deck.

Pontoon – The British version of Blackjack plays similar to Spanish 21 where 48 card decks are used. The game is played in the UK and in Australia.

Blackjack Switch – Players are dealt 2 separate hands and you can switch the second card of each hand with each other. Rules variations include Blackjack paying even money and the dealer pushing with 22 against all non-bust hands.

History of Blackjack

The origin of Blackjack is a mystery. The eariest writings of the game date to the 17th Century where it was referenced in a book written by Miguel de Cervantes. The game was called ‘Ventiuna’ which is Spanish for 21.

Blackjack in Pop Culture

Blackjack has been featured in numerous television shows and movies. Mostly the game is shown in a negative or an unrealistic light. Win big, lose your house or get your legs broken are the 3 most popular outcomes in film.

One of the win big scenes was when C.J. Parker, aka Pamela Anderson finds a $25 chip on the casino floor in the television show Baywatch. She proceeds to push her bets after each successive win until she has a mountain of chips.

Another more recent movie was 21, starring Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne. The movie featured the win big and break your legs theme. Along with the unrealistic storyline, this film was an abortion. At least you get to stare at Kate Bosworth for a while though.