How To Play Blackjack

If you’re looking to start playing cards, Blackjack is a great option for beginners as many Blackjack strategies are simple to understand and easy to learn.


The premise of Blackjack is a simple one: beat the dealer. The player’s mission is to reach a card total as close to 21 as they possibly can, without going over. It’s also important to achieve this goal before the dealer reaches a score of 17. Cards scores are as follows: cards numbered 2 through 10 counts at face value while face cards are all worth 10 points. Ace cards can either count as 1 or 11 depending on what is most helpful to an individual player’s hand.

How to Play

The game starts when players place their bet on the designated square in front of them. The standard bet is usually $2 to $500. Then, the dealer deals the cards starting to the left and going clockwise around the table, giving one card, facing up, to each of the players at the table, and then deals one card face-up for themselves. The dealer will then give out one more card, facing up, before dealing themselves one more card. This time, however, the dealer deals with their own card facing down. If, after only two cards, one of the players has reached 21, this is known as a natural (“blackjack”). If a player has a natural but the dealer does not have one, the dealer will pay that player 1 1/2 times the amount of their bet right then and there. However, if the dealer has the natural they are now responsible for collecting the bets of all players who were not lucky enough to have a natural. If there are no naturals, the game continues as usual. At this point, there are five options available to the player:

1. Stand – Refrain from taking another card. This can be signalled verbally by stating aloud “stand” or “no more”. Alternatively, players can signal this by moving their hand to the side, palm down, across the felt of the table.

2. Hit – Ask for another card in hopes of getting closer to 21 or hit it exactly. Signaled by beckoning the dealer or scratching the table with one or two fingers, motioning towards themselves.

3. Split – If the first two cards dealt to a single-player happen to be a pair (two of the same card), the player has to option to split the pair. These two cards now become the first cards of two new hands. The player can put out a second bet for the new hand. Signalled by placing the second bet on the table and showing two fingers to the dealer to indicate the intention to split instead of doubling down.

4. Double Down – Double the bet if the first two cards dealt to them totalled 9, 10, or 11. The player then receives one additional card from the dealer. Signalled by placing the chips for the doubled bet in front of them.

5. Surrender – Relinquishing the hand and reclaiming the original bet. Signaled by drawing a line across the felt behind your bet. If the total of a player’s hand surpasses 21 at any point, the player goes “bust” and loses their bet to the dealer. If a player goes bust they always lose their wager to the dealer, even if the dealer also goes bust. After all of the players take their turn without going bust or surrendering, the dealer needs to play their hand. The dealer will first flip over the card they’d placed face down, called the “hole card”. If the dealer’s hand has a total of 17 or more, they are required to stand. If the dealer’s hand totals 16 or fewer, they will continue taking more hits. A dealer is unable to double, split, or surrender and they must play their hand the same way every time.

Best Strategies

The basic strategy for Blackjack not only includes keeping track of your own cards but also heavily relies on the dealer’s visible card. Basic strategy is based on hundreds of millions of computer-generated simulated hands of Blackjack. These simulations helped the computer to determine the most sound strategies for playing Blackjack and full grids of the results are available online for anyone with the determination and time to study them. The first thing players should keep in mind is that they never want to draw a card when there’s a chance of going bust. Therefore, when the dealer has a visible card of 7, 8, 9, face card, or ace, players should continue drawing until they reach a total of 17 or higher. When the dealer has a visible card of 4, 5, or 6, it is wise for the player should stop taking more cards once they reach a total of at least 12. Lastly, when the dealer has a very low visible card of just 2 or 3, the player should stand once they reach a score of 13 or more. Players only have the choice to surrender on the first two cards dealt. The player won’t be able to surrender if you’ve already opted to hit. There are two types of totals in Blackjack, a soft total and a hard total. A soft total refers to a hand that was dealt an ace in the first round so the ace is one of the player’s first two cards. In this case, the ace counts as 11 for now. A hard total refers to a hand that was not dealt an ace as one of the starting cards. This could mean that the player has no ace, or perhaps an ace has been dealt with later in the game and can be counted as 1 but not counted as 11. The overall strategy for a soft hand is to continue takings until the player’s hand totals at least 18.

Quick tips

Always split aces. Always split 8s. Never split 10s. Never split 5s. Soft 20 always stands. Hard 17 and up always stands. Hard 8 always hits. 8 and under always hits. 17 through 21 always stands. Always double down with a total of 11. Ace + 8 and Ace + 9 always stands. Of course, as with anything, it takes practice to become a master of Blackjack. Don’t be discouraged, remember your strategies, and have fun!