Blackjack Tutorial – Learn to Play BlackJack Blackjack might be the most popular casino table game in existence, and with good reason. With just the right combination of strategy, luck, and a very low house edge, blackjack is a game that is playable by novice gamblers while giving more experienced players the chance to cut down the casino’s advantage to almost nothing – or in some cases, even overcome it. How to Play Blackjack If you’re new to the game, don’t worry – learning how to play blackjack is very simple. The game starts with each player making a single bet. The dealer will then deal out cards to each player, face up. The dealer is also given two cards; one face up, one face down.
The object of the game is to make a hand with a value as close to 21 as possible without going over. Numbered cards (2-10) count as exactly their value. Face cards count as ten, and aces can count as either eleven or (if an 11 would put a hand over 21) as one. After looking at their two card hand, a player can choose between several options. Players always have the option to hit, in which case the dealer will give them another card. The player can also stand, at which point they will receive no further cards. When the player has only two cards, they also have other options.
The player may choose to double down; this means the player makes a second bet (equal to the original bet) to receive just one more card, after which they are done playing the hand. If the first two cards a player receives are of the same value, the player also has the option of putting up an additional bet and splitting those two cards into two separate hands. Casino rules vary on how many times you can split; even if the player has another pair in one of their split hands, the rules may prohibit from further splits. Under some rules, the player also has the chance to surrender their bet, forfeiting half of their bet but ending the hand immediately. If the player hits to receive a third card, their options are more limited.
The player may now only choose to hit or stand after each card they see. If the player hits and ends up with a hand of more than 21, they immediately lose the hand and their bet is lost. Once the player stands, the action moves on to the next player, until all players have made their decisions. Next, the dealer will flip over their face down card. The dealer has rules that determine what hands they will hit and stand on. Usually, the rules stipulate that the dealer will stand on all hands of 18 and higher, and hit on all hands of 16 or less. Some tables have the dealer also hit on a «soft» 17; that is, one that also includes an ace which still counts as eleven. There is no risk of busting (going over 21) on a soft hand, as the ace can simply change from counting as eleven to being counted as just one.
The dealer continues taking cards until they either make a hand that they can stand on, or they bust. If the dealer busts, all players who are still in the hand win even money on their bets. If the dealer stands, all players who have a higher hand than the dealer win even money, while all players with a lower hand than the dealer lose. Any player with a hand equal to the dealer’s hand pushes (their bet neither wins nor loses). When all bets are paid, the next hand begins. However, we haven’t covered one of the most important parts of blackjack – making a blackjack! If the player is dealt a 21 on their first two cards – an ace and a face card or a ten – then they have made a blackjack. Blackjacks pay 3 to 2; on a $10 bet, the casino will pay out $15 for a blackjack, rather than the usual $10 (even money) for a winning hand. On the other hand, the dealer can make a blackjack too.
In fact, if the dealer has an ace or a ten showing, the dealer will usually check for a blackjack before beginning the hand. However, the players will first be offered insurance (usually only if the dealer is showing an ace, since the odds against a dealer blackjack are very long if they are showing a ten). This bet pays 2-1 if the dealer does have a blackjack. Similarly, the dealer will offer players who already have a blackjack an even money win (rather than the 3-2 usually paid for a blackjack) to end the hand immediately, rather than risk the dealer having a blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, the hand ends immediately; all hands lose except for player blackjacks, which push. With the player having so many more options and getting 3-2 odds each time they make a blackjack, many players wonder how the house can have an edge in this game at all.
The secret is that the dealer plays last, and if both the player and the dealer bust, the dealer still wins, since the player forfeits his bet immediately after busting. However, the player’s advantages do count for a lot, and in the end, the house edge is usually under 1% (rule variations can change this slightly). However, this is only true if a player uses perfect blackjack strategy; player mistakes can increase the house edge significantly. Now that you know how to play blackjack, the next step is learning how to play well! Check out our article on blackjack strategy to become an expert blackjack player.