The rules of blackjack are simple and it will only take you ten minutes or so to learn how to play the game.
However, just knowing the rules doesn’t make you a good player. To reduce the house advantage to a minimum must also learn the basic blackjack strategy.
But before we get into that, let’s have a look at the rules of the game.
Objective of the Game
Your goal in blackjack is to get a hand value closer to 21 compared to the dealer’s hand – without going over 21.
You simply draw cards, add them, and decide when you want to stop and let the dealer complete his hand.
The dealer then follows strict guidelines – he makes no own decisions. When the dealer has 16 and below he has to draw another card and when he has 17, 18, 19, 20 or 21 he has to stand.
Card Values in Blackjack
These are the three different card types in a game of blackjack:
Aces count as 11 or 1
Face cards count as 10
Numeric cards count as their regular value.
What suit the cards have doesn’t matter.
Soft and Hard Hands
Hands without any aces are straightforward to calculate: J-5-2 is 17; 9-9 is 18; K-2-2-6 is 20 and so on.
If you have an ace in your hand, which can count as both 11 and 1, your hand can have two values at the same time. This is called a “soft hand” or “soft ace” and means that you can draw an additional card without the risk of going bust (going over 21).
Say that you’re dealt A-5.
Now you have 16 or 6 and can safely draw another card.
If your third card is a 5, you have 21 with the ace counted as 11.
If your third card is 6 or above the ace must count as 1, otherwise your hand would be busted.
When you have an ace that can only be counted as 1, you have a “hard hand” or “hard ace.”
He difference between soft and hard hands is important to remember when you study at blackjack strategy charts. The two are treated very differently in the game.
Blackjack – 21 on the First Two
A blackjack, or a "natural," is equivalent to any card equaling ten, paired with an ace, to equal 21.
In most casinos – both offline and online – this pays 3:2. In other words, a $10 bet pays $15.
You can only get blackjack on your first two cards. All other combinations are simply 21.
A blackjack beats everything except if the dealer also has blackjack. In that case it’s a push. If the dealer gets a regular 21 and the player has blackjack, player wins.
Player’s Choices in Blackjack
Hit: Hitting means that you draw an additional card, which is added to your hand’s total value.
Stand: Standing means that you’re finished with your hand and you let the dealer complete his hand.
Double Down: Doubling down means that you make another bet equal to the original and get one – and only one – more card. After this, you’re finished and not allowed to draw any more.
This can be very profitable if used in the right spots.
Say, for instance, that the dealer shows a 6 and your first two cards total 11.
This is a perfect time to double down. Chances are good that the dealer will bust, and if you draw a 10 or any face card you’ll have 21.
Split: When you get a pair on the first two cards you’re allowed to split them into two hands and play them independently.
Say that you get two eights, which basic blackjack strategy advices you to always split, you match your first bet and then get one more card on each eight.
Now you play the first of the two hands, and when that is done, you move on to the second.
However, different casinos have different rules regarding slit hands:
Some allow you to double down after a split and others don’t (say that you’d get a 3 in the example above).
Some allows you to split again if you get another pair and others don’t.
If you get 21 on the first two cards in a split hand, this is usually not treated as blackjack. Instead, you have a normal 21.
Take Insurance: When the dealer’s up card is an ace, players are offered insurance. But as always when it comes to insurance salesmen you should watch out. That’s also true in blackjack.
The deal sounds like this:
When the dealer shows an ace you have the opportunity to make a side bet equal to half of your original bet. If the dealer then flips a ten or a face card for blackjack, the side bet is paid 2:1 and you break even (given that you don’t have blackjack yourself and tie the original wager.)
This may sound like a good deal – it’s not!
Every time the dealer doesn’t have a ten in the hole, you’ll lose your insurance and still have to play your original hand with the risk of losing that too. The dealer won’t have a ten in the hole often enough to make the insurance mathematically profitable, so just forget about this option and you’ll be fine.
Surrender: Naturally this only applies to games offering the option to surrender. Usually that’s not the case. However, some online blackjack sites have this type of blackjack.
Surrender basically means that you can get rid of your hand for the price of half the original wager. Say that you have 16, and the dealer shows an ace, then you should probably consider waving the white flag and take half bet back.
But there are two types of surrender: early and late.
In early-surrender games, which are much better for the player, you’re allowed to fold your hand before the dealer checks whether or not he has blackjack. This is a huge advantage and why this game rarely is offered.
In late-surrender games, the dealer first checks his hole card for blackjack, and if he has a natural, you’re not allowed to surrender the hand.
The surrender rule should not be confused with insurance, which always is a bad deal. When used correctly, surrendering increases your expected value.
Now you know the basic rules in blackjack. But as said in the beginning, this isn’t enough to play the game well.
Our advice is that you use the blackjack strategy chart. Print it out and have it ready whenever a tricky situation arises or have it open in a separate window when you play online. Also, check out our free blackjack strategy trainer and get real-time advice while playing.
If you want to play on the net, CasinoToplists has put together a list of the best blackjack sites online. Chose one of them and you’re guaranteed a nice online-blackjack experience.