How to Play Blackjack – Rules of Blackjack “21”

how to play blackjack

Blackjack is an extremely popular card game among casino players.  In fact, it’s the one game at any and all casinos where the House doesn’t exactly have a huge edge on the player – something that isn’t the same when it comes to games like Craps or Roulette.

The basic concept of blackjack is simple. Players compete against the dealer rather than against each other.

The goal is to have your cards total a value higher than the dealer’s without going over 21.  Therefore, the best possible hand in blackjack is any combination of cards totaling 21. If you go over 21 you’re disqualified, and your hand is said to break or bust.

Below, you can find out how to play blackjack and learn other basic strategies about the game.  Other tutorials are also available on, and you can find them by navigating through the links on the site or on this particular page.

>> Check out our Player Tips guide if you’re a new to Blackjack.

Rules of Blackjack

If you’d like to know how to play blackjack, it’s advisable to gain a thorough understanding of the rules.

Up to seven players are seated at a curved table facing the dealer. Each blackjack round begins with the players placing a minimum bet in a betting box in front of them. At this point, players receive two cards. Cards numbered from 2 to 10 count at face value. The king, queen and jack count as 10 as well. The Ace is the most powerful card, as it can be counted as a 1 or an 11 depending on the player’s preference.

Players take turns asking for more cards in an attempt to get closer and closer to 21 without going over. Next, the dealer plays his hand just as the players have. If the dealer goes over 21, he loses to all players who have not gone over 21. If the dealer’s hand stays below 21, he beats any players who have a lower hand value than the his own. In the case of a tie, the player receives his bet back. As you can imagine, it’s entirely possible for some players to beat the dealer and some players to lose to the dealer within one hand. Players may decide to stop adding cards to their hand at any point.

How to Play Blackjack: Making Blackjack Decisions

As an individual learning how to play blackjack, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the basic decisions you can make as you play. These decisions will have to be clearly communicated to the dealer at a fast pace in order to keep the game moving.

If you choose to hit, you’re asking the dealer to give you another card. This is done by either saying the word hit, scraping your cards on the table or tapping the table with your finger.

If you choose to stand, you’re telling the dealer that you’re satisfied with your hand and that you don’t want any more cards. This is done by saying the word stand, waving your hand in a horizontal motion or sliding your cards onto the betting box under your wager.

If your first two cards are particularly strong, you might choose to double down. Doubling down can only be done immediately after you receive your first two cards. When you double down, you double your wager. This can be accomplished by placing chips next to your original bet in the betting box. After you double down, you’ll receive only one more card.

If you receive two cards of equal value upon being dealt your initial hand, you can split a pair. You can accomplish this by moving an additional bet equal to your first bet next to the betting box. Be sure not to place the second bet in the betting box, or it will look like you’re doubling down. Next, the dealer will split your two initial cards into two hands. You’ll be playing these two hands independently for the duration of the round.

How to Play Blackjack: Dealing

Casino blackjack may be dealt in one of three ways: from one or two decks by hand, from a box or shoe with eight decks, or with a specialized shuffling machine.

If the dealer is dealing by hand, he’ll generally place both of the initial cards face down for each player. The dealer has one card face down and one card face up. If the dealer is dealing from a box, he’ll usually deal all of the cards face up. The style of dealing does not have a significant impact on player strategy.

How to Play Blackjack: Dealer Rules

Casino dealers are required to play their blackjack hand according to a set of rules. If the dealer’s hand is worth less than 17, he’ll be required to ask for another card, or hit. If the dealer’s hand equals 17 or higher, he can not take any more cards, also known as a stand. The only exception occurs when the dealer’s hand contains an Ace and also equals 17. This is known as a soft 17. If the dealer has this hand, he must follow the rule listed on the blackjack table, which will either say stand on soft 17 or hit on soft 17.

How to Play Blackjack: Strategy

Knowing how to play blackjack strategically begins with choosing the correct table. This will depend on how many decks the dealer is using. In general, you’ll have better odds at a table with fewer decks. See below for a listing of house advantage according to decks used.

  • One deck – 0.17% house advantage
  • Two decks – 0.46% house advantage
  • Four decks – 0.60% house advantage
  • Six decks – 0.64% house advantage
  • Eight decks – 0.66% house advantage

Although blackjack strategy can get very complicated very quickly, you can maximize your chances as a beginning player without memorizing charts and statistics.

If you have 17 or higher, it’s best to stand. If your hand is valued from 12 to 16 and the dealer’s face up card is worth 2 to 6, you should also stand. If your hand is 12 to 16 and the dealer’s face up card is a 7 or higher, you should hit. It’s advisable to download and print off a full basic strategy blackjack chart if you wish to take the game seriously. Many casinos will even let you use one of these charts at the table, so long as you’re not impeding the pace of play.