Learning to play blackjack is fun and the game rules are easy to pick up. All you need to do is read a basic guide and within a few short minutes, you can be sat at a blackjack table playing for real money.
In this guide, we are going to take you through the key principles of the world’s most beautiful casino table game as well as give you bonus insights into how you can take your blackjack gameplay to the next level once you have mastered the basics!
Let’s begin with some of the rules:
1. You need to place your bets before the game begins
2. The dealer deals 2 cards to players and 2 cards to the dealer position
3. Both player cards are face-up, 1 dealer card is face up and 1 face down
4. All cards have a value between 1 and 11 (Ace can be 1 and 11)
5. All number cards are scored at face value i.e. a 7 is 7 points
6. All picture cards are valued as 10
7. On your turn, you need to hit, stand, double down, split, or surrender
8. If your hand total exceeds 21, you automatically lose your bet
9. The dealer will only act after all player hands are complete
10. The dealer will need to follow the table rules such as stand on 17 or above
11. The player wins only when his/her hand value beats the dealer’s hand value
12. The player wins even odds for beating the dealer’s hand
Before we begin…
If you are new to blackjack, then the best way to learn is to play on a virtual blackjack table. Virtual tables have no time limit between hands so you can take your time and select low stake bets to begin with. Check out our virtual blackjack tables here on mBitcasino where you can play using crypto bets or for free.
We suggest trying out Blackjack ‘Double Exposure’. This variation of the game will give you a good foothold and feel for the game – although you will need to ignore the fact that a ‘blackjack’ hand pays even odds on this version of the game!
Double Exposure is great for beginners because you get to see both the dealer’s cards. This can help you build up a good instinct for what the dealer may have when playing other blackjack variants in the future.
As you can already see, you are just about to enter an exciting world of stats and strategy. In the beginning, you will simply learn ‘how to play blackjack’, but over time, you will learn how to play ‘winning blackjack’. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, we recommend that you take the time to learn the 4 basic steps outlined in this guide so you can build up your confidence.
STEP 1: The Rules of Blackjack
STEP 2: Playing Blackjack
STEP 3: Dealer Rules
STEP 4: House Edge and RTP
STEP 1: The Rules of Blackjack
Now, most blackjack guides will tell you that the objective of blackjack is to create a hand as close to '21' as possible, which is not strictly true. On many occasions you will find yourself getting close to '21', for example a score of '19', and the dealer still wins with a '20' or '21'.
Bearing this in mind, the objective of blackjack changes slightly. In fact, the idea is to play well enough to ‘beat the dealer’, and to do this you have 2 objectives instead of 1.
Beat the dealer’s hand total: This is self explanatory. You just need to hold a hand valued higher than the dealer's.
Avoid going bust by exceeding 21: Winning a hand does not always mean beating the dealer's total. Sometimes the dealer will 'bust' and as long as your hand is still in play, you will automatically win.
To reach these objectives, you will need to learn the rules of blackjack by understanding the following 6 concepts:
1. Blackjack Card and Hand Values
2. Going Bust or Busting
3. Hard hands versus soft hands
4. Placing your Bets on a Blackjack Table
5. Playing Multi-deck Blackjack
6. Getting paid!
1. Blackjack Card and Hand Values
Learning the card values is easy because unlike games such as poker, the suit of the cards is irrelevant when you are playing straight blackjack rules i.e. we are not including bonus bets!
· Every card counts as face value (the number written on it)
· All royal picture cards have a value of 10
· Ace can be valued as 1 or 11
You will win and get paid by linking these cards together into a hand that is valued higher than the dealer’s hand value 'OR' if the dealer ‘busts’ and your hand is still valid because you chose to ‘stand’ instead of ‘hit’.
· Dealer: 18 + you 20 = you win
· Dealer: 19 + you 19 = tie (push)
· Dealer: 20 + You: 19 = you lose
Blackjack Hand: A blackjack hand is when you have an Ace and a 10 card. On most blackjack tables, you will automatically win when you are dealt a ‘blackjack’ hand, but the rules can vary.
Standard Hand: Standard hands are simple to figure out. If you have a 7-8, then your hand total is 15. Let’s say you decide to ‘hit’, and the next card is a 3. Your hand total is now 18.
2. Going Bust or Busting
You will find that you will ‘bust’ playing blackjack quite often. This is not the end of the world and is just a part of the game. Going ‘bust’ can also happen to the dealer which means you will automatically win if your hand did not ‘bust’ before it was the dealer’s turn to act.
For a hand to be considered as 'bust', it will exceed a total value of 21.
For example, if you have a hand that is 14, and the next card that appears is a ‘King’, then your hand total will be 24. This is because the ‘King’ counts as a 10 score. Your hand is therefore over 21 and ‘bust’.
3. Hard Hands Versus Soft Hands
Learning the difference between a soft hand and a hard hand is important because eventually will have to incorporate 'basic strategy' into your game. That is if you want to play 'winning blackjack'.
· A soft hand is any hand with an Ace
· A hard hand is any hand with no Ace or a hand that counts the Ace a ‘1’
Therefore, an '8-9' will count as a 'hard 17' but an 'A-6' is a 'soft 17'. However, if the 'A-6' hand just mentioned is dealt a '10' then it becomes a 'hard 17' because the Ace is now counted a ‘1’. In this case, you cannot count the Ace as an 11 or the hand would ‘bust’. Another example of a 'soft 17' is 'A-2-4' or 'A-3-3'.
As you can see, it is quite common for a ‘soft hand’ to turn into a ‘hard hand’ as you start to 'hit' for more cards. You also do not need to announce the value of your Ace because it will automatically be converted by the dealer from a value of ‘11’ to a value of ‘1’ which is like an unspoken rule in blackjack.
4. Placing Your Bets on a Blackjack Table
To let the dealer, know that you are in the next hand, you will need to place your casino chip(s) in the circle in front of your seat. If you are playing multiple seats, then a bet must be placed in each circle for each seat. On occasion, you may come across tables that use a square instead of a circle but its the same thing.
Once your chips are in, there is nothing more for you to do. There may be a ‘side bet’ option which you will normally only be allowed to activate if you have placed a bet to play the main game. Therefore, if you do want to make a side bet, make sure you make your 'main bet' before placing a chip in the ‘side bet’ area.
The only other occasions you will place more chips on the table are for ‘insurance’, ‘double down’, or ‘split’ actions.
· Double down – place another chip of the same value in the betting circle
· Split – place another chip of the same value next to the betting circle
· Insurance – place half your original bet in front of the betting circle or on the insurance line
Note: if you are playing a virtual blackjack game, or at a live dealer table online, the chips will be placed in the correct betting areas automatically. This is why playing blackjack online before you go to play in a land-based casino is a great idea. You can learn exactly how much and where the chips should be placed before you enter the casino.
5. Playing Multi Deck Blackjack
When you are 'learning how to play blackjack' it des not matter how many decks of cards are in use. The number of decks involved only becomes relevant when you to start playing winning blackjack, in which case, the general rule of thumb is 'the fewer decks there are, the more the house edge sways in your favour'.
The most important reason for knowing how many decks are in play is if you are going to use ‘basic strategy’. As a result, you will need to implement the correct version of 'basic strategy' according to the number of decks in the shoe.
You will find that these days most tables use 4, 6, or 8 decks when you are playing in a land-based casino. On the other hand, in blackjack lobbies online you will easily be able to find single-deck games in both the live casino area and the virtual casino game section.
6. Getting Paid
We all play blackjack to win, and when we win, we want to get paid!
The whole thrill of the game is seeing the chips that you bet returned with even more chips beside them. In other words, losing is not fun!
All wins except blackjack pay even odds: If you bet 1 mBTC and beat the dealer, then you should be paid back 2 mBTC. That is your 1 mBTC bet paid back plus 1 mBTC for your win. Likewise, if you bet $10 and win, you should be paid back $20. This means you original $10 is paid back and $10 on top for the win.
Blackjack: If you win when your hand is a ‘Blackjack, then you should be paid 3 to 2. A bet of 10 mBTC pays 3 mBTC to every 2 mBTC stake plus your original bet is returned. 10 mBTC is ‘5 lots’ of ‘2 mBTC’ so you will be paid back 15 mBTC (5x3) plus your 10 mBTC stake will be returned on top. Altogether a 10 mBTC bet will return 25 mBTC when you win with a ‘Blackjack’ hand.
Insurance: Insurance bets are always 50% of your original bet and will pay 2-1. If your insurance bet was 10 mBTC, then your total return is 30 mBTC. This is your 10 mBTC insurance bet returned plus 20 mBTC paid on top.
Exceptions to these payouts: Some tables like ‘Double Exposure’ blackjack will pay even odds on blackjack wins while you may also come across tables that offer 6 to 5 on blackjack. Try to avoid the 6-5 tables while ‘Double Exposure’ tables are still fine to play because the reduced blackjack payout is made up by the fact that you can see both of the dealer’s cards.
Tie: Depending on the variant of blackjack that you play, a tied hand means your bet is pushed i.e. your bet is returned. That means you and the dealer will both have the same ‘hand value’ even in cases where both you and the dealer have blackjack; however, there are cases where the dealer wins when the player and dealer both have blackjack.
Side Bets: Side bets are a separate game to blackjack. As such, you will be paid according to the side bet hand values.
STEP 2: Playing Blackjack
Now all the technical sides to the game are out of the way with, the fun begins. You already know how to place bets which we cover in ‘Step 1’ so now its time to learn what actions you should take while playing blackjack.
3. Splitting Pairs
4. Double Downs
Hitting is easy but difficult to master. To ‘hit’ means you want the dealer to give you another card. To learn which hands to ‘hit’, you should begin to master basic strategy.
Standing means you do not want any further cards to be added. This will also signal the end of your hand. Whichever value remains is the score that will go up against the dealer’s hand.
3. Splitting Pairs
The concept of splitting hands is easy to understand and the dealer or game you are playing will normally ask if you want to ‘split’ then you have the option to. The skill to master is knowing when to split which once again basic strategy will teach when you should and should not split pairs.
When you split pairs, you will be splitting 2 cards of equal value which will create 2 separate hands at the same seat. That means a Jack-King hand can be split. Similarly, 7-7 or Ace-Ace hands can be split, while the decision whether to split your pairs is entirely down to you.
When you do split the table, rules require you to enter in an additional bet equal to the size of your original bet to activate your new hand. Once your cards are split and you have placed a bet on the split hand, you will now play each hand separately by hitting, standing, or opting to double down if allowed.
Also, be aware that different rules apply to ‘splits’ depending on the table you are playing at so make sure you check. To get the best house edge, you should try to play at tables that allow you to split any paid, but this is not always the case.
· Some tables do not allow you to split pairs
· Some tables will not allow you to split aces
· Tip - never split 10s
4. Double Down
When you are given the option to double down, all you need to do is add a bet equal to the amount of your original stake. That said, most casinos will allow you to double down for less than the original bet but nearly every blackjack strategist will advise against this. As such, our advice is to always stick to adding an equal amount to your original stake when taking the double down.
Once your double down bet is in place, you will automatically ‘hit’ for 1 more card only. If your hand does not bust, which is unlikely, you will then be forced to ‘stand’.
As with splits above, double downs also come with different rules depending on the table you are playing on. Some of these rules can be restrictive and others flexible so make sure you check what’s on offer before you play.
Restrictive Double Down Rules
· Double Down only on 9, 10 or 11
· Double Down only on 10 or 11
· Double Down only on 11
· No Double Down after split
Flexible Double Down Rules
· Double Down on any total
· Double Down allowed on 3 or more cards
· Double Down allowed after splits
Not many tables offer surrender but when they do, this can save you going into a bet in which ‘basic strategy’ suggests the house is going to win more often than not. In that case, you can surrender your hand and the house will return half you bet. Surrender is not an option once you ‘hit’.
· Late Surrender: the player will not be able to surrender if the dealer has ‘blackjack’
· Early Surrender: you can surrender your hand before the dealer checks for ‘blackjack’
When the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, then you will be given the option to take insurance on most tables. In essence, when you take insurance, you are betting that dealer’s face-down card has a value of 10. You will need to place half the amount of your original stake in insurance, and then continue to play your hand as normal.
As soon as the dealer’s hand is concluded, if it is blackjack, then you are paid 2-1 on your insurance bet and you lose the original bet to enter the hand.
Should you happen to have blackjack and the dealer’s card is an Ace, you may be offered even money on your bet right away without seeing the hand through. The outcome of even money in terms of the value of the chips paid back is the same as taking an insurance bet.
STEP 3: Dealer Rules
There are quite a few variations of blackjack out there and each one will require the dealer to perform a different action or payout in a different way when the dealer has a blackjack hand. We will briefly cover some of these variants.
1. Dealer Stands on 17
This rule means if the dealer’s 2-card total comes to 17 or more, the dealer can no longer hit. Likewise, if the dealer hits and the hand now equals a total of 17 or more, then once again, the dealer can no longer hit.
2. Dealer Hits on Soft 17
Some tables, but very few, will stipulate the dealer must hit on soft 17. Which means, the dealer must hit with an A-6 or any hand that includes an Ace counted as an 11. For example, the dealer’s hand may be an A-3-3, A-2-4, or A-2-2-2 and the dealer will be forced to hit.
STEP 4: Understanding the House Edge
In our 4th and final step, we will quickly cover the house edge also known as return to player (RTP). With the rules on different variants of blackjack changing ever so slightly, this can affect the house edge. For example, a blackjack table that does not allow you to split pairs gains an edge of 0.45%.
Other factors that can affect the house edge include the use of basic strategy. The house edge might be 1% on the table you are sat at, but you are probably giving away another 2% to the house because you are not playing by the optimal mathematical guidelines laid out in basic strategy charts.
That said, almost every variant of blackjack offers the best house edge compared to any other casino game. If you think about your average online slot game, the RTP is around 95% to 98% while most blackjack games have a house edge of around 0.5% to 1.5%. In terms of RTP that is 99.5% and 98.5% RTP respectively.
For online players, finding out the house edge of a casino game is generally quite easy because the casino will quite happily advertise it. On the other hand, most land-based casinos will not give you this information – not all – but some. You can always ask the dealer and he/she may or may not be able to reveal this information. Otherwise, it is down to you to figure out the house edge your self by figuring out the different rules.
· Most blackjack tables have a house edge of 0.5% to 1.5%
· In terms of RTP, blackjack tables offer a 99.5% and 98.5% RTP
· Small changes in the game rules can influence the house edge
· Online casinos generally advertise the blackjack table’s house edge/RTP
· Some land-based casinos will not advertise the house edge
In this ‘how to play blackjack’ guide, we have tried to cover every possible starting point you need to know so you can start to become a proficient blackjack player. You also must remember that there are over 100 rule variations of the games with small rules like when to double down or split changing from table to table. When these rules change so does the RTP.
For now, the basics to one of the world’s most beautiful casino games are all here in one easy to read guide with almost no stone left unturned. To become a winning blackjack player, you will need to start digging deeper into the different variants of the game.
Just recently we compiled a 12 step guide on how to win playing blackjack. It includes information such as how to implement basic strategy and card counting into your blackjack game as well as how to look for tables that include certain rules to increase your advantage over the house. It is an inspiring guide and will give you an insight on where to go next once you have master how to play blackjack!
Happy blackjack gaming!