How to Play Blackjack: Introduction
Learning how to play blackjack with the right strategy and expert tips will massively increase your chances of winning so we at How To Bet took care of preparing a detailed guide for all of you. There is quite a bit of information to share and you should be ready for a deep dive in the details in order to get the most out of your play.
In this guide on playing blackjack, you’ll learn how to hit the tables and get involved for yourself. We’ll tell you how the game is set up and how it is played. You’ll also get a crash course in approaching the game with a winning blackjack strategy so that you increase your chances of winning from the very beginning. All you need to know about blackjack live betting will be laid out for you, as will the info on the blackjack odds.
That’s not all though. Some of the most useful winning blackjack tips will also be made available for you to take advantage of. And a list of the top blackjack app and website operators with their best promo and bonus offers straight out of our superb online casino index will get you off on the right foot.
Let’s not waste anymore of your precious time and go on to win some money!
Playing Blackjack: The Format
We'll begin our discussion of how to play blackjack by telling you that the game is played using one or more (as many as eight) standard decks of 52 playing cards. Each deck has 13 cards in 4 different suits - clubs, spades, diamonds, and hearts. However, in blackjack, the suits are largely irrelevant. This game is all about the numerical value of the cards. The number cards from 2 to 10 have their face blackjack card values. Picture cards (Jack, Queen, and King) have a 10 value and Aces can be counted as 1 or 11.
When you sit down and start playing blackjack, you will be aiming to beat the dealer rather than other players. The aim is to make a hand that totals as close to 21 as possible, but without exceeding that total. The best hand possible is a 'blackjack' which comprises just two cards - a 10-value card and an Ace. If you get closer to 21 than the dealer, you win. If you are beaten by the dealer, you lose. And if you tie with the dealer, a 'push' is declared and your main bet is refunded. A win with a blackjack pays odds of 3:2 and a win with any other hand pays odds of 1:1.
Playing Blackjack Online and in Land-Based Casinos
When playing blackjack at a land-based casino, you'll notice that the cards are housed in a device called a 'shoe'. They are dealt directly from that shoe. The decks are shuffled before being put into the shoe, but not during the game itself. Instead, a certain percentage of the available cards are used. When that point of 'shoe penetration' is reached, a new shoe of shuffled cards is brought into play.
When playing at a blackjack app or website of an online casino, all cards are shuffled between hands. This is why the blackjack strategy of 'card counting', which is effective at land-based casinos, is irrelevant in an online game.
What does remain relevant is the relationship between the number of decks used and the blackjack house edge. In short, the more decks there are in play, the worse it is for the player. The best game to play online is Single Deck Blackjack that uses just one deck.
Apart from the shuffling between hands, the format of the game online is almost identical to that in a land-based casino. You will be seated at a virtual table, and cards and chips will look much as they do in the real world. The big difference is that the cards will often be dealt by the game software rather than a human dealer.
Gameplay When Playing Blackjack
The blackjack tables will have a circle printed on its surface in front of each seat. This is where you place your bets. Simply select the casino chip size that you want to wager and then click within the circle. You can add as many chips as you want to reach your desired bet amount, subject to a maximum table limit which will be stated on the table or in the game rules that can be accessed via a settings menu.
When you have placed your wager, you will receive two cards. The dealer will also receive two cards. One of his cards will be dealt face-up so that you can see it.
Once the cards have been dealt, the dealer will check to see if he has a blackjack. If he does, then the hand is over and your bet will be lost, unless you also have a blackjack. In that case, a push will be declared and your wager will be returned.
Similarly, if you have a blackjack with your first two cards and the dealer does not, your hand will automatically win and you will be paid at odds of 3:2.
Assuming that neither you nor the dealer has a blackjack, the game continues. You go first by choosing whether to Hit, Stand, Double Down, Split or Surrender. Let's define each one of those actions in turn:
- Stand means to stick with what you have and take no further cards.
- Hit means to request a single additional card. In blackjack ‘when to hit’ is one of the most important questions. You can Hit as many times as you like, as long as the total of your hand doesn't exceed 21. If you go over that total, your hand will 'bust' and you lose.
- Double Down means to double the size of your bet in return for exactly one more card. After choosing when to Double Down in blackjack and do it, you will not be able to Hit.
- Split means to place a separate bet equal to your original one and split a pair of matching cards. The pair will then be split to give you the first card of two separate hands. A second card will be dealt to each of them, and you can then play each of those two hands as normal. Knowing when to split in blackjack is one of the fundamental skills.
- In blackjack, surrender means to drop out of the hand and forfeit half your bet. Note that you can't Surrender if you have previously taken any other action on the hand. Not all online blackjack games will allow you to Surrender, so this option will only be given to those that do.
Deciding What to Do
The real skill in the game of blackjack is being able to make the right decisions at the right time. This is something that you will learn to do from experience, but in the early days, common sense will help you a lot.
For example, if your first two cards total 19, a decision to Stand would make a lot more sense than a decision to Hit, as the latter move would be far more likely to bust your hand than improve it. Similarly, if your first two cards total 12 and the dealer's up-card is a 10, it would probably make more sense for you to Hit than to Stand.
When you have reached the point where you have chosen to Stand on your hand, the dealer will flop over his face-down card. In most games, the dealer must Hit on a total of 16 or lower and Stand on a total of 17 or higher. The dealer must play according to the strict rules of the game as set out in them, so there won't be any variation on his part, even if you play with a human dealer in a land-based casino.
If the dealer busts at any point, then your hand will automatically win. When the dealer gets to the point where he must Stand, his hand and yours will be compared and the better hand will win. Should you have more than one hand in play (because you were able to Split previously, for example) all of your hands will be compared to the dealer's hand and settled accordingly.
The Blackjack Insurance Bet
Now that we have explained the basics of how to play blackjack, we need to take a moment to talk about Insurance. This is basically an optional side bet that the dealer has a blackjack, and it will only be offered to you when the dealer's initial up-card is an Ace.
If you take up the offer of a blackjack Insurance bet, it will cost you a sum equal to the cost of your initial bet. Should the dealer have a blackjack, the Insurance wager will be settled at odds of 2:1. If the dealer doesn't have a blackjack, the Insurance bet will be lost and the hand will play out as normal.
Although it might sound tempting to take an Insurance blackjack bet against the dealer having a blackjack, we would advise you against it. The Insurance bet gives the house a significant edge over you, and you will lose more over the long term by taking it than you will save.
Dealer's Soft 17
When a hand contains an Ace, it can be described as soft or hard. A soft hand is one in which the Ace is being counted as 11, while a hard hand is one where the Ace is counted as 1. A hand comprising A-5 would therefore be described as a soft 16, while A-6 would be a soft 17.
We mention this because different casinos have different rules about whether or not the dealer should Stand on a soft 17. Games in which the dealer must Hit a soft 17 are better for you as a player, as they increase the chances of him busting his hand. Games that allow the player to Stand on a soft 17 have a bigger house edge.
That doesn't mean you have to avoid games where the dealer will Stand on soft 17, but you should be aware of the situation and play accordingly. Whether or not the dealer must Stand on soft 17 will be clearly displayed on the table.
How to Play Blackjack: A Quick Summary
- Blackjack begins when players make their table bets.
- The dealer deals two cards to the player and two to himself. One of the dealer's cards will be dealt face-up.
- According to standard Blackjack card values (see below), the hand value will be the sum total of your cards.
- Players can then choose:
- When to Stand
- When to Hit
- When to Surrender
- When to Double Down in blackjack
- When to Split in blackjack.
- The dealer must Hit on 16 or less and Stand on 17 through 21.
- To win, a player's hand total must exceed that of the dealer's hand. If the dealer busts, then the player wins automatically.
Blackjack Card Values
|Jack, King, Queen||10|
Blackjack Live Betting
Blackjack live betting is probably the best way to play this game online and have a really authentic experience while enjoying the comfort and privacy of your own home or any place you like actually. You get the different games streamed to you from a casino studio straight to your device with live professional dealers, visually great tables, and real cards. With blackjack live betting you will feel like in a land-based establishment and playing in-person. (The big difference is that you’re communicating with other players via chat box.)
Here’s some more reasons why you should definitely go for this option.
- Vast choice of games and tables: you won’t have to wait to play whichever game you want to play. In most cases, the live dealer blackjack table offers seven seats;
- Professional dealers: at the online blackjack table you will get the experience of the brick-and-mortar venue thanks to these experts who are always ready to help you out, responding by calling out your username or ID;
- HD streams: blackjack live betting is being taken to another level with this video streaming of superb quality and the game will feel mighty real;
- Online interacting with other players: the social aspect of in-person casinos is translated with the help of chat box communication;
- Multiple single-player games decided by a random number generator: the top quality software leaves the human factor out of the equation.
The Steps for Playing Blackjack Live
1. Choose the best blackjack app or website for your needs: check the extensive How To Bet list, click on the link buttons, and take advantage of the best bonus & promo offers.
2. Register/sign in: create and enter/reenter your account in the blackjack app or website of your preference.
3. Deposit money and claim your bonus: pick the banking method you prefer and put some money in your account. Then benefit from the welcome bonus or another promo offer from the online casino.
4. Navigate to your preferred game: check how to get to the live studio, see if there’s a blackjack table with an available seat, and wait for the next hand. Pick a table based on betting limits and rule variations.
5. Place a bet: when the bets are open, slide chips into the wagering area before the dealer closes betting and deals the cards.
6. Play, enjoy, win: now’s the time to reap all the benefits of your knowledge and win some real money.
The blackjack odds for winning a hand can average 42.22%, those for losing reach 49.10%, and the push has a probability of 8.48%. Of course, the type of blackjack game played, the playing style & strategy, and the different rules for the dealer and player (like extra decks, restrictive blackjack rules, and lower payouts) can reduce your odds of winning.
If you’re wondering what is the probability of being dealt blackjack, here’s your answer. In the cases when you’re playing with a single deck, your blackjack odds stand at 32/663. This equals 4.83%, which means that you’re likely to get your 21 in around 1 in every 20 hands.
You can reduce the blackjack house edge and increase your blackjack payout by having at least a basic strategy like you can see in some of the most famous Hollywood movies on this subject. Check out our tips section a little further down this page for more expert advice. This will improve your blackjack odds and return-to-player percentage (RTP) massively.
Blackjack Side Bets
If you’re not aiming for higher chances of winning, but focus on the high adrenaline instead, then the blackjack side bets are the right choice for you. They will bring huge excitement to your game, yet keep in mind that the blackjack house edge is massively increased here.
You will find the blackjack side bets in a side menu in online casinos. Here are the most common and popular types.
This side bet, one that we’ve already discussed in our guide, reduces the overall house edge and allows you to cover yourself against blackjack in case the dealer has an ace face-up. The Blackjack Insurance involves half of your original stake and pays out at 2:1 if the dealer has blackjack.
The perfect pairs wager uses the player’s cards only. It pays out if you are dealt two of a kind, as follows:
- Mixed pair (two of the same value but different suit and color) – pays 5:1;
- Colored pair (two of the same value and the same color) – pays 12:1;
- Perfect pair (two of the same card) – pays 25:1.
The house edge ranges between 2% to 11% and more depending on the casinos, the payout and the number of decks used.
Here the game involves the player’s two cards and the upturned dealer’s card. It pays out for many different combinations:
- Flush – (all cards are suited) – pays 5:1;
- Straight – (all cards consecutive) – pays 10:1;
- Three of a kind – (not the same suit) – pays 30:1;
- Straight flush – (consecutive cards same suit) – pays 40:1;
- Suited triple – (three of the same card) – pays 100:1.
The house edge depends on the number of decks used: 8.78% for four decks, 7.81% for five decks, 7.14% for six decks, and 6.29% for seven decks.
This type of blackjack side bets pays 5:2 for any suited player’s cards and 25:1 for suited King and Queen.
This side bet, like the totals wager in sports betting, pays even money for correctly predicting if the sum of the player’s cards is less than or greater than 13. Exactly 13 will lose at most casinos, but some allow this bet.
Here you win if one or more sevens are dealt in the player’s cards. One seven pays 3:1, two unsuited sevens pays 50:1, two suited sevens pays 100:1. In case the third card dealt is also a seven, then the wager will pay 500:1 unsuited and 5000:1 suited. You’ve got to check though if the casino will still deal a third card if the dealer has a blackjack because that’s not always the case.
This representative of the blackjack side bets will see you win if the player’s cards add up to 20. An unsuited 20 pays 4:1, a suited 20 pays 10:1, a matched 20 of same rank and suit pays 25:1, two Queens of hearts 200:1, and two Queens of hearts, when the dealer has blackjack, 1000:1.
Blackjack Strategy & Tips
Anyone who is serious about playing blackjack would do well to study the strategic side of the game in some depth. There are plenty of books containing blackjack tips that will tell you exactly what to do in any given situation, so be sure to pick up one or two of those if you want to truly master the game. There are also specific systems in relation to your blackjack betting strategy that would be very helpful for any player with high aspirations in this game.
In the meantime, we will now provide you with some important rules of thumb that can help you make better decisions at the table. Use them regularly as a part of your blackjack strategy and they will soon become second nature.
- Always Stand when you have a hard 17 or higher.
- Knowing in blackjack when to Hit is really important. Do so when you have a low hard total, such as 8 or less.
- Understanding when to Split in blackjack is a great skill. Our advice is to always Split Aces and 8s.
- Stand on a soft 19 unless the dealer's up-card is a 6.
- If the dealer's up-card is a 6, Double Down or Stand.
- Hit on a hard 12 unless the dealer's up-card is a 5 or 6.
- Hit on a hard 13, 14, 15, or 16, unless the dealer's up-card is 7 or higher.
- If you’re wondering when to Double Down in blackjack, always do so on a hard 11.
- Double Down also on a hard 10 unless the dealer's up-card is a 10 or Ace, in which case Hit.
- Consider standing on a soft 18 if the dealer's up-card is a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. If the dealer has a 7 or 9, Hit.
- Double down on a hard 9 if the dealer's up-card is a 3, 4, 5, or 6.
- When you have a soft 19 and the dealer's up-card is a 6, Double Down.
- Double down on 11 against a dealer's Ace.
- Double down on soft 18 against the dealer's 2.
Where to Start Playing Blackjack Online
As we said at the very beginning of this guide, blackjack is such a popular game that any casino worth its salt will offer at least one form of the game. We say 'form of' the game because there are in fact quite a few different versions that can be played, each with its own unique twist. For example, Multi-Hand Blackjack lets you play several hands at the same time, while Blackjack Surrender will give you the option to surrender your hand if you want to do so.
We would advise you to take a good look at our online casino index page to see what each of the main operators has to offer and then sign up with one that appeals to you. There is no law against joining multiple online casinos, either, so you can sign up with as many as you think you'd like to use.
When you log in an online casino, you'll find blackjack listed in the Table Games section of the lobby. How many variations you will have to choose from will obviously depend on where you choose to play. Here’s the How To Bet list of the best online venues for playing blackjack in the US. Enjoy the game with pleasure and responsibly!