How to Play Blackjack | June 2024

If you've ever been interested in visiting a brick-and-mortar casino, you probably should know how to play blackjack. As one of the most popular casino games, online casinos now also feature the game of blackjack to eligible players in legal jurisdictions.

Before you play blackjack online or in person, you should know a few things about blackjack rules, basic strategy, and the best way to beat the dealer by achieving a winning hand.

Below, we'll cover some basic blackjack rules, like the face value of the cards in a standard 52-card deck game, and teach you how to prepare to buy in and wager your casino chips against the dealer's hand.

WHAT IS BLACKJACK?

The modern game of blackjack likely originated at casinos in 18th-century France, with a card game called "Vingt-et-Un," which translates to "Twenty-one." Rules for playing blackjack underwent various changes after gaining popularity in 19th-century America via French colonists at gambling halls in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Nevada City, California.

At gambling halls and casinos in Nevada in the 20th century, "21" became "Blackjack."

While not all casinos offer the same rules—for example, whether or not a dealer stands on 17 on a "soft" or "hard" hand—blackjack begins when a player places a bet to receive two cards.

Players bet they'll beat the dealer's hand by getting closest to 21 without going over.

'NATURAL BLACKJACK' IN A DEALER'S HAND & FOLLOWING BASIC STRATEGY WITH A SURRENDER OPTION

The first two cards (and any remaining cards) in a player's hand are dealt face-up, while the dealer gets a face-up card and a face-down card (referred to as the hole card). With an Ace showing, the dealer's face-down card is checked for blackjack—an Ace paired with a card valued at 10 (10s, Jacks, Queens, or Kings)—which means the dealer wins.

If the dealer checks and gets a natural blackjack, the game or hand ends since the player loses their original bet automatically (unless they paid for an Insurance bet, a side bet a player decides to wager or not, only when the dealer shows an Ace, resulting in a tie or "push").

In other scenarios, you can make an additional bet, like a Surrender option if available, and the dealer takes half your bet. This is in line with the basic strategy (for how to play blackjack) based on the dealer's up card and the strength or weakness of your hand.

Early surrender at retail casinos meant "surrendering" your hand before the dealer checked for blackjack. Late surrender means surrendering a weak hand after a dealer sees that they don't have blackjack.

Tip: The basic strategy for playing blackjack is to Surrender a player's hard total of 15 or 16 against a dealer's face cards of 9, 10, or an Ace. You'd surrender and lose half your bet rather than "Hit" for one additional card.

BLACKJACK STRATEGY: A PLAYER'S 'NATURAL BLACKJACK' SHOULD PAY 3 TO 2

A better hand in blackjack means the dealer pays even money based on your initial bet. At most casinos, blackjack tables pay 3 to 2 of your original wager if you get blackjack on your first two cards without needing an additional card.

So, if you bet $10, you'd receive $15 for a total payout of $25, as long as the dealer doesn't get the same rank of 21. (Some casinos may offer an even-money option in that scenario before the dealer checks for blackjack.)

Favorable blackjack strategies advise players to void side bet options like Insurance bets or any game where you don't get paid 3 to 2 for your original bet if you get a natural blackjack.

For the best odds of winning, play blackjack games with an average return-to-player (RTP) of about 99.50%. A less than one percent house edge makes blackjack one of the best player-friendly casino game options.

Read: Learn more in our casino glossary.

BLACKJACK CARD VALUES

Hand of 21 in the game Blackjack
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To learn how to play blackjack, you'll need to understand counting cards at a basic level. You don't need to be a professional card counter, since most virtual and live dealer games use automatic shuffling between each hand anyway, no matter how many decks are used.

Most blackjack games use self-explanatory card values from 2 to 10 (i.e., a 2 equals two points, while a 10 equals 10). Face cards (J, Q, K) also equal ten, while Aces equal 1 or 11—forming the best possible hand without going over 21.

Whether you place a real-money wager or play free blackjack games, these are the card values:

  • 2s through 9s: Each card represents its numerical value, regardless of colors or suits.
  • 10s, Jacks, Queens, and Kings: Each ten and face card (J, Q, K) equals ten (i.e., J + Q = 10 + 10 = 20).
  • Aces: An Ace equals a value of one or 11, based on achieving the best hand closest to 21 without going over (i.e., A + 6 = 1 + 6 = 7 or 11 + 6 = 17).

A soft hand means a hand with an Ace that equals one or 11; a hard hand is any hand without an Ace or where the Ace equals one.

THE STEPS ON HOW TO PLAY BLACKJACK

The steps for playing blackjack are straightforward for any variant, including single-hand, multi-hand, and live dealer games. There may be an element of counting cards in a multi-hand game for intermediate or advanced players using an optimal strategy.

Whatever game you choose, and however you decide to play or bet, here's how classic blackjack works:

  1. Choose an online casino from our list of recommended options.
  2. Pick a blackjack game after registering for a new account and depositing via the casino's online cashier. (Use a promo code to receive a welcome bonus or a deposit match.)
  3. Confirm your location is in a legal jurisdiction by using a geolocation plugin or the location settings of a mobile app.
  4. Place at least a minimum bet from the 'Chip Selector' onto the table and click 'Deal' to start the game.
  5. Decide how to play your hand. Click 'Hit' to receive another card or 'Stand' to keep your hand. (You may also choose to 'Double Down' by adding another bet of equal value to your initial bet or 'Split' a hand if they form a pair. Use a strategy chart to learn how to play your hand.)
  6. If your hand busts (goes over 21), it's a dead hand—and the dealer collects your bet. It may also be a dead hand if your cards retain an equal value to the dealer's, resulting in a push.
  7. If the dealer busts or you achieve a hand with a higher value, you win your bet, and the casino pays even money (including any other bets on the table).
  8. Once the game ends, you can begin a New Game, Rebet & Deal, or Rebet.

HOW TO WIN AT BLACKJACK

Blackjack cards and chips
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Winning at blackjack takes skill and luck. Professional players suggest that those who stray from an optimal strategy might increase the house edge to 2%.

Here are a few things to know for the best chances of winning, based on a casino edge of less than one percent.

YOU VS. THE DEALER

Virtual blackjack means it's only you versus the dealer. Some live dealer options may place players alongside fellow players, but virtual games are more solitary. There are no hand signals necessary and no half-times either.

Newbies may want to try a demo version at an online casino like Caesars Palace online casino first to get used to the game.

WHEN TO HIT OR STAND IN BLACKJACK

It's important to know when to hit or stand in blackjack, and this depends on your hand versus what the dealer shows. Online blackjack games may offer in-game strategy charts that you can use to keep your chances of winning closest to the game's theoretical RTP average.

Based on the dealer's up card, you can also download a strategy chart for hard totals, soft totals, pair splitting, and surrender.

We'll cover how to make the most of your bankroll to help you get paid!

BLACKJACK SITUATIONS AND HOW TO PLAY THEM

Knowing when to Hit for additional cards or Stand with your hand takes practice and patience. Playing separate hands, Doubling Down, and Splitting Pairs also requires knowledge and skills.

In general, we recommend sticking to the following:

  • Hard Totals: Hit with a total of 8 against any dealer card; Stand on 17 or better against any dealer card. Double Down on any 11 against any dealer card.
  • Soft Totals: Stand with A-9 against any dealer's card. Double Down (if possible) with an A-8 against a dealer's 6; Stand with an A-8 against any other dealer's card.
  • Pair Splitting: Always Split Aces and 8s.
  • Surrender: Surrender a hard 15 against a dealer's card value of 10; Surrender a hard 16 versus a dealer's card of 9, 10 (or face cards), or Ace.

Here are a few more detailed situations regarding hard totals and how to play them:

  • 9: Hit against a 2; Double Down when facing 3s through 6s; Hit against 7s through Aces.
  • 10: Double Down when facing 2s through 9s; Hit against 10s and Aces.
  • 12: Hit against 2s and 3s; Stand when facing 4s through 6s; Hit against 7s through Aces.
  • 13, 14, 15, and 16: Stand against 2s through 6s; Hit against 7s through Aces.

IMPORTANT BLACKJACK TERMS TO KNOW

We've covered most blackjack terms that beginners need to know. Here's a brief reminder of the essential terms to remember to help players better understand the game:

  • Blackjack: A natural blackjack means getting a value of 21 from your initial two cards, which pays 3 to 2.
  • Bust: If you or the dealer go over 21, that results in a bust or a losing hand. Since the player goes first, they may bust before seeing the dealer's hand.
  • Double Down: You can double your wager by receiving one more card (placed sideways on the table).
  • Hard Hand: A hand without an Ace or with an Ace that equals one.
  • Hit: When a player requests another card from the dealer.
  • Insurance: An option that pays 2 to 1 for players if the dealer's Ace results in blackjack.
  • Push: A tie between the player and the dealer; your wager gets returned.
  • Soft 17: A hand with an Ace and a 6. Check the blackjack table to see if a dealer hits or stands on a Soft 17. Suppose the dealer stands on all 17s, which offers a slightly better RTP average.
  • Split: An option for Splitting Pairs. Some tables may allow up to four hands from Splitting; Aces may only get Split once.
  • Surrender: Some games allow players to 'Surrender' their hand (first two cards) against the dealer's card, resulting in the loss of only half their wager.

BLACKJACK CASINO ETIQUETTE

Additional blackjack rules may pertain to how to play blackjack at retail casinos. For example, casinos may require players to use hand movements to confirm their actions for the overhead cameras.

To request a Hit, tap the felt or table (similar to "Checking" in poker games). For a second card, you can tap the table once more. To Stand on your cards, you can wave your hand over them to indicate that you don't want another card.

To Double Down, you can place another wager next to your initial bet while indicating to the dealer that you want another card by using your forefinger to show "one."

To Split your hand, you can place another wager on the table and indicate you want to separate your hand by showing a "peace sign" with your fingers.

To Surrender (when available), you can make a horizontal line with your finger behind your cards to show the dealer that you'd like to forfeit your hand for half your initial wager.

BLACKJACK GAME VARIATIONS

Online blackjack table
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Blackjack remains one of the most popular games at land-based and online casinos. Like baccarat, roulette, video poker, and poker games, many blackjack variants have different rules, gameplay, paytables, side bets, and RTP averages.

Here are a few game variations or popular types of blackjack and their RTPs:

  • Bet the Set 21 (Light & Wonder): 99.42%
  • Blackjack Blazing 7s (Light & Wonder): 99.42%
  • Blackjack (Multi-Hand) (Light & Wonder): 99.42%
  • Blackjack with Surrender (IGT): 99.67%
  • Blackjack Xchange (Slingo Originals): 99.68%
  • First Person Blackjack (Evolution Games): 99.29%
  • Multihand Blackjack with Poker and Pairs (IGT): 99.67%
  • Multihand Blackjack with Surrender (IGT): 99.67%
  • Super Fun 21 Extreme (Light & Wonder): 99.12%
  • Zappit Blackjack (Light & Wonder): 98.87%

Tip: RTP for the base game applies to players following the basic blackjack strategy. Blackjack side bets, insurance, and other wagers offer lower RTPs than the base game. Games with the fewest decks provide the best odds for players.

WHERE DO I PLAY BLACKJACK?

Players can play blackjack at a retail or online casino, via virtual or live dealer games, or with friends and a pack of cards. Before wagering for real money online, we recommend trying free demo play versions to get a feel for how the game works.

Use a blackjack chart to practice the optimal strategy and learn the ebb and flow of the game at different bet amounts.

BLACKJACK AND RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING

Retail and online casino platforms adhere to strict Responsible Gambling (RG) practices to ensure that players avoid developing problem gambling habits. You can use local, state, and national resources or call 1-800-GAMBLER to discuss any issues.

If you play online, visit the casino's RG section to learn about problem gambling, setting limits on spending, sessions, and self-exclusion.

POPULAR BLACKJACK STRATEGIES AND TIPS

We've covered the basics of blackjack, including rules, etiquette, and variants. Winning comes from practicing the optimal strategy, which players can memorize over time.

Whether you're playing blackjack or any casino game, it's essential to remember to have fun.

Here are some key strategies and tips to remember before your next game:

  • Never gamble with money you can't afford to lose.
  • Develop a daily, weekly, or monthly budget for gambling—and stick to it.
  • Always Double Down on a hard 11.
  • Always Split Aces and 8s.
  • Never split 10s (or face cards).
  • Always Surrender a hard 15 against a dealer's 10 (or face cards) and a hard 16 versus a dealer's 9, 10, or Ace.
  • Never use the Insurance bet.
  • Never take an even-money payout for a pending dealer's blackjack against your blackjack.
  • Avoid side bets, as their RTPs vastly improve the casino's edge.
  • If you stop having fun, take a break!

HOW TO PLAY BLACKJACK FAQS

If you have any remaining questions about how to play blackjack, here's our FAQ section. Remember, you can always check the in-game settings for information on rules and paytables, along with a strategy chart for optimizing the game's RTP.

HOW DO YOU PLAY BASIC BLACKJACK?

You can choose a classic game from one of our recommended online casino options, like FanDuel Casino, to play basic blackjack. Use a strategy chart to practice an optimal strategy to improve your chances of winning.

WHAT ARE THE BASIC RULES OF BLACKJACK?

The basic blackjack rules apply to a player's hand against a dealer's. A player must achieve a hand total closest to 21 without going over—otherwise, they "bust" and lose their hand to the dealer. A player wins the game immediately if they receive 21 on their initial two cards (unless the dealer also gets 21).

CAN YOU PLAY BLACKJACK WITH MORE THAN ONE PLAYER?

Yes, some tables allow up to seven players simultaneously, while some live dealer games at online casinos allow an "infinite" number of players 24/7.

ARE THERE GOOD BLACKJACK STRATEGIES?

Following the optimal blackjack strategy with a chart for hard and soft totals helps increase your chances of winning. Other techniques include adhering to the best possible hand and RTP averages, avoiding side bets, and never using the insurance wager.

WHEN DO YOU NOT HIT IN BLACKJACK?

There are many instances where you shouldn't Hit in blackjack—with deciding to Stand on any hard 17 or better as the most obvious option. With hard totals of 13 through 16, you should also Stand against a dealer's 2s through 6s. With a hard 12, Stand against a dealer's 4s through 6s.

WHEN SHOULD I STAND IN BLACKJACK?

See the previous question about when to Stand for hard totals. In addition, with an A-9, you can stand against any dealer's card. The same goes for A-8, except that you should Double Down (if possible) against a dealer's 6. With A-7, you should Stand against a dealer's 7 or 8.