Learn to Play Blackjack – A Simple Guide to all the Rules of the Game

Blackjack is one of the most famous casino games, and arguably the most popular card game. The reason for this is that the result of the game does not depend entirely on luck. During the game, there are various decisions that need to be made, which keeps the game interesting and engaging. If you have never played blackjack before and fancy giving it a go, then here you will find the important rules for the classic variant, that will enable you to get playing in no time.

A General Overview of the Table and the Aim of the Game

At the table, you will always find a dealer, who plays against up to 7 players. The aim of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible with your cards, without busting – that is to say, exceeding 21. If you bust, you will immediately lose your bet. At the same time, you need to beat the dealer’s hand. If your hand wins, you will receive a payout.

The Blackjack Table – Key Details at a Glance
All the Important Details of the Blackjack Table Explained
  1. For each seat, there is a box in which the player can place their bet. The cards are dealt directly next to this
  2. In the standard version of the game, the dealer’s cards are dealt, with the second card’s value initially hidden
  3. The betting limits of the blackjack table, and the payouts for winning and insurance
  4. The card shoe – the dealer pulls the cards from here. In online games, this is done virtually
  5. In the middle of the table, the main payouts and rules are clearly visible to players
  6. In online blackjack, the player can select all available moves here

It is easy to understand the value of the cards in the game. All number cards have the same value, and the face cards, Jack, Queen and King always count as 10. The only special card value is the Ace. This can count as either 1 or 11. The value of the Ace is always in favour of the player.

The Value of each Card in Blackjack

If you win with more points than the dealer, or if the dealer busts, you get a payout of 1:1. This means that if you bet £10, you get that back, plus a £10 profit, making the total payout £20. On the other hand, if you finish the game with less points than the dealer, or if you bust, you will lose your bet. If your first 2 cards equal 21, with an ace, plus a 10, jack, queen or king, then you have “blackjack”. In this case, you immediately win with a payout of 3:2. So if you bet £10, you get this back, plus £15 profit, making a total payout of £25.

Step by Step Instructions of how to Play

Each round begins by the dealer announcing that players should place their bets. Anyone who wants to play must place a bet, which is within the minimum and maximum tables limits. A player can alternatively opt to sit out of a game, say if they perhaps want a break for a cigarette or a drink.

After all bets have been placed, the dealer commences to deal the cards. First each player receives one card, then the dealer deals one card to themselves. Then each player is dealt a second card. The dealer’s second card is dealt face down, so that the value is initially hidden.

The Player’s First Decision – Insurance or Not?

When the Dealer has an Ace, the Player can Place an Insurance BetDepending on the cards, a player can choose from 1 of 4 options – Hit, Stand, Double or Split. However, before making this decision, there may be the possibility to place an insurance bet. This type of side bet is only available if the dealer’s first card is an Ace. In this situation, the dealer has a chance of getting blackjack, as their second, hidden card could have a value of 10. You can insure yourself against the dealer having blackjack, by betting a value of half the original bet. These chips are usually placed on the part of the table marked “Insurance pays 2:1”. If the dealer does not have blackjack, then the insurance bet is lost, and you continue to play your hand. Whereas if the dealer does have blackjack, your initial bet, and the hand is lost. However, you do win your insurance bet, with a payout of 2:1.

The Standard Options: Hit and Stand

The Standard Choices in Blackjack are Hit and StandEach player then has the option to “hit”, by taking another card, or to “stand” with the score on their 2 cards. If you are unsure which option is the best choice, you can find further advice on our dedicated blackjack strategies page. There is no limit to the amount of cards you can draw. You will often find that you have sufficient points with 2 or 3 cards. Yet it is possible in some instances to draw up to 5 cards without busting. Once you decide to stand, i.e. not draw anymore cards, you must wait for the other players to play their hands. It is only once all the other players have completed their turns that the dealer will turn over their hole card. They will then take another card, or stand according to fixed rules.

Split and Double

There are two more options open to players – “split” or “double”. However, there are limitations as to when these options are available.

Cards with the Same Value can be Split into 2 Hands by Placing an Additional BetIf your first 2 cards are of equal value, this includes 2 different face cards, then you have the choice to split the cards into two separate hands. In order to do this, you need to place another bet, equal to your first. You then continue to play each hand independently of one another. You can continue to draw as many additional cards to each hand as you wish, but you do not have the option to split again. When playing this option, an ace and a face card equals 21, not blackjack. Therefore, the payout for such a hand would be 1:1, rather than 3:2.

After the first 2 cards have been dealt, the player has the option to double their bet. This can enable the bet to exceed the maximum table limit. Once “double” is chosen, just 1 more card is dealt to the player. There is no option to hit another time. The option to double down is also available on split hands, but again, only 1 additional card per hand will be dealt.

Card Drawing Rules for the Dealer and the Payment of Winnings

Once all players have finished their turn, it is time for the dealer to play their hand, and ultimately determine the result of the game. The dealer must follow a strict set of rules regarding whether to hit or stand, and in essence, the dealer himself has no real choices to make. To start, the dealer will turn over their hidden shoe card. If the value of the cards totals less than 17, then they must draw another card. You will see this rule imprinted on the actual blackjack table. It is usually expressed as “Dealer must stand on all 17s”. As soon as the dealer has 17 or more, they will stand. If the dealer is bust (i.e. the hand exceeds 21), then all other remaining players will automatically win. If the dealer has between 17 – 21, the score is then compared with the other players.

If the Dealer Busts, the Remaining Players Win Automatically

With a 5 and a 7, the dealer has a total of 12 points, and therefore must hit. In this case, the third card is a queen, making the dealers hand a total of 22. As the dealer has bust, all remaining players (excluding those who have bust) win regardless of their score.

If a player has a higher score than the dealer, they will win a payout of 1:1. However, if the player’s score is lower than the dealer, they lose their bet. If the dealer and player both have the same score, the result is a tie, or a “push” and the player’s bet is returned. If the dealer has blackjack, then only players who also have blackjack will receive a payout. Even those players who have 21, but not blackjack will lose their bet. In the case where the player and the dealer have blackjack, the player wins a payout of just 1:1, instead of 3:2. The dealer will pay out all winnings and collect any bets which are lost, then announce the next round of the game is open for bets to be placed.

Alternative Rules and what else you should know about the Game

So far, we have looked at the standard rules for the classic version of blackjack. Yet there are many, alternative rules that deviate from the standard, which can be found across the numerous variants of the game. I will not delve into the individual rules of the many variants here, I simply want to draw your attention to the fact that such variations to the rules exist. I will list here some examples, however, this list is not exhaustive. If you fancy trying out some of the different variants of blackjack with different rules, I would recommend Betway Casino, which has a choice of over 40 games, providing plenty of variety.

Multiple Splits

In the classic game, you can split a hand with a pair just once. Yet there are some games that allow multiple splits to be made. So if you split a hand, then get dealt another card with the same value, you can split this hand once more. Usually, when you split aces, you are only permitted to draw one more card, but even this is not the case in some variants. It is also sometimes the case that you cannot double after a split.

Double Down Only with 9, 10 or 11 Points

In some game variants, a double is only available when your first 2 cards have a certain number of points. There may also be restrictions relating to “soft” hands, which are those containing an Ace that counts as an 11.

Dealer must Hit on Soft 17

Another possible variation to the rules is where the dealer must draw another card if they have a soft 17. As the hand will contain an ace, this is slightly less advantageous for the player. With this rule in play, if the dealer has a hard 17 (the hand does not contain an ace) or the dealers hand is worth 18 or more, then they must still stand.

6:5 Payout for Blackjack

There are some games where the payout for blackjack is 6:5, rather than 3:2. This means that you end up winning less money. For this reason, I would advise to avoid playing games where this payout ratio is in use, as it favours the house more so than the player.

Five Card Trick (Five Card Charlie)

In some game variants, if the player draws five cards without busting, they get a 1:1 payout. This payout is made regardless of the value of their cards, and is even paid if the dealer’s hand is of a higher value than the players. The exception to the rule is when the dealer gets blackjack. In this case, the player would lose. This Five Card rule used to be the standard in the past, but nowadays, there are only certain variants where this rule is used.

The Order of Dealing Cards

Different rules can also be found regarding the dealing of cards. Usually, the dealer will receive their second card, face down, after which, the players will start to make their decisions. Yet, there are some games where the dealer’s second card is not drawn until each player has finished their go, and it is the dealers turn to play their cards. Differences can also be seen in the number of decks used. Most of the time, you play with 6 or 8 decks, but this can vary. Also, the amount of cards a dealer draws from the shoe before shuffling can vary. The dealer will usually add a cutting off card where there are around a third to a quarter of the cards left in the shoe. When the dealer reaches this cut off card, the current round will be finished, and all cards will be shuffled afterwards.