How To Play Blackjack

Posted by James Guill

Blackjack is the most popular casino table game for beginners and novice players. The objective of the game is to build the best hand to beat the dealer’s total without going over 21. Hence blackjack’s alias of “21.”

Our how to play blackjack guide will walk you through the sign-up process to playing your first hand, break down card values, define blackjack terminology, and provide some basic strategy.

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How To Play Blackjack for Beginners

Blackjack is easily one of the most popular casino table games world-wide. But any blackjack how to play guide should start with the flow of gameplay.

So, you’re at a blackjack table at an online casino for the first time, and the computer (or live!) dealer starts distributing cards.

  1. First, the dealer gives each player, including the dealer, one card face up.
  2. Second, they give each player a second card face up, while the dealer’s second card is placed face down.
  3. Third, based on the card values and the dealer’s up-card, players choose from their options.

Options will include: Split, Hit, Double, and Stand. You likely do not want to surrender or take insurance, if your table offers those options. They are typically bad bets.

To win, you must either: have cards totaling more than cards in the dealers hand OR not bust (going over 21) while the dealer’s hand goes over 21. However, the strategy to reach that point changes based on numerous factors.

Basic Blackjack Rules When Playing A Hand

To understand how to play online blackjack, there are basic terms that you need to know.

two green playing cards with a hand pressing a button

Hit

A “hit” is simply asking for another card from the dealer.

Depending on what the dealer is showing and the online casino’s rules, a general strategy would be to ‘hit’ when your cards total fourteen or less.

For example, say the dealer is showing a 9 and you have a 3 and 4 for a total of 7 (seven), basic strategy assumes the dealer has a face card and is at 19. So, you need to hit and work your way as close to 19 without going over 21, which is also known as busting. You can hit as many times as you feel comfortable, but don’t bust.

two green cards being with a 'stop' hand in front

Stand

“Standing” is choosing to receive no more cards from the dealer.

A player would “stand” when they’re confident they have a high enough hand to beat the dealer, typically on hands that total fifteen or more (depending on what the dealer is showing).

Let’s say the dealer is showing a 7 and you have a King and a 9. Remember, the dealer is typically forced to stand on 17 and you’re at 19 with little wiggle room to hit 21 without going over. So, you would stand without taking any more cards.

You may also stand after taking more than two cards. For example, if you think the dealer – who is showing a King and may be sitting on 20 – you’ll probably “hit” a time or two to get close and if your hand reaches a total of 20, you would then stand and look for the push/tie.

two green playing cards with arrows separating them

Split

A “split” is only an option when a player is dealt a pair. “Splitting” a pair turns the original pair into two separate hands, doubling the amount of hands the player has on the table and doubling the player’s current bet.

Choosing when to split is a bit complicated, and depends on which pair you receive, and what the dealer’s showing. When you’re choosing to split, remember these three things:

  • Don’t split a winning hand. If you’re dealt two 10s, it’s tempting to split, but don’t. If you’re dealt two 10s, you know you have twenty, which is likely a winning total. Hold tight.
  • Only split good cards. Generally, you won’t ever split pairs lower than 6, except possibly a pair of 2s. As always, your decision is partially based on what the dealer is showing. For example, if you’re dealt a pair of fours (a low, mathematically unfriendly card) there’s no point in splitting – you’ll just end up with extra hands full of fours.
  • Each time you split, your wager doubles. Just try to remember what you’re getting into – splitting doubles your potential winnings, but also your potential losses.

For example, if a player was dealt two 8s, they could split these. They would then have two hands worth 8 each, and receive an additional card for each hand. They’d then play these hands the same way they’d play one – choosing to hit, stand, double down, or even to split again. Because 16 is an unfavorable number in blackjack, splitting 8s is good strategy. Other splits may not be so easy.

two equivalent stacks of poker chips next to a playing card

Double Down

Doubling down” is choosing to double your original bet and commit to receive only one more card from the dealer.

As an example, a player should generally “double down” if their hand totals 10 or 11, as the odds of the next card being a ten or face card is in the player’s favor in the long run. Again, this will depend on what the dealer is showing as well as the casino’s dealer rules.

Remember – doubling down doubles a player’s bet, and they only get one more card. If the player gets a good card and win, they win double, but if they get a bad card and lose, they’ll lose double.

An example of this would be, you were dealt two 5’s for a total of 10 and the dealer is showing a 6 or 7. The assumption is they’re sitting on a face card and will either have to sit or stay and your double-down bet is looking for an ace or face card.

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When to (Not) Buy Insurance

The option to ‘buy’ insurance is offered when the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace. Insurance is a side bet which protects the player from the dealer having a two-card blackjack. If the dealer’s other card is revealed to be a 10 or a face, the player will receive a payout (usually 2:1) having taken insurance. However, if the dealer has any other card (which is statistically more likely), the player loses both bets. Often insurance bets must be at least half of your initial bet.

So the next time you’re playing blackjack games at Ignition Casino or Slots.lv when should you take insurance? Mathematically, never. We recommend never taking insurance unless you are card counting, which is impossible at all USA online casinos and most land-based ones too. In the long run, insurance bets lose money. So, it’s best to steer clear of them.

an open book with a check mark on one page and an x on the other

Is it better to surrender early if I don’t have good cards?

In most cases the short answer is yes only because you’ll get back 50% of your original wager. If your odds of winning are less than 50% and the dealer is showing a face card or ace, it is sound strategy to surrender your cards. The amount of decks in play slightly impact this decision-making progress, but our blackjack strategy chart can help you understand when to risk the biscuit and when to fold.

Improve Your Chances of Having a Winning Session

There IS a winning strategy for playing blackjack. Playing disciplined and consistent is how to win in blackjack. The first, most critical item is find a table with the best, most player-friendly rules. Understanding the blackjack payout chart is a good start to knowing why you should avoid 6 to 5 blackjack tables.

Once you have a seat at a player-friendly table, you need to stick to basic blackjack strategy. Avoid ‘living dangerously’ and making common errors, such as staying when you should hit or not doubling-down when dealt an advantageous hand. Every single combination of blackjack hands has been Consistently perfect gameplay will continually push down the house-edge, over time making your blackjack sessions more likely to be profitable.

Finally, once you have minimized the house-edge at the table, its vital that you maximize your rewards and perks. By taking advantage of the best online casino bonus offers, you can turn razor-thin margins in favor of the house into larger margins of you making real money.

Watch How To Play Blackjack Online

For those who are visual learners, check out this video of our expert, Tommy Green, teach you how to play blackjack!

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Blackjack Dealer’s Options During Gameplay

In most cases, blackjack dealers must hit on 16 and stay on 17. These two situations provides the player a slight edge and is where blackjack strategy come into focus.

For example, if a blackjack dealer is showing a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 and you don’t like your hand, it’s okay to remain aggressive. You have to make some assumptions that the dealer’s hidden card is a face card, which increases their chances of busting, i.e. – KING+5 = 15 and being forced to hit isn’t optimal, but dealers must do it.

However, if the dealer hits blackjack on their first two cards, the hand is over. This is not a fun situation for players, but remember, you have the same odds of hitting blackjack as the dealer does.

What is Insurance In Blackjack And How Does It Work?

Insurance is one of the more complicated – and over-discussed – topics regarding how to play blackjack at a casino. While insurance is an option during gameplay, it is technically a side bet that the casino can offer. The only time Insurance is offered is when the dealer is showing an Ace as their up-card.

By having an Ace showing, the dealer is indicating an extremely strong hand. If their hole card is any of the cards with a value of ten, the dealer has blackjack and the hand will end. This is the most-likely scenario, since any Ten, Jack, Queen, or King will make 21 for the dealer.

The side bet for insurance is you wagering that the dealer has blackjack. The bet will pay 2 to 1, and you can wager your original bet amount or less. But in almost every scenario, insurance is a bad bet. Players taking insurance significantly increases the house edge, and it should not be done by any beginning blackjack player. Only skilled, typically card-counting players can mathematically make taking insurance a good bet.

Other Online Casino Games for After Learning How to Play Blackjack

For new and experienced gamblers alike, blackjack is one of the most popular games. But there are numerous other options for winning real money at an online casino. Here are some other favorites:

Roulette

The classic spinning wheel game of legend. Guess your favorite number or bet on red or black

Craps

A fast-paced dice game with numerous betting options.

Online Slots

Virtually pull the lever and enjoy high-tech graphics and gameplay.

Baccarat

Feel like James Bond and play one of the favorite games of high-rollers.

Video Poker

Straights, flushes, and four-of-a-kind lead to huge payoffs.

Live Dealer Games

Want to play with a real human? Try out your favorite online casino game's live dealer version.

How To Play Blackjack FAQs

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James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro GambleOnline.co about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virgina and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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