How Blackjack is played
How Blackjack is played in 5 steps:
Anybody can learn how to play Blackjack. That is why it’s the most popular casino game in the world. The aim of the game is as simple as it gets and can be summarised in just one sentence:
GET CLOSER TO 21 THAN THE DEALER, WITHOUT GOING OVER 21.
There is a lot more to it than that, and as you read on you will have many light bulb moments that you otherwise wouldn’t have considered, but for the time being that one sentence should be at the forefront of your mind.
Step 1 – Decide how much to bet.
Before any cards are dealt, the players decide how much they want to bet.
The dealer won’t let you join the game until you put your money on the line.
If you could bet after the cards were dealt, this would be too easy.
The minimum and maximum bets will be shown on table.
If you’re new to the game, we recommend starting on the smaller side.
Simply put your chips into your designated box and hold on tight.
Step 2 – Players receive their cards.
The dealer moves clockwise around the table and will deal each player their first card face up.
They will then deal themselves their first card face up for everybody to see.
Players then receive their second card followed by the dealers second card face down.
Now you have your first 2 cards, this is referred to as “your hand”.
Every player is playing against the dealer, not against each other. Don’t worry about other players cards, they are irrelevant (Unless you are counting cards but we will discuss this in a later section)
Different casinos can have different procedures that slightly change how Blackjack is played.
In most casinos the dealer will also deal themselves 2 cards, 1 face-up and 1 face down. In others, the dealer will deal themselves just 1 card face up and then receive the second card once all players have completed their hand.
For consistency, we will assume the dealer has 2 cards (1 face up and 1 face down).
Now that you have 2 cards in front of you, the first question is:
What is the value of my hand?
- 2 through 10 counts at face value. For example, 3 counts as three, 7 counts as seven and so on.
- Jacks, Queens, and Kings all count as 10. Known as face cards. (There are faces on the cards)
An Ace can count as a 1 or an 11 depending on which value helps the player the most. Aces can confuse beginners, but don’t worry we will cover this at the bottom of the page.
Step 3 – Decision time
Now that all players on the table have their 2 cards, this is when the real fun starts. Unlike other casino games, Blackjack allows players to make decisions that can improve or destroy their hands.
You have the power to decide how to play your blackjack hand
If you are lucky enough to receive a Blackjack you do not need to make any decisions. This is the best hand you can get, so sit back and relax.
What is BlackJack?
BlackJack is when your first 2 cards add up to 21. This can only be done with an Ace and any card that has a value of 10 (10, Jack, Queen or King)
For all other hands, it’s time to decide what to do. You may have different options available (depending on the cards in your hand). The 2 available on every hand are “Hit” or “Stand”.
Hit: You’d like to take another card. Simply put; you think the next card will bring you closer to 21, without going over 21.
You can keep hitting (receiving more cards) as many times as you like.
– If playing in a live casino, to indicate you want to hit, tap your hand on the table.
Stand: You’re happy with your hand and do not want any more cards. Simply put; you think the next card to come out of the shoe will not bring you closer to 21 and will most likely make your hand bust (over 21).
– If playing in a live casino, to indicate you would like to stand, wave your hand over your chips.
If your hand total is 22 or higher, your card and chips are removed from the table. You are out of the current round.
You have gone bust!
There may be other options available to you, and we advise how to best use these options as well as when you should hit or stand in our intermediate guide. But for now, we’ll keep it simple.
Step 4 – Dealer completes their hand
Once all players have made their decisions and only players with a score of 21 or lower remain. It’s now the dealers turn to complete their hand.
All eyes on the dealer as they reveal their second card. Depending on the total value of their hand, they will follow a strict rule to determine their final score.
Pay close attention to the below. This fundamental rule that the dealer must abide by, is the reason for all our decisions and strategies. It is key to understanding how blackjack is played.
Rules for the Dealer
The Dealer must stand on 17 or more and hit on 16 or less.
This one simple rule dictates the entire outcome of the game.
The dealer has one thought when completing their hand.
Do my cards total 17 or more?
If yes stop.
If no take another card:
There can only be 2 scenarios after following this simple rule:
A) The dealer has a score of 17,18,19,20 or 21 and the hand is complete.
B) The dealer has a score of 22 or more. The dealer has gone bust!
In scenario A where the dealer has a made hand there are now just 3 outcomes:
1. Your hand total is higher than the dealers and you win.
2. Your hand total is lower than the dealers and you lose.
3. Your hand total is the same and you neither win nor lose. (push).
Scenario B is the best outcome for all remaining players. When the dealer goes bust, every player with remaining hands is paid as a winner. You could have any 2 cards totalling any score and you will be paid as a winner.
Unfortunately, many beginners fail to exploit Scenario B; We’ve wrote more about that here
Please note that in some casinos the dealer will also hit on soft 17. We cover soft hands here
Step 5 – Pay the winners and losers
The dealer will now pay the winning players, take the chips of losing players and push (do nothing) the chips of all players with the same score.
All bets are paid even money (With the exception of Blackjack). This means that if you bet £5, you will win £5. If you bet £25, you will win £25 and so on.
BlackJack pays 3 to 2. This means that for every £2 bet, the casino will pay you £3. I find it easier to think in terms of 1 and a half.
For example, a £5 bet will be paid £7.50. A £25 bet will be paid £37.50 and so on.
Winning players collect their chips.
The dealer collects and removes all cards on the table.
Time for a new round and we repeat the 5 steps.
Congratulations! Now you know how blackjack is played.
Casinos would love for you to stop reading now.
Take your knowledge of Black Jack to the next level, Learn to make money with Blackjack and the basics of card counting.
The age-old saying is that knowledge is power. That is certainly true when it comes to Blackjack. If like the 90% of recreational players, you do not educate yourself on the best strategies, then you’re likely to lose your money.
Don’t be part of that club.