How to play blackjack

How does blackjack work?


The goal of blackjack is simple - to get as close as possible to 21 without going over, and to have a higher hand than the dealer. If the dealer goes over 21, they bust and lose the game. The same goes for you.

How to play blackjack for beginners

The goal of reaching 21 is fairly easy to get to grips with, but there are still a few rules you need to know about before you play for real cash. Let's walk through a typical game so you know how it all works:

Blackjack Late Surrender
  • 1

    Join a table

    You’ll join the blackjack table. Once all players are ready, each one is dealt two cards face up. The dealer also receives two cards - one of them face up, the other face down.

  • 2

    Decide whether to 'Hit' or 'Stand'

    Work out the value of your hand, as well as that of the dealer, to get as close as possible to 21 without going bust. You can either use your instinct or learn more in our blackjack tips guide.

  • 3

    Choose to 'Hit'

    Ask the dealer for another card. Do this when, based on the current value of your cards, either you're sure that the next card won’t cause you going bust, or you're willing to run the risk of the dealer getting a better hand.

  • 4

    Choose to 'Stand'

    Ask the dealer to move on to the next player and deal you no more cards. You'll probably do this when the value of your cards is quite high already (e.g. over 17), and you're can't be sure whether the dealer's hand will beat yours.

  • 5

    Your hand value

    As a result of the move you just made, you’ll probably have a new hand value. You'll remain in the game if your hand is valued at 21 or anything less.

  • 6

    Dealer reveals their cards

    After all players at the table have made their decisions, the dealer will reveal their facedown card.

  • 7

    See who is closer to 21

    If your hand is closer to 21 than that of the dealer, you bust the dealer and win. If the dealer has 21 or a closer score to 21 than any of the other players, the dealer wins. The dealer will issue your winnings if you’ve been lucky. Your payout amount will depend on the type of bet that you placed.

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Basic blackjack rules to remember

Now we've covered the basics of how to play blackjack, there are a few other basic rules you'll need to keep in mind. It’s always worth knowing what payouts you’ll receive in various blackjack scenarios, and which moves to make depending on your hand. Take a look at the additional blackjack rules below:

  • Regular wins pay 1:1

    This is when the value of your cards is closer to 21 than those of the dealer.

  • Blackjack wins pay 3:2

    This is when your cards equal 21.

  • 16 and below

    Dealer must hit on any hand valued at 16 and below.

  • Hit or Stand

    Players have the basic choice of adding a card to their hand (hitting) or not (standing) to reach a final hand value of 21, or closest to it. They can also double down or split...

  • Split

    Turn your hand of two into two separate hands, for an extra chance to beat the dealer. This is an option when you have two cards of equal value.

  • Double Down

    You can choose to double your bet mid-hand, but you'll receive just one card and you won't have the option to take another. While it's not necessarily your best move to double down on anything other than a 10 or and 11, some casinos will let you double down regardless of what you're holding. However, some online casinos limit the option.

Practice how to play blackjack for free

Confident with the rules? Play one of our free blackjack games below to test out your skills.

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Advanced blackjack betting options

In addition to the basic blackjack rules, more experienced players should also take note of the following advanced rules to take their blackjack game to the next level:

  • Insurance

    If a dealer shows an Ace as their face up card, they'll invite players to take insurance. This protects you in case the dealer has a card valued at 10.

  • Surrendering

    In some online casinos, you can surrender half your bet if you don't like your hand. The option varies from casino to casino.

  • Soft 17

    A soft hand is a hand that has an Ace in it. It's called soft because the hand has two values - either 1 or 11, plus the other cards. Some blackjack casinos require the dealer to hit on a soft 17 while others require that they stand. Make sure you check the rules before you play.

  • Taking even money

    If you hit a blackjack but the dealer is showing an Ace, you'll push (tie) if he also happens to have a Blackjack. If you don't want to risk not winning, you can choose to take even money. Instead of getting paid 3:2, you'll get paid 1:1.

Improve your chances of winning blackjack

Our full blackjack strategy guide will give you lots of pointers as to when you should hit and when you should stand or double down. However, to get you started, here are two quick pointers to keep in mind whenever you sit down at a blackjack table, either online or in a brick and mortar casino:

Never split two face cards

This is a common mistake made by rookie players, who think that splitting face cards and tens can double their profits. In fact, statistically speaking it is never a good idea to split face cards, as you are swapping the high probability of winning with a 20 for the risk of losing twice your money if the new cards you draw aren’t the ones you want.

    Blackjack tip

    Always split aces & 8s

    This is a no-brainer, or at least it should be! A pair of 8s gives you the dreaded 16, and by splitting these you are banking on at least one face card showing up to give you a good hand. Even a 1, 2 or a 3 are all good cards to draw to an 8, meaning that you have plenty of chances to make a winning hand. Likewise, a pair of Aces gives you an unfriendly hand value of either 2 or 12, so it’s a much better idea to split them and hope that 7s, 8s, 9s, and 10s show up.

      Blackjack tip

      How to play blackjack tips

      It is easy to burn through your money at an online blackjack table if you don’t play smart, but follow our advice and you’ll soon be playing like a professional.

      Blackjack offers some of the best value in the casino to the player, but only if you use the correct strategy and play with your head and not your heart. It's well worth trying free blackjack games online first so you get a feel for the game and can put any strategies to the test.

      Here are a few quick tips that everyone should take into consideration before approaching the virtual blackjack tables:

      1. Don’t bet money you can’t afford

      Never throw good money after bad. Set a budget for yourself before you come to the table, and stick with it.

        Blackjack budget

        2. Memorize a basic strategy

        As you begin to play make sure to keep your basic strategy guide open on a separate window so you can refer to it quickly.

          Blackjack strategy

          3. Never bet more than half your stack on a single bet

          This is reckless play, and no one wants to see half their pot disappear in one go. Always bet responsibly.

            Blackjack responsibly

            4. Hold your nerve

            Sometimes the cards just don’t seem to be with you, and it can be tempting to give up on your strategy. In the long run, following a strategy is the only way to have the best chances of winning.


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              How to play blackjack FAQs

              What are the basic rules of blackjack?

              The rules of blackjack are simple. You are dealt cards, which have the face value shown on them. You need to get a hand with a score of as close to 21 as possible, without going over it. Go over 21 and you’re out.

              How can I win in blackjack?

              To give yourself the best chances of winning in blackjack, it’s worth brushing up on some blackjack strategy. Our strategy guide will walk you through a few in-game scenarios, and offer advice on counting cards and on when to alter your bets. Whilst it’s not 100% foolproof, it will definitely up your chances in the great game of blackjack.

              When should I hit or stand in blackjack?

              Generally, it can be best to hit when you're holding a hand of 10 or 12-16 and stand on anything over 17. For more information, head to our guide on how to play online blackjack

              What is a split in blackjack?

              A split is a move which can be made if your hand contains two cards of equal value. You can choose to split the hand into two new hands, and double your bet in the process.

              How do blackjack players count cards?

              Counting cards is one of the most widely used blackjack strategies. The idea is that card counters assign a value to cards as they see them being removed from the deck. This gives them a running value of the remaining cards in the deck. That value is used to tell the card counters whether or not the deck contains more large cards or small cards. They can then adjust their bets accordingly, giving them an increased chance of winning against the house.

              Is blackjack the same as 21?

              Yes, 21 is another name used for blackjack. The rules are exactly the same. Head to our full guide to learn more about how to play blackjack.

              What are the rules to 21 blackjack?

              The rules of blackjack are to get as close to 21 as possible and beat the dealer. The cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, and face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) are also worth 10. Head to our guide to learn how to play blackjack.

              Is ace an 11 or 1 in blackjack?

              An ace card in blackjack usually counts as 11 unless this brings your hand over 21. Then, the ace would only count as 1 instead.

              Catalin Barboianu

              Verified Content

              Dr. Catalin Barboianu is a gaming mathematician and philosopher of science. He is a research associate at the University of Bucharest, science writer, editor and consultant for the mathematical aspects of games of chance for the gaming industry and problem-gambling institutions.