How to play Blackjack

Skill Level: Advanced

Blackjack, or Twenty-One as it is also known as a simple card game which comes with high thrills and can be played by even the most basic gambler. Don’t be fooled, though, blackjack is known for high strategy players and people with the ability to execute a perfect game through card counting. Those people have the ability to swing the odds back in their favour and can win a lot of money. Card counting is a technique used by expert players in order to gain an advantage over the dealer. Card counters keep track of the proportions of different value cards that remain in play.


Don’t worry though, even for players without this ability there are still ways of lessening the odds so that you can gain a further advantage. Below will explain in simple terms how the game of blackjack is played.



The Pack

A standard 52 card deck (without jokers) is used for this game. In casinos you may find that a number of different decks are shuffled at the same time. A six-deck game (312 cards) is commonly used in casinos, often referred to as a shoe. This helps to speed up the game and also makes it harder to count cards. The number of decks in use can differ depending on the casino in which you are playing. Shuffling frequency again is dependant on the casino in which you are playing and varies with every dealer. If a dealer reshuffles regularly this again makes it harder for participants to count cards.

The table

In casinos, you will find tables that are specifically for the game blackjack. On these tables there will be a dealer employed by the casino, there will also be room for anywhere up to eight participants to simultaneously play against the dealer. Each player will have their own allocated playing area directly in front of them, where cards will be placed, and bets will be made.  

On the table betting limits should be clearly indicated for all participants as should important rules such as ‘Blackjack pays 3 to 2’ and ‘Dealer must draw on 16 and stand on all 17’s’.


In order to play blackjack you need to have chips, which are generally bought from the dealer when there is a stop in play. At this point you can put money on the table in exchange for chips.


Game Objective

The object of the game is for the participant to get a count as close to 21 as possible. In doing so your main objective is to beat the dealer without going over 21. If you go over 21 then you are bust, and therefore the dealer wins that particular round. Your only competition is the dealer.


Card Values and Scoring

Numbered cards are valued as there number is shown, the only time this will change is in the event of an ace. In this instance a player can decide if he wants the value of the card to be 1 or 11. Any face cards are valued as a 10 scoring.


Betting and winning

Each player must place a bet (in chips in casinos) in the allocated area before the deal commences. In casinos limits will have been established before proceeding. Each table will have limits for minimum and maximum bets, these should be clearly signed.


Lose - The player loses his stake to the dealer

Win - The player wins the same as he bet, as well as his stake back obviously.

Blackjack (natural) - The player wins 1.5 times the stake. So if you bet £10 you would win another £15 from the dealer.

Push - If the hand is a draw then each player keeps his stake, therefore neither winning or losing money.  


Ok so by now hopefully you have established that the objective of the game is to get as close to hitting 21 as possible without going bust. Secondly that you must finish closer to 21 than the dealer or you will lose your stake.


If you think you have grasped the basic rules here are some additional rules that could come in handy on the table.

Note: The following rules can only be used in the immediate aftermath of a deal, before anymore cards are taken. So basically you cannot take a third card and opt to surrender.


This can be done in the event that a dealer’s face-up card is an ace. At this point, each player is given the opportunity to bet on whether they think that the dealer has blackjack or not. This happens before any other player actions.

The insurance wager is equal to that of your original betting stake and is generally a technique used to cancel out a likely loss of this bet. Winning insurance bets will be paid out at odds of 2:1. Although, due to the loss of your original stake you will only break in even from this hand.


If you are of the belief that your hand is worse than the dealer’s (going off what you can see of his facing card) then you can give up your hand and claim back half of your stake. In this event the casino will take the other half of your stake. For this to be profitable you would need to have a particularly poor hand, something along the lines of having a 16 when the dealer is showing a 10.



Splitting can be done if you are dealt a pair (two of the same card). You will be given the option to ‘split’ them into two hands. In doing so, you are required to wager the same stake again, as you are playing two hands. The dealer will then deal two more cards, one for each hand. You now play each hand normally, which gives you two opportunities to win or lose against the dealer. This can be a very useful strategy if you understand when to split and how to make the odds work in your favour. Remember there are only 10 card values, so it is not difficult to memorise what to do in each situation.


Doubling Down

If you are confident that you have a hand that will beat the dealer’s you can double your original stake. On certain tables, you are allowed to double down for any amount up to the original bet amount. In most casino’s you can double down on any hand, but there are casino’s that will only allow this if you have an opening hand worth 9, 10 or 11. After choosing to double down, you will only receive one more card from the dealer.