Complete Beginner’s Guide on How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is the most popular casino game in the world, accounting for around than one-third of all table players on online casino platforms. Its popularity also translates to land-based casinos, with blackjack tables a plentiful and regular feature of casinos across the world.

While blackjack has a simple premise with easy-to-learn rules, there are plenty of variables and elements to consider when playing. With that in mind, here is the complete guide to blackjack, including the rules and processes and a few key strategies, dos and don’ts.

Blackjack basics

The basic rules of blackjack are quite straightforward. Playing against the house, your aim is to reach the value of 21, or as close to 21 as possible, through the cards dealt to you by the dealer. The house will also be aiming to reach 21 and whoever is closer wins the hand, although the value of your hand cannot go over the value of 21.

The game starts by the dealer dealing you two cards and themselves one card. Based on the value of your two cards, you then decide to ‘hit’, ‘stand’ or ‘split’. If you decide to hit, the dealer will deal you another card. If you choose to stand, then the value of your two cards is final. You have the option to split when dealt two cards of the same value. This will then create a new hand and the dealer will deal two more cards – one for each hand.  

Once you have settled on the final value of your hand, the dealer will then deal themselves another card. If the dealers’ two cards provide a value of 17 or more, they have to stick. If it is less than 17, they will continue to deal cards to themselves until the value exceeds 17. The round is decided either by who has the higher value hand or who went bust by going over the value of 21.

The best hand to get is Ace and a 10-value card (10, jack, queen, king), which is called ‘blackjack’ and not only ensures winning the hand but typically comes with a bonus, too.

Basic blackjack strategies

Unlike other popular casino games like roulette and slots, blackjack affords players a degree of control. How players use that control can make the difference between success and failure. In a typical game of blackjack, the house holds an edge between one and two percent. By using the below basic strategies of how to play blackjack on, you can reduce the house edge to around 0.5 percent.

When to stand: Always stand when your two cards provide a value of between 12 and 16 and the dealer’s card is between 2 and 6. 

When to hit: Always hit when your hand is valued between 12 and 16 and the dealer holds an Ace and a 7.

When to split: Always split when you have either two Aces or two 8s.

When to double: Always double when your two cards offer a value of 11 and the dealer’s card is between 2 and 10. In other words, double when you have 11 and the dealer is holding any card other than an Ace.

Important blackjack advice

The basic strategies above will hold you in good stead when playing blackjack, but there are other important considerations to not only maximise your chances of success but limit your losses.

Don’t compare yourself to others

This only applies to games played in live online casinos or in land-based casinos when you are sat next to another player, but it is vital nonetheless: Always remember that you are only playing against the house, not any other players sat at the same table, so don’t let others’ actions influence your own decisions. Casino tables are always full of so-called ‘experts’ – so just focus on your own hands and try not to compare your actions to others.

Don’t buy insurance

Insurance is offered when the dealer deals themselves an Ace. It is, therefore, a special side bet that allows players to stake half of the value of their original bet against the possibility of the dealer landing blackjack. If the dealer lands blackjack, you win the insurance bet, but if the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you lose the insurance bet.

While the insurance bet can be tempting, all casino experts agree that it is not worth taking. If the dealer hits blackjack, it will only push the bet, so you break even. It is therefore a no-win no-lose situation and not worth the risk.

Base decisions on dealer’s up card

Even more important than the two cards you hold is the value of the dealer’s up card. Before making any decision over whether to hit, stick, or split, first consider what the dealer holds. If the dealer’s card is between 2 and 6 or if it’s between 7 and Ace will determine your action.

Manage your finances

All seasoned casino players, whichever game they play, will agree that how you manage your finances is fundamental. Before you begin a game of blackjack, set yourself concrete limits. This works both ways: set a limit on how much you can afford to lose and stick to it. There is nothing more damaging than emotional betting while trying to claw back losses – it is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Likewise, set a limit on your winnings: eventually, your luck will turn, so if you win a certain amount, have the discipline to walk away and count your profits.