How to Play Blackjack - Tips & Rules

How to Play Blackjack - Tips & Rules
By Adam Thompson

Blackjack is the most-popular table game at NJ online casinos, accounting for 31% of all action. It’s also No. 1 at physical casinos.

Learning even the basic blackjack rules can broaden your casino experience and give you a higher chance of cashing out – blackjack has the lowest house edge of any casino game.

Read below to learn how to play blackjack, standard blackjack rules and the basics of the popular card game. Study the payout structure and hand signals you’ll want to know before handing your cash to the dealer.

Blackjack Basics

On the surface, playing blackjack is pretty simple. Players are dealt two cards, and the goal is to beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21.

Players can see their first two cards but can only see one of the dealer’s cards. Players can hit or stand based on the dealer's upcard, with the goal of getting close to 21 without going over and busting. Once all players at the table stand or bust, the dealer flips over their second card. They then add to their hand until they get to at least 17. If a player's hand ends higher than the dealer, or if the dealer goes over 21, they are a winner.

Blackjack Hand Signals

Dealing with the dealer isn’t about telling them what you want to do with your hand, it’s about showing them.

Hand signals are how dealers and players often communicate. In a bustling casino full of noise, it’s often the best choice.

Here is how to communicate the basic moves of blackjack:

To Hit: Tap the table behind your cards and betting chips to get an additional card.

To Stand: Wave your hand over the cards. This signifies you are content where you are and want no more cards.

Split: If you get two of the same card, you can split your hand and create two separate hands. To do this, place a second, equal wager off to the side, and split your fingers to show “two” – as in two hands.

CHECK OUT: When To Split Your First Two Cards Blackjack

Double Down: Sometimes you have a hand worthy of doubling your bet with a single card. To do this, place the extra bet (equal to the player’s bet to start the round) next to the previous bet.

Blackjack Card Values & Payouts

Card values are different – numbered cards are worth their number, but all face cards – Jack, Queen and King – are worth 10. Aces are unique in that they can be worth 1 or 11, depending on what best suits the player's hand.

Getting dealt an Ace and face card is worth 21 and is called blackjack, which typically pays out at 1.5-to-1 odds. That means a $50 wins $75, a $100 hand wins $150, and so on. Getting 21 through the addition of cards is still a great hand, but not blackjack.

When it comes to betting and payout, there is no stress of playing off what someone else is doing like poker or the confusion of how much a spot is worth in craps or roulette. In blackjack, what you bet is whatever you want and can change with each hand, as long as it’s at or above the table minimum.

What you win is also what you risk – if you bet $20 on a hand and win, you get back $40 (a $20 profit). If you win a bet, the dealer immediately awards you.

Blackjack Table Rules

Now that you get the gist of how to play blackjack, know that there are rules to the game.

In most blackjack games, you’re playing against the casino, not other players. The dealer deals the cards to each player, and the player to the left of the dealer starts every round. Each player has the option to accept cards or stand. When they stand, their turn is done and the dealer turns their attention to the next player in line. When all the players have finished their round, either by standing or busting, the dealer flips over their hole card (the card facing down) and adds cards to their hand until it reaches 17 or busts out.

Want An Additional Card? Read Our Guide On When To Hit Or Stand First

Interacting with dealers has a certain level of etiquette. For instance, you never touch the cards and you never hand the dealer anything. If placing cash on the table to be turned into chips, or when it comes to giving a dealer chips, always place the amount on the table, and the dealer will pick it up.

And of course, if you’re winning, it’s always nice to tip a friendly dealer with a chip.

The dealer has their own rules that need to be followed. When it comes to their cards, if a dealer gets to 17, they are required to stay – unless it’s a “soft 17,” meaning a hand that includes an Ace. If that’s the case, the Ace is worth 1 and the dealer hits. Anything at 16 or under and they hit.

Betting Rules in Blackjack

The dealer has dealt the cards, and the dealer's upcard is showing. What’s next? It obviously depends on the cards dealt, but here are the options:

Hit: If you want another card, you hit. Whether you hit or stand depends on your cards compared to the dealer’s potential hand. You can hit as many times as you want, and some casinos offer a “5 Card Charlie” winning hand for having five cards without busting.

Stand: This means you don’t want any more cards. You can hit at any time during your turn. Typically players will always stand on hands of 17 or higher, and on 13-16 if the dealer is showing a 7 or higher. Once you stand, your turn is over.

Split: If you’re dealt the same card twice, you can split them. This involves creating two independent hands, each with its own similar wager based off the player's bet to start the hand. A general rule of thumb is to always split Aces and 8s, and most pairs of 2, 3, 6 and 7 when the dealer is showing a 7 or lower.

Double Down: This involves doubling your wager then getting a single card. Regardless of that card, your turn is over. This is popular when the dealer's card is a 4, 5 or 6 and you have a hand that won’t bust with a hit.

Surrender: If you have a poor hand – a 15 or 16, for example – and the dealer is showing a 10 or Ace, you may want to surrender, which gives you half of your original bet. Your hand is forfeited. This must be done prior to any additional cards being dealt.

Even Money: If you are dealt blackjack but the dealer is showing an Ace, you may want Even Money, which means accepting winnings at 1-to-1 odds instead of the typical, higher odds associated with a blackjack to guard against a dealer blackjack. If you don’t take even money and the dealer has blackjack, you push and don’t win anything.

Insurance: This is betting on the dealer having blackjack. When they’re showing an Ace, players can lay half their original wager on insurance. If the dealer does indeed hit 21, the house pays 2-to-1 odds, wiping out the loss on the initial bet.

Insurance Bet Or No Insurance Bet? Our Tips To Winning At Blackjack Has The Answer

Blackjack Player Rules to Be Aware Of

There are a number of guidelines for players when seated next to others at the blackjack table, in person or virtual.

Don’t Mess With The Cards: Casinos take any perception of cheating very seriously, and even if it’s an innocent, fidgety handling of the cards, if you’re dealt face-up as most blackjack tables do, just let them lay.

If You Handle, Pick One Hand: Magicians use two hands when playing with cards, you shouldn’t. Casinos will take notice. Pick your dominant hand to hit and stand, and if you’re playing a game where you touch face-down cards, flip them so you can see the hand, but never remove cards completely from the table.

Be Decisive: That’s another way of saying, don’t be slow. You may want to mull things over, but your experience won’t be much fun if you’re constantly annoying your fellow players, or a dealer who’s waiting to move on. Don’t overrush, but don’t drag on, either.

Sign and Speak: Dealers like the official hand signals as a quick way of communication for your move, but to remove any doubt in your move, feel free to both use your hands and your mouth. Say what you mean, so your hand motions aren’t misconstrued.

Thinking About Being A Card Counter? Check Out Our Complete Guide To Card Counting

Is Online Blackjack Different than Traditional Blackjack?

The fundamental rules and terms of online blackjack sites and blackjack at brick-and-mortar casinos are the same. But there are differences.

Online Is Faster: Studies have shown you can play nearly four times as many games in an hour at an online casino compared to its physical counterpart. That means you can win a lot quicker, but also lose a lot quicker. For those looking to fit some fun into a busy lifestyle, however, you can’t beat the convenience of online action.

Online Offers Free Blackjack: Many top online casinos offer free blackjack, which is a great way to learn the nuances of the game before placing any money on the table.

Online Also Has Smaller Minimums: It’s rare to find a table at a local casino that takes bets smaller than $10. A few might have $5 minimums. Online casinos offer many more financial options, with minimums dipping as low as 50 cents per hand.

Online Means Signup Bonuses: Nearly all reputable online casinos offer generous signup bonuses for new customers. That can mean include matching your first deposit up to $500 or even $1,000. Not all bonuses are the same, however – some require a significant amount of money wagered before being allowed to cash out. Be sure to read the terms and conditions.

Competition Means Great Odds: The online blackjack market is ultra-competitive. That means casinos will try and get your business not just with signup bonuses, but favorable odds at the table.

Social vs. Solo: If you love living the highs and lows of gambling with others, blackjack is a fast-paced game with lots of hands, and players at the table often root for each other because there is no competition. But if the thought of other players sighing as they wait for you to make a move – or sighing when you make a move they wouldn’t make – you can avoid that stress by playing online.

Shop Accordingly: only recommends legal, regulated online casinos sites licensed in the state, and never offshore-based online casino sites, which are not regulated and are risky. Our staff of experienced reviewers have developed a detailed criteria to evaluate the best online casinos to fit your blackjack needs.

Common Blackjack Terms to Know

When it comes to betting or playing strategy, there are a lot of tools at your disposal. When the cards are in front of you, it’s critical you understand blackjack terminology.

Bust: If you or the dealer go over 21 on your hand, you’ve busted out.

Double Down: Doubling down involves doubling your bet and receiving just one more card. It’s popular when the player has a hand of totaling between 8 and 11 and the dealer is showing a 4, 5 or 6.

Even Money: This is a type of side bet offered to a player who has blackjack, with the dealer showing an Ace on their hand. An even money bet costs half the original bet and protects the player from a push if the dealer also has blackjack.

Hard Hand: A hard hand doesn’t include an ace, or a hand in which the aces are worth 1.

Hole Card: Any card that is face down. At most blackjack tables, the only hole card is held by the dealer.

Insurance: Insurance involves betting on whether a dealer has blackjack, used when the dealer is showing an Ace off the deal. A player adds a bet worth half of their original wager. If it is a dealer blackjack, the casino pays 2-to-1.

Pat Hand: A hand totaling between 17 and 21. You’re standing pat.

Push: If your hand and the dealer’s hand end at the same number, it’s a push. You get your bet back.

Soft Hand: This is a hand of two cards that involves an Ace. An Ace and 5, for example, is a soft 16. Soft hands can be safely hit without fear of busting.

Splitting: If you are dealt two of the same card, you have the option of splitting them and creating two separate hands with two separate bets. This is a popular strategy when dealt a pair of 10s, 9s, 8s and Aces.

Surrender: Surrendering involves forfeiting half your wager to end the hand after the deal. It can be useful, for example, when your hand has a low likelihood of winning and the dealer is showing a 10 or Ace.

Up Card: The dealer’s first card, which is placed face up and is visible to the players.

Blackjack FAQ

How many decks are used to play blackjack?

The majority of blackjack tables at casinos use anywhere from 5-8 decks, but there are games with single decks. The house edge rises with every additional deck used.

What does a push mean in blackjack?

A push involves the dealer and player finishing a hand with the same value. Players get their wager back.

Do dealers hit soft 17s?

At most casinos, dealers hit all soft 17s. A dealer must hit their hand until they have a hard 17.

Can I play blackjack online for free?

Yes! Every major online casino offers free blackjack. It’s a popular way to get comfortable with the game before playing blackjack for real money.

What are blackjack table limits?

Table limits are the range of bets allowed at each table. Some tables have a minimum wager of $10, others have $25 or even $100. Tables also post maximum bets allowed. Many online casinos have even smaller minimums.

What is insurance?

Insurance involves a side bet of half the original wager that protects against a dealer getting blackjack. Payoff is 2-to-1 on insurance bets, wiping out any loss from the original wager. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you lose your insurance.

When should you surrender in blackjack?

One rule of thumb when playing blackjack is to surrender when holding a 16 with the dealer showing a 9, 10 or Ace, with the exception being the 16 is a pair of 8s. Those can be split. Surrendering with a 15 against the 10 of the dealer is also common.



A successful handicapper with more than a decade in the sports and gambling industry, Adam enjoys writing about (and playing) poker.

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