How to Play Blackjack

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Blackjack, also known as 21, is one of the most popular card games in casinos worldwide. It’s a game of strategy, skill, and a bit of luck. The objective is simple: beat the dealer by having a hand value closest to 21 without exceeding it. This guide will take you through the basic rules of blackjack, the various actions you can take during the game, and some strategic tips to enhance your play.

Basic Rules of Blackjack

The goal is to have a hand value as close to 21 as possible without going over. If your hand exceeds 21, you "bust" and lose the bet.

  • Number cards (2-10) are worth their face value.
  • Face cards (Kings, Queens, Jacks) are worth 10 points.
  • Aces can be worth either 1 or 11 points, depending on which value benefits the hand more.

  • 2♠, 5♦, K♣: Total value is 17 (2 + 5 + 10).
  • A♠, 9♦: Total value is either 10 or 20, depending on the best outcome.
  • 10♣, 7♠: Total value is 17.

  • Blackjack is typically played with one or more decks of 52 cards.
  • The game begins with each player placing a bet.
  • The dealer then deals two cards to each player and two cards to themselves. Players’ cards are usually dealt face up, while the dealer has one card face up (the "upcard") and one card face down (the "hole card").

Player Actions


Take another card to increase your hand’s total value.

If you have 7♠, 6♦ (total 13), you might choose to hit and receive another card, such as 4♣, bringing your total to 17.


Keep your current hand and end your turn.

If you have Q♠, 6♣ (total 16), you might choose to stand if the dealer's upcard is low.

Double Down

Double your initial bet and receive exactly one more card.

If you have 9♦, 2♠ (total 11), you might choose to double down, and receive a 10♥, bringing your total to 21.


If you have two cards of the same value, you can split them into two separate hands, each with its own bet.

If you have 8♠, 8♦, you can split them into two hands. Each 8 gets another card, such as 8♠, 3♣ (total 11) and 8♦, 7♠ (total 15).


Forfeit half your bet and end your turn immediately (this option is not available in all casinos).


If the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, you can take insurance (a side bet up to half your initial bet) to guard against the dealer having blackjack. If the dealer has blackjack, the insurance bet pays 2:1.

Dealer Actions

The dealer must hit until their hand totals 17 or higher. Some casinos require the dealer to hit on a "soft 17" (a hand containing an Ace valued as 11).

  • If your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s without busting, you win.
  • A winning hand typically pays 1:1.
  • If you have a blackjack (an Ace and a 10-value card), you usually get paid 3:2.
  • If both you and the dealer have the same hand value, it’s a "push," and your bet is returned.

Basic Blackjack Strategy

Know When to Hit or Stand

Generally, hit if your hand totals 8 or less.

  • Example: If you have 4♠, 3♣ (total 7), you should hit.

Stand if your hand totals 17 or more.

  • Example: If you have 10♠, 7♥ (total 17), you should stand.

For hands totaling between 9 and 16, the decision to hit or stand depends on the dealer’s upcard.

  • Example: If you have 12♣ (total 12) and the dealer shows 5♠, you should stand.

Double Down

Double down on a total of 10 or 11 if the dealer’s upcard is lower than your total.

  • Example: If you have 6♥, 5♠ (total 11) and the dealer shows 4♦, you should double down.

Double down on a total of 9 if the dealer’s upcard is between 3 and 6.

  • Example: If you have 7♦, 2♣ (total 9) and the dealer shows 5♠, you should double down.

Splitting Pairs

Example: If you have A♠, A♦, you should split.

Example: If you have 8♠, 8♣, you should split.

Example: If you have 5♠, 5♦, you should not split but rather treat it as a total of 10.

Example: If you have 10♠, Q♣, you should not split as it's already a strong hand.

Example: If you have 6♦, 6♠ and the dealer shows 4♣, you should split.

Insurance and Surrender

Example: If the dealer shows an Ace, avoid taking insurance.

Example: If you have 10♠, 6♦ (total 16) and the dealer shows K♣, you should consider surrendering if the option is available.

Advanced Blackjack Strategies

  • Card counting involves keeping track of the high and low cards that have been dealt to gain an advantage over the casino. Popular systems include the Hi-Lo strategy.
  • Card counting is legal but frowned upon by casinos, and you may be asked to leave if suspected.

  • Set a budget for your blackjack session and stick to it.
  • Use betting strategies like the Martingale (doubling your bet after a loss) with caution, as they can quickly lead to significant losses.

Tips for Playing Blackjack

Memorize basic strategy charts that show the best play for every possible hand combination. This minimizes the house edge and maximizes your chances of winning.

Most side bets in blackjack have a high house edge. Stick to the main game to keep your odds favorable.

Blackjack requires concentration and clear thinking. Avoid excessive drinking and distractions to make the best decisions.

Look for promotions and bonuses that can boost your bankroll. However, be aware of any wagering requirements attached to these offers.

Set win and loss limits for each session. If you hit your limit, consider it a good time to walk away, regardless of whether you're winning or losing.

Tip: Master Basic Strategy

Memorizing and implementing basic strategy is the most effective way to reduce the house edge in blackjack. This set of rules tells you the optimal move for any hand you hold against any dealer upcard, maximizing your chances of winning.


Blackjack is a game of skill and strategy that offers players a great chance to win with the right knowledge and approach. By understanding the rules, mastering basic strategy, and practicing good bankroll management, you can improve your odds and enjoy a rewarding blackjack experience. Remember to play responsibly and have fun.