How to Play Blackjack

Why is blackjack the most popular casino table game? Because players can beat the house using their brains, not just luck! Of course, in order to win at Blackjack, you have to know how to play the game. So we wanted to provide a basic explanation of how to play blackjack before we start on more advanced stuff about blackjack:

The Object of the Game

The object of Blackjack is to get your cards to come closer to 21 than the dealer’s cards, without going over. In an ideal hand of blackjack, you would make 21 with just two cards. This is called a “blackjack.”

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The Rules

Blackjack can be played with any number of standard 52-card decks and up to seven players, plus the dealer. The fewer decks there are, the easier it is for players to beat the dealer. That’s why most casinos use four to eight decks. When playing with multiple decks, the shuffled cards are held in a “shoe” and each player’s hand is dealt face up onto the table. You are not allowed to touch the cards.

Face cards (jack, queen, and king) count as 10 points towards your goal of 21. Aces can count as 1 or 11 points, your choice, and the rest of the cards count as their face value.

Starting bets must be placed before the cards are dealt. The standard payout for a “blackjack” is 3-2, while all other winning hands pay even money.

Your Moves

After seeing your cards and the dealer’s cards (usually only one is face-up at this point), you can choose from the following six options:

Hit – You can take more cards to raise your total closer to 21. If you go over 21, you “bust” and lose your bet.

Stand – If you already close to 21, you can elect not to take more cards in the hopes the dealer will bust.

Double Down – You can add to your bet and take one more card. Most players match the original bet here, but you can bet less.

Split – If you receive two cards with the same value, you can split them into two separate hands by placing an additional bet on the table. Most casinos will let you split up to three times for a total of four hands on the table.

Surrender – If you have lousy cards, and the dealer does not have blackjack, you can surrender and only lose half of your bet.

Insurance – Insurance is basically making a 2-1 side bet that the dealer has blackjack. Insurance is offered when the dealer has an ace showing.

Dealer’s Moves

The dealer doesn’t have as many options as players do. Basically, if the dealer has 17 or more, he has to stand. If he has less, he has to keep hitting until he reaches 17 or busts, whichever happens first. Some casinos have additional rules requiring the dealer to hit on “soft” 17. “Soft” means that the hand includes an ace, and could total 17 or 7 depending on how the ace is counted.


While getting dealt a blackjack is a matter of luck, everything after that is about probability. You have to look at the cards on the table, consider the cards left in the shoe, and then decide what your next move should be. Read more about strategy on our Blackjack Strategy page!

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