Playing Basic Blackjack

September 7th, 2006 3:41 pm EST

ace and a jackHow to Play Basic Blackjack

There are many variations to the game of Blackjack, but the rules are quite similar to the classic game that we will discuss here. We will get into the rules of all the variations in other articles on the site. These rules below only apply to basic, classic Blackjack.


The objective of the game of Blackjack is to make a hand less than or equal to 21 while still beating the hand of the dealer.

Before You Play

There are a few rules and etiquette-related things to go over before you begin play. There is one dealer in the game, and at least one player. The max number of people allowed at a table largely depends upon the casino. Each player is playing against the dealer only, and not against other players. More than one player can beat each dealer per game play. In most Blackjack games, each player is dealt two cards face up, while the dealer deals themselves two cards, one face up and one face down (also known as the hole card).

Card Values

Each number card is worth the value of that number. An eight is worth eight, a two is worth two and so on. Kings, Queens and Jacks are all worth ten. Aces can be valued at either eleven or one, whichever one helps your hand.

Game Play

Before cards are dealt, all players must place their bets. Every table has a minimum and maximum bet, and each player must place at least the minimum. There is also an optional side bet called "Insurance" that you can place if the dealer's up card is an Ace. If you place the insurance bet and the dealer has Blackjack (a two-card hand that equals 21), then you win a 2:1 payout on your insurance bet. If the dealer does not have Blackjack, you lose the insurance bet although you may still win the hand.

If you are dealt your two cards and already have Blackjack (21), this is called a natural and you win, unless the dealer has Blackjack. Then it is a Push, or tie and your bet is returned to you and you can either leave the table or use it to play another hand.

If you are dealt a pair of cards, you can either stay or split your cards. If you split a pair, that means that you are now going to play two hands, and you must make a bet on the second hand that is equal to your initial bet.

If you do not have a pair or Blackjack, you can either ask for another card (hit) or if you are satisfied with your hand, you can stand on it (stay). If you take another card into your hand and you go over 21, you are said to have busted, and you lose.

Before you take a card into your hand, you can double down if the rules of that particular table allow it. This means you make double your bet, and are only allowed one hit. You must stand on your hand after the one drawn card, unless it is a bust in which case you lose.

At some tables, there may be a rule called "early surrender". This means that if the dealer has an Ace as their hole card, you can invoke the early surrender rule and retire your hand before you play it. In this case, half of your bet goes to the dealer, while you get to keep the other half.

A dealer must usually stand on 17. This means that once their hand hits 17 or higher, they are not allowed to take another card into their hand, regardless of whether they have your hand beaten or not.


The basic payout for a game of Blackjack when you hit a Blackjack is 3:2. Recently, some tables at offline casinos are paying on odds of 6:5, which is not as favorable to the player as a 3:2 payout is. You should always try to play at a table that has 3:2, as in the long run this will make you more money.

Insurance pays out 2:1, no matter what the Blackjack payout is.

As previously stated, there are many different variations on the classic game of Blackjack. These rules apply only to a very basic game, which would likely be played in home games and in most tables in casinos that are simply labeled "Blackjack". If any rules vary, they would be so marked on the rules of the table. For instance, in some games a dealer must stand on 17, while at a few tables they may have to stand on 16. If rules like early surrender are allowed, then they will be marked on the table rules as well.

Here at Blackjack King we have the rules of the most popular variations all laid out for you in separate articles available free of charge to you at all times.