How to Play Blackjack
25 Sep 2023
Updated: 19 Nov 2023
What is Blackjack?
Blackjack is a card game available in both brick-and-mortar casinos and online casinos and the ultimate goal is to beat the dealer. The main aim of the game is for the total value of your cards to be higher than the dealer's without going over 21 (also known as "going bust"). If you bust then you instantly lose. Blackjack has a very low house edge which makes it great for casino bonuses (provided it is an eligible game). The exact rules will vary from casino to casino but the general way the game works will remain the same.
The RTP of Blackjack changes depending on specific rules, but it is usually around 99.5%. As well as having an incredibly low house edge, it is also a very low variance game.
Blackjack Card Values
Before we start it's important to know that every card in Blackjack has a value; Cards 2-10 count as their face value, all face cards (Jack, Queen, King) count as 10 and an Ace can count as either 1 or 11 (whichever suits you best).
If you are dealt a total of 21 in your first two cards (eg. an Ace and a King), then you will be paid at odds of 3 to 2 (a £10 bet will give a profit of £15) unless the dealer also has 21 with two cards. This particular hand is known as "blackjack" and it beats everything apart from another blackjack.If you are dealt a total of 21 in your first two cards (eg. an Ace and a King), then you will be paid at odds of 3 to 2 (a £10 bet will give a profit of £15) unless the dealer also has 21 with two cards. This particular hand is known as "blackjack" and it beats everything apart from another blackjack.If you are dealt a total of 21 in your first two cards (eg. an Ace and a King), then you will be paid at odds of 3 to 2 (a £10 bet will give a profit of £15) unless the dealer also has 21 with two cards. This particular hand is known as "blackjack" and it beats everything apart from another blackjack.If you are dealt a total of 21 in your first two cards (eg. an Ace and a King), then you will be paid at odds of 3 to 2 (a £10 bet will give a profit of £15) unless the dealer also has 21 with two cards. This particular hand is known as "blackjack" and it beats everything apart from another blackjack.
How to Play Blackjack
Firstly you choose your stake, which is your chip amount. You will then be dealt two cards and the dealer will be dealt one card, you are then given the decision to do one of a few things with your hand:
- Hit – Take another card. If you don't go bust you will have the option to do everything from this list again.
- Stand – Stop and take no more cards. It will then be the Dealer's turn.
- Double – Your stake is doubled and you are dealt one card and one card only. After that you are forced to Stand.
- Split – If you have two identical cards (eg. 2 fours) then you can split your current hand in to two separate hands and start again. Your stake will be doubled as you now have two hands instead of one.
- Surrender – This isn't an option offered often but you will occasionally come across it. If you have a particularly bad hand, and the dealer has a good card, you can choose to surrender your hand. You will instantly lose the hand but only lose half your stake.
All Blackjack hands can be classed as either a 'hard' or 'soft' hand. A hard blackjack hand is any combination of cards that does not include an ace, that is at risk of busting out should the player decide to hit, whereas a soft blackjack hand is any combination of cards that does include an ace and that is not at risk of busting out should the player hit. Here are some examples:
- 10 + 2 = Hard 12
- 10 + 4 = Hard 14
- 7 + 2 + 6 = Hard 15
- Ace + 2 = Soft 13
- Ace + 4 = Soft 15
- Ace + 2 + 6 = Soft 19
Blackjack can seem daunting at first because these decisions are in your own hands - do you split? hit? double? stand? Our Blackjack Strategy Calculator will help you always make the correct decision when playing Blackjack to make sure you're getting the best returns and lowering the house edge as much as possible.
Note that although the calculator will guide you towards the correct decision based on the strategy set out, this does not mean that you will win every time. The strategy will give you the best return to player but the house will still have the edge (around 0.5% house edge).
How To Use The Blackjack Calculator
Firstly set the rules of your Blackjack game:
You can find whether surrender is allowed or whether Dealer stands or hits on Soft 17 in the help section of whatever Blackjack game you're on. If you can't find the rules then assume Surrenders are NOT allowed and the Dealer will STAND on Soft 17 (this will almost always be the case).
Now we can get started with our hand. Firstly set the card that the Dealer has, this will be the card at the top of the screen (in the example below the Dealer has a 3).
You then set the Dealer's card by clicking the + under 'Dealer' and then choosing the card they have.
We can now go ahead and input our hand. Similarly to above, click the + under 'Card 1' to choose your first card, and then the + under 'Card 2' to choose your second card. After you've selected all the cards, you will be given the action you should take next that is the best strategy (the one that will minimise the house edge in the long run).
After you've made your decisions, the dealer will draw cards until either they have a total of 17 or higher, at which point they stop, or until they go bust. If you have a higher total than the dealer then you will be paid even money (a £10 bet will give a £10 profit).
If the calculator says to split, select split on the Blackjack game you're playing, then click Deal Again on our Strategy Calculator.
You can then start again with your two new hands you have after splitting.
Select Double on your Blackjack game, you'll then be dealt one card and one card only. You're then done with the hand. Sometimes you're given multiple options for your next move, this is because various rules can be different on different blackjack games. Always select the first move (in this example below this is double) if you're allowed to, if not then choose the second option.
Basic rules to follow for this strategy are:
- Whenever the dealer has an Ace (A) you may be offered insurance. Always say NO to this.
- Treat your hand as a hard total (fives would be 10 or tens would be 20) on the splitting tables
- If you can't split because of a limit on resplitting, then treat your hand as a hard total.
- Never play any side bets such as "Perfect Pair" or "21 + 3", these are additional bets that will reduce your RTP.
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