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Blackjack Rules & Play

Blackjack is the most popular casino card game in which you play against the house. It is simple, yet exciting and combines skill and luck which makes it a favorite all over the world. In this section on Blackjack Geeks, we explain blackjack rules, main scope and the flow of the game. Usually, there are some variations of the way blackjack is played, but the core remains the same and that’s what we’ll introduce here.

General Blackjack Rules

Still not familiar with blackjack rules? No worries, these are the basic.

  • In blackjack, you play against the dealer and the main objective is to beat him by collecting more points without busting.
  • Each card has a certain value: aces are counted as 1 or 11 points, 2-9 bring their face value and tens, jacks, queens and kings count as 10. Learn more about card counting.
  • The score of each player is determined by the sum of his cards values as described above. The objective is to reach the highest possible score that does not exceed 21. If you pass the 21 mark, you are bust and lose.
  • The highest ranking card combination is 21 with 2 cards (an Ace and a 10 point card) and you receive 50% bonus to your winnings if you have it. It is called blackjack.
  • The game is played with 1-8 of 52-card decks.

Flow of the Game

Now, let’s see the flow of the game.

  1. The player places his bet and then two cards are dealt to both him and the dealer each.
  2. One of the dealer’s cards is face up while the other is hidden and is called a hole card. If the visible one is an ace or a 10-point card, the dealer can take a peek and see if he has a blackjack.
  3. If the visible card is an ace, the player has the option to buy insurance which will pay 2:1 if the dealer hits 21.
  4. If the dealer or the player himself don’t have 21 (a blackjack) from the first two cards, the player has few possible options to play his hand:
    • Stand: if the player is satisfied with the score he got, he can choose to Stand and end the game;
    • Hit: if the player wants another card, he can choose to hit another card. This can be done multiple times until the player reaches 21 or busts;
    • Double: the player can double his bet and take another card after which the hand ends. This means the player can’t hit another card after a double;
    • Split: if the player has two cards of the same score, he could split them into two separate hands. His bet is doubled and a new stake is placed on both of the hands. A new card is dealt to each of the two split cards to form the new hands. There is a special case here: if aces are split, the game is over after the second card is dealt to each hand. Otherwise, the normal rules apply to each hand and the player can hit, stand or double.
  5. After all players end their turn, the hole card of the dealer is revealed. If the dealer’s total score is 16 or less, he hits another card. This process is repeated until the dealer reaches a score of 17 or more. If the dealer gets more than 21 points the dealer busts and you win if you aren’t bust yourself. If the dealer reaches a score between 17-21, his points are compared to those of each player that is not busted. If it’s a draw you get your stake back. If the dealer has more points than you, you lose your stake. Otherwise, you win and doubles your initial stakes.


Blackjack Hand Signals

When you are playing in a live casino, there are specific blackjack hand signals you could use to show what your next action is. When blackjack is played with one or two decks, the cards are dealt face down and you can hold them in your hands. When the decks are more, the cards are dealt face up. Depending on that, the hand signals are as follows:

Hit – If the cards are face up, just tap on the table with a finger. Otherwise, you have to lightly scrape your cards to the felt;
Hit blackjack hand signals
Stand – If you’re playing face up, just wave your hand horizontally. If the cards are face down and in your hand, put them on the table and under your bet to indicate that you don’t want more cards;
Stand blackjack hand singnals
Double – If you playing face down, leave your cards on the table face up and then put an additional bet behind your initial wager. The second step applies to face up games as well. There is an exception here: if you have a pair, hold up your index finger to show that you don’t want a split, but a double;
Double Blackjack Hand Signals
Surrender – In case you want to surrender in a face-down game, put your cards on the table, face up. After that, no matter the game, slide your index finger horizontally behind your wager. The slide should be longer than the one for hit, about 15 cm/ 6 inches or so. It is ok to also just say “surrender”, especially since some dealers might be unfamiliar with the signal.
surrender blackjack hand signals
Split – The blackajck hand signals here are similar to the double. If you are playing a hand-held game, place your cards face up on the table. Then put your second bet next to your first one (and not behind as when you double). If you have a pair of fours or fives, it is appropriate to show a V sign with your fingers to confirm that you are not doubling, but splitting;
Blackjack Hand Signals Split


Variations Of Blackjack Rules

As most popular card games, blackjack has lots of possible rule variations. It is important to examine the rules of the online or offline casino you play at, as it will influence your payout ratio. You need to adapt your strategy to the rules. Before we get that far, we want to introduce you to the most common rules variations in online casinos:

  • Number of Decks: in most web casinos, the number of decks varies between 1 and 8. The lower the number, the lower the edge of the house;
  • Hit or Stand on Soft 17: If the dealer has 17 with an ace included, it is called “soft 17”. Some casinos stand on soft 17 while others have the rule to hit. The latter increases the house edge;
  • Resplits: there’s a variation in the rules when you split your hand and hit another matching hand. Some casinos allow additional splits, others don’t;
  • Double restrictions: the majority of online casinos allow doubles on any two cards. However, some of them limit it to only hard sums of 9-11;
  • Peek for Blackjack: under the traditional rules of the game, the dealer always peeks for blackjack if an ace or a 10-point card is showing. Some casinos operate under “European blackjack” rules where the dealer does not peek, so the player might split or double and lose two wagers in case of blackjack. Not peeking increases the advantage of the casino;
  • Double after Split: most online casinos will allow you to double your bet after splitting your cards. However, there are exceptions where you can’t;
  • Resplit Aces: there are different rules about splitting aces compared to splitting other cards;
  • Hitting Split Aces: in most casinos you can draw only one card after splitting aces. Some allow hitting another card, though;
  • Surrender: in some online casinos you are allowed to surrender and lose half of your wager before the start of the hand. Usually, this happens after the dealer checks for blackjack and is called “late surrender”. There is also an “early surrender” and it happens before the dealer checks for blackjack. Some casinos offer the latter, others the former;
  • Automatic Winner Charlie Rule: in a few blackjack casinos there is a rule that if you reach a certain number of cards before busting, you are an automatic winner. This number is usually between 5 and 7. The lower the number, the lower the house edge.

These are the most common differences in blackjack rules. However, there are other variations such as Blackjack Switch, Super Fun 21, Pontoon, Ties Win Blackjack, Spanish Blackjack, 21 Duel Blackjack, Double Attack Blackjack and others.

We prepared a table that shows what rules apply in some of the most popular casinos out there as also the house edge in each of them.

Here is a table that will show you the exact impact of most rule variations:

RULEEFFECT
Single deck0.48%
Early surrender against ten0.24%
Player may double on any number of cards0.23%
Double deck0.19%
Player may draw to split aces0.19%
Six-card Charlie0.16%
Player may resplit aces0.08%
Late surrender0.08%
Four decks0.06%
Five decks0.03%
Six decks0.2%
Split to only 3 hands-0.01%
Player may double on 9-11 only-0.09%
Split to only 2 hands-0.10%
European no hole card-0.11%
Player may not double after splitting-0.14%
Player may double on 10,11 only-0.18%
Dealer hits on soft 17-0.22%
Blackjack pays 7-5-0.45%
Blackjack pays 6-5-1.39%
Blackjacks pay 1 to 1-2.27%

Still have questions about blackjack? Try our Blackjack FAQ.


Blackjack Statistics

Bet Size

Use this table if the bonus is not given until after completing the wagering and you plan to redeposit as many times as needed to complete the wagering. It shows the chance of ending above the deposit balance after completing a wagering requirement with 5 bet sizes. As you can see, the chance of gain increases as bet size decreases and as wagering requirements decrease.

Blackjack Final Outcome Probabilities

B L A C K J A C K   F I N A L   O U T C O M E   P R O B A L I T I E S
The table below shows the chance of the player and dealer getting a particular total, assuming a 6 deck game in which the dealer stands on soft 17. There are two tables.

In the first table (Hand Continues), the dealer column indicates the percentage chance of achieving a given result when the dealer always completes the hand, including when the player busts.

In the second table (Hand Ends), the dealer column indicates the percentage chance of achieving a given result if the game ends when the player busts, with only two cards given to the dealer.


Expected Value per Hand

B L A C K J A C K  E V  P E R  H A N D
The table below shows the player's expected winnings as a proportion of the bet he/she places (known as EV or Expected Value) after the first 2 cards are dealt, assuming the player is following an optimal strategy in a 6-deck soft 17 peek game. To get your expeced winnings, simply multiply the value of your bet by the number in the table that coincides with your hand and the dealer's face up card.

House Edge

B L A C K J A C K  H O U S E  E D G E  C A L C U L A T O R
Optimal player payback
Basic strategy with cut card
Basic strategy with continuous shuffler
Click on any of the info signs above for further information

ADDICTION

You should know that gambling is dangerous and can lead to addiction. It could ruin your life, so make sure to gamble responsibly. Don’t wager amounts you can’t afford to lose and remember that gambling is a form of entertainment.

If you are worried that you might be addicted, we recommend you this self-assessment test. In case you have a problem with gambling addiction, please, contact one of the following organizations that could help you:

  • GamCare – GamCare is a registered charity that provides help to people that suffer from gambling problem;
  • Gamblers Anonymous – an international organization that can provide information and help for people with gambling addiction;
  • Gambling Therapy – this is a free online service that provides help for people with gambling problems.
If you still want to learn more, check our recommended Blackjack literature.


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