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.
- As we described above, the sum of the cards value determines each players score. The objective is to reach the highest possible score that does not exceed 21. If you pass the 21 mark, you will 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.
- The player places his bet and then the dealer deal two cards to both him and the player.
- 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.
- When the visible card is an ace, the player has the option to buy insurance which will pay 2:1 if the dealer hits 21.
- 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. He can do this 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. Each of the two get a new card 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.
- After all players end their turn, the dealer reveals hole card. If the dealer’s total score is 16 or less, he hits another card. This process repeats 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. When 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
There are specific blackjack hand signals in a live casino. You could use them 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;
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;
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;
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.
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;
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:
Still have questions about blackjack? Try our Blackjack FAQ.
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.