Basic rules of the game

Basic rules of the game

Thursday, Apr 9, 2009 | By CasinoGuide

Blackjack is the easiest casino card game to learn and play, which explains its popularity. If you can count to 21 and master a few simple rules, you can begin playing almost immediately.

Blackjack is the easiest casino card game to learn and play, which explains its popularity. If you can count to 21 and master a few simple rules, you can begin playing almost immediately. Once you're comfortable with the rules, you'll want to learn the "Basic Strategy," a time-tested, mathematically based strategy, and implement some of the techniques to raise your level of play.

Casino rules vary among gambling establishments, both on the ground and in Cyberspace. The rules below include the most common, generally accepted rules. Always check the rules at each establishment before you begin play.

Object of the Game

The object of Blackjack is to reach a higher card count than the dealer without exceeding a total card count of 21. Regardless of the number of players at the table, your only opponent is the dealer.

Rules of Play

Different versions of Blackjack have slightly different rules, but generally, game play progresses as follows:

  1. Each player places a bet for the next hand.

  2. The dealer deals the cards from dealer left to dealer right, with everyone receiving two cards. Usually, each player receives two cards face up, and the dealer receives one card face up and one card face down (called a hole card). When playing in a casino, you are not allowed to touch your cards if they are both dealt face up.

  3. Starting with the player to the dealer's left, each player decides whether to accept more cards (hit) or whether to refuse more cards (stand). Except as noted below in special circumstances, each player may continue to receive cards until his or her total card count exceeds 21 (bust).

  4. After each player completes his or her turn, the dealer takes a turn.

Dealer Rules of Play

The dealer plays by more restrictive rules than the players, usually as noted below.

  • If the dealer's hand is 17 or more, the dealer must stand, or refuse to take another card. Under some rules, the dealer must hit on a soft 17, a hand that includes an Ace, but not always.

  • If the dealer's hand is 16 or less, the dealer must hit, or take another card.

And the Winner Is…

Remember that you play only against the dealer, so you need not keep track of your hand against the other
player"s hands. Compare your hand against the dealer's hand.

  • The hand that comes closest to 21 without exceeding 21 wins.
  • If you bust, the house automatically wins, even if the dealer subsequently busts.
  • If the dealer busts and you don't, you win, regardless of the value of your hand.


Blackjack decks consist of one deck up to eight decks of cards. For purposes of this discussion,
a deck refers to the entire set of cards, regardless of number of decks. Shuffling a
Blackjack deck involves an entire ritual:

  1. After shuffling the deck, the dealer presents the deck to one player and asks the player to cut the deck. The player to the dealer's immediate left cuts the deck after the first shuffle, and each time the cards are shuffled, the dealer presents the cards to the next player to cut, moving from dealer left to dealer right around the table. The player takes a solid plastic card and inserts it into the deck to split cut the cards. The dealer then moves the bottom of the deck to the top of the deck.

  2. After the deck is cut, the dealer takes one or more cards from the top of the deck and removes them from play. The dealer places the "burn" cards in the discard box where all discarded cards are placed after each hand.

  3. The dealer places a plastic card into the deck and the cards are placed into the shoe, a wooden box that holds up to eight decks of cards. When the plastic card is reached during normal play, the current hand is finished and the dealer reshuffles the cards before play resumes. The point at which this plastic card lies is known as "penetration."


Each player who wishes to play the next hand places a bet before the deal. Players who do
not place a bet sit out the next hand. Place your entire bet at once.


The dealer deals the cards as follows:

  1. Beginning with the player on the dealer's left, each player receives a face-up card, and dealing proceeds clockwise around the table until all players receive their first card.
  2. The dealer deals his or her first card, usually face down, called a Hole card.
  3. Each player receives a second card, face up.
  4. The dealer receives a second card, face up.

Card Values

Each card has a numerical value:

1 or 11
Not used in Blackjack



Immediately after the deal, players usually have the option to surrender half their wager and forfeit the hand.
This option makes sense on hands with less than a 50% chance of winning. There are two types of surrender,
and rules vary by casino. In fact, few online casinos offer either surrender. Check the rules before you begin play.

  • Early Surrender - You may surrender before the dealer checks for a Blackjack.
  • Late Surrender - You may surrender only after the dealer checks for Blackjack, and only if the dealer is not holding a Blackjack.

Blackjack (or Natural)

Blackjack automatically wins the game, unless both the dealer and the player have a blackjack, in which
case the hand is a tie. A Blackjack hand consists of an Ace and one of the following cards: 10, Jack, Queen or King.
Blackjack is often called a natural or natural 21.


When your first two cards are of equal numerical value, you may split them into two separate hands and
place an additional wager, equal to the original wager, on the second hand. For example, if you have a
10 and a Jack, the cards can be split since a 10 and a Jack are equal in value. If you split two Aces,
you can only receive one additional per hand and if you receive a card with a 10-point value, the hand is
counted as 21, not Blackjack.

Double Down

After you receive your first two cards, you may double your initial bet unless you are holding a 21.
After doubling down, you may receive only one more card.


If the dealer shows an Ace, you may make a side bet equal to ½ of your original bet. This is a
separate bet to insure against the dealer getting a Blackjack. If the dealer has a Blackjack, you get
double your insurance bet and you lose your original bet-even money. If the dealer has anything other
than a Blackjack, you lose your side bet, and the original bet for the hand remains in play.

Even Money

If the dealer shows an Ace, and you are holding a Blackjack, the dealer will offer you the option of even money when the other players are offered insurance. If you accept even money, you are betting that the dealer also has a Blackjack.

Learn How To Play Blackjack

Practice blackjack for free
Checking out our free casino games pages is the perfect way to learn different casino games without risks. Play our free blackjack game immediately in your browser - no download is required. Find the blackjack rules to the left on this page.

Learn How To Win At Blackjack

Blackjack strategy
Our blackjack strategy pages will give you a good understanding of the game and how you could reduce the house edge by using an optimal blackjack strategy while playing. This strategy, in combination with a good blackjack bonus, is the best way to learn how to win at blackjack.

More Blackjack Tips And Articles

For even more information about the game, visit the following pages for blackjack tips and advice.

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