How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is perhaps the most famous of all card games. Glamorized in Hollywood movies as a game amongst the most intelligent, battling it out to make the smartest decision with the cards they were dealt. Everyone would like to know how to play, and surprisingly, it is not as difficult as you might think. The objective of blackjack is basically to outsmart the dealer, either by making them draw over and break 21 or by holding a hand that is worth more. Outsmarting the dealer is not as tricky as it may sound, and there are actually strategies and patterns that have proven quite successful. To start, we’ll take a look at the cards and how a total hand is calculated, continuing with the rules of how to play.

Blackjack Card Values

How to Play Blackjack - Blackjack Card Values

Blackjack is a game of numbers, so you will have to do some thinking and some counting, and fast! In a standard 52-card deck, the card blackjack values are assigned as follows:

  • Cards 2-10 take their face value;
  • J, Q, and K count as 10;
  • Ace can count as 1 or 11 (player’s choice!). 

As you’re dealt the cards, you’ll have to decide whether or not to take another card, split your hand, or hold. Remember, you’re trying to get as close to 21 total as possible without going over.

Blackjack Rules

How to Play Blackjack - Blackjack Rules

When walking up to the table, you’ll notice anywhere from 7 to 12 positions. The setup is a half-circle, where the dealer faces the players. Players will sit side by side and can actually help each other out here and there as the objective is to beat the dealer.

After browsing the casino floor and finding the table that speaks to you, the first thing you’ll need to do is place your bet. Tables generally come with minimum and maximum bets to enter, so be sure to ask your dealer for the specifics before playing. The bets are generally placed in the same position on the table, and a good tip is either to ask or do as the other players do.

Now, it’s time for the dealer to pass out cards. Each player will get 2 cards, one for all other players to see and another faced down. The first person to the dealer’s left gets the first cards, and dealing continues in a clockwise motion until everyone has two.

Next is where the thinking and a bit of strategy come to play. You will need to take a look at what you have in front of you, deciding how you will play. The perfect hand that requires nothing is a 10 and an Ace, which equals 21, so you will not need to do anything. In the case that you, another player, or the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you’ll need to do one of the following:

Stand

If you have a hand that is fairly competitive, the best thing to do is stand. A general rule of thumb is to stand on anything that totals 17 and over, as the risk of going over is higher. To stand, you’ll have to signal the dealer by simply waving your palm over the card.

Hit

If you didn’t get a high total of cards, you’ll want to hit or take more. It is generally done on anything below 16, but don’t forget to also trust your gut at times with luck possibly on your side. The ‘hit’ signal is interpreted by the dealer by tapping a finger on the table when your turn comes.

Double Down

It happens if you have a good hand, usually with an Ace involved. If you choose to double down, you get one additional card to help get you closer to 21. All you’ll need to do is add a wager to the side of your cards, and the dealer will swipe it up and give you more cards.

Split

Usually used for pairs, a split can be called by placing your index and middle finger (like a peace sign) on the table. The dealer will treat this as you have 2 distinct hands, giving you 2 more cards that you can combine with either of your 2 splits.

Surrender

Say you got cards that you just don’t like or you feel won’t stand up next to the dealers. You can choose to start all over again and surrender, getting a whole new pair in the process. To signal the dealer, draw a line in front of you with your index finger. The rules of black jack take some getting used to, but after sitting at a table for a few rounds, you’ll start to pick up on the pattern. There are a few strategies that can be executed to increase your chances of staying under and as close to 21 that you can start to practice once you’ve got the basics down.