Blackjack Rules

As blackjack is such a popular game it's very likely that you already know the basic rules and how to play it.

However, in this section we're going to help you brush up on your knowledge of this extremely exciting casino game.

While the basic aim of the game is simple, there are more betting options and rule variants than most players realise. At one point or another, players will have the option to surrender, take insurance, split and double down.

By making sure that you know all of the rules, you're providing yourself with the best chance of winning in the short to medium term.

Simple Blackjack Points

  • The aim of blackjack is to beat the dealer's hand without going over 21
  • Players either hit (ask for another card) or stand (don't ask for another card)
  • Wins offer a payout of 1:1, or 3:2 in the case of a blackjack
  • In some games, the dealer must stand on 17; it is useful to know when this rule applies
  • Aces can be either one or eleven, while face cards carry a value of ten

Blackjack Basics

The aim of the game is to beat the dealer. You do this by gaining a blackjack score that is closer to 21 than the dealer's, without going over. If your cards do exceed 21 then you're bust and you lose your bet. A winning score will result in a win of 1:1 unless you get a natural blackjack (an ace and a picture card) in which case you win at odds of 3:2.

We highly recommend that you check out the rules of the online blackjack game that you're about to play before you do so. The reason for this is that rules can vary with regards to when the dealer must take a card. Some blackjack rules dictate that the dealer must stand when he has a score of 17 or higher, while a small number of games allow the dealer to hit on 17.

To create a blackjack score, you add the values of the cards that have been dealt together. The blackjack card values are listed below:

  • 2-10 = face value
  • Picture cards = 10
  • Ace = 1 or 11

An ace can be 1 or 11 depending on which value provides you with a better score. In general an ace will count as 11 unless that would render your hand bust, in which case it will carry a value of 1.

Player Options

Hit or stand Hit or Stand? The eternal blackjack dilemma

Once you've been dealt your cards, there are various options available to you. The most common of these are below:

  • Hit – when you ask for another card
  • Stand – when you don't require any more cards

However, depending on what cards you were dealt, you may also get the option to split, double, get insurance or surrender.

Whilst you can get along by just using these terms, to fully understand what's going on and to give yourself the best chance of winning, we highly recommend that you have a look through the blackjack phrases and terms listed below.

When the dealer and player have the same score and the hand is a tie. Your bet is returned to you.
The best possible hand available in blackjack. It consists of an ace and any picture card. It usually pays out at 3:2 but in rare instances this can vary.
A player has the option to double their original bet if they feel that one more card will be enough to beat the dealer's hand. See our blackjack strategy guide for more information.
Some online casinos allow you to double when you have any two cards while others limit doubling hands to when you have values of 9, 10 and 11.
When a player's first two cards are the same, they are given the option to split them into two separate hands. In online casinos, the original bet you placed before the split is added to your second hand.
The two hands are then played separately, with the usual blackjack rules applying. In some online blackjack variations, players are even allowed to re-split as well as double after they've split.
The least common option in blackjack. In fact, very few casinos offer this. Surrendering allows a player to give up their hand and get half their bet back if they aren't happy with their first two cards.
By far, insurance is the least player-friendly bet in blackjack. Insurance is offered when the dealer's first card is an ace and gives the player the chance to take insurance on the dealer drawing a blackjack. The insurance ‘premium' is half your original bet. If the dealer does get blackjack then insurance is paid at 2:1 (unless it's a push).

Rule Variations

Blackjack table showing rules of the game The rules of a blackjack game are usually displayed clearly on the table

The way that the dealer acts is governed by some very strict rules that affect your chances of winning.

Of these rules, most are the same across all blackjack games but there are a few that can be changed. The most significant of these to a player is what total the dealer can stand on. Here there are two main variations.

  1. Dealer will hit on all numbers up to and including soft 17s (a soft 17 is when the hand involves no ace or the ace has a value of 1).
  2. Dealer hits on all numbers up to and including 16 but stands on all 17s.

Of these two variations, the latter benefits the player more with the house edge being reduced by about 0.2%.

The number of decks is also an issue that changes things. However, when playing online blackjack the impact of this difference is reduced greatly as the cards are automatically shuffled after every hand. Even so, it's still slightly preferable to play a blackjack game with fewer decks – but perhaps that's just our old habits.

Some blackjack games can even change the payout received for blackjack, reducing it from 3:2 to 6:5. We consider this pretty stingy so would recommend you steer well clear of any blackjack variation that pays 6:5 on blackjack.