How To Play Blackjack

Next to poker, blackjack is the most easily recognizable and popular card gambling game in the world. There are numerous variations of it in casinos all across the globe, both online and in the real world. Regardless of the name it goes by or the slight difference in rules that each style of play may adhere to, the goal of the game remains the same: beat the dealer without going bust.


History of blackjack


The immediate precursor for the modern-day game of blackjack was a game called Vingt-Un. Although the exact origins of the game are uncertain, it is most likely that it began in Spain. 


The first known reference to the game is found in the story ‘Rinconete y Cortadillo’ from the book Novelas Ejemplares by Miguel de Cervantes, where the main characters are a pair of cheats working the veintiuna (Twenty-One) game in Seville. In the book, certain rules, such as the goal of hitting 21 and the fact that aces count as 1 or 11, are mentioned.


The tale was penned somewhere between 1601 and 1602, meaning that it was most likely played at the beginning of the 17th century in Castile. The first known record of a blackjack variant in France was in 1768. It also appeared in Britain in the 1770s and 1780s. However, the first clear mention in Britain of the rules regarding a game named Vingt-Un was not made until 1800. 


In the US, Twenty-One first appeared in the early 1800s, still known by the same name as it was across the Pond. The rules were first printed in 1825, a reprint of the original version in England in 1800. This later became the American variant of blackjack, which was renamed as such in 1899.


Objective of the game


The objective of blackjack is one of the most misunderstood in all of gambling. Most people think that the goal is to get 21. While it’s always nice to get the best possible results in any gambling game, the point here is to simply beat the dealer. You do this one of three ways: 


  • By drawing a hand that is better than the dealer’s.
  • By the dealer going bust (drawing a hand value over 21).
  • By being dealt 21 on your first two cards (and the dealer has 20 or less).


Rules of blackjack


Blackjack rules are very simple and straightforward. In this section, we will offer a rundown of the basics. This should be more than enough for you to sit down at any table and make the correct plays, even if you have never tried the game before:


  1. The round begins once the players have placed their wagers.
  2. The dealer will deal two cards face-up to the players and one face-up, one face-down to themselves.
  3. All cards in blackjack count as face value. Picture cards are 10 and aces can be 1 or 11. 
  4. Players can decide to hit, stand, double down, split, or surrender.
  5. The dealer always acts last and must hit on 16 or less, while standing on 17-21.
  6. Players win if their hand total exceeds that of the dealer or if the dealer busts.
  7. Players lose the hand if they bust, or if their hand total is less than the dealer.
  8. If both the player and the dealer’s hands total the same amount, this is referred to as a tie or push, and the bet is returned.

How a round of blackjack progresses



Knowing when to hit in blackjack is crucial to being successful at it. Hitting is where a player attempts to improve their hand by requesting another card. This is generally done with a clear and simple tapping motion on the table. 


Double down

If you have a hand that you already like but also require another card, you have the opportunity to double your bet. All you have to do is place another wager of equal amount to the first one next to your original bet. 



If you are dealt any pair, you have the opportunity to split them into two different hands, thus doubling your chances to win. Just as with a double down, you must place another wager equal to the first one out on the table. 

However, to indicate that you want to split rather than double down, you need to hold up two fingers (like a peace sign) to let the dealer know that you wish to separate the hands.



If you feel that your hand is not worth pursuing after the first two cards, you also have the option of surrendering. This is where you give it up and receive half of your bet back. To indicate to the dealer that you wish to surrender, simply draw a line across the felt behind your bet with your finger. Also, be sure to declare it verbally as sometimes dealers confuse this with a ‘hit’ signal.


Payouts and insurance

Understanding how the hands pay, as well as whether or not to use insurance, can make a big difference in either making more money or losing less when playing blackjack. Here are a few quick examples of payouts:

  • If the dealer busts, each player still in the hand will receive a payout of 1 to 1.
  • If the dealer makes a hand but you have a higher hand, you will receive the same payout of 1 to 1 (if you have the same hand, it’s a push).
  • If you are dealt a blackjack (an ace with a 10 or a face card) and the dealer has 20 or less, you will receive a payout of 2 to 1.



Insurance is a side bet that is available whenever the dealer has an ace showing as their up-card. Before anyone can act on their hand, the house will offer insurance in the form of a second wager equal to half of the original bet or less. 


If the dealer does have a blackjack, this pays you 2 to 1. Most common betting strategies advise against taking insurance, but just as with everything else involved in gambling, it’s up to the individual player and their preferences. 


Basic strategy for beginners

Blackjack strategy can employ a number of different tactics from how to bet to when you hit and stand. One good piece of advice for beginners or those who may not know a lot about how to play is to hit until your hand can beat 17 when the dealer is showing a 7, 8, 9, 10 or face card, or an ace. 


Whenever the dealer is showing a low card such as a 4, 5, or 6, you should stop drawing at 12 or higher. Another good blackjack tip is that you should always split aces to give yourself the opportunity at two blackjacks (which pay 2 to 1). 


No matter if you have been playing for years or are getting ready to sit down at a table for the first time, the fact is that blackjack is a game that many gambling enthusiasts love. In today’s world with so many legal online casinos with live blackjack available, as well as brick-and-mortar options, the fact is that you can play anywhere at any time.



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