Norms for Playing Blackjack


The goal of the popular casino card game blackjack, often known as twenty-one, is to beat the dealer’s hand by getting as close to 21 without going over.

See our articles on Texas Hold ‘Em Poker and Seven Card Stud if you’re interested in more casino-style card games.

The Order of the Blackjack Cards

Face-value cards are those with a value between 2 and 10. The value of a face card is 10. Aces can count as either 11 or 1, whichever is more beneficial to the player’s hand.


To begin, the dealer shuffles the deck (or decks, depending on the game) and chooses a player at random to cut the cards. A reshuffle is signaled by inserting a plastic marker into the deck at random after it has been cut. This makes it harder to beat the dealer and thus less feasible for card counters to win.

The next step is for players to make their wagers for the round. Each player, including the dealer, receives one face-up card. Following this, the dealer deals two cards to each player, one of which is face up and the other is face down.

Prospective Results


You win even money on your stake if your hand total is closer to 21 than the dealer’s. If your first two cards total 21, you have what is known as a “blackjack” or a “natural” and immediately win 3:2 if the dealer does not have a blackjack of their own. If the dealer also has a blackjack, the bets are considered a push and no action is taken.


All bets are forfeited if the dealer’s hand total is higher than yours and is closer to 21 than yours. If your hand totals more than 21 after taking a hit, this is known as a “bust,” and you will lose your bet regardless of whether or not the dealer also busts.


When both your hand and the dealer’s are equal, there is no winner or loser.

Tutorial on How to Play

In a game of Blackjack, the players act before the dealer shows their up card. A player has the option of buying insurance or surrendering before the start of the game. Purchasing insurance protects a player from the dealer’s blackjack if they feel it’s likely. If the dealer has blackjack, the player’s initial stake plus the insurance wager are returned. Purchasing insurance is only a good idea if the up-turned card of the dealer is a 10, face card, or Ace. Also, if a player is sure they are going to lose, they can give up their hand. Half of a player’s wager is returned when they surrender, while the other half goes to the dealer.

Each player, beginning with the player to the dealer’s left, attempts to beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21. Several strategies exist for accomplishing this, including making contact, staying still, separating, and doubling down.


A player may “hit,” or ask for another card, from the deck. If you want to hit, you can either shout “hit” or tap the table.


By “standing,” a player opts to maintain the same hand they were dealt. A flat hand waved across the cards indicates that it is time to stand.


Players can “split” their hands only when they have been dealt two identical cards. When a player splits a pair, they are effectively making two separate bets, one on each of their new hands. They receive two more cards from the dealer to complete their hands, and they can once again choose to hit, stand, split, or double down.

Accelerating Efforts

If a player has high confidence in their hand, they can “double down” by placing a second wager equal to their first. The player must “stand” after receiving one more card from the dealer following the original stake.


The Groundwork

The house edge in blackjack is quite high, but players can improve their odds by using the Basic Strategy. When it comes to Basic Strategy, follow these guidelines as a general rule of thumb:
Don’t bother with insurance. This is usually not worth the effort. Consider taking the loss if the dealer has a blackjack.

The first two cards are a 9 or 10, always double down. Here, another card will just bring you closer to 21 without going over.

If your hand value is 12 or more and the dealer’s upcard is 2-6, you should always stand. When the dealer takes a hit, you’re hoping they’ll either obtain a lower value than you did or go bust.

When the dealer’s upcard is a 7 or an A and you have a hand totaling 12 to 14 or an Ace to a 6, you should always hit. If the dealer shows a 7 or an Ace, they have the upper hand and you should draw an extra card to even the odds.

If you have a pair of 2s, 3s, 6s, 7s, 8s, or 9s and the dealer’s upcard is between 2 and 6, you should always split and if you hold two aces, you must split.

Blackjack Basic Strategy with 6 Decks

One’s odds of winning can be improved by using Basic Strategy, but even a perfect implementation of Basic Strategy won’t guarantee success.

Alterations to the Rules

Blackjack is played in casinos all over the world, but there are subtle differences in the rules from one to the next. Some of the more common ones will be covered here, however for a fuller list see’s Blackjack article.

Dealer Hits on 17

For the most part, if a dealer’s first two cards add up to 17, they are expected to stand. But in some casinos the dealers are allowed to “hit” even on 17. The table will indicate whether you should hit or stand on 17 with either H17 (hit) or S17 (stand).

Quantity of Decks

There can be anything from one to eight decks used in a game of blackjack, but the number is determined by the casino. The house edge increases when more decks are utilized in a game. This is because keeping track of multiple decks becomes more challenging. If casinos want their games to appear more player-friendly, they may utilize fewer decks but offset this perceived advantage by enforcing harsher restrictions, such as requiring greater minimum wagers.

Blackjack Winnings

Some casinos provide a 6:5 payoff for blackjacks, but most stick to the normal 3:2. Given this substantial disadvantage, it is not recommended to play 6:5 blackjack.

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