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Learn how to Play Blackjack

Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular games both online and in live casinos, since it not only provides a very low house edge for the casino, but it can also be beaten (at least in live casinos) by having the correct strategy. In this article we will not be talking about strategies, but simply explain what blackjack is and how to play it so you will be able to start playing this thrilling card game.

While blackjack's objective may seem to be to hit 21 and thus winning, it is actually not about hitting blackjack at all. The game's objective is to beat the house, which can be done by having a higher ranking hand  than the dealer. This means that if the dealer hits 17 and you have 18 then you win and have no need to go any higher in your hand rankings.

If you at any point draw cards that gives you a higher value than 21, then you have lost the hand. The same goes for the dealer, but the dealer have even further rules to make it easier for the player to win. These rules can be found in the dealer rules section further down the page.

The house will commonly have a small advantage over the player, except from those who can count cards. Counting cards in a live casino is however not permitted by casinos, so we don't recommend that you try doing that. The house edge is as follows:

Single deck: 0.17% house edge

Double Deck: 0.46% house edge

Four decks: 0.60% house edge        

Six decks: 0.64% house edge

Eight decks: 0.65% house edge

Card Values

It is important to know how much each card you are being dealt are actually "worth" in terms of counting towards 21 in total. Without knowing this you will not be able to tell if you should stand or hit another card and thus you will end up losing your hands more often than necessary. The hand values are as below:

2-9 has its own value, meaning that if you get a 3, then you have a value of 3.

10 and picture cards provides 10 in value, making it easy to calculate.

Aces can provide 11 or 1 in value, depending on what is mostly in your favour.

If you are dealt an Ace and a 10 or picture card, then you have hit a blackjack. If you receive further cards which adds up to 21, then you have also hit a blackjack

Deck of Cards in Play

As described in the basics of blackjack section, it makes a big difference for you as a player knowing how many decks of cards that are in play. While online it may not be written as they will commonly use a random number generator to decide the outcome, you can always ask in a live casino how many decks they use to play. The fewer the decks, the smaller the house edge is and it will make it easier for you to figure out how many of the high cards has actually been used already. 

Cards Dealt

When you are playing blackjack you, the other players at the table and the dealer will be dealt two cards in total. Some casinos deals all the player cards face up, while others deal one face down and one face up. This depends on the casinos rules and it is never a shame to ask the dealer how they do it and if you are in doubt about what to do then you can always ask them.

The dealer will always have one card dealt face down and one face up, so that you cannot see their total value when you are deciding whether to stand, split or hit. Once you have been dealt your hand, then you will be given different possibilities to improve your hand if necessary, you can read more about that in the player actions section further down.

Dealer Rules

The dealer in any casino, both online and live, will have a set of rules to follow when they are playing their hand of blackjack, providing a smaller house edge for them to make the game more fair. You will always be able to see the exact rules on the table top both online and live, but again if you are in doubt then you can always ask the dealer in the casino or if it is online, read the rules of the game.

There are commonly one to two rules that the dealer has to follow, it varies from casino to casino. The most popular rule is that the dealer has to stand at 16-18 in value in total, which means that as soon as the cards the dealer has shown in front of him adds up to 16-18 (the value depends on the casino), he will not be allowed to draw anymore cards. So if the dealer hits 15 in value, he will always have to draw another card until the value is equal to or above the value he has to stand on.

Another rule is basically a variation of the rule above, where the dealer will have to hit "soft" 16-18. This means that if the dealer hits 16-18 in value (again depending on the house rules) by having an ace and a 5 for example, then he has a soft 16 and will have to get another card. Soft 16-18 is simply defined by the dealer having an ace and another card that adds up to that value. The Ace will always count as 11 when the dealer only have two cards, but as soon as he draws more cards it can become 1 in value if it is beneficial to the casino.

Player Actions

As a player you will have different actions to choose from, depending on the cards that you have been dealt. These actions can be beneficial for you as a player in certain circumstances and can mean the difference between winning and losing in any hand.

The most common actions to take is to either hit or stand in a hand. To hit means that you will get another card, which will add value to your hand in total. Sometimes it is not possible for you to bust your hand by getting another card, while sometimes it is. So always consider the risk of getting another card before taking one, as it might benefit you, but it might also make you lose.

To stand basically means that you will not receive any further cards in your hand and that you believe that your value is either high enough to beat the dealer or that you believe that the dealer will bust his hand.

There are other actions that you can take while playing however, which the dealer will usually announce to you if they are possible. Among those actions are insurance, surrender, splitting and double down. Let's have a look at what these terms means, so you will understand if it is worth doing for you while playing.

Insurance is basically what it says, an insurance against the dealer hitting a blackjack. Insurance are commonly offered when the dealers open faced card shows an ace, so players can insure themselves against him having a blackjack. What you will need to do is to place a wager equal to your first bet and if you still win the hand you are winning at 2:1, which means you will break even. However if you lose the hand you lose both bets, making it something you should only do if you don't believe that he has a blackjack.

Surrender is when you can see that you have a bad hand compared to what the dealer have. The surrender possibility will then allow you to surrender and get half of your bet back, which can be beneficial in certain circumstances. If the dealer has a blackjack, surrenders will not be possible in some casinos and if you have a blackjack while the dealer also have a blackjack then you simply get a push, which means that you get your money back. Not all casinos offers this possibility, so remember to check if it is possible for you or not.

Splitting is a term used for when you take your two dealt cards and split them into two separate hands. This can be done when you are dealt two of the same cards or if you have two equally valued cards dealt. For example you can split two 8's or a 10 and a jack, but not split a 8 and 7 hand. When you split your hand you will need to do a new bet on the other card of the same value as your first bet.

In some cases you might be so "lucky" to be dealt yet another card of the same value and you will then be allowed to split the hand once again in some casinos. The rules for splitting once again are exactly the same as above. You will then receive a new card on the cards you have split and can hit or stand as you want, unless you split two aces, which will commonly mean that you can only get one card (so a total of two) depending on the house rules.

Doubling down means that you will put double the amount of money on your hand after you have been dealt it. This is commonly used when you are sure that you will beat the dealers hand and wants to win more money. Some casinos allows all hands to be doubled down, while others only allows it when your opening hand is 9,10 or 11. When you do a double down you will only receive one more card from the dealer, so you have to be sure that it will go well to avoid losing double the amount on the same hand.

How to Win

Winning in blackjack is rather simple rule wise, as you simply have to have a higher value than the dealer, not surpassing 21 in total. If you are lucky and skilled enough to do so, then you have won the hand and you can play a new one.

If you and the dealer have the same value, then it will commonly be a "push". A push means that you simply get your bet back, thus breaking even without winning or losing any money.

There are many different strategy guides that you can find online, that all claims to make you a winning blackjack player. Be cautious when you read them, as many are guides that do not work and are made to believe that you can win a fortune fast. We recommend that you always use your common sense when reading strategy guides and never play for more than you can afford and more importantly wish to lose.