How to play Blackjack for beginners

Date:2023-02-04 Category: Games
how to play blackjack

Welcome to BLACKJACK 101! Blackjack is a very approachable game that even a beginner can understand. Blackjack or sometimes known as 21, is a simple game but takes a lot of practice to learn how to play effectively. It is a perfect game for newcomers as it is just you versus the dealer, and the rules are pretty easy to understand. The game goal is to have two or more cards where the numerical value meets or is less than 21 while still being a higher value than the dealer. If you get more than 21, the game is over for you. This means you have busted and lost your bet. But the great thing about this game is if the dealer busts, everyone at the table wins.

I want to walk you through this simple yet daunting game.

In this article, you will find:

  • What are the rules of Blackjack?
  • Is Blackjack easy to learn?
  • How to play Blackjack?
  • Blackjack card values and counting
  • When to split and double down in Blackjack?
  • Where to play Blackjack online?
  • Expert tips for playing effectively and increasing your odds of winning

Blackjack ID
Alternative Name(s) Twenty-one
Players More than 2, usually 2 to 7
Type of game Comparing
Required Skills Probability and decision-making
Number of cards 52 to 416 (one to eight 52-card decks)
Deck French
Play Clockwise
Random chance High


Fundamentals of Blackjack

Since this is a guide for freshman students without any experience or enough Blackjack skills, I need to introduce the game before I can jump into explaining the rules.

You cannot learn a language without knowing its alphabet. The same scenario applies to this game, and I will start this guide from the A-B-C of the game. This might be the last chance to clear any possible confusion some may have around card symbols, so jump on it and finally learn to read cards right!

Those who are good at reading the cards will not get harmed by some recap!

All you need to start playing blackjack is a French Deck of Cards. Let us see what a french deck is.

A classic French deck has 52 cards divided into 4 individual suits:

Deck of Cards Suits
Diamonds 3rd highest suit
Spades 1st highest suit
Clubs 4th highest suit
Hearts 2nd highest suit


A traditional French deck consists of 4 suits and each one consists of 13 cards(ranks). This might seem too simple to some of you, but I must review the basics because you need them to understand how to play the game.

Each suite starts with an Ace(A). Although it is the starting point, it is not exactly equivalent to a 1. In fact, Ace is considered the highest-ranking card on the deck and each suit. For example, a suit of Spades consists of:

Ace, 2(Deuce),3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, Jack(J), Queen(Q), and King(K). J, Q, and K are referred to as Face Cards.


Blackjack Cards Value And Values Counting

As I have said in the previous section, there is one card of each rank in every suit. So, simple math shows that the deck has only four cards of each rank. The scoring system in blackjack relies on the ranks you get in your hand and how you count them based on the counting rules.


Blackjack values counting rules

Your total should be 21 or less to beat the dealer.  To see if you have beaten the dealer or not, add up the values of the cards you are holding according to the value rules:

  • Cards 2 to 9 are all worth their face value. For instance, if you have a 7, you exactly have 7 points.
  • The tricky part is understanding the tens: 10, J, K, and Q are all worth 10 points. These cards are called monkey cards because they quickly add up to a 20, which is a very good score in blackjack!
  • Things get really tricky when you have an Ace That card can have either a value of 1 or 11.


Here is a visualization of what I already explained:

So, just translate the ranks of cards you hold to their point value and add them up to get your blackjack hand score. In short, your hand score is the exact total of the value of your cards.


The easy Blackjack rules

Blackjack is one of the comparing games, where only your hand(the player’s hand) and the dealer’s hand are in play. In other words, even if there are 10 players at the table, you play only against the dealer.

The sure winning hand is Natural or Blackjack. This is a hand of an Ace plus a face card or 10. For example, if you are dealt an Ace and a King, you got a natural. Although your natural can win, a winning blackjack hand is the higher hand. So, there are some rules involved with a natural hand.

  • If the dealer does not get a natural, but you do, you will immediately be paid 3 to 2 or 1/5 times the amount of your bet. For instance, if you bet $5 and get a blackjack, the dealer will give you $7.5.
  • If you and the dealer have blackjack, the situation is called a Push, and you neither lose nor win. In this case, you will take back your bet.
  • If the dealer shows an Ace or a 10-value card, they will check their face-down card to see if it makes a natural or not.
  • All the players who do not have a natural will automatically lose their bets to the dealer’s natural.
  • If the dealer’s up card is not a 10-value card or an Ace, they will not look at the hole card. So, the round will continue until it is the dealer’s turn to play.


Alright, now let us see what happens to the losing hands.

The losing hand is also known as the bust or the dead hand. The bust is a hand with a total of 22 or higher. In fact, once you go over 21, you are automatically busted regardless of the dealer’s hand total.

Sadly, this is not the only way you can lose in blackjack. As I have said, a blackjack winning hand is the higher one. In other words, if your hand is only one point short compared to the dealer’s hand, your hand is a losing one.

Alright, this is it with the Blackjack rules for dummies! Now, let’s play!

Oh, BTW, one important rule to remember:

When playing in a land-based casino, make sure not to touch any card. The only person allowed to touch the cards is the dealer, ALWAYS! If you touch the cards, you will be thrown out of the casino. So, make sure to play by the rules.


Blackjack: How To Play

It is time to get to the table. I explain how to play Blackjack step-by-step.


Step1: Join a Table

blackjack table

You’ll join the blackjack table that looks like this:

If you play the basic strategy, it does not really matter where to seat. In fact, seats have nothing to do with the the game odds. But, each seat has some advantages and disadvantages. Here you should know where to sit. Although mathematically, all seats are equal.

You will see tables with up to six or seven seats at brick-and-mortar casinos, but the tables usually are not full, and not all the seats I am about to explain will be taken. Anyways, it is better to learn about each seat.

Blackjack Table Seats
First Base The first seat on the far right facing the dealer – The player is the first one to receive the cards.

– The player is the first one to act; Hit, Double Down, Surrender, Stand, or Split

Third Base The last seat from the right or the first seat on the left. – This position is known as the Anchor.

– The player is the last one to receive the first two cards.

– The player is the last one to act.


Shortstop The seat at the middle of the table. – The position does not have so much responsibility for the player.

– This position prevents other players from joining the table from the left of the player.


blackjack rules

If you don’t want to act first or last, it is recommended to sit in the second or fourth seat, depending on how many players are present. If you join a table where the only available seats are the third base or the first base, you should not worry because neither seat affects the table and the game odds. So, just sit and get some experience.

Okay. The dealer starts dealing two face-up cards to each player once everyone is seated and ready. The dealer also receives two cards: the face-up is called an upcard, and the face-down is a hole card.


Step2: Decide to Act

At this stage, every player has 4 options to act according to their first two cards. Each option has its unique hand signal.

  1. Hit: Tap the table with a finger or wave your hand toward your body to show you want to hit. This way, the dealer will understand that you want another card.
  2. Stand: This act is also known as Stay or Sit. If you decide to stand, you should wave your hand horizontally. This way, the dealer realizes you do not want any more cards.
  3. Double Down: Doubling down is to increase your initial bet by 100% or smaller in some games. When you want to double down, you should place additional chips next to your initial bet and point with one finger.
  4. Split: Place the additional chips next to your original bet outside the betting box, then create a V shape with your two fingers and show it to the dealer. This way, the dealer realizes that you want to split. When you have two cards with the same value, you can split them to create two new hands and play each separately. Each new hand gets another card. Since each hand is played individually, the wager on each hand(your initial bet and the additional one for the new hand) will be won or lost independently. In some casinos, you are allowed to split 10 value cards only if you have a pair of them. For example, you are allowed to split a pair of 10, but you cannot split a hand of Jack and 10. Also, typically, it is forbidden to double down and re-split after splitting a hand.

hit stand split blackjack

Note: Hand signals are similar to the challenge system in Volleyball. The cameras on top of the table record everything for dealer mistake identification and any possible dispute resolution. Also, these eyes in the sky protect the casino against cheaters and advantage players. You should keep in mind that, while playing at a land-based casino, if your hand signal and words disagree, your hand signal will take precedence.

In short, in this stage, if you are the player to the left, you are the first to decide and act. You may stay or hit. You can hit and receive one card at a time until you decide to stand with your total or get busted-go over 21. If you go bust, you lose your bet, and the dealer moves on to the next player to their left and repeats the process.

hit stand blackjack

Before I proceed to the next step, let me explain the difference between a Soft hand and a Hard hand. Because most players get confused reading each.

A soft hand only happens if there is an Ace in your hand. Because an Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11, the hand containing an Ace can be either one of two numbers, and typically, it is the number that is most beneficial to the player. For instance, if you have a hand of a 6 and an Ace, your total could be either 7 or 17. If you decide your hand to be 7, you can hit and receive another card. Also, you can decide to keep it as 17 and stay.


There are some hands where you have only one choice. For example, if you have a hand of 2 and 3, you can hit. If you hit and get an Ace as your third card, your total will be either 6 or 16. This is called a soft 16. If you hit again and get a 10, your total will be either 16 or 26. But because 26 is a bust hand, it will automatically be counted as 16.

A hard hand, on the other hand, is when you have a set of cards that would bust if you add a ten-value card to them. For instance, if you have an 8 and a 9, you have a hard 17. Because if you hit and get a 10, you get busted. This is why it is called a hard hand.


The tables display the words “Dealer must hit soft 17” to notify you about the game rules: the rules that the dealer must follow. In this case, the dealer must hit a 16 or lower. And they also must hit a soft 17. On the other hand, if the dealer has a hard 17 or an 18 and higher, they must stand. If the dealer has a soft 18 or 19 or even soft 20, they should stay. In fact, unlike the player, the dealer has no choice in how to play their hand.


Step3: How much is your hand total?

You can remain in the hand only if after your move, your new hand total is 21 or less.

total hand blackjack

Step4: The dealer’s moment of truth!

A hand continues to “hit” as many times as desired by players until the total is 21 or more. Every player should stand on a hand of 21. If a player stands or busts, the dealer will move on to the next hand clockwise around the table. The dealer will not reveal their hole card until the last hand is played. When the dealer reveals their hole card, they should stand or hit according to the game rules, as I have explained earlier.


Step5: Are you closer to 21?

You win if your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand. But, if the dealer hits 21 or gets a hand with a total closer to 21 than any player at the table, only the dealer wins.

If both of you and the dealer have a hand of 21, it is called a PUSH, your bet neither loses nor wins, and you will take your stake back.

If you win, you will be paid depending on your bet type. For example, if you get a blackjack, you will be paid 3 to 2 or in some casinos 6 to 5.


Blackjack Insurance: YES or NO?!

Every time you play blackjack, and the dealer shows an Ace up, you will be offered to take a side bet called Insurance with a payout of 2 to 1. This side bet ensures your hand against the possible dealer’s blackjack. The amount of insurance bet is 50% or half of your original wager. If you buy the insurance and the dealer hole card is a 10-value card, you win your insurance bet and lose your original bet. Once the dealer gets a blackjack, everyone at the table loses unless a player also gets a blackjack. In this case, it will be a push for that player, and their stake will be returned.

For example, if your initial bet is $5, your insurance will be $2.5, and if you win, you will be paid $5 for your insurance bet. But the bad news is that insurance always works against you because it offers around a 6% advantage to the casino. So, stay away from this side bet.


Blackjack Strategies

Basic Strategy

Blackjack Basic Strategy is what you should learn and stick to if you want to minimize the house advantage. In fact, this is an ultimate guide to playing every hand based on the only information you have- the dealer’s upcard and your hand. By using this strategy, you effectively lower the casino edge to 0.5%.

The chart you see below tells you exactly what action to do on every hand you get versus the dealer’s upcard. With enough practice, you can effectively apply the strategy without the need to consult this chart. Until you know it by heart, I suggest downloading the chart and practicing on free online blackjack games before playing for real money.

blackjack strategy chart

Double Down Strategy

As the name suggests, you should double down but specific hand totals.

Hand Total Double Down  
11 Always
10 When the dealer shows an Ace or a 10-value card.
9 Only if the dealer’s upcard is 2 through 6.
Soft 16(Ace plus a card) Only if the dealer shows a lower card.
Soft 17(Ace plus a card) Only if the dealer shows a lower card.
Soft 18(Ace plus a card) Only if the dealer shows a lower card.


This strategy also tells you to never double down on the following events:

  • The dealer upcard is an Ace.
  • Your hand is anything higher than 11 because your chances of getting busted are so high in this case.
  • In most of the hands! Because you should double down only if you are a definite favorite.


Split Strategy

A general rule of thumb here is to always split aces because this increases your chances of making 21, twice. In addition, always split a pair of 8s regardless of the dealer’s upcard.

In general, the splitting strategy says:

  • If the dealer upcard is a 7 or higher, split your pair of 7.
  • If the dealer upcard is a 6 or less, split your pair of 6.
  • ALWAYS split pair of ACES.
  • Never split a pair of 5. But double down the pair if the dealer upcard is 9 or less.
  • Never split a pair of 4.
  • You can split a pair of 3 only and only if the dealer upcard is 4 through 7.
  • If the dealer upcard is 3 through 7, you can split a pair of 2.

Most players get confused when they are dealt a pair of Aces or 2 Aces. According to the basic strategy, you should always split your pair of Ace. Because having two hands with a value of 11 offers much higher chances of winning than a single hand with a value of 12 or higher. In fact, by splitting Aces, you may receive a 10-value card and get a winning Blackjack.


Blackjack Table Etiquette And Tips For Beginners

  • Be responsible and make wagers that fit your bankroll.
  • If the dealer upcard is 2 through 6 and your hand total is 12 through 16, Stand your hand.
  • Stick to the basic strategy.
  • Hit or double Aces-6.
  • Never play insurance.
  • Start small when you arrive at the table.
  • Never act before checking the dealer’s upcard.
  • Don’t tell fellow players what to do.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not bet in the mid-shoe.
  • Do not touch the chips after making your bet.
  • Do not place objects on the table.
  • Do not hand money to the dealer.
  • Do not touch cards.
  • Do not hold cards with two hands.
  • Do not hold cards below the level of the blackjack table.
  • Take advantage of free online games before playing big.


Best Online Casinos To Play Blackjack

There are countless online casinos and game providers offering blackjack games. But we do not recommend them all. We recommend the best online casinos with a safe and reliable environment, fast and secure banking options, excellent customer support, and generous casino bonuses.

Online Casino Welcome Bonus Free Blackjack Games Live dealer Blackjack
Betonline $3,000 Yes Yes
Super Slots Up to $6,000 Yes Yes
Wild Casino Up to $5,000 Yes Yes
Bovada Up to $3,750 Yes Yes
Red Dog Casino 255% Yes No
Ignition Up to $3,000 Yes Yes


To Sum It Up…

I hope you have learned the nuts and bolts of playing blackjack. Blackjack is easy to learn, fun to play, but hard to master. I am pretty sure with some practice and a LOTTLE commitment, you can beat the game and win big.


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