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Blackjack Rules

2022 Jun 10 5 min read
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Blackjack is an age-old game that originated in French casinos in the 1700s. Its popularity grew, and the game spread like wildfire to casinos all over the world, becoming the game it is today. Except nowadays, this card game is a whole lot more complex than what it once was in the early days.

Today, blackjack players can spot all kinds of blackjack variants from many talented providers, having many intriguing side bets and bonuses that players won’t find when playing blackjack in land-based casinos.

Whether you’ve dabbled in blackjack before or have never dipped your toes in blackjack waters, we’re here to give you the full scoop on the rules of blackjack. Having a good understanding of the rules will ultimately help you make more strategic decisions than simply making blind guesses in the hopes of earning a payout.

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Before we dive into the some of the more complex rules of blackjack, let’s take a look at the foundation of every blackjack game.


The most basic rule of blackjack is its primary objective: form a hand with a value that is as close to 21 as possible and beat the dealer. If you surpass 21, you’ll go bust, and your hand will automatically lose. If your hand value amounts to 21 exactly (with an ace and a 10-value card), this is referred to as a classic Blackjack or a natural win. In this case, your hand will win instantly. You will also win money if the dealer busts.

A natural win is not the most common hand to earn, especially when playing multi-deck games, so most of the time, your goal will be to outscore the dealer’s hand and get as close to 21 as possible without going bust, but this is not always so easy.

Suppose your first two cards add up to a value that is still pretty far from 21. You might be inclined to draw another card, but you would risk going bust. You might also be inclined to stand with your initial two cards, but you might risk standing too early, giving the dealer’s hand an advantage. This is where having a good playing strategy comes in handy as it would instruct you on the correct play.

Once your first two cards have been dealt to you, you will be given the option to double down, split, hit or stand.


On top of the game’s overall objective, there are a few other rules to keep in mind. Remember, depending on the blackjack table you play at, the house rules may not always be the same. That said, in a typical game of blackjack:

  • The dealer stands on soft 17 (a soft hand is a hand that holds an ace valued at 11)
  • Players are allowed to double down, surrender, hit or stand.
  • Doubling down doubles the original bet.
  • Players can only split when they have two cards of the same value, so the pair is split into two hands.
  • Splitting pairs also doubles the initial bet.
  • Players can only split or double down when making their first move.
  • The dealer checks for blackjack.
  • Players cannot play two aces after they are split.


There are quite a number of rules to keep in mind when playing online blackjack games, but if you decide to sit at a blackjack table in land-based casinos, there are a few more rules you need to follow for table etiquette:

  • Always keep your hands visible above the table.
  • Never hand money directly to the dealer. Place the money in the area outside the designated betting section.
  • Don’t place any objects on the blackjack table.
  • Use the necessary hand signal when taking action..
  • Ask other players for permission before joining a blackjack table.
  • Wait for a new round before joining a table.
  • Don’t touch your bets after the dealer deals the cards.
  • Refrain from telling players how they should play.
  • Be respectful to the dealer.


Blackjack is played with a standard deck of 52 cards — jokers are removed. The game was originally played with a single deck, but online casinos introduced multi-deck blackjack tables to counteract players utilising a card counting system. Casinos may offer single deck or double deck tables, but ‘shoe games’ are a lot more common in most casinos.

On top of multiple decks, a game of blackjack requires a table, betting chips, a discard tray, a shoe and a cut card.

When playing at a single-deck game, a player will be asked to place the cut card randomly in the stack. The dealer will then move the cards above the cut card to the back of the stack to demonstrate that the game cannot be rigged.

When multiple decks are used, the dealer will shuffle the cards and place them into a dispenser referred to as the shoe — a piece of equipment is used to hold large stacks of cards.


Now that you have an idea of all the rules you’ll have to follow, let’s take a look at how a typical round of blackjack will play out.


If playing at a land-based casino, a game round will start with the cards being shuffled. The dealer will then choose one of the players to cut the cards, and the same cut card will be re-inserted back into the deck to indicate which cards need to be reshuffled. The rest of the cards will be placed back in the shoe. Players will be able to place their bets in the betting circle once the cards have been shuffled.

At online casinos, players can take a seat at the virtual table with the live dealer, who will greet them as they enter. They will then find a number of different coloured betting chips on the user interface, indicating the different bets they can place. Players will be required to place their bets within a specific time frame (unless they are playing first-person blackjack, which does not have a limited betting time). The minimum and maximum bet value will depend on the table you play at. Some tables offer larger bet amounts than others.


Once the betting time has expired, the game continues with the dealer handing out two cards, dealt face-up, to each player. The dealer will then take two cards for himself — one face-down card (a hole card) and another face-up.

In some games, the dealer’s face-up card is dealt at the beginning of the round, and the dealer’s second card is dealt after all players have acted, which is when the dealer checks for blackjack.


Once all cards have been dealt, players must then decide how to act. Here, players must carefully consider the value of their hand, which is where utilising a basic strategy will come in very handy. If at a Live Casino, players will be given a limited time frame to decide whether to hit and draw cards, stand, split, double down or surrender. Depending on the table, players might also have the choice to place blackjack side bets to potentially boost their chances of winning.


Once players have finalised their hand, the dealer will take action according to the house rules, which is when a few things may happen:

  1. The dealer’s hand surpasses 21 and goes bust.
  2. Both the player and the dealer form a hand of equal values. The player’s bet will push and be returned.
  3. The player’s hand loses by having a lower value than the dealer’s hand.
  4. The player will immediately lose by going bust.
  5. The player earns blackjack.
  6. The dealer has a blackjack hand and the player loses.
  7. The player gets closer to 21 than the dealer.

Once the dealer pays each winning player, all cards will return to the dealer and the round will begin again.


There are a variety of possible actions you can take once the dealer hands out all the cards. Deciding whether to split, double down, hit or stand depends on a few factors, especially when using basic strategies. Each action is also regulated by a set of rules which may vary from one blackjack table to another. That said, here’s a quick breakdown of every action you can take:


When you decide to hit, this implies that you want to receive additional cards due to your hand value being too low. There is no limit to how many cards you can draw, but with every hit, the riskier the action becomes.

The basic strategy recommends that players hit when their hand value is 10 short of 21, when they have a pair that can be split, or when they have an ace. It is also recommended that players only hit a hand value between 12 and 16 when the dealer has a seven-value card or more.


Choosing to stand implies remaining with the hand you were dealt and not drawing additional cards. A decision like this is generally taken when your hand value is already quite high. Basic strategy charts recommend standing when your hand value is over 16 and if the dealer has a low-value card. The only exception to this rule is if you have a soft 17.


Doubling down involves doubling your original bet and receiving only one additional card. This action is generally taken when your hand value is very advantageous. You cannot double down after drawing cards or when you have blackjack. It is recommended that you double down on hand values of nine, 10 or 11 with some exceptions. You can also double your original bet on a hand with a value of 18 or 20 unless the dealer has an ace.


Splitting involves dividing your hand into two separate hands when an identical pair of cards are drawn. Splitting also doubles your wager as you would be required to place a second wager of equal value to the first. Basic strategy charts recommend splitting a pair of aces or eights but never splitting a pair of 10s, nines, fours or fives.


Insurance bets aren’t super common among blackjack tables. But, you can place an insurance bet when the dealer shows a face-up ace and possibly has a face-down ten-value card. An insurance bet does not directly affect the game’s outcome, but this side bet is used as a kind of ‘safety net’. Strategy charts generally advise against placing this side bet, as the possibility of the dealer actually having one of the ten-value cards is low.


Like the insurance side bet, the option to surrender is not so commonly offered. You might decide to withdraw from the game if you think there is a high probability of losing your own hand. Surrendering is only possible once the first two cards have been dealt (if the table offers the option). If you choose to surrender, half your wager will be returned. Strategy charts often do not include the surrender rule, as in most cases, you can always hit and potentially improve your hand’s value.


One of the most crucial elements of playing blackjack is understanding the card values, as obviously, this is how you build your hand and decide whether to stand at your current value or hit another card to increase it.

Card Card Value
Two 2
Three 3
Four 4
Five 5
Six 6
Seven 7
Eight 8
Nine 9
Ten 10
Jack 10
Queen 10
King 10
Ace 11 or 11

Cards ranging from two to 10 are taken at face value. This implies that the number of the card indicates the value of the card. The jack, queen and king, otherwise referred to as face cards, are 10-value cards. The ace is the one card that has two different values as it can either have a value of one or a value of 11, depending on your hand.

Aces count as 11-value cards until your hand’s value surpasses 21, at which point its value becomes one.



As we’ve mentioned, insurance is offered when the dealer shows an ace face-up and a 10 as their hole card. To put it simply, insurance is offered if there is a chance that the dealer has blackjack. If they do, the insurance wager will pay out 2:1. If not, insurance is lost, and the game will continue as normal. You will be offered even money if you hold blackjack while the dealer shows an ace. If you don’t take even money, and the dealer has blackjack, your wager will push, and your blackjack hand will not be paid out.


If players lose the round (by busting) before the dealer plays their hand, this is considered a dead hand. In this case, the dealer will flip their hole card over, sweep up the cards and discard them. If the player has already lost, there is no point in continuing the round.


As you play blackjack at online casinos, you will find a myriad of variants offering interesting side bets. Side/bonus bets are often used to spice up the base game, making it a little more entertaining. In some blackjack card games, side wagers can even still pay out if the original wager is lost, which helps soften the losing blow we all sometimes face when playing online.

Side bets often require an additional bet, but they are also completely optional. Here are some fun side wagers to look out for as you play blackjack online:

  • 21+3: This bet pays out when the first three cards of the player’s hand form a flush, a three-of-a-kind, or a straight.
  • Hot 3: This bet pays out when the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s initial card total to 19, 20 or 21.
  • Any Pair: This wager pays out when the first two cards form a pair.
  • Bust It: This wager pays out if the dealer’s cards form a value that surpasses 21 and bust.


It is pretty evident that, given all the different variants available online, blackjack rules will vary from one table to another. Selecting the best one really depends on what you’re after and what you prioritise, so be sure to check out the betting limits, the outcome of a tie, how each wager pays out, and whether the table offers the option to surrender or buy insurance.

What might help in selecting a table to play at is checking out the rules, as some tables often come with some variations which may affect how the game is actually played.


The Reno Rule suggests that players can only double down on a hard nine, 10 or 11.


This style of play suggests that the dealer only draws one card face-up, and draws a second card once players acted.


Most casinos generally offer a classic blackjack payout of 3:2. However, some casinos offer a 6:5 payout which is less advantageous to the player as it increases the house edge. That said, this also prevents players from utilising card counting systems.


The Six Card Charlie rule suggests that when the player has a total of six cards that amount to 21 or less, their hand automatically wins even if the dealer has blackjack. If the player decided to split their hand, the Six Card Charlie rule is applied to both pairs.


Some tables offer players the option to surrender even after drawing another card.


This rule is no longer in play and is considered a dead rule as it hasn’t been part of the house rules since the 70s. This rule suggests that players will be able to surrender before the dealer checks for blackjack or offers insurance. This was very advantageous to the player — so advantageous in fact that it almost gave players a small edge on the house even without counting cards, which is why this rule is no longer offered at casinos.


This rule implies that players will be allowed to double down on a hand they split, but not all casinos offer this rule as it is quite a beneficial rule and may reduce the house edge.


This rule implies that players will be allowed to re-split their aces after already splitting a pair. So, if players split a pair of aces and then receive another ace, they are allowed to split it into a third hand and even possibly a fourth one. This drastically reduces the house edge as the ace is one of the most powerful cards in blackjack, so this rule is very beneficial to the player. Like many other rules on this list, however, it is not a rule players will find at most casinos, but be sure to keep an eye out!


You may come across casinos that utilise continuous shuffling machines. Instead of placing the cards in a discard tray until the end of the show, the dealer will utilise these machines to continually shuffle all the used cards, so there will never be an end to the shoe.


This refers to the percentage of cards that are actually dealt over the course of a shoe. Land-based games generally insert a cut card in the shoe, and when the cut card is dealt, this tells the dealer that the shoe is running out of cards, requiring them to shuffle the cards and start a new shoe. The depth of penetration of the cut card limits profitability for a card counter.


So, we’ve delved into the house rules for different blackjack tables, we’ve broken down the gameplay, and given you a sneak peek at the different bets you might find. The only thing left to do is select a brilliant online casino to play at — which is where we come in!

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Blackjack has specific rules dictating how the game is played, when players can hit, stand, double down or split, and what the dealers can do during their turn. These rules will vary from one table to another depending on the Blackjack variation you're playing, so make sure you go through the rules before you start playing.


Generally, casino rules obligate Blackjack dealers to stand on 17 and hit whenever their hand value is 16 or lower. Whether or not they hit on a soft 17 depends on the casino's rules.


You should hit when your hand value is very low, when you have a pair or an ace and in situations where your hand value is between 12 and 16 and the dealer has a seven-value card or more. On the other hand, you should stand when your hand value is over 16 and if you have a hand between 13 and 16 (if the dealer has a low-value card).


In Blackjack, the dealer deals two face-up cards to the players and one face-down and face-up card for himself. The player's task is to beat the dealer's hand by getting as close to the value of 21 as possible without going bust. You decide whether to hit or stand depending on the dealer's and your hand's value.


Free Bet Blackjack is a variant where the player doesn't need to place a second bet to double down or split. Moreover, if the dealer obtains a hand value of 22, the players' hands are pushed.


A tie generally leads to a 'push'. This means the original bet is returned to the player. However, casinos may have varying rules related to the outcome of a tie - which might be otherwise acknowledged as a win or a loss.


The Double Down action means you can choose to double your bet as soon as your hand is dealt. However, bear in mind that you cannot draw more than one card after doubling down.