How does blackjack work?
In blackjack, you sit across from the dealer at the table. The dealer guides the game and deals cards. The goal of the game is to be closer to 21 points than the dealer, without exceeding 21 points.
If you win from the dealer, your bet is doubled. If you lose, you lose the bet and in the event of a tie, you get the bet back.
You know the points by adding up the value of your cards. All cards with a regular value (2-10) keep their value, all pictures are also 10 points and the Ace is 1 or 11 points, whichever suits you best. Combining the Ace with a 10-point card immediately gives you 21 points – a blackjack. Blackjack yields a higher profit than a regular combination.
After you bet, you are dealt two cards. The dealer also gets a card (or two, one of which is visible). Based on your two cards and the dealer’s one card, you decide whether you want an extra card, are satisfied with the current point total or want to play in a different way – see below for additional game rules.
When everyone has finished playing, the dealer shows the second card. Using this card and established game rules, the dealer plays on. After the dealer has also finished, the winnings are calculated and paid out. At most tables, a dealer stops at 17 points and plays through to at least 16 points – so at 15 points the dealer is obliged to take an extra card.
Blackjack game rules
The simplest way to play is to ask for additional cards until you have enough points to beat the dealer. However, there are ways to earn even more. For example, with good cards you can double the bet or play with two hands at once.
Those exact blackjack game rules for the different aspects of blackjack can be found below in our blackjack explanation.
When you double down, you bet the same amount again to take full advantage of good cards. This doubles your bet for the same hand, giving you a chance to win twice as well. In most casinos, you may only double down if your first two cards are 9, 10 or 11.
Whether doubling is a good move depends on the dealer’s visible card. If the dealer has a bad card like 3, 4 or 5, then the expected value of doubling is higher than if the dealer has an Ace lying around.
The moment the dealer has an Ace, you are given the option to buy insurance. This insurance costs half of your original bet. If the dealer has blackjack with the second card, the player loses immediately. However, if you have placed an insurance bet, you only pay for the insurance and get your original bet back.
If the dealer does not have blackjack, you lose the insurance and continue playing with the original bet.
Every time you have a pair of the same cards, you can choose to split. This involves placing the same bet again and playing with two hands. For example, a pair of Aces gives you twice the chance of getting blackjack. In most casinos, you can split any pair.
A common beginner’s mistake is splitting two 10s, turning a great hand into two risky hands.
In addition to these classic blackjack rules, most casinos also offer extra bets for a bonus. Here you get a bonus for a pair of the same cards (perfect pair) or if your two cards and the dealer’s form a three-card poker hand (the side bet 21+3).
For the side bets, the house edge is higher than the regular game, but you also have a chance of higher winnings. You must bet separately on the side bets. You cannot play the side bets without the regular bet. It also depends on the table which side bets are available.
Blackjack rules – Dealer
The dealer’s hand is not static. This means that just like you, the dealer is trying to reach a total of 21 points with more cards. Yet the dealer is more restricted than you in getting to that 21.
Dealers are not allowed to split or call double down. They don’t even have too much freedom to act from their own instincts and stop when they think they have a good value to beat at least some of the players.
The maxim is, Dealers should always keep dealing until their hand is worth 17 points or more. In some cases the dealer will receive a “soft” seventeen points Should that be the case, that is the value he must win from. No more cards are then allowed.
Value of cards in blackjack
The value of blackjack cards and chips
Blackjack is usually played with six or eight decks of cards – the fewer the better, because it gives you a better idea of what cards are left in the deck. For cards with a printed value (2-10), the value on the card always applies. The J, Q and K are also worth 10 points. The Ace counts as either 1 or 11 points, so that a combination of A and K immediately scores 21 points.
The blackjack chips value varies from table to table and depends on the minimum bet applicable to the table. A table with a minimum bet of $10 has chips of $5 and up (for insurance and paying out blackjack). Ordinary minimum bets in most casinos are €5, €10 or €20, depending on when you are playing and the casino you are visiting. Online, bets for some versions start at €1.
Cards with numbers (2-10)
These cards simply represent the value of the number on the card. So if you have a hand with only number cards you add up the numbers of the different cards and you know what you have in your hand.
Cards with pictures
In this category you will find the king, queen and king. These are the most important in the blackjack game, along with the ace, and in a deck, 12 out of 65 cards are a card with a picture. All of these cards are worth 10 points.
The ace is the card that matters most. Depending on the blackjack rules and count and your hand, this card is worth 1 or 11 points. If your hand does not yet represent 21 points the ace is worth 11 points and 1 point otherwise. Therefore, a hand with an ace is also called a ‘soft’ hand.
Look at the following example: if you have an ace and 6 in your hand that makes 17 together. With a soft hand it is impossible to ‘bust’ with the next card. A hand of ace, 6 and 10 also makes 17, but that is a ‘hard’ 17 because the ace must now be counted as 1. Because if you were to count the ace as 11 you have 27 points, which unfortunately is well over 21 points.
Another example to finish: Suppose the dealer gives you a 9 and an ace. If you count the ace as 1 point, then the total value of your hand is 10 which is not a good hand. But if you count the ace as 11, then you have a total of 20 points, which gives you a good chance of beating the dealer. This is because the dealer has a small chance of winning if you stand at 20.
Blackjack rules say little about strategy. As you can see, in a deck there are as many as 16 cards worth 10 points, so the chance of getting a card worth 10 points is higher than a chance of getting a card with a different, lower, value.
Thus, in a hard hand (see glossary) with more than 12 points, you have to think carefully about the probability of getting a card worth 10. The 10 point cards can be both a good and a bad thing and that is what makes playing blackjack so much fun.
The 5 card
Whereas 10 point cards can be either good or bad, the 5 is actually always a bad thing, especially if you get it with a hand because chances are that it means you are sitting with a ‘stif hand’. With a ‘stif hand,’ your hand is probably lower than the dealer’s but high enough that if you get the next card, you’re probably dead. Fortunately, there are only 4 5 cards in the deck, but the 4 and 6 are often just as dangerous.
Winning percentage vs. Losing percentage cards
The cards don’t just have a certain value in blackjack. In fact, the card value also determines the probability of “busting. For hands with a “hard” 11 or higher, the odds of buying yourself to death are as follows: 1-0%, 2-31%, 3-39%, 4-56%, 5-58%, 6-62%, 7-69%, 8-77%, 9-85%, 10-92%, 11-100%
Online blackjack table
Online blackjack occurs in three different ways: a virtual version, a classic live version and a one-to-many live version. The virtual version is simply a (reliable) computer version of blackjack. Here you play with the smallest bets.
In the classic live version, you slide into a classic table, with the dealer guiding the game via a live video link. Here the same rules and minimum bets apply, so there are seven spots at a table.
At the one-to-many tables there is always room. Here all players play with the same cards and you are presented with a personalized interface through which you bet and make your choices. As in the other two online blackjack versions, you are always shown your choices in the form of buttons. This makes playing online blackjack a matter of pressing the right button.