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After the initial cards are dealt, you’re laying a hard ten with a pair of fives. The dealer is showing an eight. Do you split? Do you double down? Do you hit or stand?
Does any of this make sense to you?
Fear not—this guide will teach you how to play blackjack at a casino. We’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how each hand works, go over different terminology and basic strategy, and help you play the game with some of the most favorable odds to turn your original bet into a real money payout. For a more in-depth strategy for blackjack, for example, knowing when to double down, our resource center can help so that you are able to walk into any casino confident and ready to win.
How to Play Blackjack: The Basics
Before we go over a step-by-step rundown of how a hand of blackjack works, let’s cover the absolute basics of the game. In short, a game of blackjack is always you vs. the dealer. While other players may be at your table, they are of no concern to you. Your only goal is to beat the dealer.
So how do you do that? Blackjack is a race to 21. Everyone starts by being dealt two cards. You can then choose to continue getting cards (hit) or to stop where you are (stand). Your goal is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over, or going bust.
Once all the cards have been dealt, one of five things will happen to a blackjack player:
- If you get closer to 21 than the dealer does, you win.
- If the dealer goes over 21 and you stay under 21, you win.
- If the dealer gets closer to 21, you lose.
- If you go over 21, you lose.
- If you and the dealer tie, it’s a push.
Of course, as with most casino games, once you add in betting, things get a little more complicated (we’ll cover that in a bit). First, you need to know what the value of each card is:
- 2 through 10 – The value of these cards is equal to the number on the card itself. So if you’re dealt a 3 and an 8, the value of your hand is 3 + 8 = 11.
- Jack, Queen, King – All of the royal cards are worth a value of ten. So if you have a Jack and a 4, your hand’s total is 10(J) + 4 = 14. Likewise, if it’s a 4 and a King it’s 4 + 10(K) = 14. It doesn’t matter which royal is on the face card, they’re all worth 10.
- Ace – If you’re dealt an Ace, you have options. Aces count as either 1 or 11. So, if you have an Ace and a 6, your hand is worth either 1(A) + 6 = 7 or 11(A) + 6 = 17.
- Hard vs. soft hands – One other thing when discussing the value of a separate hand is hard vs. soft value. This simply refers to whether an Ace is involved, therefore meaning the value can change. For instance, a 7 and an 8 is a hard 15 because there’s nothing else it can be. However, an Ace and a 4 is a soft 15. That’s because while it is worth 15, it can also be changed to be worth 5 by switching how you use your Ace.
Hard vs. soft distinctions are useful when you start to get deeper into blackjack strategy.
- Blackjack – While the goal of the blackjack game is to get to 21, the term blackjack refers to a hand that equals 21 after only the first two cards have been dealt. Therefore, a blackjack means a hand of an Ace and any card worth 10 (10, J, Q, or K). Winning with a blackjack generally means a higher real money payout than a normal win.
That’s it. Suits do not matter in blackjack, it is only the card value that matters.
Playing a Hand: Step-by-Step
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Now that you know what each card is worth and the general objective, let’s look at how a typical blackjack hand will be played.
Step One: Place Your Bets
Before the cards are dealt, you will place your original bet. There will be a minimum you have to bet to be a part of the live blackjack hand. There will also be a maximum you can bet. These minimum and maximum limits will be determined by the casino and can vary table-to-table.
How much you bet will affect your eventual payout as follows:
- If you win – In most cases, a win will gain you 1:1 odds. That means if your initial bet was $10 and you beat the dealer, you’ll win $10.
- If you lose – If the dealer beats you, they take your initial stake. So, in the case above, they would take your $10.
- If you tie – You may have heard that a tie goes to the dealer. That isn’t true. In most casinos, a tie is considered a push. No one wins and you get your initial bet back.
- If you blackjack – As mentioned earlier, winning with a blackjack, or without an additional card being dealt, normally changes your payout. The standard is for a blackjack to payout with 3:2 odds (though that can vary based on the casino you’re in). That means your $10 bet would result in you winning $15.
There are a few other betting options that we’ll go over later, but these are the basic results you can expect.
Step Two: Deal the Cards
Once all bets are placed, the dealer will deal everyone their card. Every player is dealt two cards face down. The dealer deals themself two cards. One is face up. The other is face down. As the game progresses, each additional card will be dealt face up.
The dealer has only one card you can see. However, while you only know half of the dealer’s hand, that one card can have a big effect on how you decide to play the game.
Step Three: Hit or Stand
Once the initial cards are dealt, every player gets to play. Remember, you are only playing against the dealer. When it is your turn, you can choose to hit (get another card) or stand (keep the cards you have with no additions). If you choose to hit and go above 21, you’ve busted. You automatically lose the hand, regardless of what the dealer does.
Step Four: The Dealer’s Turn
Once everyone has finished, the dealer will take their turn. If it was a Nevada Deal, they would overturn their facedown card. If it was a London deal, they would deal themselves a second card. The dealer then has a few rules they have to follow:
- If their hand is worth 17 or more, they must stand.
- If their hand is worth 16 or less, they must hit.
- If they have an Ace, they must count it as 11 if their hand total would result in 17 or more. Then they must stand.
Step Five: Determining the Winners
Assuming you didn’t bust during your turn (and the dealer didn’t bust during their turn), all that’s left to do is total up every hand’s value. If you’re closer to 21 than the dealer, you win. That’s it. That’s how you play blackjack.
Except that isn’t actually it. While blackjack can be that simple, there are a few basic blackjack strategy options available to you that can help you win more money (or lose less). Those options include:
- Surrender – Maybe you get your first two cards and you just aren’t feeling it. Maybe the dealer’s showing an Ace or a 10, and your total is something like 16. They probably have you beat, and if you hit, there’s a good chance you’ll bust. You can surrender the table game. This means you can reclaim half of your initial bet, the other half will be lost to the casino.
- Split – If your first two cards are a pair, you can split them and play them as two separate hands. Your initial bet counts for one of the hands, and you have to place the same amount on your second hand. Then each hand is played separately at the same blackjack table. You have two chances to win now…but also two chances to lose. Also, some casinos allow you to split any cards with a value of 10 (so you could split a K and J). Others will require it to be a true pair.
- Splitting Aces – Splitting Aces works much in the same way as splitting any other cards but with a couple of important distinctions. When you split Aces, both will then be counted as 11. You will then get dealt one card to each Ace, and that’s it, you can’t hit again. Also, if you get a card worth 10 on either Ace, it now pays as a simple win as opposed to paying blackjack odds.
- Double Down – If you like your initial two cards a lot, you can double down. That means you can increase your initial bet by as much as double (some casinos will only allow you to truly double the bet, others will let you add as much as you want up to a doubling amount). If you’re feeling confident, this can mean a big win.
- Insurance – All the initial cards are down, and the dealer is showing an Ace. Uh oh. With all the cards that are worth 10, there’s a decent chance the dealer already has a blackjack. An insurance bet is a side bet you can make that the dealer does, in fact, have a blackjack coming. This bet is separate from the main action and pays 2:1.So, if you make a $10 insurance bet and the dealer does have a blackjack, you win $20. However, you also still lose your initial bet (unless you also have a blackjack, then it’s a push). These bets can be used to hedge against a loss, but beware of overusing them. They tend not to pay off in the long run.
Place Your Bets at Tipico
There are plenty of strategies when it comes to blackjack, but this guide should have you set to start playing and winning. And there’s no better place to play than at Tipico’s online casino. We have all your favorite casino games and, as an added bonus, check out Tipico Sportsbook to start placing bets on your favorite sports action.
You can’t win if you don’t play. Let the games begin at Tipico!