For those of you who are new to the game of blackjack and have never
sat at a blackjack table in a casino, the following will teach you the
how the game is played, from table etiquette, to the basic
rules of the game.
The blackjack table in a casino is generally set up with seven betting
spots, although some games have as few as five. A dealer acts
for the house and stands behind the table to distribute the cards.
When you've decided upon the game you want to play by examining the
sign that announces the minimum and maximum wagers, you will buy in
for chips. Do not place your money in the betting circle, however.
Instead, set it to one side and wait for the dealer to convert it
After you receive your chips place your bet in the circle in front
of your seat.
The blackjack dealer shuffles the cards, and if he's dealing more than
two decks, he'll place the shuffled cards in a box known as a "shoe."
After he shuffles, he'll ask a player to "cut" the deck, by using a
colored card, known as the cut card. The player simply slides
the colored card into the deck at any point. The dealer divides the deck
at the cut point, and takes the cut card and places it about two-thirds
the way into the deck. This deck "penetration" varies from casino to
casino, and sometimes even from table to table.
The dealer then places the cards into the shoe, or arranges them in his
hand (for two or less decks). The dealer will then discard-"burn"-the
first card, and check to make sure that all players have their bets in
the right place and in the right amount. He begins distributing the
cards to the players from the front of the shoe or the top of the deck.
He'll begin with the player farthest to his left-known as
"first base"-and then proceed to give one card to each player,
including the dealer's "upcard." He'll repeat the motion until
every player has two cards. He completes the deal by sliding his
"hole card" under his upcard.
In some casinos, the players are allowed to handle the cards.
In this situation, the players receive their cards face down, and pick
them up with their hands. If you're playing this type of game, do not
use two hands to pick the cards up. Pick them up with one hand and hold
them over the table. Never remove them from the table or shield them in
any manner from the dealer's view. The dealer is responsible for the
security of the cards, and must prevent them from being replaced by
other cards or otherwise tampered with.
In other casinos, the players' cards are dealt face up, and the players
are prohibited from touching them. The dealer handles all the cards
The object of blackjack is to beat the dealer. The winner is whoever
has closest to a total of 21. You reach 21 by adding up the values of
the cards. Tens and face cards are worth ten points, the other cards
count as their numerical values, and Aces are worth one or 11, at the
discretion of the player.
For example, a six of spades and a eight of hearts is 14. A Queen of
spades and a Jack of diamonds counts as 20. An Ace of spades and a
six of hearts can count as 17 or seven.
You determine the valuation of the Ace, and can decide the change it
in mid-hand. In the last example, for instance, say you draw an Eight
to the Ace and six. That would "bust" your hand if the Ace was counted
as 11, so you drop it to a one. In that situation, you count
it as one, and you've got a 15.
A "soft hand" is a hand that contains an Ace which is counted as 11.
A "hard hand" is a one that does not contain an Ace or a hand
where the Ace can only be counted as one point.
After the dealer gives each player two cards, he'll return to first-base
and start acting on each hand individually. He will point to your cards
when it is your turn.
If you want another card-a "hit"-you indicate by scratching the table
with your hand. The dealer will not accept a verbal command because
the hand signal must be given so that the security cameras can see
exactly what you want to do with that hand. If you want to
"stand"-take no cards-you indicate by waving your hand, palm down.
You use that motion when you've decided to stop taking additional cards,
In the hand-held game, you scrape the table with the edge of your
cards to indicate you want to hit. When you're satisfied with your hand,
you slide your cards under your chips in the betting circle.
If you take a hit and that card puts your total over 21, you lose
automatically. The dealer removes your cards and your chips. In the
hand-held game, turn your cards over immediately if you've exceeded 21,
so the dealer can finish your hand.
At the end of the hand, if the totals of your cards are closer to 21,
you win! If the dealer's hand is closer to 21, you lose. And if you
tie the dealer-called a "push"-no one wins or loses.
If the dealer hasn't busted, he will pay the winners and take the loser's
chips. If you have pushed, the dealer will rap the table with his knuckles
and leave the chips where they stand. You are then allowed to increase,
decrease or remove the bet.
The rules the dealer must play by are very simple. If the
dealer's hand is 16 or less, he/she must take a card. If the dealer's hand
is 17 or more, he/she must stand. Note that some casinos allow the
dealer to hit on soft 17 which gives the house a very small additional
advantage. The dealer's strategy is fixed and what you and the other
players have is immaterial to him/her as far as hitting and standing
There is one way to win automatically, and that is to receive a total
of 21 in the first two cards. That requires a ten-value card and an Ace.
This is called a "natural" or a "blackjack."
When a player receives a blackjack, he wins a bonus. Normally,
all bets are paid off at even money when playing blackjack, but when
you get a blackjack, you receive a three-to-two payoff. If you've bet
$10, you'll get paid $15, for example.
If you're playing the hand-held game, you should turn your cards over immediately to get
The only time a player can receive a blackjack and not get paid
immediately is if the dealer also has an blackjack. In this case,
it's a push, and no one gets paid. You can protect yourself by taking
"insurance." If the dealer has an Ace showing he will ask all players
if they would like insurance. The insurance bet is a side bet in
which you can wager half of your original bet. To place an insurance
bet place chips in the amount of half your original wager on the table
in front of your original bet. If the dealer does have blackjack your
insurance bet will be payed at 2-1 and you will lose your original bet.
If the dealer doesn't have blackjack you will lose your insurance bet
but continue play with your original bet. In general, the insurance bet
is NOT a good bet unless you are counting cards and you have determined
that there is a high probability of the dealer having blackjack. If you
aren't counting cards DO NOT take the insurance bet.
One of the nice things about blackjack is the ability to increase your
bets in mid-hand if you feel you have a good opportunity to win.
When you have the chance to make these bets, you should take
advantage of them.
One of the circumstances in which you may increase your bet is called
doubling down. This means the casino will allow you to make a second
bet equal in size to your first bet. In return for this right, you agree
to accept only one more card for your hand. You can double down only
after looking at your first two cards. You cannot take a hit and double
Many casinos allow you to double down for less than the amount of your
original bet. This should be avoided because if the situation is worth
doubling down, it is worth betting as much as you can, which is the
amount of your original bet.
To tell the dealer you want to double down, you slide a second wager
next to your original wager in the betting circle. Do not place the
additional bet on top of the original wager, because the dealer may
think you are trying to cheat by increasing your bet illegally.
No hand signal is necessary. The dealer will see your double-down bet
and give you one card, generally placed horizontally across the first
two cards. In the hand-held game, the dealer will place the card under
your chips in the betting circle. You may pick up the card to see what
you've been given, but you'll get more respect if you wait until the
dealer settles all bets to expose your hand.
If you win your bet, you'll be paid even money for the two bets,
and receive double your original wager. If you lose, of course,
both bets are taken away. In the event of a push, you keep both bets,
but are not paid.
Another way of increasing your bet mid-hand is splitting. If the
two original cards dealt to you are a pair, such as a seven of clubs
and a seven of hearts, you can then split your hand if you wish, thus
giving you 2 separate hands to play. To do this a wager equal to your
original bet must be placed along side your initial wager.
If you have a pair that you want to split and your cards are
dealt face down, turn them over and place them a few inches apart. If your
cards were dealt face up, point to your cards and say "split" when the
dealer prompts you for a card. The original bet will go with one card
and you will have to place an equal amount of chips in the betting box
near the other card. You are now playing two hands, each as though they
were regular hands with the exception being that if you have just split
two aces. In that case, you only get one card which will hopefully be a
10. If it is a ten, that hand's total is now 21 but the hand isn't
considered a BlackJack. That is, you are paid 1:1 and not 1:1.5 as for
a natural (BlackJack).
After splitting your cards the dealer will deal cards to your 1st hand
until you decide to stand. He will then deal cards to your next hand.
Keep in mind that stand, hit, split, and double-down rules apply to each
new hand being dealt. Casino rules vary on how many times a player can
split his cards. For example, if you draw a pair of eights, split them,
and are dealt another eight, most casinos will allow to you split again
and start a third hand. Ask the dealer what the split rules are if
you do not know them.
So thats how blackjack is played. But there is much more to learn if
you want to be a successful blackjack player. You must know when to
split your cards, when to double, when to take a hit, and when not to.
The rules behind this are called basic strategy. Click on the "Basic
Strategy" button at the top of this page to learn more about this.