How to Play Blackjack - Learn and Play in Less Than 5 Minutes

Blackjack is the world’s most popular casino card game but if you want to play online blackjack properly, you’re going to have to learn how to play Blackjack properly first!

Today, in five minutes' time, you will learn all the ins and outs in an easy-to-digest format.

The Basics: The Setup of Blackjack

Blackjack is a tabletop card game that requires a deck of playing cards without the jokers. Like other table card games the game requires a dealer and minimum one player. 

There are some specifics to go over, so let’s now take a look at what the game is, how to play, card values, winning conditions, betting, etc.

What is Blackjack?

Blackjack is a card game played at casinos, land-based or online. 

The player takes on the House, rather than being up against other players as they would in say, poker.  

It’s one of the misconceptions of how to play Blackjack at a casino that the player has to get to 21. Or at least that they need to get as close to that, as possible.

They don’t. It is true that the closer they get, the better. But there are ways to win without getting close to 21 at all.

A better way of putting it is that they have to beat the Dealer in one of three ways, as we explain below. 

Getting to 21 by getting Blackjack is just a bonus because it means their hand can’t be beaten and also because with Blackjack you get paid out at odds of 3:2, rather than at even money. 

How to Play Blackjack?

Blackjack is a pretty simple game. 

A tutorial in how to play Blackjack for beginners shouldn’t take more than five minutes to explain. 

A player is dealt two cards, face up. The Dealer gives themselves just one card, also face up.

This is an area where playing Blackjack in the UK is different to playing it in the US. In the US, the Dealer receives one card face up and one card face down from the very start.

Assuming the possibility of doubling up or splitting, explained below, doesn’t come into play, it’s just a case of the player deciding whether to take a card next (called “hit”) after their initial two cards, or not take anymore (called “stick”). 

Blackjack Card Values and Points Explained

Blackjack card values are as follows: all cards are worth their face value. 

  • An eight is worth eight, a three is worth three.
  • The exceptions are picture cards which are worth 10, the same as the 10 itself.
  • And the Ace. It can be worth 1 or 11, depending on what suits the player best.

A player opts to take as many cards as they wish as long as they don’t exceed a count of 21. If they exceed 21, they go bust and lose, irrespective of what happens to the Dealer’s hand.

Once the player doesn’t want any more cards, the Dealer then gives themselves a second card. 

If their count is 17-21, they stop. If it’s over 21, they “go bust” and all players that didn’t go bust, beat the Dealer. 

If the Dealer has less than 17 after two cards, they’ll deal more until they get to 17-21 or go bust. 

The Player(s) and Dealer’s hand are then compared.

What is Needed to Play Blackjack? 

You will need the following to play Blackjack:

  1. A normal, 52-card deck of cards (take out the jokers).
  2. A table or any surface to play.
  3. Chips.

At casinos, 6-8 decks of cards are used to play Blackjack. That’s to ensure players can’t take note of which cards might be about to come up, also known as card counting.

You’re also going to need a special Blackjack table, marked with boxes for the Dealer, the Player and extra boxes where chips are placed.

And lastly, chips. Generally, they have different values in terms of the amount of money they represent.  

So, if you want to play Blackjack at home, those are the tools you need. 

That said, you can probably do without the special table, which can be expensive.

Any baize-like table where you can easily slide cards onto will do. And you probably don’t need quite as many decks, assuming your friends aren’t card counters!

How Many Players Can Play Blackjack?

2-7 players can be in action at any given time in a Blackjack casino, because that’s the number of boxes generally available.

However, additional players can place bets behind a player’s box, effectively backing that player to win.

These players don’t have a say in how the hand is played, nor should they offer advice or opinions on what the player actually playing the hand should do.

How Betting Works in Blackjack

Whether playing with money or for fun, betting works the same way.

Casinos will impose a minimum and maximum bet.

The minimum bet is to make sure hands are played for acceptable amounts of money and not “peanuts”, while maximum bets are there to make sure the casino doesn’t incur huge losses if a high roller goes on a really good run.

The player places a chip or chips to a value between the max and minimum amount permitted behind their playing box before the hand is dealt.

Doubling or splitting aside, you’re either going to lose that bet, win it or it’s going to “stand” should you tie with the dealer. 

You win if the Dealer goes bust and you don’t, if your score is higher than the Dealer’s or if you get Blackjack and they ‘only’ get 21. 

Wins are paid out at even money, except if you win with Blackjack. In this case, if you bet 10 GBP, you’d win 15, rather than the usual 10.

How Splitting Works

Splitting is one of the slightly more complex aspects of how to play Blackjack.

If you’re dealt two cards of the same value, you can split them. So, if you’re dealt two 8s or two picture cards/10s, you can split your hand into two hands.

You’ll need to put a bet of the equivalent amount of the first bet on the second hand, and then you just play two hands rather than one.

How to Make Side Bets

Side bets are an alternative to the classic way of playing the Blackjack card game.

Instead of focusing on the Player vs. Dealer showdown, the focus is on:

  1. The first two cards the player is dealt plus the first one the Dealer is dealt.
  2. Just the player’s first two cards.

 Players need to place additional bets in order to play these side bets.  These will also have minimum and maximum amounts.

Here are two most common Blackjack side bets: 

21+3 

With this one, it’s the player’s two cards plus the Dealer’s first card that form the hand. 

Those familiar with Poker will recognise the different hands you can form. The odds at which each are paid out are in parenthesis.

  • Flush (5/1)
  • Straight (10/1)
  • Three-of-a-kind (30/1)
  • Blackjack straight flush (40/1)
  • Suited three-of-a-kind (100/1)

Perfect Pairs

Using just the player’s two cards, you get paid out if your two cards are the same. In this case, a 10 and a King aren’t considered the same card despite being of the same value.

It would have to be two Kings or two 10s. But there are three different types of perfect pairs.

  • Mixed pair: A pair made up of two different colours, red and black. It pays 5/1.
  • Coloured:  Same colour but different suit. For example, one nine of clubs and one of spades, pays 10/1.
  • Perfect pair: The highest paying pair where you have two of the same number in the same suit. The payout here is a huge 30/1.

How to Win at Blackjack?

With a low house edge, Blackjack is one of the better casino games to play. Keep reading for advice on how to win playing Blackjack.  

Double Down

If your two cards come to 9, 10 or 11, you can double down. That means doubling up on your bet, but the catch is that you can only take one more card.

This is a winning strategy in the long run when the Dealer has cards that aren’t good for them. Which cards? Keep reading.

Perfect Blackjack Strategy 

Anyone who plays Blackjack properly, plays by the book. 

What’s the book? It’s essentially a chart or table that tells you how to play your hand in any situation based on your hand and the dealer’s hand.

That includes telling you when you should and shouldn’t double down depending on what you have and what the dealer has.

One of the reasons why it’s good to play Blackjack online is that you can consult the chart as often as you like, something that, at best, would be frowned upon in a land casino.

How to Play Blackjack at a Casino (With Etiquettes)

A few things to remember when playing Blackjack at a land-based casino:

  • Never touch the cards.
  • Always place money on the table when exchanging for chips; never into the dealer’s hands.
  • Learn the appropriate hand signals for hit, stick, and other in-game decisions.
  • Don’t try to influence the player’s decisions if you’re playing behind their box.
  • Don’t touch the chips when the hand is underway.

Varieties of Blackjack

There are a few varieties of Blackjack, especially online, to add some extra spice to the game. It’s no surprise there are so many varieties of Blackjack since it is the most popular tabletop card game in casinos. 

Lightning Blackjack

You’ll need to place double the size of a regular bet. 

Half of it is on the hand you’re playing; the other half is a fee for what might happen next.

 What might happen next is that if you win that hand, a multiplier will be in place for the next hand.

 The multiplier depends on how the hand was won. 

  • 4-17- 2x multiplier
  • 18- 3x
  • 19- 4x
  • 20- 5x
  • 21- 8x
  • Blackjack- 12x

If you win the next hand, you’ll be paid out with the multiplier added to your win.

The downside is that you lose twice the value of your bet each time you don’t win.

Infinite Blackjack

Only available online, this variation makes everyone play the same hand!

So, if the hand dealt is Blackjack, everyone has Blackjack! But if it’s not everyone gets to play their hand as they wish.