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Blackjack is a gambling card game in which players try to acquire cards with a face value of 21 and no more.

Rules of Blackjack

Welcome to the game of blackjack. Before you play blackjack online, make sure you read and understand the blackjack rules. Blackjack is a well known casino game and enjoyed by many due to it offering the most player control over the game. You can also improve your blackjack playing odds and experience by reading through our blackjack strategy and blackjack tips section following the blackjack rules information below.

To play the game effectively you must know and have an understanding of the following:

  • How to play blackjack
  • Card Values according to Blackjack rules
  • Soft Hands vs Hard Hands
  • Basic Blackjack rules options when playing out the hand

How to play blackjack

The goal of a blackjack player is to end up with a total higher than the dealer's cards without exceeding 21. If you or the dealer go over 21 you will go "BUST" and lose the hand. Many refer to this as "bust" or "too many". In the game of blackjack you only play against the dealer and no one else.

Starting a blackjack game, you lay your bets out in front of you before the dealer starts dealing the cards. The dealer will then deal the cards to where your bets are placed. There are normally marked drawings on the blackjack table cloth (known as felt) to indicate where to place your bets and where the blackjack dealer must place your cards.

Once all bets are placed, the blackjack dealer will deal each player 2 cards, one at a time, starting from his left. Thereafter he will deal himself 2 cards, one facing up and once facing down. The final round of cards will then be dealt based on the blackjack players decision. And this decision is based on what you have in front of you and what the blackjack dealer has in front of him. ie. His one card facing up.

In the next phase, the blackjack dealer will start on his left and ask each player to make a decision as to what the player wants to do in order to achieve 21 or to get as close to 21 as possible. Each playing hand will have the following options:

  1. Hit: To draw another card from the blackjack dealers deck.
  2. Stand: To not draw another cards and the blackjack dealer moves to the next playing hand.
  3. Split: This option is available when you have 2 of the same card values. eg. 9 & 9. When split, each nine will be considered a hand on its own and the player can play it out as he would a normal hand.
  4. Double down: When you double your bet before the dealer hands you an additional card, but he only gives you one additional card and moves to the next playing hand. It is advised that you double down on 8, 9, 10 or 11 only.

Once all players have played their hands, the blackjack dealer will then turn over his card facing down and play out his hand. Each blackjack table has rules to prevent the blackjack dealer from making his own decisions. These rules are normally printed on the table itself or there will be notices standing on the table indicating the rules of the blackjack table. The most important of these rules is when the dealer must "stand". It is normally printed in large print on the felt (blackjack table cloth) and commonly reads like this: "The Dealer Must Stand On All 17's."

Blackjack card values

  • Ace = 1 OR 11
  • 2 to 9 = face value
  • 10's & Face cards = 10

BLACKJACK (a NATURAL, a Natural 21) is a two card hand consisting of an Ace and a card with the value 10.
A "Natural" blackjack beats a 3 card hand with the value of 21 (a total 21).

Blackjack Soft Hands vs Hard Hands

The blackjack rules state that an "ace" can have a value of 1 or 11. when you have an ace in your hand the risk of busting is reduced. A "soft hand" is when you choose for your ace to have a value of 1. It is the players decision to count his ace as a 1 or 11 and can switch back and forth as the cards are dealt.

Soft hand example:
Cards dealt: 9 & Ace = 10 or 20

When you have no choice to vary an ace from 1 or 11. You have a "hard hand".

Hard hand example:
Cards dealt: 8 & 7 & Ace = 16 or 26 (26 being bust)

In the above example you can only have the ace as a 1 or you will go bust, thus making it a hard hand. Drawing an additional card will either put you close to 21 or bust you. Use the blackjack strategy chart to help you decide on what is best to do in this situation.

Basic Blackjack rules options when playing out the hand

Receive another card from the dealer.

Receive no more cards to your hand and stop at the current hand total; this is the value that is to compete with the one of the dealer's hand.

When the player gets a matching pair of cards he can divide this pair into two separate hands. In this case, another wager of the same cost as the initial bet should be placed adjacent to the original stack of chips, the dealer then splits the hand into two separate hands. The perfect advice is to always split a pair of aces and pairs of 8's. For more advice on when to split consult the blackjack chart.

If the player considers his hand to be stronger than the dealer's hand, he always has the chance to double his initial bet size - called a double down. When you Double Down the dealer gives you only one more card. Blackjack rules limit the Doubling Down option, as it can only be done with the initial two card hand, before you are dealt additional cards.

The insurance is offered in case the dealer's face up card is an Ace. According to Blackjack rules it usually (but not obligatory) costs half of your initial bet, and "protects" you in case the "hole card" (dealers card facing down) is a ten. In such case the dealer has a Natural, and the player loses the initial bet, but receives the insurance in the amount of 2-to-1). The Dealer checks his second card (the HOLE) and in case it is a ten, the insurance is paid out. If the dealer does not have a natural, you lose the insurance, and play the initial bet.

In case the player has a blackjack, and the dealer's face up card is an ace, the player is usually offered "even money", instead of the insurance. In case the dealer has a blackjack, instead of a push (in Blackjack rules also called a tie, a case when your hand equals dealer's hand (except for the cases if one hand is a Blackjack and another is simply a 21 Total), and the player then receives the initial bet back)), the player receives an "even money bonus" (which is in fact an insurance with a small specification), which is a half of the initial bet.

The option of Surrender is not offered in many casinos. It provides the player a chance to fold his hand at the cost of half of the original bet. In Blackjack rules it is stated that the decision to surrender must be taken PRIOR to playing the hand in any way. E.g. once you split, hit, double down, this option is no longer available.

The Blackjack rules provide two different kinds of surrender, EARLY and LATE.

Early surrender gives the player an opportunity to fold his hand before the dealer checks the hole for a blackjack. However, this version is rarely offered, because it gives a heavy advantage to the player.

Late surrender, is more commonly met. In this variant of Blackjack rules, the dealer checks the hole card for a blackjack and after and only if he does not have a blackjack, he allows the players to surrender.

Blackjack Strategy

The basic blackjack strategy is a set of rules and recommendations developed to decrease the casino's house advantage. Using the basic blackjack strategy you can decrease the houses advantage by an additional 1%. It may sound very small and hardly worth the effort. However, correct use of the basic blackjack strategy will see you winning more hands, enjoying a longer stay at the casino and possibly walking out a winner.

Check out these fantastic sections on blackjack strategy:

  • Blackjack Table Rules
  • Basic Blackjack Strategy Rules
  • Blackjack Strategy Chart

Blackjack Table Rules

When you sit down at a blackjack table, the absolute first thing you need to check is the blackjack table rules. The blackjack table rules can affect your playing style drastically so it is vital you know the table rules before placing your first blackjack bet.

These rule variables need to be checked:

  • Does the dealer stand or hit on a soft 17 (6 & Ace)?
  • How many times can you split your hand?
  • Are you allowed to double down after spilling pairs?
  • Is surrendering allowed? Early or late surrender?
  • What are the doubling down rules?
  • How many decks of cards does the dealer use?

Knowing the above when seated at a blackjack table will help you make better decisions when playing blackjack.

Basic Blackjack Strategy

There are many variations of the game of blackjack but the blackjack strategy rules remain much the same. They are:

General Blackjack Strategy

  • always stand on 17 or better
  • always hit on 12 - 16 when the dealer's up card is 7 or higher
  • always hit on 8 or less

Doubling Down Blackjack Strategy

  • always double down on 11 - except against the dealer's Ace
  • double down on 10 when the dealer shows 9 or lower
  • double down on 9 when the dealer shows 6 or lower

Blackjack Strategy for playing Soft Hands

  • always stand on soft 19 and soft 20
  • always double down on soft 13-18 if the dealer shows 4, 5, or 6

Blackjack Splitting Strategy

  • always split aces and 8's
  • never split 10 and face cards and never split 5's
  • always split 3's and 2's when the dealer shows 4, 5, 6, or 7

Please note that these strategies do not guarantee winning, they simply decrease the houses advantage. This is the basic blackjack strategy that all serious players keep in mind when playing blackjack.

Blackjack Strategy Chart

The blackjack strategy chart is a great tool for all levels of blackjack players. This chart is the basis of all blackjack strategies. This blackjack strategy chart should be your go to place of information if you are unsure of what to do when playing blackjack. It will help you make the best decisions on when to stand, hit, double down, surrender or split.

Each new variation of blackjack (including number of decks and whether the dealer stands or hits at soft 17) leads to a change in the basic strategy and thus changes the blackjack strategy chart.

The table below is a basic blackjack strategy chart for 4 or more decks of cards being used on the blackjack table, with the condition that the dealer must stand on soft 17. This is the most common form of blackjack.

    Dealer's card showing
    2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A

8 H H H H H H H H H H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H/R H
16 S S S S S H H H/R H/R H/R
17 S S S S S S S S S S
A,8 S S S S S S S S S S
A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
2,2 H/P H/P P P P P H H H H
3,3 H/P H/P P P P P H H H H
4,4 H H H H/P H/P H H H H H
6,6 H/P P P P P H H H H H
7,7 P P P P P P H H H H
8,8 P P P P P P P P P P
9,9 P P P P P S P P S S
10,10 S S S S S S S S S S
Click here to print chart

To use the Blackjack Strategy Chart, you must learn how to read and understand it properly. In the left vertical column of the blackjack strategy chart are the values of your hand, and in the horizontal column on the top are the ones of the dealer's hand. Find the correct play by lining up the columns and then play accordingly, the abbreviations you see stand for:

  •  H  - Hit
  •  S  - Stand
  •  DD  - Double Down
  •  P - Split
  •  H/P  - Split if you can double after split, otherwise hit
  •  H/R  - Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit
  • "A" always stands for Ace

A great idea is to print the Blackjack Strategy Chart and have a hard copy of it by your computer, soon your loosing streaks will become shorter and your winning streaks will become longer. However, one should not forget that the Blackjack Strategy Chart does not eliminate the house's edge, it just decreases it to a minimum.

Blackjack Tips

Here are some blackjack tips to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes made by blackjack players. Use these tips in conjunction with the basic blackjack strategy and card-counting systems if you wish to become a great blackjack player.

Useful Blackjack Tips:

  1. Memorize the basic blackjack strategy and use it no matter what others may think or what your subconscious mind may tell you. Blackjack is a mathematical game, where winning is not dependant on luck but on a use of a simple strategy.
  2. Choose and stay on your bankroll. Decide on your bankroll and do not exceed it even if you happen to be on a winning streak. Once you've reached it, gather your chips and leave the table. A great blackjack tip is to multiply you bet forty times and then leave till next time.
  3. Only spend/bet money you can afford to loose.
  4. Do not sit at a table where the betting amount is higher than the 1/20 of your bankroll.
  5. If you win a huge amount of money, withdraw half of it at once. By using these Blackjack tips you protect half of your profit in case you lose the rest.
  6. Never emulate the dealer. Stick to your strategy and tips.
  7. The main object of the game is to get close to 21, but it is not to beat the dealer.
  8. Stay calm and focused on your blackjack game. Do not let anyone or anything annoy you. If this happens. Take a break till you regain your focus.
  9. Never take insurance, unless you are card-counting. Only experienced online blackjack players can turn this option into an advantage.
  10. Always split a pair of Ace's and 8's. Do not split 10's, Jack's, Queen's and King's.
  11. Play until 17 or higher if the dealer's up card is 7 or higher. If rules permit, double with 9, with soft hands of 13-17 against dealer's 4,5 or 6. Double ten against a nine or lower and double with any hand of 11.
  12. Stand on 17 or more, hit on hard hand until 17, hit soft 18 against dealer's ten.
  13. Play until 13, if dealer has two or three and if the dealer's card is between 3 and 6, stand on twelve.
  14. Vary your betting amounts, rising them when you are winning and decreasing when you are losing.
  15. Surrender might be a wise decision if your hand is a 15 or 16 against dealer's 10 or your 16 against dealer's Ace.
  16. The best gambling tip that applies to all games is to know when to walk away. Set a table limit for yourself, and take a break if you are losing.

Combine these blackjack tips to the basic blackjack strategy and some card counting systems and you will become a great blackjack player. Practise and enjoy the game of blackjack.

Blackjack Probability

A game of a blackjack is the one that demands good skills, substantial knowledge and constant practice. Contradictory to other card games, Blackjack probabilities can depend much more on a good play, than on simple luck.

It is important to realize the fact that it is impossible to beat the game consistently. Losses are also the part of the Blackjack probabilities. This tip might help players to get more concentrated on the game, constantly improving their skills.

The following numbers in the table below, representing Blackjack Probabilities will help you understand the game and increase your winning chances. The percentages show the chance of beating the dealer by advising best tactics in different gaming situations.

The percentages in the following table show the busting Blackjack Probabilities when Hitting.

It provides a better idea of the odds the player faces when hitting on a high teen (17+).

Busting Blackjack Probabilities table

Hand value % of busting
21 100%
20 92%
19 85%
18 77%
17 69%
16 62%
15 58%
14 56%
13 39%
12 31%
11 or less 0%

The house edge

One may wonder, how can the casino be gaining, when the rules (especially the rule of Stand on 17s, when the dealer’s hand according to the Blackjack probabilities has a high chance of busting) are in favour of the players?

The secret of ever-winning casinos lies in the fact that the dealer is the last person to act his hand out (thus the house has an advantage of approximately 8%). All the players that bust, loose their bets at once, and only after the dealer plays his hand out, in case he busts, he pays the rest of the players. No matter how favourable particular blackjack rules might be, this technique always provides a healthy advantage to the casino and influences all the Blackjack probabilities. Although, due to the fact that this edge is much lower than that of other casino games, Blackjack remains to be one of the most popular games played in the casinos.

To increase your winning chances, it is extremely important to investigate the Blackjack Probabilities and the basic Blackjack strategy, because the correct playing strategy may reduce the casino's edge from 8% to 0.5%.

Correct use of Card-counting techniques may be your winning tactics. However, for these reasons most casinos won’t welcome the card-counters once they are exposed.

To increase the edge of the house, some casinos introduce new variations of the rules, some of which may be very harmful for the player and decrease his winning chances to minimum. Let's name some of the possible variations that influence on the Blackjack Probabilities:

  1. Blackjack pays 6 to 5
  2. Dealer hits on soft 17
  3. 8 deck of cards
  4. Doubling down on 10 or 11 only

Remember, these rules were created to lessen the possible Blackjack probabilities of your victory.

Blackjack Card Counting

Blackjack card counting is for experienced blackjack players who have already mastered the basic blackjack strategy and want to gain a further advantage over the house.

Here are some blackjack card counting methods to keep in mind when playing blackjack

  • Introduction to blackjack card counting
  • Blackjack KO Counting
  • The Blackjack Hi-Opt 1 Count
  • The Blackjack Hi-Opt 2 Count

Introduction to Blackjack Card Counting

The principle of blackjack card counting is based on the proportion of high cards versus low cards in the deck. A larger amount of high cards in the deck are to the advantage of the player and a larger amount low cards in the deck are in the advantage of the dealer.

The reason for this is that a high ratio of 10-value cards increases the chance of the dealer going bust, and low value cards decreasing the chance of the dealer going bust.

Blackjack card counting itself is not based on memorising all the cards that have been played. It is based on a point system to keep track and calculate the proportion of the deck while the cards are being played by the blackjack dealer. There are many blackjack card counting systems to choose from, the best is to pick one that is easy to remember.

The Running Count

The running count blackjack card counting system assigns a value to each card that has been dealt. As they are dealt you add or subtract according to the values. You only add or subtract once the card has been dealt from the blackjack deck. The values are assigned as follows:

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 = +1
7, 8, 9 = 0
10, J, Q, K, ACE = -1

Example 1:
If the following cards are dealt: 3, 6, 2, king and 8. You will have a running count of: 1 + 1 + 1 - 1 + 0 = +3
In this example the proportion of 10-value cards is high as a few low value cards have been played. Thus meaning that a positive value running count (+3) indicates an advantage to the player.

Example 2:
If the following cards are dealt: 7, Jack, 2, 10 and queen. You will have a running count of: 0 - 1 + 1 - 1 - 1 = -3
In this example the proportion of low value cards in the blackjack deck is high as a few high value cards have been played. Thus meaning that a negative value running count (-3) indicates an advantage to the blackjack dealer.

The running count blackjack strategy, also knows as the blackjack Hi-Lo card counting system, is most accurate when playing with one deck of cards in the shoe. However, what happens when you play at a blackjack table that has 5 decks of cards in the shoe? The the "True Count" blackjack card counting strategy.

True Count

The true count blackjack card counting system is used when there is more than one deck of cards in the blackjack dealers shoe. The true count blackjack card counting system works off the running count blackjack card counting system, which is explained above.

When using the true count blackjack card counting system, all you need to do is devide the running count total with the remaining number of decks that are in the shoe.

If the running count is 12 and there are approximately 2 decks in the shoe, so the True count is 6.

The trick to mastering the true count blackjack card counting system lies in the ability to determine how many decks are left in the blackjack dealers shoe. You can improve on this by training your eye by looking at the casinos shoe of cards and estimating the number of decks dealt or remaining.

Blackjack KO Count

The blackjack KO count system is identical to the running count mentioned above. However, the only difference being that the number 7 card is also treated as a +1 card. So if we revise the card values, it will look like this:

Small cards (2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 AND 7) count as +1
8 and 9 count as 0.
High cards (10, Jack, Queen, King) and an Ace count as -1.

If we apply the blackjack KO count to a deck of cards, the counter will finish on a +4 because of the four sevens in the deck. This system of counting does not require you to apply a true count to a blackjack dealers shoe. Since switching between the two can be difficult to do when playing in a crowded and noisy casino.

The blackjack KO count is slightly easier to work with compared to the running count and true count but is also slightly less accurate. It is a very small difference and the blackjack KO count therefore is more suited for beginners to the card counting methology.

The Blackjack Hi-Opt 1 Count

The Blackjack Hi-Opt 1 Count (highly-optimum) is for advanced blackjack players or for players that wish to become professional blackjack card counters. This system is similar to the Running and True count system mentioned above but it's differences make it somewhat more accurate. It is however more mathematically advanced and therefore more complicated. Many however believe it is the superior card counting system.

The Blackjack Hi-Opt 1 Counting system requires constant focus at the table. This system is also based on subtracting and adding 1 in value depending on the card value. The chart below shows the count value for each face value card.

Cards 2 3 4 5 6 7
Values 0 0 -1 -1 -1 -1
Cards 8 9 10 J Q K
Values 0 0 -1 -1 -1 -1

As you can see there are three groups of numbers:

Low Cards: 3, 4, 5, 6 = +1
Neutral: Cards that have no influence on the card counting with a value of zero, these are 2, 7, 8 and 9.
High Cards: 10, jack, queen, king = -1

Aces are not tracked in this system but professional players will use some method of keeping track of aces. Many do so by putting chips aside for each ace that has been played. The professional can then apply the basic blackjack strategy in addition to the Hi-opt 1 card counting system to determine how he would like play his hand(s).

So the higher the count you have, the better the remaining deck is going to be for you so you should be basing your bets based on your count. The lower the count, the poorer the remaining blackjack deck is going to be for you. So you should be reducing your bets. Dealer may catch on to your betting variances so it's always a good idea to distract the dealer with light conversation while focusing on the table. Tiping the dealer is also a good way to keep him from questioning your style of play.

The Blackjack Hi-Opt 2 Count

The Blackjack Hi-Opt 2 system is for players who have mastered the Blackjack Hi-Opt 1 system and wishes to take it to the final level in card counting. This is for expert blackjack card counters only. This system provides an extra edge over the house at the blackjack table, even though it is very small.

This system will test your arithmetic, your ability to avoid being distracted and your memory, to remember the count values of each card. With the Blackjack Hi-Opt 2 count, the card count values also include a positive and negative 2. You can see the card values here:

Cards 2 3 4 5 6 7
Values +1 +1 +2 +2 +1 +1
Cards 8 9 10 J Q K
Values 0 0 -2 -2 -2 -2

Like the Blackjack Hi-Opt 1 card counting system, the ace here is not counted. It is rather kept track of by using your chip or some other meathod. So the higher the count you have, the better the remaining deck is going to be for you and the lower the count, the poorer the remaining blackjack deck is going to be for you.

Blackjack Glossary

is a hand that comprises two cards totaling 21 (an Ace and a ten-valued card). An Ace and a ten after split is not a Blackjack, but a total 21.

a loosing Blackjack hand that exceeds 21.

is when someone keeps track of the dealt cards in order to see the percentage of small/large cards in the deck..

the first player at the Blackjack table, from which the dealer starts dealing the cards.

one of the dealer's cards that is dealt face down. The hole card is flipped over only after all the players have played their cards.

asking the dealer for another card.

to ask for no more cards. The hand that stands stops playing and will compete with the dealer's hand.

when first two cards dealt to the player are a pair (two nines, two kings) they can be split into two independent hands by increasing the initial bet twice.

an option that allows doubling the initial bet and receiving only one extra card and automatically STAND. Normally only done on a hand value of 9, 10 or 11. Remember to double only when you are positive that the extra card will make your hand beat the dealer's hand.

if the dealer's up card is an Ace, the players will be offered to insure half of their bets from possible dealer's BLACKJACK. Insurance usually pays 2:1. If dealer's hand is not a BLACKJACK, the insurance bet is lost, but the hand continues playing.

if the dealer's up card is an Ace, and the player has a BLACKJACK, the dealer may offer "even money". This bet is a lot like insurance, however, the player bets that a dealer has a BLACKJACK and in case he does, in addition to a push, the player gets paid 2:1 for an even money bet.

a tie between the player's hand and the dealer's hand. A tie occurs when both the dealer and the player have unbusted hands of the same total. 21 doesn't tie a BLACKJACK.

an option that allows a player to give up his hand by forfeiting half of his original bet.

a surrender, allowed before the dealer checks his HOLE card for a BLACKJACK.

a surrender, performed only after dealer checks his HOLE card for a BLACKJACK. In case dealer actually does have a BLACKJACK, all the bets will be lost, thus the option of Late surrender is not very pleasant.

in Pontoon's terminology means to HIT (take another card).

in Pontoon's terminology means to STAND (take no more cards).

in Pontoon's terminology means to DOUBLE DOWN (only in Pontoon a player can still TWIST after he Buys and he may Buy on any hand from 2 to 4 cards).

in Pontoon it is any 5-card combination that is not a BUST.

a BLACKJACK or a NATURAL in Pontoon game's terminology

a table with abbreviations that represents all possible game situations and mathematically best player's solutions.

the count of cards made by the player by adding or subtracting one according to the rank of card dealt from the deck.

card counting strategy that involves the result of the running count and divides it into number of decks used in a specific game.

one of the dealer's cards that is dealt face up, so that everyone sees its value.

any hand without an Ace or a hand with two or more Aces that can only count as 1.

any hand that has an Ace that can be counted as 11 (e.g. a hand of an Ace and 7).

option offered in a Switch Blackjack game. Player can switch the second cards dealt to two initial hands.

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