Blackjack is one of the best games to play in the casino. That is due to the low house edge, often less than .5%, and amount of skill involved in playing blackjack.

There is a basic strategy for every scenario in the game. This should always be followed. The exception is if counting is being used in a live casino and a rare count provides an opportunity to vary from the proper play due to a disproportionate number of small cards. Blackjack counting is irrelevant at online casinos because the deck is shuffled after every hand.

How to Win at Blackjack

The goal of blackjack is to get as close to 21 without going over. A hand that totals more than 21 is considered a bust. If the player busts, he automatically loses. If the dealer busts, all players that did not bust are paid.

Blackjack starts with players receiving two cards, typically face up. Some single and double deck games at live casinos will deal cards down to players. The dealer starts with one card up and one down.

The first action in a game is the dealer checking for blackjack. He will only do this if an ace, which counts as one or eleven, or ten-value card is his up card. If the dealer has blackjack, he will show it immediately and the hand ends. All players lose, except those who also have blackjack. Those players push.

The action starts to the left of the dealer. The first player decides whether he wants to hit, stand, split, or surrender. Once that player has decided to stand or draws a hand higher than 21, the next player acts.

All players act before the dealer exposes his second card. If the dealer has 17 or more, he stands. If he has 16 or less, he hits. Many blackjack games will require a dealer to hit a soft 17. That means the hand contains an ace and cannot be busted. A game where the dealer hits a soft 17 has a higher house advantage than one that stays on all 17’s.

If the player has a higher point value than the dealer, the player wins. If the dealer has a higher point value than the player, the house wins. If the dealer and player have the same amount, it is a push.


Blackjack Definitions

Blackjack – A hand that consists on a ten-value card and an ace. It is paid 3-2 automatically at most casinos if the dealer does not also have a blackjack. Some casinos only pay 6-5 on a blackjack. Most online casinos pay 3-2 in standard blackjack games.

Bust – Any hand that totals more than 21. If the player busts, the hand automatically loses and the dealer will take the wager. If the dealer busts, all players that did not bust automatically win.

Double Down – To double the amount of the original wager and receive just one card. The player must keep this card and may not draw another one. A double down is often allowed after a split.

Hit – To draw one card. If the card does not bust a player, he may draw an additional card. In a live game, a player taps the table to hit.

Insurance – Insurance is only offered when the dealer is showing an ace. A player that takes insurance is betting that the dealer has blackjack. If the dealer has a ten card in the whole, insurance bets are paid 2-1. The insurance bet loses if the dealer does not have blackjack. Insurance has a house edge of 7.7 percent.

Push – When the dealer and player have the same number of points.

Resplit Aces – A player that splits aces and receives another ace is sometimes allowed to split again at live casinos. This is almost never allowed at online casinos. Resplit aces may not be hit.

Split – A split is only allowed when a pair is dealt. Some casinos will allow splitting of any ten cards, even if they do not pair. This should be avoided. Double down after splitting is often allowed. Split hands may be hit unless the pair is aces.

Stand – To stay with the point value, to draw no more cards. In a live game, a player waives his hand over the cards.

Surrender – To fold and give the house half of the bet wagered. If a player bets $10 and surrenders, he receives $5 back and the hand is dead.

Ten – Any card that has a point value of ten. This includes 10’s, jacks, queens and kings.