Blackjack Rules: A Quick Breakdown

Blackjack rules may sound a bit confusing to beginners. But, this game is straightforward, and the odds often favor players over the house. As a result, blackjack is a favorite in casinos worldwide. 

Many players call this card game “Twenty-One,” because of its primary goal. Blackjack offers the opportunity to strategize and enjoy a unique thrill. Interestingly, this game is perfect for experts who play mathematically and can count cards. So, what do you need to know about blackjack to be successful? Let’s get started.

Easy to Understand Blackjack Rules

Blackjack Intro

Blackjack is one of the most attractive games for players. It’s appealing because the casino odds are lower, even for casual participants. This game originated in France but is today globally popular. You’ll find a variation of blackjack in every casino, traditional and online. Interestingly, there are different blackjack rules for playing at home and playing in a casino. 

For example, the house is the dealer in the casino version (called a “permanent bank”). The players sit down, and the dealer remains standing in this version. The dealer also handles all bets. Players can act as the dealer in the home game (called a “changing bank”).

Nowadays, slot machine games have overtaken much of the popularity that used to belong to blackjack. Regardless, blackjack is still globally popular. There is an entirely different card game in the UK with the name “Black Jack.” You should not confuse this UK game with traditional blackjack, as the UK version is the same as Crazy Eights. 

A crucial thing to remember about blackjack is that the rules are straightforward. Each game has slightly different table rules, depending on the variant. The generic rules of blackjack apply across all games, but keep in mind the specific variant type.

Basic Blackjack Rules & Playing Options

You will play with a standard international deck of cards. The number of cards in play is 52 without the Jokers. In the past, blackjack only required a single deck. Casinos introduced multi-deck games over time to try to prevent card counting. The logic was that it would be harder for the card counters to track all cards if there were more play cards. Interestingly, this method proved ineffective. 

But, casinos persisted, and today you’ll come across single-deck, double-deck, 4-, 6- and even 8-deck variants of the game as a result. Online casinos take this rule a step further. Sometimes, you will play with many more decks than practical to manage in a real casino. Aside from the cards, the required equipment includes a shoe, cut card, discard tray, chips, and a table. 

Single Deck Blackjack

The game will start once the dealer shuffles the deck. The dealer will ask a random player to place a cut card at an arbitrary position within the deck. The cut card is a plastic, colored card that matches the playing cards in size. Then, the dealer will move the cards above the cut to the back of the stack. 

Moving the top cut cards to the back of the stack shows the players that the dealer could not have rigged the deck. Next, the dealer will re-insert the cut card into the pile at a predetermined position. Once the dealer reaches the cut card later in the game, it will signify the game’s final deal before shuffling the cards.

Blackjack Dealer

Following the shuffle in a multi-deck game, the dealer will place the cards into the “shoe” (a simple card dispenser). There are two purposes of the shoe. The first is holding large stacks of cards in multi-deck games. The second is to make it more difficult to cheat by glimpsing at the dealer’s hole card (a “hole carding”).

The practice of hole carding is not illegal in most jurisdictions. Blackjack rules dictate that the player is not at fault if they see the dealer’s down card. Of course, this rule only applies if the dealer is sloppy or poorly trained. Regardless, the player does not have an obligation to prevent themselves or look away to avoid seeing the down card.

However, a player is cheating if they learn the down card from an accomplice, for example. It is also cheating if they use any kind of device to see the down card on purpose. If the player can naturally see the card from any player position at the table, this does not qualify as cheating.

Card Values

Remembering the value of each card is vital when it comes to blackjack rules. So, here is a straightforward explanation of blackjack card values:

  • Numeral cards 2 to 10 have their face values
  • Jacks, Queens, and Kings are worth ten each
  • Aces can have a value of 1 or 11, depending on the hand
  • For example, an Ace is always worth 11. However, it’s only worth one if being valued as 11 would result in a hand going over 21
  • A “soft” hand is any hand with an Ace valued as 11. All other hands are “hard” hands
  • A starting hand of a ten-valued card and an Ace is a “Blackjack” or “natural”
  • This hand beats all other hands, except for another “Blackjack”
  • If both sides (player and dealer) get Blackjack, the result is a tie (called “push”)
  • If a push happens, the player receives their bet back, and neither side wins

Blackjack FAQs

Where can I find the blackjack rules for a specific game?

The answer to this question differs depending on whether you’re playing at a traditional casino or an online one. 

You can usually find the table limits on a sign at a real blackjack table. If you cannot see them on the table, you may need to ask the dealer. Keep in mind that a casino can, but doesn’t have to advertise the number of blackjack decks. You have two choices: either ask the dealer or observe the shoe and make an estimate.

When playing blackjack online, you should be able to see the rules before you enter a table. This practice is standard among reputable online establishments. If there is any aspect of the game that’s not always visible on the screen, there is usually a refresher button. 

Remember that you should first make sure that the casino’s rules are fair to players and visible at all times. Only then can you consider depositing real money into your online casino account.

Does the number of decks in blackjack make a significant difference?

The answer to this question depends on the player. For instance, let’s observe the house edge and expected return. If you think of an average blackjack player who’s not good at counting cards, then the decks’ number is almost irrelevant. However, players who are good at counting cards naturally want as few decks easier.

What are the most liberal blackjack rules?

These rules will vary depending on the blackjack strategy in play. However, the most liberal blackjack rules usually include:

-Playing with two decks or a single deck
-Player automatically wins if they draw six cards without busting
-Players may re-split aces and draw to them
-Unlimited doubling allowed
-Late or early surrender allowed

A player would have around a 1% advantage over the dealer in a game that follows these rules. However, casinos are smart and always intend to preserve the house edge. So, if you find a game with these rules, know that there will be less favorable rules included.

In reality, the best you can do in terms of liberal rules is a single deck game paying 3:2 on blackjacks with early surrender allowed. However, in return for the lowered house edge, you should expect high table limits.

Can I use strategy cards in traditional land-based casinos?

Policies on strategy cards vary between different land-based casinos. However, you will find many traditional casinos allowing strategy cards to players. Don’t be surprised if you find them available in many gift shops. 

But, some casinos do not allow strategy cards at blackjack tables. Do not take this decision personally, because casinos have a general policy not to let anything on tables. Additionally, you may need to put your strategy card away if other players complain it slows the game down. The safest option is always to ask the dealer for clarification.

How do side bets work in blackjack?

Side bets are additional wagers in blackjack. According to standard blackjack rules, players can make side bets alongside the main bet at the beginning of the game. You can find numerous blackjack side bets depending on the game. 

The most common examples of these bets include 21+3, blackjack insurance, and perfect pairs. You should research all of these bets before you use them in a blackjack game. It is essential to understand how the payouts and odds of side bets vary.

Closing Thoughts

Blackjack rules are easy to memorize and understand. However, it takes time to learn how to use them to your advantage in a game. The safest option is to find demo versions of blackjack games online and practice. Once you build up your confidence, start slowly, and work your way up to more significant games.

It is also essential not to get ahead of yourself. Allow yourself enough time to learn and practice to become truly good at blackjack. At a certain point, you’ll feel that you can play with ease and without stress. However long that takes, make sure to play responsibly and have fun. Good luck!