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How to Play Blackjack: Blackjack Gameplay Made Easy

Blackjack enjoys widespread popularity as a card game that is commonly played in casinos worldwide. It is a game that requires skill and strategic thinking, aiming to outperform the dealer’s hand while staying below a total of 21. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basic rules and strategies of blackjack.

How to Play Blackjack

The Objective of the Game

The objective of blackjack is to have a hand value closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, without exceeding 21. If your hand goes over 21, it’s called a “bust,” and you automatically lose the round. On the other hand, if your hand value is closer to 21 than the dealer’s, you win.

Objective of the Game

When playing against the dealer, your primary goal is not to achieve a hand value of exactly 21, but rather to make strategic decisions that increase your chances of winning. You need to consider both your hand’s total value and the dealer’s face-up card to determine your next move.

The reason why 21 is considered a significant number in blackjack is that getting a hand value of exactly 21 with your first two cards is called “blackjack” or a “natural.” A blackjack is the strongest hand and typically pays out at a higher rate, often 3:2, compared to other winning hands.

Card values in blackjack

In blackjack, understanding the values assigned to each card is crucial for determining the strength of your hand. 

Card values in blackjack
  • Number cards (2-10): The value of number cards corresponds to their face value. For example, a 2 of hearts is worth 2 points, a 5 of spades is worth 5 points, and so on. These cards contribute directly to the total value of your hand.
  • Face cards (King, Queen, Jack): Face cards are all valued at 10 points each. Whether it’s a King of diamonds, a Queen of clubs, or a Jack of spades, they all carry the same value. These cards are strong and can significantly boost your hand value.
  • Ace: The Ace card is unique in blackjack as it can be worth either 1 or 11 points, depending on which value benefits your hand the most. The Ace possesses significant strength due to its ability to be highly adaptable. For instance, if you have an Ace and a 6, you can count the Ace as 11, giving you a total hand value of 17. However, if you have an Ace, a 6, and a 10, counting the Ace as 11 would exceed 21, so it’s better to count it as 1, giving you a total hand value of 17 as well.

The flexibility of the Ace is what allows players to form “soft hands.” A soft hand is a hand that contains an Ace counted as 11 without exceeding 21. For example, when an Ace and a 6 are combined, it results in a soft 17. The term “soft” signifies that you can’t bust on the next hit, as Ace’s value can be reduced from 11 to 1 if needed.

Basic Gameplay

Once you understand the objective and card values in blackjack, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the basic gameplay mechanics. 

Basic Gameplay
  • Placing Bets: Before the game begins, players must place their bets within the specified betting limits of the table. 
  • Dealing Cards: After the bets are placed, the dealer will start dealing cards. Each player, including the dealer, is dealt a pair of cards. The players’ cards are usually dealt face-up, while the dealer’s first card is dealt face-up, and the second card is dealt face-down (known as the “hole card”).
  • Player’s Turn: You have several options to choose from based on the value of your hand and the dealer’s face-up card:
  • Hit: If you want to improve your hand, you can request additional cards by choosing to “hit.” The dealer will deal you one card at a time until you decide to stand or until your hand value exceeds 21 (resulting in a bust).
  • Stand: If you are satisfied with your hand value and don’t want any more cards, you can choose to “stand.” This means you are keeping your current hand and ending your turn.
  • Split: If your first two cards are of the same rank (e.g., two 6s or two Queens), you have the option to “split” them into two separate hands. This requires an additional bet equal to your original wager. Each hand is then played independently, and the dealer will deal an additional card to each hand. Splitting can increase your chances of winning if played strategically.
  • Double Down: In some cases, when you have a favorable hand, you may choose to “double down.” This involves doubling your original bet and receiving one additional card. After receiving the card, you must stand. Doubling down can be advantageous when you believe your hand has a good chance of winning.
  • Dealer’s Turn: After every player has made their decisions, it’s the dealer’s turn to play. The dealer reveals their face-down card (the hole card) and follows specific rules set by the casino. Typically, the dealer must hit until they reach a certain hand value, usually 17 or higher. Once the dealer reaches that value or busts, their turn ends.
  • Showdown and Payouts: After the dealer’s turn, the hands are compared to determine the winners. If your hand value is higher than the dealer’s without exceeding 21, you win. If the dealer’s hand value is higher than yours, or if your hand exceeds 21 (resulting in a bust), you lose. If both you and the dealer have the same hand value, it’s a “push” or a tie, and your bet is returned.
  • Collecting Winnings: If you win the round, you are paid out based on the specific payout ratio of the table. In most cases, winning hands pay even money (1:1), except for a blackjack, which usually pays 3:2. If you lose the round, you forfeit your bet.
  • Next Round: After the payouts are settled, a new round begins. Players place their bets again, and the cards are reshuffled and dealt.

Hitting and Standing

Hitting and standing are fundamental actions in blackjack that players use to navigate their hands and get closer to the desired total value of 21.

Hitting and Standing


When you choose to hit, you are asking the dealer to deal you an additional card. This is done to increase the value of your hand and get closer to 21. Hitting is a strategic decision that should be based on the value of your current hand and the dealer’s face-up card. It’s generally advisable to hit when your hand value is low and has a good chance of improving without exceeding 21. However, be cautious when hitting if you have a hand that is already close to 21, as there’s a higher risk of going bust.


When you choose to stand, you are indicating that you are satisfied with your current hand value and do not want any more cards. Deciding when to stand requires careful consideration of your hand’s value and the dealer’s face-up card. If your hand value is already close to 21 or if the dealer’s face-up card suggests a weak hand, standing can be a prudent decision. However, be aware that standing doesn’t guarantee a win, as the dealer’s hand will still be played, and it could potentially be higher than yours.

Splitting Pairs

Splitting pairs is an option available to players when their initial two cards are of the same rank, such as two 8s or two Queens. This action allows you to split the pair into two separate hands, each with its own bet, and play them independently. Here’s what you need to know about splitting pairs:

Splitting Pairs

Splitting Rules

  • To split a pair, you must place an additional bet that is equal to your original wager. This effectively creates two separate hands, with one of the split cards becoming the first card of each new hand.
  • Once you’ve decided to split, the dealer will separate the original pair, and you’ll have two individual hands to play.
  • Each hand will then be dealt an additional card, and you’ll play each hand separately, making decisions for one hand before moving on to the other.

Playing Split Hands

When you are dealt a pair of cards with the same rank, you have the option to split them into two separate hands. This means you place an additional bet equal to your original wager and play each card as the start of a new hand. You will then receive an extra card for each of the split hands. From there, you can play each hand independently, making decisions such as hitting (requesting another card) or standing (not requesting any more cards) based on the value of each hand.

Advantages of Splitting

  • Splitting pairs can offer several advantages in blackjack. One primary advantage is that it allows you to create two potentially stronger hands from a single weak hand.
  • For example, if you split a pair of 8s, you can now play two separate hands starting with 8 as the first card. You can then hit or stand on each hand independently to improve your chances of winning.
  • Splitting pairs also allows you to take advantage of doubling down. After splitting a pair, if you receive a favorable card on one of the split hands, you can choose to double down on that hand, effectively increasing your bet and potentially maximizing your winnings.

Doubling Down

Doubling down is a strategic move in blackjack that allows you to double your original bet after receiving your initial two cards. By doubling down, you commit to drawing only one additional card and then standing. 

Doubling Down

Doubling Down Rules

  • To double down, you must place an additional bet equal to your original wager.
  • After doubling down, you’ll receive only one more card, and your turn will end. No further actions are allowed for that hand.
  • Doubling down is typically available on the first two cards dealt or after splitting a pair, depending on the specific rules of the casino.

Advantages of Doubling Down

  • Doubling down is advantageous when you believe that your initial two cards give you a strong chance of beating the dealer.
  • By doubling your bet, you have the opportunity to increase your potential winnings if your hand is successful.
  • Doubling down can be particularly beneficial when the dealer’s face-up card is weak or unfavorable.
  • When doubling down, it’s important to consider the total value of your hand and the probability of receiving a favorable card to achieve a winning hand.

Blackjack and Insurance

In blackjack, insurance is an optional side bet that players can make when the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace. It allows players to protect themselves against the possibility of the dealer having a blackjack (a hand with a total value of 21). 

Blackjack and Insurance

Insurance Bet

  • When the dealer’s up-card is an Ace, the dealer will offer players the option to take insurance before checking for blackjack.
  • Insurance is a separate bet, usually equal to half of your original wager. For example, if your initial bet was $10, the insurance bet would be $5.
  • The insurance bet is placed on a designated area of the blackjack table.

Dealer Checking for Blackjack

  • Once all players have had the opportunity to take insurance, the dealer will check their hole card (the face-down card) to see if they have a blackjack.
  • If the dealer has a blackjack, all players who took insurance will be paid out at a ratio of 2:1 on their insurance bet. This means they will receive double the amount of their insurance bet.
  • However, if the dealer does not have a blackjack, the insurance bets are collected, and the hand proceeds as usual.

The Outcome of the Insurance Bet

  • If you take insurance and the dealer has a blackjack, you’ll win the insurance bet, which helps to offset the loss from your initial bet. However, your original bet will be lost.
  • If you take insurance and the dealer does not have a blackjack, you’ll lose the insurance bet, but the hand continues, and you have the chance to win or lose your original bet based on the outcome of the hand.

Pros and Cons of Taking Insurance

Taking insurance is often debated among blackjack players due to its house edge and overall impact on the game.


Potential protection against dealer’s blackjack: The main advantage of taking insurance is that it can protect you from losing your original bet if the dealer has a blackjack (a total of 21). If you opt for insurance and the dealer does indeed have a blackjack, the insurance bet pays out at 2:1, effectively canceling out your original bet.


  • Negative expected value: From a mathematical perspective, taking insurance is generally not a favorable bet. The odds are against you, as the probability of the dealer having blackjack is less than the odds offered by the insurance payout. Over time, consistently taking insurance can result in long-term losses.
  • Increased house edge: The house edge in blackjack is already in favor of the casino, and taking insurance further increases the house edge. It is a side bet that benefits the casino more than the player in the long run.
  • Potential loss of additional funds: By taking insurance, you are effectively placing an additional bet, which can increase your overall losses if the dealer does not have a blackjack. If you take insurance and the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you lose the insurance bet and must still play out your original hand.

Insurance as a Card Counting Strategy

  • Card counting is a blackjack strategy that involves keeping track of the relative number of high and low cards remaining in the deck. It helps players determine the likelihood of specific cards being dealt.
  • Some advanced card counting systems may incorporate insurance as part of their strategy under certain conditions. This is based on the assessment of the deck’s composition and the probability of the dealer having a blackjack.
  • However, card counting and using insurance as part of a card counting strategy require significant skill and expertise, and it’s not recommended for beginner players.

How to Play Blackjack FAQs

Taking insurance in blackjack is an optional side bet offered when the dealer’s up-card is an Ace. While it may seem like a form of protection against the dealer having a blackjack, statistically speaking, it is not considered a profitable long-term strategy. Skilled players typically avoid taking insurance and focus on using basic strategy and card-counting techniques to make more informed decisions.

To improve your overall gameplay in blackjack, it is recommended to learn and use basic strategy, which outlines the optimal decisions for each possible hand against the dealer’s up-card. Additionally, some players employ card-counting techniques to gain an advantage. Practice, discipline, and proper bankroll management are also important factors in becoming a more skilled blackjack player.

The decision to hit or stand in blackjack depends on the value of your hand and the dealer’s face-up card. As a general rule, it’s advisable to hit when your hand value is low and there is a good chance of improving without exceeding 21. On the other hand, if your hand value is already close to 21 or the dealer’s face-up card suggests a weak hand, standing is often a prudent choice.


In conclusion, by understanding the key elements and employing the appropriate strategies, players can enhance their gameplay and make more informed decisions during their blackjack sessions. Remember to always familiarize yourself with the specific rules and variations of the game you’re playing, and practice responsible gambling habits.