In this how to play blackjack beginners guide you’ll learn how to play blackjack in a casino and how to play online blackjack.

Read about the rules and best blackjack strategies. The next time you place your bets, you’ll know how to play your blackjack cards. 

What is the purpose of blackjack?

Blackjack is a card game of skill, not solely chance. The purpose of blackjack is to beat the dealer.

By using certain playing and betting techniques, it’s possible to swing the odds in your favor. 

Why play blackjack? 

Mathematically, blackjack is a much better game for players. Many casino games are based on “independent trial processes” and, therefore can’t be beaten in the long-run. 

But blackjack is a game of dependent trial processes, which makes it beatable. 

By learning how to play your blackjack hands and how much to bet on each hand you can reduce the house edge to virtually zero. 

Blackjack how to play: How do you win playing blackjack?

The purpose of blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand total. 21 is the maximum key winning total player’s hope to reach. 

Any total over means your hand and/or the dealer’s hand busts.

Blackjack how to play: to win the game is when either:

  1. The total value of your hand exceeds the dealer’s total.
  2. By not going over 21 when the dealer goes on to bust. 

At a blackjack table, each player decides whether to take cards. 

Blackjack dealer’s playing rules

Unlike players, the dealer in blackjack has no playing options. After players have decided, the dealer’s hand plays out last by the following rules: 

  1. The dealer must hit on 16 or less; and;
  2. Stand on 17 through 21.
  3. In some casinos, dealers must stand on soft 17 and in others they must hit. 

Required equipment and betting rules

Here's the overview of a blackjack table:

  • Dealer deals from their left to right on a semi-circular blackjack table.
  • Maximum of seven players.
  • At the start of a new round, players bet (using casino chips) on their betting spot: (circle or sometimes square box). As well as being color coded, the denomination value is imprinted on the chips.
  • Each blackjack table should display minimum and maximum betting limits.

Here's the overview of in-game play:

  • The dealer will deal two face-up cards — from a dealing shoe — to each of the player’s boxes.,
  • Two cards to the dealer’s box: one card face up, the other face down.
  • When it’s your turn in the round, knowing how to play blackjack cards is key to winning at blackjack.
  • The dealer will collect losing bets and pay winning ones.

Blackjack betting

Blackjack how to play: busting rules

Any hand (player or dealer) busts when it exceeds a 21 total. 

Note: If your hand busts, you lose your stake, but the game continues for other players, and the dealer can go on to bust.

Two ways to win at blackjack:

  1. If you and the dealer don’t bust, the hand with the highest total wins the game. 
  2. Whatever value under 21 you stand with can win a round if the dealer’s hand busts. 

If player and dealer tie with the same total (a push) player retains their stake. 

Winning and losing a blackjack hand and payoff odds:

  • If the player’s hand exceeds a 21 total, the player automatically loses their stake. 
  • If the player’s unbusted hand exceeds the total of the dealer’s hand, the player wins and is paid 1-to-1 odds. 
  • A player’s untied blackjack hand, also known as a “natural” is paid at 3 to 2.

How to play blackjack cards: the value of cards

  • Cards 2-10 count as their face value
  • Each picture card (Jack, Queen, or King) = 10
  • Ace card = 1 or 11 depending on hard/soft hands.

The total of any hand is the sum of the card values in the hand. It’s always assumed that the Ace counts as 11 unless so doing would make your hand total exceed 21, in which case the Ace reverts to a value of 1.


How to play blackjack: the stages with techniques

Learn how to play your blackjack cards before you place your bets: 


Learn about Hard and Soft Hands: 

  • Hard Hand = No Ace card, or if Ace, it counts as 1 value. 
  • Soft Hand = Ace counts as 11 value.

When you receive your first two cards and one of them is an Ace, count the Ace as 11.  Often, when you are dealt a soft hand and draw more cards, your hand will convert to a hard hand. 

For example, suppose a player is dealt a 5-A which is a soft 16, and he draws another card. Suppose the draw card was a 6. The player now has a hard 12 (i.e., you can never bust when you draw to a soft hand). 

The reason you need to know the difference between a hard and soft hand in blackjack is because the playing strategy is often different even though the total of the hand is the same. 

For example, a 10-6 (hard 16) is played differently than an A-5 (soft 16).


In blackjack, here's a look at standing and hitting rules:

  • Standing: If you’re satisfied with the total of your hand, in a casino wave your hand to “stand.” 
  • Hitting: Every time you decide you want a card, in a casino point at your cards to “hit.”


Here's a look at blackjack doubling down rules:

  • This playing option allows you to double your initial bet in return for receiving one (and only one) draw card. House rules permitting, if you’re allowed to double down after seeing your first two cards, wager an amount equal to your original stake. 


Here's a look at blackjack pair splitting rules:

  • You can split any pair but avoid splitting 10s (10/J/Q/K) When you split a pair, stake more chips equal to your initial wager. You’ll have to decide Hit/Stand for the two hands. 

Note: You’ll normally only be allowed one extra card for each Ace hand you split.

Blackjack strategy

Blackjack surrender rules

If the “surrender” option is available, players can forfeit their two-card hand losing half their stake. But only after the dealer has checked their card to make sure they don’t have a blackjack. 

If the dealer has a blackjack or the player draws a card, the surrender option is no longer available.

Early surrender may be available meaning a player can surrender their hand before the dealer has checked their down-card for a blackjack. 

Insurance side bet

If dealer’s up card is an Ace, a side bet equal to one-half of player’s initial bet can be made. If dealer’s down-card is a 10 value, the insurance bet wins paying 2-to-1 odds.

Even money

  • Player’s blackjack hand vs. dealer’s Ace up-card: Player can receive 1-to-1 payoff before dealer checks down-card for potential blackjack.

Blackjack strategies

In knowing how to play blackjack cards — two main strategies work: 

Playing basic playing strategy

Published in 1956, the first reasonably accurate basic playing strategy for blackjack was established by Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and James McDermott.

By following a specific set of playing rules, their strategy proved blackjack offered the best odds of winning. 

Card counting

Dr. Edward O. Thorp’s card-counting book, “Beat the Dealer,” is a powerful system for blackjack, based on, “The Ten Count,” but only when single and double-deck games are in play. 

However, casinos can use eight decks making card-counting difficult to assess when a hand might have a good chance of beating the dealer. 

Blackjack how to play: understanding the casino’s house edge

The “double-bust” rule is what creates the house edge in blackjack. Players must draw first, and if they bust, they automatically lose regardless if the dealer subsequently busts in the same round. 

Based on a single-deck game, the initial house edge in blackjack is 8%. This can be decreased using the following proper playing strategies:

  • Play blackjack that pays 3-to-2 bonus for a blackjack: -2.3% = 5.7%. 
  • Correct use of standing/hitting: -3.5% = 2.2%
  • Correct doubling: -1.6%  = 0.6%
  • Correct pair splitting: -0.4% = 0.2%

How to play blackjack in a casino vs. online blackjack:

To avoid land-based casino players telling you how to play your cards, play blackjack online.

How to play online blackjack: 

In-person actions performed in land-based casinos are replaced with click or tap on screen actions when you play blackjack online.

Do’s & Don’ts in Blackjack games:

  • Play in blackjack games where the dealer must stand on soft 17.
  • Double down on 9, 10, 11 when you don’t have an Ace, but don’t double down if the dealer has an Ace.
  • With an Ace you could double down on 16, 17, 18.
  • Play blackjack with more favorable rules, especially in single and double-deck games.
  • Take advantage of player “comps” and special casino promotions.
  • Don’t mimic the dealer because the house edge will be higher.

Summary – How to play blackjack: beginners guide

Now you know how to play blackjack, you’ll continue the journey to become a skillful blackjack player by beginning to learn the basic strategies of play.

Henry Tamburin is one of world’s most respected blackjack experts and a world-class player. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide, and Blackjack: Take The Money and Run. He edited the monthly Blackjack Insider Newsletter, and was a featured blackjack columnist for Casino Player magazine, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Gaming South magazine, Southern Gaming magazine, New England Gaming News, Jackpot, Bingo Bugle, and Casino City Times.