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Blackjack rules or how to play blackjack

The original blackjack that gave the name to the game

The original blackjack that gave the name
to the game

The goal of a blackjack player is to end up with a total higher than the dealer's one without exceeding 21. Should you go over 21 you bust and lose the hand. According to the Blackjack (online blackjack) terminology such hand is said to BUST or be TOO MANY.

According to Blackjack rules, the player's hand plays only against the dealer’s hand, it means that you shouldn’t mind other people’s cards, unless you are COUNTING them.

After the bets have been made, the dealer will make two passes dealing the cards to all the players, starting from his left (from the FIRST BASE), two cards each, facing up or down (depending upon the variations of the blackjack rules), and only after that he deals himself two cards, one FACING UP (so that anyone can see it), and the other facing down (also known as HOLE).

NB: in some European casinos' Blackjack rules, the dealer is given only one card face-up. And only after all the players finish their hands, the dealer deals his second card. This rule is known as the European No Hole Card rule. This might change the blackjack strategy only in the event the dealer has a Natural as than the dealer collects all the player’s bets. In some casinos, if the dealer’s hand is a Blackjack, all the double-down and split bets are to be refunded. However, this is not one of standard blackjack rules, and shouldn’t influence the player’s basic strategy.

After the first cards have been dealt, each player chooses either to HIT (get another card) or to STAND (to get no more cards, in such case the value the player has will be competing with the dealer’s hand).

All the players have played their hands, and then the dealer plays his hand out. There are strict fixed blackjack rules which do not allow the dealer to make his own decisions. One of the most important blackjack rules concerns the value of 17. This means that the dealer should draw cards until his hand reaches the value of 17 or above. Most of the time, these blackjack rules are written on the felt, saying “the Dealer Must Stand On All 17's”.

Card Values according to Blackjack rules

  • A - either 1 OR 11.
  • 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9: 2 to 9 – values are as indicated.
  • 10, J, Q, K: 10's & Face cards – stand for the value of 10.

No priority is given to suits of the cards.
BLACKJACK A J (a NATURAL, a Natural 21) is a two card hand consisting of an Ace and a card with the value 10.
Natural beats a 3 card hand with the value of 21 (a total 21).

Soft Hands & Hard Hands

As according to Blackjack rules an ACE can stand either for the value 1 OR the value 11, the risks of going over 21 gets smaller. In situations when an Ace is valued as 1, it is called a SOFT HAND. E.g. a hand comprising an A and a 7 - can be counted as an 8 OR 18, regarding the value given to the ACE. The choice depends upon the player, and Blackjack rules allow the player to vary it back and forth as many times as he wishes during the play of his hand.

A hand with an ACE that leaves no choice whether to use the ACE as a 1 OR 11 is called a HARD HAND. Example: If you have an A, 9 and 5 you can only value the ACE as 1, otherwise you would go over 21 and therefore your hand is busted. By counting the ACE as 1, the hand's value is 15. Such hand can also be sometimes called a Stiff hand - because the probability of going over 21 is higher than that of a Soft Hand.

The player’s Choice in Blackjack Rules

After the players receive their cards, they are to make a decision on how to play their hands the most effective way. The choice may be to HIT or to STAND, to SPLIT cards if the first two received cards are of the same value, therefore making two separate hands, or to DOUBLE DOWN if the combination of the cards in the hand is likely to win the dealer’s hand. According to Blackjack rules, this can ONLY be done when a hand comprises two cards, before extra cards have been handled out. NOTE: in doubling-down the player increases his original bet two times or less (Double-Down for less) and receives ONLY one extra card.

Basic Blackjack rules options when playing out the hand

”Dealer acts strictly according to Blackjack rules

Dealer acts strictly according to Blackjack rules


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 (SPLIT) 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, whilst the dealer then splits the hand into two separate hands. The perfect advice is to always split a pair of aces A A and pairs of 8's 8 8. 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. E.g.: if the first two cards are 6 and 7 - adding up to 13, whereas the dealer’s face-up card is a 6, the chances of winning the dealer’s hand are high and so you can choose to double your initial bet.


The INSURANCE is offered in case the dealer’s face up card is an A. According to Blackjack rules it usually (but not obligatory) costs half of your initial bet, and “protects” you in case the HOLE 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 10, the insurance is paid out.

According to Blackjack rules, 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. Whereas a LATE SURRENDER, is more commonly met in Blackjack rules. In this variant of Blackjack rules, the dealer checks the HOLE for a blackjack and after and only if he does not have a blackjack, he allows the players to surrender.

For a description of the terms used on the Blackjack rules page, please consult our Blackjack Terms page


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