As one of the world’s most popular card games, the good news is that blackjack is one of the easiest casino games to learn. The not-so-good news is that understanding all the blackjack rules is slightly more complicated. That is where we can help. This page provides you with a complete overview of the rules of blackjack to help you succeed at blackjack sites.
By the time you’ve read this guide, you will be confident in your knowledge of blackjack and its rules. You can soon visit one of our recommended online casinos and play blackjack games on your own terms.
Blackjack is the ultimate casino card game. The classic game of 21, where you win by having a two-card hand of higher value than the dealer. While that is simple enough, there are plenty of nuances, game variants, and rules to learn. So, let’s waste no more time and jump into our complete blackjack rules guide.
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Blackjack Betting Rules
It is often said that the aim of Blackjack is to get to 21 or at least as close to 21 as possible without going over (bust). While that is true, the goal is to do it while having a higher value hand than the dealer. That’s how you win a game of Blackjack. Both the dealer and player are dealt two cards each, with picture cards (King, Queen, Jack) having a value of 10, the Ace card having a value of 1 or 11, and all other cards having their face value. This simple gameplay means anyone – even beginners – can quickly grasp blackjack rules. Irish players at online casinos have numerous variants of blackjack to choose from, so understanding the rules and associated terms is vital.
- Stand: Stick with the two-card hand you have
- Hit: Request another card from the dealer
- Bust: When the value of your cards is over 21
- Hole Card: The dealer’s card facing down
- Up Card: The visible dealer’s card facing up
- Hard Hand: A hand that does not contain an Ace
- Soft Hand: A hand that has an Ace
- Double Down: Double your bet
- Split: Split a hand of equal value into two hands
- Surrender: Surrender and recoup half of your bet
While there are several variants of the game, the rules of blackjack are mainly standard across all versions. The blackjack rule book has a group of core concepts that underpin the game. So, when you head to one of the casino sites we recommend, any variant you choose will have the following blackjack rules:
- When you hold a hand with a value of 21 or lower and the dealer’s hand with less value = you win.
- When you hold a hand with 21 or lower and the dealer’s hand has a higher value (under 21) = you lose.
- When you hold a hand of 21 or lower and the dealer has higher than 21 (a bust) = you win.
- When you hold a hand with a value over 21 (a bust) = you lose.
- When you and the dealer have a hand of equal value (known as a push) = your bet is returned.
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While the general casino blackjack rules are universal, players have a separate set of guidelines from the dealer:
- Hit Rules: A hit in blackjack is when the player asks the dealer to provide an additional card/s following the initial two-card hand. Your reason for hitting will be when the two cards you hold have a value that is too low, and you want to improve this value. Be careful because hitting could result in you going bust (having a value of 21).
- Stand Rules: In some circumstances, your two cards will amount to a value you are happy with. Blackjack rules allow you to stick with these two cards by standing instead of choosing to hit. A good example is a king (10) and 9, giving you a value of 19.
- Double Down Rules: Of all the blackjack game rules, the double down option is perhaps the most complex. When doubling down, you can choose to double the value of your stake. Players can select this option if they encounter the following in-game scenarios:
- If you have a hand that is a value of a hard nine (meaning there is no ace in the hand) and the dealer’s card shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.
- If you have a hard hand with the value of 10 or 11 and the dealer’s hole shows a value less than 10 or 11. In this situation, choose to hit for a third card because you cannot go bust.
- If you have a soft hand (or a hand with an ace) with a value of 16, 17, or 18, and the dealer’s card shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.
- Split Rules: Another betting option available in blackjack card game rules is the split. This option allows players to split a hand featuring two cards of equal value into two separate hands. Essentially, you will be holding two hands (four cards in total) when you decide to split. However, you will also need to make an equal bet on this secondary hand.
- Surrender Rules: The surrender bet is worth checking out if you hold a hand that does not look so good. Surrendering means you will give up half of your wager and receive half back. While a surrender can help you reduce losses, it is not always the best option. Importantly, not all blackjack games offer this feature.
- Even Money: If you see an ace with any card of 10 value, you have the highest possible score (21) and a blackjack hand. However, this is not always a winning hand because the dealer may hold the same value/cards. If you suspect the dealer has blackjack too, the even-money bet allows you to push (tie) the round.
While the dealer is in charge of the game, they are not above the Blackjack rules, they have to obey and play by those rules. The random number generators (RNG) are also designed based on the rules of the game. Knowing and understanding the rules of the game are particularly important when you’re playing live casino games.
Blackjack players can take the action they want within the game’s rules. So, if you have a 20 and want to take a hit to almost certainly go bust, you can. We don’t recommend it, but that action is open to you. This freedom is not available to the dealer, who must operate under the rules of blackjack as given by the game provider or casino.
For example, in any blackjack game, the dealer must hit (take another card) on any hand value of 16 or below. Furthermore, the dealer must stand (stick with two cards) on any hand with a value of 18 or higher. One exception is the soft 17 (a value total of 17 that includes an ace) because an ace can be a 1 or 11. Some games/casinos will force a hit on a soft 17, and others will impose a stand.
Another important rule is that the dealer always acts last after the bettor plays their hand. Yet, this is ideal for the casino because the player may lose by busting without the dealer needing to play.
Blackjack Table Layout
Blackjack rules and games can differ significantly with the wide variety of game types now accessible online. However, how the tables look and how they are laid out rarely change. The blackjack table will include several seats at the bottom where the players can sit. If you are playing online, these are reasonably close together. But they are a little more spread out if you are playing live blackjack.
Assuming you are sitting directly opposite the dealer, you’ll find the shoe in the top right corner of the table. The shoe is another name for the container that holds the cards for the game. In the table’s top-left corner, you’ll find a box with the discarded cards that have already been drawn for that game.
Then, in the middle of the table, you’ll find the rules for the game. These rules state the rate the game pays for hitting “Blackjack” and the terms for when the dealer can stand and hit. These blackjack rules may also include other helpful information, such as the price paid for insurance bets or if there is a jackpot attached to the game.
The bet box is directly in front of the player. Before the dealer gives out your cards, you’ll need to move your chips into this. Doing so will signify to the dealer that you want to play. Depending on your blackjack game, you may find several smaller boxes around the bet box. These might be jackpot bets, side bets, and perfect pairs games.
The game starts when the dealer hands you your cards, provided that you've got chips in the bet box. They will also deal themselves two cards; one face down and one face up. The dealer will then take out cards from the shoe and distribute them accordingly. Once players have placed their bets, the dealer deals their own hand and pays out any winnings. They will set your winning chips next to your original stack.
If you're playing in a land-based casino, make sure that you don't touch your chips before the dealer pays out your winnings. Doing so could void your hand with some casinos.
Blackjack Table Rules
Whether you’re heading to your local land-based casino or settling down for a session of online blackjack, knowing the table rules is essential. We advise players to read the blackjack rules of every game they play. Below are factors that will help you decide if a blackjack game is worth playing or not:
- Blackjack Payouts: Blackjack is known as one of the most exciting casino games, but it is also popular for being one of the easiest to win. No other game has a better return to player (RTP) rate in the casino industry than blackjack. Often with an RTP of 99.5% or over, blackjack has a payout rate of 3 to 2 for the standard version of the game. Yet, some tables may have features that lower the payout rate, so it is worth researching a game before you play.
- Blackjack Limits: Every blackjack table at a physical casino, virtual online RNG game, or live casino online variant will have betting limits. These are the low-end and high-end bets you can make on each hand. A common low betting limit is anywhere from €1 to €10 online, while the maximum bet can be up to €15,000. Land-based casinos and premium online games may also offer bigger limits for high rollers.
- Number of Decks: Traditional blackjack rules allowed for only one deck of cards during a game. However, the rise of card counting and online casinos brought games with multiple decks. There is no upper limit on the number of decks in a game, but standard multi-deck blackjack has up to 8 decks of cards.
Chips Value in Blackjack
When playing blackjack online, most casinos will highlight the value of a chip with a number that appears on the screen. Yet, if you wish to play blackjack in a brick-and-mortar gambling venue, the colour of the chip is often the quickest way to determine the value, even though chips are numbered.
Each chip’s value and colour can vary from casino to casino. However, there is a set range of colours and nominations, as listed below:
- White = €1
- Red = €5
- Green = €25
- Black = €100
- Purple = €500
- Orange = €1,000
Number of Card Decks in Blackjack
As we know, there is no rule set in stone about how many decks a casino can use for a game of blackjack. If you play at home, you’ll likely play with just a single deck of cards. Yet, a casino may use multiple decks during a game. The numbers typically range between 4 and 8, but the blackjack rules must state this at the table.
You should also consider the number of card decks when playing online blackjack. Online games use an RNG programmed to simulate a certain number of decks. Increasing the number of card decks automatically increases the house edge, as it is more difficult for the player to predict the upcoming cards with accuracy. With more decks your likelihood of having a winning hand decreases. You have more chances of getting a good hand with a single deck simply because you can more accurately predict what card you or the dealer may get next, so you’ll be making better informed decisions.
The beauty of online blackjack means you can shop around to find casinos that offer games with the fewest number of decks. Even though the margins are small, you’ll want to try and take every edge you can or at least minimise the edge the casino is looking to take. CasinoSource has reviews of all the best blackjack casinos.
Different Blackjack Game Types
Blackjack is one of the most popular games worldwide, and online casinos stock multiple variants of the game. This can make it confusing for beginners who do not understand the small nuances between these variances. Before getting into the different variants, it is vital to remember the fundamental blackjack game rules remain the same.
- Classic Blackjack: Available in single and multiple-deck, the classic variation of blackjack is the most common on 8 52-card decks. It is also the most common online game variant, offering easy-to-learn gameplay that is ideal for beginners.
- European Blackjack: European blackjack is virtually identical to the traditional version aside from a few slight differences. Most notable is the dealer only gets one card to start and receives the second when the player makes their bet.
- American Blackjack: American variants put a twist on traditional blackjack by forcing the dealer to show one of their cards. Notably, the dealer receives their cards before you bet, allowing you to make informed decisions on your betting.
- Spanish 21: One of the most dynamic and flexible variants, Spanish 21, makes several major changes to the rules of blackjack. Spanish 21 removes all cards with a value of 10 (Kings, Queens, Jacks, and 10s), meaning most hands require the player to hit and take additional cards to build a good hand.
- Perfect Pairs: Perfect Pairs is more of an individual game you can find at casino sites. However, there are blackjack games that add the perfect pair feature as a bet. This feature is a side-bet in which players wager on their two cards coming as identical values (such as two 9s).
- Blackjack Switch: Blackjack Switch is one of the newest variants, making its debut in 2009. In this game, players get two hands in each round and can choose the best hand from the two. Being able to select between two hands can have a benefit and help you build wins.
American vs European Blackjack Rules
While you now know that there are tons of blackjack variants available online and at land-based casinos, all are derivations from either American or European Blackjack. The good news is the blackjack rules for both these offshoots share the same fundamental guidelines. Even so, there are core differences you should know about, including:
- In European Blackjack, the dealer is given only a single card, and the second one does not come until after the player makes their bet.
- In American Blackjack, the dealer is given both cards immediately, one facing up and one facing down (hole card).
You may be thinking - “Does that have any impact on the game?” You may haven’t even noticed how the dealer dealt their own cards. While this is not a major difference, it does have an impact on the game and the house edge.
Seeing one of the dealer’s cards in American blackjack allows you to make informed betting decisions. In European blackjack, you are essentially blindly guessing on each hand and awaiting the outcome from the dealer. House edge on American variants is usually better for this reason, although betting limits may be lower.
Blackjack Rules Variations and Other Terminology
As mentioned, blackjack allows for numerous features, bets, and flexible gameplay elements. Yet, you should always read the rules of the blackjack game you select. Most of the best software providers offer blackjack in their portfolio, however, rules can change by variant, and casino. Below are the different rules you can find depending on the blackjack variant you choose:
Early surrender variants allow you to give up on your bet and get half back if the dealer shows a ten (before they check for blackjack).
You can split your hand into two separate hands if you have two cards of the same value. It is only worth doing this if your two identical cards are of a high value. Online casinos/live casinos mostly force you to stand on the split hands without being able to hit. You must also re-bet to the same amount as your initial bet on the second hand.
6 to 5
A variant where the odds decrease from the standard 3:2 to 6:5. While betting limits are lower, you should try to avoid these games because the house edge increases 400% over classic blackjack.
CSM, or Continuous Shuffler Machine, simply means a device where the dealer puts in cards that have already been played and are continuously shuffled. This feature makes card counting and land-based or live online casinos much more challenging. Yet, CSM blackjack is not crucial in virtual blackjack, where a random number generator (RNG) is in use.
Doubling After Splitting
If you split your hand of equal value into two different hands, one or two of those separate hands may be a good draw. Hence, you can double down on the split hands if you have a good value hand.
Deck and Show Penetration
Deck penetration refers to how many cards have been dealt from the deck/s before the deck/s is reshuffled.
How to Win at Blackjack – The Basics
If you’re new to the world of blackjack, starting can be the most frustrating part. It is an easy game to learn but challenging to master. Familiarising yourself with the basics of gameplay will allow you to make the best betting decisions and protect your bankroll. Below are the top tips for holding together a basic strategy:
- Choose to Stand if you have a hand of value 12 to 16 and the dealer has 2 to 6.
- Choose to Hit when your hand is a value of 12 to 16, and the dealer has a 7 to Ace.
- Always select to split Aces and 8s.
- Double a hand of the value 11 when the dealer has 2 to 10.
- Choose to Hit when you have double Aces to 6.
- Always check the dealer’s up card to make informed decisions on your bets.
- Start with small bets to get familiar with the game and see how the cards play.
- Remember to manage your bankroll and gamble responsibly to ensure you only spend what you can afford.
How do I play Blackjack online?
- You can enjoy live dealer or virtual blackjack at the leading online casinos we recommend. Our team has selected the most reputable blackjack casinos with the best game selection, bonuses, and other games. Each online casino we highlight also holds valid gambling licenses and is available on mobile devices.
When should I hit or stand in blackjack?
- It depends on your hand when you should hit or stand. While there is no standard formula for hits and stands (you can choose to do either with any hand value), there are scenarios where choosing to stand or hit would be a wiser decision.
Can you count cards in online blackjack?
- Yes, in theory, you can count cards playing online blackjack, but only in live casino games. Even then, it is hard to count cards at online casinos. On standard virtual blackjack, it is impossible because these games use random number generator (RNG) software to determine the outcomes of games.
Are casino welcome bonuses worth it?
- Absolutely. Welcome bonuses are a great way to boost your bankroll when you register with a new casino. However, not all welcome packages are created equal. That is why it is essential to always read the T&Cs of any casino bonus you want to claim. Still, you can claim generous deposit match offers, no deposit bonuses, and more at our recommended blackjack online casinos.
Can you withdraw the welcome bonus?
- Depending on the rules set by your online casino, you may be able to withdraw your welcome bonus. Some casino operators have welcome bonuses with no wagering requirements, allowing customers to withdraw bonus winnings. Wagering requirements refer to the number of times you must bet through the bonus amount before cashing out. However, these bonuses are much rarer to find.