Your First Game of Blackjack in a Casino

Blackjack is one the most simple casino games to understand and play. It’s actually very easy to understand the basic rules of how it works.

This post is meant to provide enough information about blackjack so that you can comfortably sit at a table and enjoy the game without being a fool. You’ll have the best chance of winning if you remember the majority of this post.

These are the Basic Rules of Blackjack

Cards are worth their face values. A 9 is worth 9 points, while a 2 is worth points. A card with a picture on it, such as the jacks and queens or kings, is worth 10 points. An ace can be worth 11 points or 1 point. You have the final say.

A “soft hand” is one that has an ace in it. You can use it as either 1 or 11 points. If it must be counted at 1 to avoid having more than 22 totals, or if it’s not, it’s a “hard hand.”

The goal is to defeat the dealer. There are two ways to do this:

  1. A higher-scoring hand is better
  2. Still playing the game even if the dealer loses

To bust is to score a total of 22 points or more. 21 is the highest score you can get for yourself or your dealer.

You have a “blackjack” if you get a total of 2 cards with 21 or more on your first hand. This is often called a natural. Most casinos pay this off at 3 to 2. For every $100 you wager, you get $150 in payoff for getting a Blackjack.

If the dealer has a blackjack, then your hand is considered a push. This means that there is no action. Your bet is retained with no winnings.

Some casinos offer pushes to dealers. These games should be avoided. This rules variation has terrible odds, but it is very rare. Double Exposure is a blackjack variation that is rare. The strategy for this game is so different that it deserves its own post.

The Action at the Blackjack Table

The game will be played at a table that has room for 5-6 players. However, if the casino is busy, you may play head-up with the dealer. Start by placing a bet on the table in front. ( The table displays the betting minimum and maximum.

After everyone has placed a bet, each player is given 2 cards by the dealer. These cards are face-down from the deck that the dealer holds. These cards are face-up from a deck contained in a box known as a “shoe” when you play multiple deck games.

The dealer gives herself two cards: one face-up and one face-down. Your decisions are based on what cards you have in your hands and the dealer’s face-up card.

Make Your Decisions at The Blackjack Table

After you have received your 2 first cards, you can decide to hit or not. If you hit, you get another card from the dealer. If you are standing, you’re happy with the sum you have.

You may also choose to do the following:

  1. You can “split your hand” if you have two cards that are the same number. You now have 2 hands. Each hand’s first card is the same as your original hand. Each of these new hands will automatically give you a second card and a 2. These 2 hands can be played one at a.
  2. You can also “double down” which means that you double your bet size and get one more card from the dealer. After you take the additional card, your hand cannot be increased. Some casinos limit your ability to double down on certain amounts.
  3. If you feel you are done, you can “surrender”. Although this option isn’t available at all casinos or all tables, it basically means that you surrender half of your bet and keep the other half. Surrendering is similar in poker to folding.
  4. If the dealer holds an ace on her face, you can “take insurance”. This is where you place 2 and 1 bets that are half of the original bet at the “insurance” slot on the table. If the dealer has a Blackjack, this bet pays at 2 to 1, but if not, it loses. This is a side wager that you shouldn’t make unless you count cards. In which case, it may be worthwhile to get insurance if the deck is full of 10s.

The number of decks in play will affect the way you communicate these decisions to your dealer. If the cards are being dealt face-down, you may touch them, but only one hand can hold them. You can use the cards to indicate your decision, as follows:

  • To hit, you lightly scrape the cards on your table.
  • To stand, you slide your cards underneath your bet.
  • Turn your cards over to double. To double your bet, place a 2 second bet right next to your original one. Hold up one finger to indicate that you are doubling down.
  • Split your cards by turning them face up. To split, place a 2 nd wager next to your original one. Hold up 2 fingers and signal that you are splitting.

You can’t touch cards in a multi-deck game where cards are dealt face down. However, you can still use your hands for signaling your decisions:

  • To hit, you need to point at the table or your cards.
  • Stand by waving your hand across the cards while keeping your palm horizontally parallel to the table.
  • You can double your winnings by placing a 2 and a 3 bet, while holding a single finger.
  • Splitting is as easy as putting up a 2 and 2 bet, and holding up 2 fingers.

Although you are allowed to speak your mind and use words such as “hit” or “stand”, the dealer will require that you use hand signals. This is because, in case of a dispute over the action, the camera above the table will record your decisions and it can’t be debated with. This camera is known as “the eye in heaven”, by the way.

If your total is 22 or more, your bet is lost immediately. You still lose even if the dealer goes busts. This is why the house has an advantage over the player.

The Dealer’s actions during the game

After you and all the other players have finished playing, the dealer will play her hand. She doesn’t have the power to decide what to do. These decisions are made based on casino house rules.

A dealer must hit any hand that has a total of 16 or more. All hands that total 17 or more are considered to be a hand by the dealer.

However, soft 17 totals may sometimes require a hit depending on the casino’s house rules. The player is better if the dealer holds a soft 17.

After the dealer has finished playing, she collects the bets of the players or pays them off, depending on who won.

Basic Strategy for First-Time Players

There is one mathematically optimal way of playing blackjack. This is determined by the total of your cards and the dealer’s face-up card. The house edge will be lower if you adhere to this optimal strategy. The house edge will increase if you make a lot of deviations.

The best way to play blackjack is called the “basic strategy”. Serious blackjack players should learn basic strategy every time they play. A laminated card can be purchased from the casino gift shop with correct basic strategies on it. You can also use this card to guide your play.

Because they still have an edge even though it is smaller, the casinos won’t mind you doing so. They care more about how fast the game moves at the table. They are more concerned about the speed of the game than having a lower house edge in a slower game. Don’t stop the game while you check your card. The dealer might say something. (Some other players may get annoyed too.)

However, the rules in place can change the basic strategy. A single deck game has a different strategy than multiple decks. Other rules variations can also have an impact, particularly if the dealer hits soft 17 or not. However, the differences in basic strategy can be marginal. It’s better to use the wrong strategy than none at all.

If you don’t know basic strategy or have a basic strategy card that you can refer to during the game, I wouldn’t recommend you play blackjack. Otherwise, the difference in house edge is too large. You might actually have better odds of winning at craps than if your strategy is basic.

Basic strategy is where you compare your total to the dealer’s face cards to decide your next move. It doesn’t matter how many cards you have in your hand. The same rules apply to a hard total 12 made up of a 9 or 3–a 2-card hand–as well as a hard total 12 made up of a 5, 4 and 3.

If you need to become more familiar with basic strategy, some strategies for playing individual sums may be difficult. If you have a total number of 12, and the dealer has 3, you might feel tempted to take a stand. You might lose, but 16 cards in the deck are worth 10 point. There is a 30.77% chance of you going bust.

Blackjack computers run millions of hands in order to determine the best way to play each hand. You don’t have to win every move just because one has a higher expected value than the other. Sometimes, you have to play the move that is least likely to lose you.

This is an example: A hard total of 16 against a dealer’s face-up 10. This is where you’ll lose more money than others. You want to make the best decision possible that will result in the lowest amount of money over the course of time.

Also Read: Ways Blackjack Players Can Use Math to Win

This is a basic strategy that works well for most blackjack games you’ll play.

You will have a lower house edge if you know the rules for the following hands.

Here are some ways to play hard totals.

  • Hard 8 or Less – Always hit this card.
  • Hard 9Double down for dealers who show a 3, 4, 5 or 6 Otherwise, hit.
  • Hard 10 – Double down if the dealer shows anything other than an ace or 10. Otherwise, hit.
  • Hard 11 Unless the dealer has an Ace, double your stake. Otherwise, hit.
  • Hard 12 Hit if the dealer holds a 2 or 3 If the dealer has a 5, 6, or 4, stand. Otherwise, hit.
  • Hard 13, 14, 15 or 16 Stand if the dealer holds a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 Otherwise, hit.
  • Hard 17 and higher– Always stand

Here are some ways to play soft totals.

  • Soft 13 and 14 – Double down if the dealer has 5 or 6. Otherwise, hit.
  • Soft 15 and 16 – Double down if dealer has a 4, 5, 6, or 6 Otherwise, hit.
  • Soft 17 Double down if the dealer holds a 3, 4, 5 or 6 Otherwise, hit.
  • Soft 18 Double down if dealer has a 3, 4, 5 or 6. If the dealer has a 2, 7, 8, or 9, stand. Otherwise, hit.
  • Soft 19 or higher — Always stand.

Here are some ways to play pairs.

  • AA – Always split aces.
  • 22 and 33 – Split, if the dealer has a 2 through 7 Otherwise, hit.
  • 44 Split if the dealer holds a 5 or 6 Otherwise, hit.
  • 55 – Double down for any dealer with a number other than a 10 or an Ace. Otherwise, hit.
  • 66– Split, if the dealer has a 2, 3, 4 or 5 or 6. Otherwise, hit.
  • 77 Split if the dealer holds a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7. Otherwise, hit.
  • 88 Always split 8s
  • 99 Split if dealer has a 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 9 Otherwise, stand.
  • – Always stand.

Many casinos allow you to split after splitting. However, if you are dealing with a single deck of cards, this is usually not permitted.

Remember to treat your split hands the same way you would any other hand. Ask the dealer if it’s okay to double down on splits or re-split.

How the rules vary by casino and sometimes even by table

Blackjack games are comparable to other casino table games. Some games are better than others and some are worse. It is important to know the difference between good and bad games.

Below are the most frequent variations of the rules and their effects on the player.

The number of decks currently in use

Blackjack’s odds of winning are influenced by the number of available decks. The casino has a greater advantage over the player if it uses more decks. You should only choose a single deck game. Common are two decks.

Eight decks are the most popular game, especially in Atlantic City.

Many casinos also have continuous shuffling machines. This speeds up the game and eliminates the chance of counting cards. Even if you don’t count cards, it is important to avoid games that increase the amount of bets per hour.

Doubling Down Rules Variations

You can double down on any 1 st2 cards. It is a good practice and something you should be looking for whenever possible. You should follow these basic strategies to determine when you can double down. This is especially important if you are counting cards.

You can only double down on a total number of 9, 10 or 11. This is not terrible but it could get worse. This rule was put in place by many casinos to stop card counters.

You can only double down on 10 and 11. This is the worst-case scenario for doubling down. Complain. Try other games. You can play both.

It’s not permitted to double down. Refuse play in blackjack games where you are not allowed to double down.

You can double down on up to 3 cards. However, many casinos limit you to only double down on your first and second 2 cards. It’s worth looking for a casino that offers this option. The rules may be too strict to allow this to be affordable.

Surrendering Rules

You can surrender your hand early. After looking at your 1 and 2 cards, you can give half of your bet back. Even if the dealer has an ace, you get half of your bet back.

Late surrenders are allowed. The same rules apply, except that if the dealer has an automatic, you cannot surrender.

Multiple Card Rules

If you have 6 cards, you automatically win. It’s an uncommon rule and is hard to find right now. However, it provides a small benefit for the players. This rule isn’t often enough to increase your expectations.

Get a bonus payout if you have a “5 card Charlie”, which is a hand that has 5 cards and totals 21. If the casino has this rule, it will often pay out at 2:1. It’s not as common as the automatic 6 card win and doesn’t increase your expectations.

A 777 will give you a bonus payout. This option is usually limited to an 8-deck game. You may also get a bonus payout if all sevens of the same suit are present. This rule means you shouldn’t change your basic strategy. If you are required to win, don’t place side bets.

This is equivalent to a straight flush in Blackjack. This rule pays at 2 to 1. If you are a 67 suited, don’t change your basic strategy.

Soft 17 and the Dealer

This is a huge deal, as I mentioned it briefly before. You prefer games in which the dealer must be present on any number greater than 17. Expectations will plummet if the dealer hits a soft 17.

Progressive Jackpots in Blackjack

Blackjack games that have progressive jackpots require you to place a side wager in order to be eligible for the jackpot. This is a problem because it is almost impossible to win. To win, you will need to have a suited hand of at least 3 cards, such as the 777 or all three diamonds.


Although your first game of Blackjack doesn’t need to be frightening, I recommend that you learn the rules for two reasons.

  1. You want to be able play without being silly or asking too many questions.
  2. You should be able to pick the best blackjack games over the worst.

Also, it’s worth spending the time to learn basic strategies before you start playing your first game. You can buy a basic strategy sheet if you don’t have one.

It is worth the effort to play a game with a house edge less than 1%.

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