Blackjack Rules – How to Play Blackjack Online
Last Updated: August 11, 2023
Blackjack is probably the most widespread card game you play at nearly every live and online casino.
Blackjack combines elements of pure gambling with the skill to create one of the most exciting games in the casino setting.
If you are completely new to blackjack or have never quite learned the blackjack rules in full, I will teach you how to play the game every step of the way. I will start with the most basic rules of blackjack and explain the gameplay process, from sitting down at the table to walking away with your chips in hand.
The Rules of Blackjack – Getting to 21
The basic goal of the blackjack card game is quite simple – accumulate cards totaling 21 points or as close to 21 as possible without going it.
This goal could hardly be any simpler, and watching people play blackjack, you could easily mistake it for a super easy game that doesn't require any strategy or planning. You simply take more cards if you have a low count and try to reach 21.
However, this could hardly be further from the truth. The rules of blackjack involve many different plays that you can make on your quest toward 21, and each of those rules can be applied to help you win more money in the long run.
The first thing you need to understand to know how to get to 21 is what each card is worth and how cards are counted in the game.
Card Values in Blackjack
Card value is one of the most constant blackjack rules, regardless of the version or the online casinos you are playing at.
In basically every blackjack game in the world, there are three different card categories:
- Number Cards: Worth the Number of Pips on Them
- Face Cards: Worth 10 Points
- Aces: Worth 1 or 11 Points
The number cards are easiest to value as they are worth exactly what the number on them says. A three is worth 3 points, a seven is worth 7 points, etc.
Face cards, which include Jacks, Queens, and Kings, are each worth 10 points, the same as all tens in the deck.
Finally, we have the aces, which are worth either 1 or 11 points. You will pick which number is more beneficial for you based on the other cards and will use that one.
All of this makes aces the most valuable cards in the game, as they easily help us get to 21 and allow you to draw multiple cards without busting your hand.
Understanding the card values is your first step towards playing good online blackjack, but not the only thing you need to know. Now, let’s talk about the different plays you can make and what each of them means.
Blackjack Dealer Rules
Your goal is clear, and we will cover the different options you have at the table in the next section, but what about the Blackjack dealer rules? How does he decide if he will take another card or not?
Luckily, the dealer rules are set in stone and very clear in advance so his play doesn’t change based on what you are holding or doing at the table. His goal is also to reach 21 or get as close to it as possible, but he has two mandatory rules that he MUST follow no matter what:
- If he has 16 points or less, he must hit and take another card
- If he has 17 points or more, he MUST stand and is not allowed to take more card
Even if he sees you have 18, he can’t take an additional card if he holds 17, so you will be declared the winner. This is done to minimize the house edge of the dealer. Otherwise, it would be quite an unfair game with a huge casino advantage since the dealer always acts last and sees what everyone else has.
Blackjack Rules for Beginners: Each Play Explained
If you want to know how to play blackjack, you need to understand each of the plays available to you in every situation.
There are several different options that you can make whenever the action is on you, and these are:
- Stand: End your turn without taking any more cards
- Hit: Take one more card
- Double Down: Double your bet and take one more card
- Split: Split your pair and play two separate hands
- Surrender: End the hand and get half of your bet back
- Insurance: Insure your hand against a possible dealer blackjack
Stand is the simplest play in blackjack that you will use very frequently. Standing means, in very simple terms, not taking any more cards and passing the action to the next player or the dealer.
You will want to stand anytime you have a strong hand, like 18, 19, or 20, and anytime the dealer's upcard looks like it might be favorable for you.
You can learn more about the times when you should stand with weaker hands in our guide for optimal blackjack strategy.
The play you will use most frequently at the blackjack tables is hit, which means that you want the dealer to give you another card.
Anytime you have less than 12, you will want to hit, as there is nothing to lose. If you have 10 or 11 points, hitting will often make your hand very strong.
Keep in mind that you never want to hit if you already have a strong hand, as trying to make 21 is not worth busting your hand.
⭐ Double Down
In practically every version of blackjack rules, you are allowed to double down on your hand once your first two cards have been dealt.
In order to double down, you will have to double your bet by placing an equal amount of chips to your initial bet next to it.
Once your bet is doubled, the dealer will deal one card to your hand, after which you will have no further action.
Doubling down on strong holdings like 11 gives you a great chance of winning double the money when your hand turns into 21 or 20 or the dealer simply busts.
Splitting is another interesting blackjack rule that many players are not familiar with. Anytime you are dealt a pair of the same cards (such as two aces, two sevens, etc.), you can split that pair.
Once the pair is split, you will play two separate hands and have to place an additional bet for the extra hand.
In some versions of the game, you are allowed to re-split your pairs further if you end up getting additional pairs after the initial split.
Splitting is a play that works best with aces and face cards, as it gives you two chances to make hands worth 21 points, each nearly guaranteeing you a profit.
Many versions of blackjack allow you to surrender after seeing your two cards and the dealer’s upcard.
When the situation is extremely unfavorable for you, you can surrender and get half of your bet back without proceeding with the hand. There are several situations in blackjack when surrendering your hand is better than playing it in any other way.
The final option you may be offered in blackjack is insurance, which becomes available anytime the dealer’s upcard is an ace.
When this is the case, the dealer may have 21 already, which will mean you lose the hand immediately. If you want to, you can insure against this by placing another bet.
However, this is the least favorable of all the betting options in blackjack and one that is never recommended in blackjack strategy. I recommend you ignore it and never take that option since it is mathematically bad play.
How To Play Blackjack: Step-by-Step Guide
Now that I have gone over the basic rules of blackjack and the plays you get to make, we should talk about how a hand of online blackjack actually looks.
The first time you sit down to play blackjack in an online casino, you may be slightly intimidated by it all, so I will go through all the steps you will encounter and explain what each represents.
- Take Your Seat: Select an online blackjack game in the lobby to get seated at the table. Once there, you can observe the action in live blackjack games, while virtual versions will let you browse the rules, payouts, and other details before playing.
- Place Your Bets: Select a chip value and place your bets at one or multiple boxes at the table. In live blackjack games, you will have a timer, while virtual games will require you to press the deal to get the hand started.
- Your First Two Cards: The dealer will now deal two cards to each box at the table and two cards to himself. You will be able to see the dealer's upcard, which is critical for your decision-making.
- Make Your Play: Now is the time to make your first play. Stand, hit, split, double down, or surrender your hand. Make sure to check out our strategy guide to know which one you should do with what cards.
- Dealer’s Turn: Once you have completed all your play, the dealer will get a turn to play as well. The dealer will deal his cards in accordance with preset rules that he can’t stray from.
- Take Your Winnings: Once the dealer has acted on his hand, all players whose hands beat his will be paid out at 1:1, while those who tie will get their bets back. All blackjacks are paid immediately when they are made.
The gameplay of blackjack is not complicated when you know the basic rules, so all you have to do is practice a bit, and you will get the game's feel.
Learning Blackjack Basics: What to Be Careful Of
There are two ways to lose at blackjack. The first one is by having a hand that’s weaker than the dealer’s, and the second is by busting your hand.
You bust a hand if your total goes past 21, which can happen anytime you hit when you already have 12 or more in your hand.
If you pick up a card that makes your total go over 21, your hand will be proclaimed busted, and you will no longer have any options with it. You will lose that hand and your bet.
Taking care that you do not bust your hand when unnecessary is a big part of the optimal blackjack strategy and one that you will need to learn carefully if you want to be a good blackjack player.
Soft vs. Hard Blackjack Hands
Another one of the rules of blackjack that some players don’t fully understand relates to soft and hard hands.
A hard hand is any hand that does not contain an ace. For instance, if you have a 7 and an 8 in your hand, your total will be 15. However, if you draw a card bigger than six, your hand will immediately be busted.
On the other hand, hands that do have an ace in them are called soft hands. Soft blackjack hands have an extra perk of the ace being counted as either 1 or 11, to the benefit of the player.
Imagine a scenario where you have an ace and a 4 to start the hand. You now have 5 or 15. If you draw a 6, your total will be 21 since you will count the ace as 11 points (4 + 11 + 6 =21).
Yet, if you draw an 8, your hand will not be busted but will instead count as 13 (4 + 1 + 8), giving you a chance to win or draw an additional card if you choose to.
This makes soft hands incredibly powerful in blackjack as they give you more options and more chances to win, making them superior in every way.
Learn the Rules of the Game
You now know the basic rules of blackjack, but the fact is that there are many different versions of the game out there, and each version comes with slightly different rules.
When you first pick a game from an online casino lobby, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the rules of that particular game you are playing.
For instance, some blackjack games will allow you to split pairs more than once, some will allow you to surrender, and some will even let you switch cards between two hands (Blackjack Switch).
Knowing exactly which version of blackjack you are playing is key to success, as playing by the rules that don’t apply at the table will not give you optimal results.
Play Your First Hand of Blackjack Online
Now that you know the right blackjack rules for your game, it's time to play your first-ever blackjack hand. Note that online casinos will let you play blackjack without any risk in the demo version, so use this to your advantage and practice with free money before you play for real cash. You can even do that at Sweepstakes casinos.
Once you have picked an online casino you want to play at, explore their selection of blackjack tables, and ease into things, there is no reason to rush.
Keep in mind that many online casinos will give you a sign-up bonus the first time you put real cash into your account, which will double your deposit and let you play even more hands than you normally could.
Get started with online blackjack today and enjoy playing the game from the comfort of your home, knowing all the rules and the optimal strategy for beating the house.