Blackjack Rules

In casino games, as in life, rules matter. If you don’t play within the parameters of a game, you’ll never win a prize. Fortunately, in the interests of accessibility and enjoyment, the rules of blackjack, roulette, slots etc. are fairly simple. In fact, within a few minutes, you could be playing your favourite casino games and, potentially, winning some juicy prizes. However, the fact remains that you still have to learn how to walk before you can run.

In this guide, we’re going to take you through all the blackjack rules you need to know before you play. Starting with basic casino blackjack rules before addressing issues such as what an ace in blackjack means, this guide should help you walk the line like a pro. Of course, knowing the nuances of blackjack betting is just the start of your journey.

To give yourself the best shot of winning, you need to learn some strategy concepts. But, before you can even think about that, you need to understand the basics. So, without further ado, here are the blackjack card game rules you need to know.

Basic Blackjack Rules

What is the goal of the Blackjack game?

The goal in blackjack is to beat the dealer. To help understand blackjack card rules and what certain combinations mean, it’s important to provide an overview of the game. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, nothing else really matters.

Many newbies assume that you have to get a score of 21 to win. Although that’s the best total you can get, it’s not the only way to win. In reality, you win a round of blackjack by not going bust and having a better score than the dealer.

FACT: You don’t have to get a score of 21 to win a game of blackjack!

Can you play blackjack against the house?

Yes. In some instances – i.e. at home with friends – you won’t be playing against “the house” i.e. a casino/ dealer. However, in general, blackjack pits you against the casino. This doesn’t mean there can’t or won’t be other players at the table. In fact, when you play online blackjack with us, you can choose to play alone or with others. But, regardless of how many people are at the table, it’s always you vs. the dealer.

Can you play blackjack against other players?

The aim of blackjack is to get a better score than the dealer and not other players. Having said that, there can be other players at the table. Their moves may influence the action, but you're not playing against them.

In general, multiplayer tables can accommodate up to five or six players. However, thanks to modern features such as bet behind, the number of active participants could be a lot higher. Whichever option you choose, blackjack betting rules are quite clear: it’s you against the dealer.

Therefore, when you’re thinking about the rules of blackjack and potential strategies, you mainly need to focus on your actions. Yes, there may be times when it helps to consider what other players are doing. However, in general, blackjack comes down to the actions of two players.

How to score hands in blackjack

At the start of each round, you’ll be asked to place a bet. Depending on the blackjack rules in play, the size of your bet will have to fall within a certain range.

Once you’ve made a bet, you’ll receive two cards. From here, the same blackjack card rules apply to everyone else at the table, including the dealer. To put it another way, everyone in play receives two cards. The important point to note is that player cards are dealt face-up, while the dealer’s cards are mixed. In other words, blackjack dealer rules state that only one of the dealer’s cards is visible after the initial deal.

Depending on the variant you play, the status of the hidden card will change. For example, blackjack rules in the UK state that the hidden card must be on the table in a face-down position. In contrast, American casino blackjack rules will leave the second card in the deck until it’s the dealer’s turn to act. Whichever ruleset the house is using, the fact remains that you’ll only know the value of one dealer card.

Once the initial deal is complete, your job is to make the best score/total possible, with 21 being the goal. Anything over 21 is invalid and you’ll have gone bust. When the action starts, you can stand if you have a strong total e.g. if your first two cards equal 18. However, if you feel like you need to improve, there are various moves you can make. In practice, the drawing rules in blackjack are:

What is the “hit” rule in blackjack?

Hitting is the word used to describe the process of taking an extra card in blackjack. You always have the option to hit, regardless of how many cards you’re holding.

What is the “stand” rule in blackjack?

To stand in blackjack means that you don’t want to take any more cards, i.e. you’re standing pat. Anytime you’re happy with your score, you can stand.

What is the “doubling down” rule in blackjack?

Doubling down is where you pay an extra bet to receive one additional card only. The extra bet must be the size of your original stake. In general, doubling down is only allowed once per round and usually after the initial deal. Although it’s sometimes possible to double on any total, this move is typically reserved for times when your starting score is 11 or lower.

What is the “splitting” rule in blackjack?

If you’re dealt a pair in blackjack, you can split them into two separate hands. To split, you’ll need to pay an extra bet that’s equal to the size of your original wager. Once you’ve done that, the dealer will physically split the hand into two.

At this point, each hand is given a second card. When the two new hands are complete, you can hit, stand, double and re-split (if you have another pair) just as you would with two standard hands.

What is the “surrender” rule in blackjack?

Surrendering in blackjack is the process of ending a round before its natural conclusion and receiving some of your money back. In some blackjack rule variants, you have the option to give up or surrender your hand but in others you won't be able to.

The surrender option is usually available before the dealer has revealed their second card. Players can choose to surrender if their starting total is weak and the dealer appears strong. When you surrender, you’ll receive 50% of your stake back.

Blackjack Table Rules and Limits

Before we move on, it’s important to expand on a point we made earlier. In setting your bets, we noted that you’ll need to make a bet within certain parameters. Different blackjack tables will have different betting limits. In some games, you’ll be able to stake as little as 0.10 coins. In others, the minimum bet will be 100 coins.

The same applies to table rules. Depending on the variant, different rules will be in play. For example, blackjack European rules will be slightly different to blackjack rules for pick up 5. Because of that, you need to read through the specifics of each game before you play. Having said that, the general rules of blackjack will almost always apply in all instances.

Blackjack Card Rules

So far in this guide to blackjack’s rules, we’ve talked about the general process of winning and the moves you can make. We’ve also used the words “score” and “total” quite a lot. To win, you need to get a better score than the dealer. Naturally, you’ll only know if you’ve got a potentially winning hand if you understand the scoring system. Thankfully, international and UK blackjack rules are very clear on this.

Blackjack card values: numerical card values in blackjack

The face-value of a card is its value in blackjack. For example, if you’re dealt a 5 and a 10, your total is 5 + 10 = 15. This isn’t a particularly strong score, so you may decide to hit. At this point, you receive a 4. Using some simple maths, you now know that your total is 19 (5 + 10 + 4). This, in a nutshell, is how blackjack scoring rules work. However, there are some subtle twists.

What is the value of jacks, queens and kings in blackjack?

Casino blackjack rules state that all picture cards – i.e. jacks, queens and kings – have a value of ten. So, if you were dealt king + 8, your score would be 10 + 8 = 18.

The ace in blackjack: is an ace high or low in blackjack?

An ace can be worth one or 11 in blackjack. For this reason, it's regarded as the most powerful card in the game. The choice, in most situations, is yours. For example, if you were dealt ace + 7, you can choose to have a total of 8 (1 + 7) or 18 (11 + 7). But, in some cases, you won’t be able to choose i.e. if your hand was 10 + 2 + ace (a total of 13), the ace could only be worth one because 11 would take you over 21 (i.e. bust).

When you have a choice, hands containing an ace are known as “soft”. The reason they’re known as soft, as opposed to hard, is because it’s impossible to bust on the next card. So, if we go back to the first example (ace + 7), there’s no way you can get a score of 22 or more with a single card. If you choose to hit, you could draw a 3 and take your total to 21 (ace + 7 + 3 = 21). Alternatively, you could draw a 10 and your score would be 18 (ace + 7 + 10 = 18).

How much is the Joker worth in Blackjack?

In blackjack, the joker isn’t worth anything as it's not in play. Therefore, it won’t appear on the table and doesn’t have a value.

What’s the number of cards in blackjack?

The number of cards in play can vary between 52 and 416. Under some blackjack rules, there will be one standard 52-card deck in play. Other rulesets will specify more decks. In the same way, you need to note the specifics of any game you join, you also need to ascertain how many decks are being used. As a general guide, the best blackjack rules are those with the fewest number of decks. For most variants, there will be six decks (312 cards) or eight decks (416 cards) in play.

Does the colour of the cards matter in blackjack?

In short, no. Regardless of the game you’re playing, blackjack card rules don’t place more emphasis on certain card colours. 

Do card suits have rankings in blackjack?

In the same way colours don’t matter, suits also have no bearing on your score in blackjack. Although certain bonus blackjack rules place certain values on suits, that’s not the case in open play. Therefore, in learning simple blackjack rules, you don’t need to worry about the suit or colour of your cards when assessing the value of your hand.

Busting in Blackjack

What is busting in blackjack?

Busting in blackjack is hitting a score of 22+.

Any score over 21 is null and void. The rules of blackjack state quite clearly that the best score you can achieve is 21. Indeed, that’s why the game is often known 21. However, as we’ve already said, you don’t have to hit 21 in order to win. 

Any time you bust, you lose. Similarly, if the dealer busts, they lose. This is integral to the game. For example, if you decide to stand on a score of 15, you’d win the round if the dealer hit 23. This is where tactics and blackjack strategy comes into play.

When the dealer is in a weak position (i.e. holding a card that makes it likely they’ll go bust), you can afford to stand on lower scores. In contrast, when the dealer is strong, you may need to take more risks. In essence, you’re playing a game of cat and mouse where both you and the dealer are trying to improve your scores without going bust.

What are the odds of a dealer busting in blackjack?

The dealer will bust, on average, 28.6% of the time. Naturally, the actual chance of the dealer busting will vary depending on the value of their cards. For example, if the dealer has 10 + 6, there are quite a few cards that could take their total over 21. Therefore, as a player, it’s your job to assess how likely the dealer is to bust based on what you can see.

One other part of the equation you need to factor in is the dealer rules in blackjack. As per the standard guidelines, a dealer must draw on any total of 16 or lower. To put it another way, the dealer can only stand when they have a total of 17 or higher. Based on this, you know that a score of 16 is extremely dangerous for the dealer because the rules of blackjack force them to take another card. In this situation, their chances of busting are high. Therefore, when you’re plotting your next move, make sure you take into consideration all of these things.

What happens when you get blackjack in blackjack?

Anytime you win the round with blackjack, you’ll receive a 3:2 payout as opposed to 1:1 for standard wins. Why do you receive a better payout? Simple: because blackjack is the best hand you can make. Indeed, if busting is the worst thing that can happen in blackjack, hitting a score of 21 with two cards is the best.

To make blackjack, you need your first two cards to be an ace and a 10/picture card. If you do this, one of two things will happen:

  • You’ll beat any dealer total that isn’t blackjack.
  • You’ll tie with the dealer if they also have blackjack.

Even though blackjack equals 21, it trumps any other score of 21 made from three or more cards. For example, ace + 10 (blackjack) is better than 10 + 5 + 6. 

What happens if you never bust in blackjack?

If you never bust in blackjack, it’s a positive start but it doesn’t mean you’ll always win. By not busting, you give yourself a chance to win the round. What’s more, you put pressure on the dealer. But, even if you never bust in blackjack, you won’t always win simply because scores matter.

Insurance in Blackjack

You shouldn’t fear going bust in blackjack. At the end of the day, it’s a game of calculated risks. However, there are times when you have the option to mitigate certain risks. As we now know, the value of the dealer’s first card matters. If their face-up card gives them a better chance to make a high score, it’s described as strong. Although we can’t know the value of the next card to be dealt, we know that tens/picture cards are more numerous than any other single value.

Based on this, high-value face-up cards are more likely to make a strong score. Why? Because, based on probability, the next card is likely to be a ten. Of course, it may not be a ten. However, there is more chance it will be a ten/picture than any other value. Continuing this logic, it makes sense that an ace is the best card the dealer can hold. If the face-up card is an ace, there’s a stronger chance the dealer will make blackjack. In these situations, insurance can be helpful.

Insurance in Blackjack

Under the rules of blackjack, an ace for the dealer opens up the option of insurance. Because it’s such a powerful face-up card, the house will give you a form of protection. If you take blackjack insurance, you’ll receive some money back if the dealer hits blackjack. Naturally, there is a cost to this. If you want to protect yourself, you need to buy insurance at a price equal to 50% of your original bet e.g. if you stake 10 coins, insurance will cost 5 coins.

Assuming you take this option and the dealer hits blackjack, you’ll receive a 2:1 return on your insurance bet. So, if you pay 5 coins for insurance and the dealer has blackjack, you’ll get 15 coins back (ten-coin profit + five-coin stake back). This 2:1 payout allows you to break even overall. By staking ten coins to play and five coins for insurance, your total outlay will be 15 coins. Therefore, with a 15-coin return on winning insurance bets, you’ll break even overall.

What is insurance in blackjack?

Insurance is basically a way of protecting yourself against the dealer having blackjack but it doesn’t mean you should take it. Although blackjack rules make this available when the dealer has an ace showing, it’s known as a negative expectation move. Yes, on a single hand, it can allow you to break even when the dealer is strong. However, in the long run, it’s a losing play because you’ll spend more than you get back.

When should a player take insurance in blackjack?

The honest answer is that it's not recommended to take insurance in blackjack. Looking at the maths, the return on investment (ROI) for blackjack insurance is negative. Without diving too far into the specifics, in a 52-card game with two players, there are 49 unseen cards after the initial deal. Of those unseen cards, 15 are worth ten.

If you don’t take insurance (basically an even-money bet because you’ll either make money or lose it), you’ll win 49 units. In contrast, if you pay 50% extra for insurance, you’ll lose 1.5 units 34 times (when the dealer doesn’t hit a 10/picture card).

Based on these numbers, 1.5 units X 34 = 51 units lost. In contrast, if you don’t take insurance you’ll win 49 units. The difference between these totals is 2. When you compare these two results you get  2 / 51 = 0.039 X 100 = 3.9%. Therefore, you will lose 3.9% or 0.39 coins for every one coin you stake when you take insurance.

Because of the negative expectation of taking insurance, you shouldn't take this option. Of course, you can make any moves you like. So, if you "feel" as though the dealer might have blackjack, you're free to take insurance if you wish. But, again, just know that, in the long run, it's a losing play.

Blackjack Insurance Rules

To recap, the rules of blackjack insurance are:

  • The dealer must be showing an ace as their face-up card.
  • You can have a hand of any value.
  • The dealer will offer you insurance at a cost equal to 50% of your opening bet.
  • If you take insurance, you can still lose the hand.
  • If the dealer makes blackjack, you will receive a 2:1 payout on your insurance bet.

Blackjack Dealer Rules

Blackjack dealer rules are interesting. The question that some newbies often ask is can dealers make their own decisions in blackjack? In short, no. However, there are certain moves they have to make. The most important, regardless of whether it’s American, European or English blackjack rules, is that the dealer has to make a minimum score. Outside of that, the dealer isn’t allowed to split pairs, double down or take insurance in the same way you can.

Do dealers have to hit on 16?

Yes. The minimum score we referred to is 17. All blackjack 21 rules state that the dealer must draw on any total of 16 or under. If we come at this the opposite side, we can say that the dealer must make a total of at least 17.

Can blackjack dealers hit after 17?

No. If the dealer has to make a minimum score of 17, then logic dictates that they must stand on any score that equals or exceeds that. So, in practice, the dealer can’t hit once they have a total of 17+. This blackjack dealer rule sits in stark contrast to your options as a player. Even though it might not be advisable to hit if your total is 17+, you have the right to do it.

The dealer, on the other hand, doesn’t. This is something that actually works in your favour. Because you have more freedom than the dealer in certain situations, it allows you to make more decisions and, potentially, get an edge.

What happens if a dealer gets a blackjack?

If the dealer gets blackjack, they beat everyone else that doesn’t have blackjack. Under general blackjack rules, the hand is a tie if a player/s and the dealer both have blackjack. The only time a player won’t lose is if the player has insurance.

Do online casinos have dealers?

Yes and no. Virtual online blackjack games, i.e. computer simulations, don’t have a physical dealer. Instead, they’re powered by something known as random number generators (RNGs). An RNG is a computer program that uses complex algorithms to produce random results. Every licenced online casino and game supplier has to have their RNG software tested by a third-party agency. Once the software is deemed to be functioning fairly, it’s certified. Therefore, even though you can’t see “a dealer”, all online blackjack variants have one, just in a different form.

Of course, there are also live dealer casino tables online. These games do have dealers. Because you’re able to see the action playing out in real-time, the dealers do exactly what you’d expect. From shuffling and dealing to counting out totals, the dealers will ensure you have a true live experience via your desktop or mobile. Naturally, these dealers follow the rules of blackjack, as do RNGs in virtual games. Therefore, you don’t need to adjust your play based on the type of table you’re sitting at.

Rule Variations in Blackjack

Before we conclude this guide to blackjack rules, it’s important to point out that not all games are the same. In the interests of diversity and entertainment, game developers have introduced unique twists over the years. Naturally, with each innovation, a new set of guidelines emerge. Now, in almost all situations, the basic rules of blackjack will always apply.

However, there will be times when certain conditions are either different or not present. What’s more, you might try a certain type of blackjack where new rules have been added to the mix. Because of this, you should always learn about the nuances of a game before you play.

What are blackjack rule variations?

In simple terms, blackjack rule variations are points at which certain conditions differ from the norm. For example, according to UK blackjack rules, the dealer goes bust with a score of 22. However, if you play Blackjack Switch, the dealer can win with a score of 22. These subtle differences are known as blackjack rule variations and they present themselves in games that break from the norm.

What is the “house edge” in blackjack?

House edge is simply a way of quantifying how much of an advantage the casino/dealer has in a given situation. Before you play, it's just as important to understand that the house always has an advantage as it is that blackjack rules can vary from game-to-game. This edge is always measured numerically. However, it’s the specific set of rules used that determine how much of an advantage the casino has.

Everything from the number of decks in play to rules regarding splits, totals and payouts will go into determining the house edge. For example, in certain games, the dealer must hit soft 17 (a hand containing an ace). If we assume there are eight decks in play and other standard blackjack rules apply, the house edge is 0.43%. However, if the dealer has to hit on soft 17, the house edge changes to 0.64% (i.e. less advantage for the casino).

How does the number of decks affect the house advantage?

The number of decks in play can increase or decrease the house edge. Mathematically, the fewer decks in play, the lower the house edge is. In general, most blackjack tables use six or eight decks. So, with the basic rules of blackjack in play, an eight-deck game has a house edge of 0.43%.

Reduce the number of decks to six and the edge decreases to 0.40%. Have just one deck in play and the game is basically an even-money proposition, which means it doesn’t favour you or the house. So, in short, the more decks there are, the bigger the casino’s advantage will be.

Blackjack Games Rules: Different Options for Different Variants

We’ve said that certain games have different rules and that you should do your research before you play. However, to give you a head start, here’s an overview of the most popular types of blackjack here at Paddy Power Games.

Premium Blackjack Rules

Premium Blackjack follows the general rules of blackjack. As well as all the usual moves, such as splitting, doubling and insurance, you can win prizes worth up to 100:1 through side bets such as 21+1. Additionally, if you can draw ten cards and avoid going bust, this is known as a Ten-Card Charlie. If you can make this hand, you’ll beat all other totals except dealer blackjack.

Premium Blackjack Single Hand

Like its multihand equivalent, Premium Blackjack Single Hand offers a standard ruleset. The main attraction here is that you’re playing alone and, therefore, dictate the pace of play.

All Bets Blackjack

If you like a little bit of everything, All Bets Blackjack is for you. This game combines all the blackjack rule variations and bonus options, meaning you’ve got a huge amount of choice.

Cashback Blackjack

Standard blackjack rules apply in this variant. The only feature you won’t be able to take advantage of is surrendering (i.e. giving up your hand after the initial deal). What makes Cashback Blackjack appealing is that you can end a hand early. After the initial deal, the software will offer you a cash amount to fold before the dealer takes their second card.

Blackjack Switch

The defining feature of Blackjack Switch is that you have the ability to switch cards. At the start of a round, you’re dealt two separate hands. Before the dealer makes their move, you can switch the top cards in an effort to improve your chances of winning. From there, all standard moves are available. Under the rules of Blackjack Switch, blackjack pays even money (instead of 3:2) and the dealer can win with a score of 22.

Lucky Lucky Blackjack

You don’t have to be double lucky to play this blackjack variant. To enjoy Lucky Lucky blackjack, you need to know the basic rules of blackjack. Beyond that, this game’s unique feature is that you can make side bets. When you make a side bet, you’re speculating on the value of your two cards and the dealer’s up card. Whether it’s a certain total (such as 21) or three suited sevens, you can win upwards of 500:1 on your bet under certain rules.

Buster Blackjack

Buster Blackjack features a side bet that allows you to win payouts worth up to 2,000:1. When you make a side bet, you’re speculating on how many cards it will take for the dealer to bust. For example, if the dealer draws eight cards and busts, you’ll win 2,000:1. Aside from this feature, standard blackjack rules apply, apart from the fact the dealer has to hit on soft 17.

Perfect Blackjack

Perfect Blackjack is all about making side bets and pairs. Now, if you play without making any side bets, general blackjack rules apply. However, if you place an ante and side bet, you can win extra chips. In practice, you can bet on the player hand or the dealer hand. If you do that and your nominated hand makes a pair, you can win up to 25:1 on your money.

Blackjack UK

What are blackjack UK rules? Well, in reality, English blackjack rules are the same as those on offer in Europe, the US and beyond. If you play blackjack in the UK, the aim is to get a total as close to 21 as possible or, of course, exactly 21. Beyond that, there will typically be one, six or eight decks in play and the dealer will have to draw to 17. Finally, all standard betting options are available and blackjack pays 3:2.

Blackjack surrender

In certain blackjack variants, you can fold before a round’s natural conclusion. Blackjack Surender is one of these variants. If you don’t like your starting cards, you can surrender and lose half of your stake. Other than this condition, standard blackjack rules apply, such as 3:2 payouts, insurance, splitting and the dealer always standing on 17.

Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven Blackjack

This is a standard variant with the added benefit of a side bet known as Magi Sevens. As you play Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven Blackjack, trophies are thrown into the mix. If you collect three or more trophies in a row, you’ll win extra prizes worth up to 7,777:1.  

Live Blackjack

The beauty of playing live blackjack online is that there are various rulesets. For example, certain games allow a set number of players to play. Others, such as Unlimited Blackjack, make it possible for multiple players to bet on a single hand. Beyond that, you’ll also find bonus games such as Quantum where certain payouts are enhanced by random multipliers. Basically, if you want to try a variety of blackjack rulesets, the live dealer lobby here at Paddy Power Games is perfect.

Play Blackjack Online Today

So, there you have it, that’s the rules of blackjack. Although we’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, it’s important to remember that the basics apply in almost all situations. If you can grasp the fundamentals, you should be able to turn your hand to any type of blackjack. Whether it’s games with UK blackjack rules or exotic variants such as Blackjack Switch, the basics will give you a solid base to work from.

Find out more ways about how to win at blackjack in our dedicated article. If you are a beginner, learn how to play online blackjack.

To enjoy the best online blackjack variants via your desktop or mobile, use our sign-up link and create your first account at Paddy Power Games today!