How to Play Blackjack and Walk Out a Winner

There’s a reason that Blackjack (or “21”) is the world’s most popular casino table game.  And it’s not because it pays that much more money.  It’s popular because it’s simple.  Even the beginning card player, who would be overwhelmed by the rules of poker, can understand Blackjack’s basic concept:  Keep taking cards until you get as close to 21 as possible, without going over.  Let’s take a look at exactly how to play blackjack—even better yet, how to be a blackjack pro and win at it.

Before learning how to play like blackjack pro, you need to learn the lingo. Here are the basic terms you’ll hear the most. To learn more terms, you can visit our gambling dictionary and search the term you’re looking for.

Blackjack Table & Terms

HIT:  Simply means to take another card after the first two have been dealt.  A player who feels he is not yet close enough to 21, and wants another card, says “Hit me.”

STAND:  This means that the player does not want any more cards.  That is, he either has 21, or he feels that another card would put him over.

BUST:  This means that the player’s or dealer’s cards total more than 21, which is an automatic loss.

DOUBLE / DOUBLE DOWN:  Both terms mean the same thing.  A player doubles down after the first two cards have been dealt, but only if he thinks he has an excellent chance of winning the hand on the next, third card.  If he predicted correctly, he wins double the bet.

SPLIT:  In some games, a player might receive two cards with an identical value, and he can then split these cards into two separate hands.  However, to split, first the player must submit a second bet identical to the first one before he receives his next card.

SURRENDER:  This option is given to players in some Blackjack casinos, allowing them to give up half their bet, as well as their cards, if they feel their card is not likely to win against the dealer’s hand.

It can be played with as many as eight decks of cards.  The more decks, the better the odds for the House; the fewer the decks, the better the odds for the player.  In most casinos, the table limit starts with a minimum $5.  The maximum could range anywhere from $100 to as much as $50,000, depending on casino and the table.  Most tables will seat up to six card players.  Play begins to the dealer’s right and moves to his left.

Play begins when the players push in their bets.  The dealer deals all player cards faced-up, while the dealer’s first card is faced down.  After player cards are dealt and the dealer has been dealt, face down, each player must make a choice. 

He can ask for another card (or a “Hit”) or he can “Stand,” meaning he wants no more cards.  His decision is based on whether he thinks he is closer to 21 than the dealer is, and whether he thinks another card would cause him to go over 21, or “bust.” 

A third decision he could make, after receiving two cards, is to “double down.”  This means he is predicting that his third card will create a hand that will beat the dealer (and if so, he wins double the bet amount). 

The player will keep getting additional cards as long as he requests a “hit,” and until he announces that he will stand on what he has.  When all players stand, the dealer reveals his hand. 

Anyone perhaps closer to 21 than the dealer wins his bet.  Anyone further away than 21 than the dealer, or who goes over 21, loses his bet.

Ace & King equals Blackjack (21)

So what is the strategy for knowing when to stand and when to request a hit?  Most players will stand on a card total of 17 to 21.  Most will ask for a hit for an 11 to 15.  Sometimes though, a daring player, if he sees that the dealer’s revealed card is an Ace or a face card or 10, will request a hit—knowing that the dealer’s odds of winning are slightly better than if he has a 2 through 9 showing.

Now that you know, how to play blackjack like a pro, let us show you when is the best time to “Double Down” or when to “Split Pairs.”

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When to Double Down in Blackjack

The most common options in the game of blackjack are the traditional hit and stand moves. There are also other moves players are allowed to use while playing at the table, and doubling their bet is one of them. In this article, there are some tips you can utilize while playing online blackjack and using the double button.

First, players should understand what the double option does. The player can double their initial bet after being dealt the first two cards. If the player chooses to double, the player must take an additional card, which can lead to a bust if the player is not careful.

Statistics show that 30% of drawn cards during blackjack will hold a value of 10, which is quite a risk to take in itself, let alone doubling the entire bet. More decks used during the game will affect this percentage, but the risk is still high nonetheless.

Tips When Doubling Down in Blackjack

Players should always double on a hand of 11 , as there will be a very good chance of getting Blackjack or a hand closer to 21.

If the player is a position where they have a 10 value in their first tow cards, it’s another good time to use the double option, unless the dealer shows an ace as a face card.

A value of 9 in the players hand has a reduced chance of winning, therefore, players should use good judgment and caution when using the double feature, and should really only double if the dealer shows a card between two and six – .

If the players hand has a value of 8 , they should only double if the dealer’s cards show a five or six , and a player should not double with a hand of 7 because the best possible outcome for that hand is 18; which is easily beaten by the dealer in many occasions.

Can the Double Down Option be used on Soft Hands?

Soft hands can be doubled as well. If the player hold a hand of soft 13 through 19 , they could benefit from the double down option.

A soft hand is a hand that includes an ace , as the ace holds a value of 1 or 11, depending on what the player prefers. So when doubling a soft hand, players can change their value of the ace card depending on the extra card drawn.

This strategy depends also on the probability of the dealer busting out. If the player holds between a thirteen and a sixteen in card value, they should only double if the dealer shows a four, five or six.

For a soft 17 7d:, players should double if the dealers showing card is between three and six, and for a value of 19, the player should only double if the dealer is showing a six.

When knowing how to play blackjack, Hit and Stand are the traditional moves while playing in a table, however there are also other moves players are allowed to use and doubling their bet is one of them.

When to Split in Blackjack

While playing like a blackjack pro, players are often given two of the same card values. Two Aces, for example, they are then at a point where they are able to split those cards into two separate hands, which each will be played individually.

Advanced players know exactly when they should split, and when they shouldn’t, however; newer players may not know the ins and outs of using this feature. This online gambling review will help those players by giving them tips to use at the table.

First thing’s first. Just because the option to split the hand is there, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is advisable. There are times when a player should never utilize the split option, and there are times when the split all depends on the dealers showing card.

A scenario when the player should never split is when they are dealt a pair of cards that hold a 10 value each. A hand value of 20 is the closest to 21 a player could get, so why ruin the chances of most likely winning a hand, and players should stand and let the hand play out as is. The player’s chances of splitting the two 10 cards and getting one, let alone two, blackjacks aren’t worth the risk.

Never split a hand that consists of two five cards . The two fives equal ten and statistics show that the players’ next card will most likely be a value of 10, which will lead them to a value of 20; so the same logic applies here as before.

If the player chooses to split the fives, it’s most likely to be a low value hand, as the highest possible value of the hand would only be 16. This rule also applies to lower value pairs, as it would not be likely to have a favorable outcome for the player if they split low value cards.

A player will come across hands where it is always beneficial or worth the risk to split. This happens when the player is dealt two aces. Players that hold a pair of aces is sitting on either a 2 or 12 value, and if hit there are more chances of busting than not.

So it’s wise to split the pair and take the chances at two hands. There is a likely chance of a blackjack happening with this pair more than any other pair in the deck. It is also advisable to split a pair of eight or nine for the same reason.

Pairs of , , and cards are split according to the dealer’s showing card. If the dealer holds an , , or ; the player should not split. This is because the dealer has the upper hand in this situation and the player should not risk an additional wager at this point.

If the dealer’s card is 7 or less, a split may be beneficial because the likelihood of the dealer’s cards being of low value is high.

10 Tips to Make you a Blackjack Pro

So you know the basic strategies on how to play blackjack. You know when to “Double” and when to “Split”.  But here are some tips and tricks that go a little bit further. Master these and you’ll improve your chances of winning and becoming a blackjack pro.

  • First, find a good Blackjack Strategy Chart and memorize it. This will take the guesswork out of when you should Stand, when to Hit, and when to Double.
  • When you’re a beginning player, it’s important to make a decision about a bankroll.  Then stick to it.  You should then only go to tables with the right stakes that won’t result in you wasting your bankroll on stakes which are too high for your bankroll.
  • Never exceed 5 percent of your bankroll at any one Blackjack game.  If you do, you might run get onto a losing steak and then not have a sufficient number of chips to make up your losses. It’s a sign of a beginner (and amateur) when he plays for an absurdly high percentage of his bankroll—and then wonders why he loses so fast.
  • Don’t bet money that you can’t afford to lose. This holds true for almost every casino game, because chances are, you will lose.  Such is the nature of gambling.  If most people won at most games, the casinos would shut down pretty quickly.
  • If you’re visiting a physical casino, use proper etiquette. This means you should not be rude to the dealer, no matter the results. And don’t dawdle all day while trying to decide what to bet or whether to Stand or Hit.
  • Be sure to change your bet during the course of a single session in order to match how you’ve been doing. It’s common to go through streaks when playing Blackjack. If you’re losing, lower the wager.  If you’re winning, raise it.
  • Regardless of whether you’re winning or losing, it’s important to know when to walk away. Some people, if they’re winning, pushing their luck too far and lose what could have been a healthy win.  Others, having gone in the hole, want to go “just one more time” to recover their loss. Don’t do it.  Take it like a man and just walk.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be distracted over overwhelmed by the flashing lights and loud sounds going on inside the casino.  Part of the purpose of this assault on your senses is to get you enthralled in how great gambling is—and also to confuse you. Before you play your first Blackjack hand, walk around for a while until you get acclimated to the sights and sounds. Only when you’re ready to concentrate should you sit down at a table.
  • Try to find a table where players are winning. You can do this by looking at their bets and chip stacks. If the players have nice sized stacks, then this could be a hot table.

Nothing’s a sure thing, especially in gambling.  You could follow these rules and still lose.  But faithfully following all of them will definitely increase your odds of doing well.

4 Popular Blackjack Variations

We might think of Blackjack as a single game, but in reality, there are numerous blackjack variations, each with slightly different +rules and strategies.  Here’s a look at the four most popular variants that a Blackjack pro would enjoy playing.

Vegas Strip Blackjack

VEGAS STRIP BLACKJACK is nearly as popular as the traditional game.  Its name comes from the fact that it originated on Las Vegas Boulevard (or the Las Vegas Strip)–and is still played at numerous casinos in that area.

In Vegas Strip Blackjack rules, the dealer stands on 17.  Also, if a person splits Aces and then his next card is a 10, this is a 21 total, but not a Blackjack.  Plus, the player may not re-split Aces.  After a player splits Aces, he only gets a single card per hand.  The player is allowed to re-split a maximum of three times in order to create four hands.  All cards with a 10 value can be split.

In Vegas Strip, Double Down rules go as follows:  On the first two cards, doubling is allowed. It’s allowed only for the full amount and equals the opening bet.  Doubling is never allowed following splitting, with the exception that it is allowed after splitting Aces.

Blackjack Perfect Pairs

BLACKJACK PERFECT PAIRS is mostly the same as traditional Blackjack.  It varies in that a side bet can possibly win a jackpot.  This side bet has the potential of winning a thirty to one payout in a single hand.

Game play proceeds as normal and place their side bet on a perfect pair. This bet can be as high as $25.  A perfect pair is achieved when the first two cards dealt are a pair.  A player only wins this side bet, however, if he also wins his hand against the dealer.

Progressive Blackjack

PROGRESSIVE BLACKJACK is a game that is rapidly spreading to casinos around the world.  As with Perfect Pairs, it only varies subtly from standard Blackjack. 

The subtle difference:  There’s a spot at the table for an extra one dollar bet.  This bet allows the player the possibility of winning a special jackpot.  The bet is placed just before the dealer distributes the cards for the hand.  Each player can play up to five hands at a time, with split hands counted as one hand.

Cards are dealt the normal way as with standard Blackjack, with the object of getting closer to 21 than the dealer still the main goal.  However, if a player decides to split aces, he then gets only two cards—an extra one per hand.  He then stands automatically.  If the second card he receives is a 10 value, this is considered a 21 Total, but not Blackjack.  Normally, re-splitting isn’t allowed.

Doubling rules are also slightly different:  Players can only Double if their hands total nine, ten or 11. They’re never allowed ti double after they split.

Pontoon

PONTOON: The player’s goal in Pontoon is once again to have a higher total in his hand, but without going over 21.  In Pontoon, though, eight decks are used, each with 52 cards.  The main difference: Whereas in standard Blackjack, the dealer’s first card is dealt down, but the second is dealt face up, in Pontoon, both dealer cards are dealt face down.

Also, rather than the standard actions of hitting, standing and doubling, in Pontoon, players twist, stick and buy. 

“Twisting” is the same thing as “hitting”–taking another card.  “Sticking” is the same as “standing”–asking for no more cards.  “Buying,” however, is slightly different from doubling down.  A player may buy on any hand of two, three or four cards.  A player may twist after buying.  And finally, Pontoon allows the player to split all cards with a ten value—even a Jack and King, for instance.  An Ace / ten-value combination is considered a Pontoon (rather than Blackjack) and automatically pays 2 to 1.

These four blackjack variations, together with standard Blackjack, constitute the five most-played versions of the game. Surely within these five blackjack variations, there must be one that fits you. But the way to know for sure is to give them all a try!

Ready to play like a blackjack pro?  Now that you know how to play blackjack, how about trying your luck—and skill—on an online casino where you can play for real money. Then when you think you’re good enough, try the real thing.

Ante up!