There are many blackjack rules ranging from the general to the obscure, but online blackjack’s backbone is the “rule of 21.” That is, if the point value of your cards added together is closest to 21 without going over you win. Of course, saying this is all well and good, but it won’t help you win a single blackjack game unless you know how to tally the value of your cards and apply that skill to an effective blackjack strategy. That's why knowing and mastering all of the blackjack rules comes well before worrying about a strategy.
We'll start with the foundation of the game: the blackjack rules for tallying your hand. Simply put, the blackjack rules dictate that each card from 2 through 10 is worth its numerical value, while face cards (i.e. jacks, queens and kings) are each worth 10 points and aces can be worth either 11 points or one point, depending on which is best for your hand. The blackjack rules dictate that--to prevent a bust--the ace must be used as a one if the player already has a hand worth 11 or more. By the rules of blackjack, a bust is an automatic loss that occurs when a player’s or dealer’s point value exceeds 21.
Blackjack rules don't dictate any special playing setup. You can play blackjack on any flat surface, but most casinos use specially made, felt-covered tables, which can accommodate the dealer and up to seven players at a time. When you play online blackjack, the virtual environment may allow for more players, but the appearance of the table is generally the same. During a blackjack game, players always compete against the dealer and never against each other. If there are empty seats at the table, a player may choose to play multiple hands, each against the dealer. Per the blackjack rules, every hand is dealt in the same way. Your opening hand is made up of two cards; depending on each casino's rules these cards may be face-up or face-down. The dealer always deals himself last and is always the last to act; only one of his first two cards is ever dealt face-up. These core rules of blackjack remain the same both live and online.
The Player’s Turn
The blackjack rules offer players any number of actions during a single turn. The most common of these are “hitting” and “standing.” To “hit” is to ask the dealer for another card. When you play blackjack with a hand of 12 or more, hitting carries the risk of “busting,” or going over 21. Alternately, to “stand” is to tell the dealer you don’t want any more cards and want to pass the turn to the next player. It’s usually best to stand if you believe the cards you already have can beat the dealer’s, or if you believe another card would cause you to bust. If you want to play blackjack well, always look at the dealer’s face-up card before making your move; the dealer is most likely to bust with a face-up card of 2 through 6, so if he has one of these cards you may reconsider standing with a hand of 15 or 16.
The rules of blackjack give players up to three other blackjack game actions include “doubling down,” “splitting” and “surrendering.” “Doubling down” is when a player doubles the amount of his bet in order to receive one, and only one, additional card. This can be a good play if your two-card total is 10 or 11, assuming that you are in the middle of a shoe (the rack the dealer deals from) and you think there are more aces, kings, queens, jacks and 10s left than other cards. Some casinos have additional blackjack rules that only allow players to double down with certain hands.
”Splitting,” meanwhile, is when you have two of the same card type and split them into two one-card hands. Splitting can only be done when your first two cards are a pair. It’s a good idea to split a pair of 8s because together they represent one of the toughest hands in blackjack (a 16). For many information on when to split, see our blackjack tips page.
The “surrender” option isn’t offered at all casinos, but when you play online blackjack it's easy to find surrender variations through a quick search. When you use the surrender option, you choose to fold your hand in return for half of your original bet. You should surrender if: you have a terrible hand like a “hard” (not including an ace) 15 or 16, or a hand that is too high to hit but probably too low to beat the dealer and that is not eligible to be split.
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