The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack

The beginner’s Guide to Blackjack page’s goal is to give a thorough but understandable overview of the game. Too many gaming guides rapidly get quite difficult. Here, we’ll stay clear of that.

The rules of the card game are covered in the first part. We next go over the proper tactics to employ in order to obtain the best odds. We wrap up the page with a few observations on advantage play and how to beat the casino. The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack

Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack

Introduction to Blackjack

The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack A card game played in casinos is called blackjack. Not the other players, but the dealer, is your opponent. Since this article is intended for novices, we’ll start off by going into some depth regarding card games in general and how they operate.

How a Traditional Deck of Cards Works

The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack The deck of cards used in blackjack is standard. Actually, it frequently employs many decks, but we’ll cover that in more detail below. What you need to know about a standard deck of cards is shown below.

Starting with the suits, There are 52 cards in a standard deck of cards, however, they are divided into 4 separate suits:

  • Clubs
  • Diamonds
  • Hearts
  • Spades

The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack As you can see, the hearts and diamonds are red, while the clubs and spades are black. Each card in a suit is marked with the appropriate symbol; for example, all cards marked “hearts” have a heart symbol, all cards marked “diamonds” have a diamond symbol, and so on.

Let’s now examine the ranks. The 13 ranks of a conventional card are as follows.

Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack

The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack The cards in this illustration are all clubs, however, there is one card of each rank in each suit. Therefore, each deck contains an ace of clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades. Additionally, there are two of each suit, and so on. The abbreviation for that card while discussing blackjack is the number or letter in parenthesis following each ranking.

Although the ace is the “1,” it is frequently regarded as the highest card in the deck. In other words, it’s an ace instead of just a “1”!

Face cards refer to the king, queen, and jack. The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack

Scoring in Blackjack

The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack Only in a few uncommon blackjack variants do the suits count. Almost always, you can disregard the suits of the cards. However, it’s crucial to remember that there are only 4 cards of each rank in the deck. four suits and four cards at each rank.

Based on the ranks of the cards in the hand, blackjack hands are assigned a score. The following results are provided: The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack

  • Ace – Worth 1 or 11 points.
  • Face cards – Worth 10 points.
  • All other cards – Worth their rank in points.
    • For example, the 3 is worth 3 points, the 4 is worth 4 points, and so on.

The points for each card in the hand are simply added up to determine the score for a hand of blackjack. The winning hand is the one with the highest total.

Not “highest,” but “higher” is the word we use. You only use the superlative (“highest”) when comparing two or more items, which explains why. In blackjack, there are only ever 2 hands to compare: the player’s hand and the dealer’s hand. There may be additional hands in play, but only two hands are important for determining a win.

There is still a problem. A bust, often known as a dead hand and an automatic loser, is any hand with a total of 22 or greater.

Why Blackjack Is THE Best Bet in the Casino

The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack There is a built-in mathematical advantage for the casino in every game. This also applies to blackjack. The game boasts the lowest house edge in the casino, though, assuming you know how to play correctly.

It’s also among the casino’s most entertaining games. The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack

How does the house edge work?

It is described in percentage form. The house advantage is the portion of each wager that the casino theoretically intends to keep over the long term (thousands of hands). For some games (like keno), this percentage can reach 40%, while for others, it can only reach 0.5% or less (like blackjack).


Slot machine games that you are playing have a 15% house edge built into them. They are in a location with some of the worst odds in town (the airport). You are making 600 spins every hour while playing for one dollar per spin. That indicates that you are working for $600 per hour.

15% of $600 is $90. The casino anticipates that you will lose that much playing that game per hour. That figure accounts for the rare victories and rewards you receive. You will undoubtedly lose all your money if you continue to play.

Any wager in a casino can be analyzed in terms of an anticipated hourly loss. This is how casinos plan their floor space and create projections. They aim to increase their revenue per square foot as much as possible.

Another excellent example is roulette. This game has a house advantage of 5.26%. It’s uncommon to locate a roulette table where you can wager $5 or less per play. Assume for the moment that you are able to place 60 wagers every hour at a roulette table. (Notice how much slower roulette is than a game of slots.)

At $5 per wager, 60 wagers every hour equals $300. Your anticipated hourly loss is $15.78, which is 5.26% of $300. We’re still losing a lot less money each hour even though the house edge for this game is about a third lower than it is for the earlier-discussed slot machines and we’re putting bets that are five times higher. This is because the game’s slower pace restricts your exposure.

We’re assuming a good set of rule alternatives when we say that blackjack has a house edge of about 0.5%. Different casinos and different blackjack tables within a single casino offer various options, which impact the house edge. A game with 8 decks, for instance, has a bigger house edge than a game with just one deck.

What’s your hourly expected loss at the blackjack tables?

Assume that each hand costs $5. Additionally, let’s say that you play 100 hands per hour. You’re investing $500 each hour, which is almost as much as you did in the previous case when you were playing the airport slot machines.

However, you only anticipate losing 5% of that. Your projected hourly loss is therefore merely $2.50.

Put $2.50 up against $90 or even $15.78. One can easily determine which game has the best odds.

And another wonderful aspect of blackjack is that you can employ a variety of advantage play strategies to gain a competitive advantage over the house. Most of these are too complicated for the average blackjack player, but we’ll go over the fundamentals of those as well later on in this article.

Blackjack Basics

Blackjack is played at a blackjack table, which typically has a dealer and 7 to 8 players on each side. On the table or on a sign that is positioned there, you will see some words printed. Typically, these words will include the following:

  • Blackjack pays 3 to 2.
  • The dealer must hit soft 17.
  • Insurance pays 2 to 1.
  • $5 minimum, $500 maximum.

Here’s what those phrases mean:

Blackjack pays 3 to 2

A two-card hand with a 21 total is called a blackjack. Except in cases where the dealer also has a blackjack, that is a surefire win. The casino treats the latter scenario as a push, so you are left with nothing whether you win or lose. You receive your wager back.

However, if there isn’t a push, you triumph, and your wager is returned at odds of 3 to 2. Therefore, if you had staked $20, you would have won $30.

In the majority of blackjack hands, you will be paid out at even odds if you win. If you wager $20 and win, you will be paid $20. However, the payout for blackjack is almost always higher.

Many casinos provide a 6 to 5 payout rather than a 3 to 2 payout. That dramatically alters the odds in the casino’s favor. We advise staying away from such games.

Dealer must hit soft 17

In a blackjack game, the dealer must play his hand according to certain rules. One of the options open to both the player and the dealer is hitting. Dealers must always hit a 16 or lower and must always stand (another viable move) on a hard 17 or higher.

This rule helps the casino rather than the player. It raises the estimated edge of the casino by around 0.2%. In the section on gameplay, we’ll discuss this terminology and its definitions.

The phrase “Dealer must stand on all 17s or above” will typically appear on the table if the dealer doesn’t hit a soft 17.

Insurance pays 2 to 1

Insurance is a separate wager that can be placed on whether the dealer has a blackjack or not. People in the know view it as a sucker bet due to the significant house edge. Although the dealers encourage players to place this wager, it is recommended to pass unless you are an expert card counter.


You stake $10. Both the dealer and you are dealt cards. If the dealer has a possible blackjack, you have the option of placing a $10 additional insurance bet. You lose your initial $10 wager if the dealer has blackjack, but you win $10 on insurance, so your overall loss is zero.

On the surface, that appears to be a really good deal, but you must also take into account what will happen if you lose the insurance bet.

You lose the $10 insurance wager if the dealer doesn’t have a total of 21. More often than not, this will take place. Additionally, there is a potential that you could lose on your primary hand, giving you a larger than 50% probability of losing both your original stake and the insurance side bet.

It would be wiser for you to play your hand without placing the insurance bet.

$5 minimum, $500 maximum

These speak to the smallest and largest wagers that can be made at this specific table. Nowadays, it’s uncommon to find a casino with a minimum stake of less than $5, however occasionally—especially when playing online—you may encounter a game where you can wager $1 every hand.

How to Play Blackjack

The person who deals the cards and oversees all gameplay at the blackjack table is known as the dealer. After the players at the table have placed their wagers, he begins the game.

In blackjack games, chips are used in place of currency. Your chips will be purchased from the dealer. You never give the dealer your money; you always place it on the table. In return, he will give you the chips. Buy your chips in between hands; don’t try to obtain chips during a hand that is already being played.

The allocated area in front of your seat is where you place your chips to make a wager. On the table, a circle has been drawn. The dealer begins the game after each player has made their wager.

The dealer deals each player two cards to start the game. These cards are dealt face-up in some casinos and face down in others. In either case, the game proceeds as planned.

Additionally, the dealer deals himself a two-card hand; however, he deals himself one card face up and the other card face down. This is crucial because the face-up card has a wealth of information that the player can use to determine how she should play her hand.

The highest total you could possibly have, given that you started with a two-card hand, is 21, which is comprised of an ace (which counts as 11) and a ten. Blackjack, which typically pays 3 to 2, is what that is.

You have the option to take insurance if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. We have discussed that side wager. It’s a foolish wager. You’ll be alright if you simply say “no” every time.

The dealer looks to check if he has blackjack after all the cards have been dealt. The players get to choose how to play their hands if he doesn’t. There are various alternatives available to you, but the two most crucial ones are as follows:

  • Hitting
  • Standing


Hitting is when you take an extra card, raising your hand’s score. Keep in mind that you bust and lose if your total is 22 or above. Nearly always, hitting involves a deliberate risk.


When you opt to stand and refuse to accept any more cards, your hand is kept. Given that the dealer might have a stronger hand than you have, this is also a calculated risk. Additionally, he might strike his hand till it is superior to yours.

These are the game’s two fundamental “moves.” Using cards or refusing to use cards. striking or stance.

We’ll go through how to make that choice wisely later on on this page. According to mathematics, there is only one play that should be made in every circumstance when playing blackjack, and this set of wise choices is known as “basic strategy.” And learning is simpler than you would imagine.

However, those aren’t your only two choices. There are times when you can make alternate decisions. These consist of:

  • Splitting
  • Doubling down
  • Surrendering


Only when you own two cards of the same rank can you split. When you split a hand, you start two new hands with each of the two cards in your hand. To get that second hand, you must make a further wager. Separate games are played for these two hands. They also yield returns on their own terms.


You stake $10. 2 aces are dealt to you. You wager an additional $10 after deciding to split.

You now possess two hands. Each of these hands has an ace as its opening card. You receive an additional card from the dealer for each of those two hands, giving you two hands with two cards. Win or lose, you play each hand on your own. You could succeed in both, fail in both, or succeed in one while failing in the other.

A list of all hands that could be split is provided in the basic strategy table, along with the mathematically sound choice of splitting or not splitting based on the dealer’s upcard.

Doubling Down

Doubling down means that you’re placing an additional bet and simultaneously agreeing to take one more (and ONLY one more) card.


You stake $10. An 8 and a 3 are dealt to you, giving you a total of 11. You double down and invest an additional $10. You are dealt a card for 10, making your total 21 with the $20 on the table.


When you decide to drop out of the hand and forfeit half of your wager, you are said to have surrendered. It’s similar to folding in a poker game. In some uncommon circumstances, it’s the right action. While late surrender is available in some casinos, early surrender is not.

You have the choice to leave the game PRIOR to the dealer checking his hole card to see if he has a blackjack in a casino that allows early surrender. Early surrender is offered by casinos, which benefits the player by reducing the house edge. It is a kind of rule choice. Additionally, it is infrequently discovered.

You can withdraw only AFTER the dealer checks for blackjack in a casino that allows late surrender, which is much more typical. This implies that you are completely out of options for surrendering if the dealer has a blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, everyone at the table loses unless you also have a blackjack in which case you are tied.

The rules of the game are as follows:

  1. The players place their bets.
  2. The dealer deals with everyone’s hands.
  3. The dealer checks for blackjack. If he has it, he collects his bets from all the players who don’t also have blackjack.
  4. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, then the players who were dealt a blackjack get paid off 3 to 2.
  5. Then the players get to play their hands, hitting, standing, splitting, doubling down, or surrendering, as the case may be. If at any point a player’s hand totals 22 or more, she loses her bet and is out of the action.
  6. Once all the players have made all their decisions, the dealer plays his hand.
  7. All the bets are settled finally.

How the Dealer Plays His Hand

Players’ hands may be used for any permitted action. A player is permitted to take a hit if she has a total of 20 and wishes to do so because she feels lucky.

However, the dealer must play his hand in accordance with a predetermined strategy based on the regulations of the casino.

No of what kind of cards the players have, dealers must always hit any total of 16 or less in all blackjack games.

Additionally, dealers always take a stand on 18 or above.

The dealers soft 17 is the only situation that differs. (A total of 17 with an ace is referred to as a “soft” 17. There are more possibilities with that total than with some other totals because the ace can count as either 1 point or 11 points.)

A dealer may be needed to hit a soft 17 in some casinos. In some variations, the dealer must stand on a soft 17.

There are a few intriguing details concerning these regulations for how the dealer must play his hand that you should be aware of.

The dealer always takes the final turn, which is to the casino’s benefit. When a player busts, she immediately loses her wager and is unable to observe the outcome of the dealer’s hand. Even if the dealer eventually loses and blows out, you can still lose. That is a result of your initiative.

The dealer does not have the authority to make judgments is the next.

Here’s why that might be significant:

You stake $10. You receive a total of 15 cards. The dealer’s upcard is a 6, thus.

You get up.

You have the dealer beat, but he is unsure whether to stand. Because of the game’s regulations, he MUST absorb a blow.

It turns out that he has a total of 16, but because he dealt himself a 10, he busts.

You receive $10.

He could choose to stand on the total of 16 if given the chance to make a decision. However, he is not given that choice. A player now has what we like to refer to as “a fighting chance.”

Blackjack Strategy for Beginners

The first thing to understand when thinking about blackjack strategy is the difference between a hard hand and a soft hand.

Hard Hands

A hand without any aces is said to be challenging. Additionally, the ace in this hand must count as 1 rather than 11 in order to prevent busting.

A hard hand in blackjack is a hand that has no space for error.

For reasons that will soon become clear, you’ll play hard hands differently from soft hands.

Soft Hands

On the other hand, a soft hand is one that has an ace and can be valued as either a 1 or an 11. The sum used is more than the other two possibilities, but you still have enough room if you draw a high-value card.

Here are 2 examples of hard hands:

You have a jack and a 5. That’s a hard total of 15.

You hold an ace, an 8, and a three. The number 12 is a hard total. (If you consider the ace as 11, your total is 22, which puts you out; you would then be busted.)

Here are two instances of gentle hands:

You have a 9 and an ace. You have a “soft total” of 20. You COULD take a hit here without going bust. The highest value card you could receive would be worth 10, which would still leave you with a total of 20.

You hold an ace and a five. Your “soft total” is 16, so. It would be impossible for you to bust even if you took a hit in this area. Even if you were handed a 10, the highest value card in the game, you could still stay in the game by just counting the ace as 1.

You’ll consider how to play each hand based on its hardness or softness.

The significance of the dealer’s up card is the second aspect of the blackjack strategy that you must comprehend. To determine how probable you believe the dealer will go bankrupt, you will examine the dealers up card.

The dealer’s up card has a “breaking point” between the numbers 6 and 7. You will often play your hand more cautiously when the dealer shows a 6 or lower because the dealer is more likely to lose the hand. You should typically play your hand more aggressively when the dealer has a 7 or greater showing since the dealer is more likely to end up with a high total that you’ll have to defeat.

There are times when people criticize the notion of presuming that the dealer has a 10 in the hole when reading pages about “common blackjack myths” in the literature. And it’s true that if you make that assumption, your strategy won’t always work.

But in actuality, there are more cards worth 10 than any other value in the deck. Given that you have 16 cards worth 10 points out of a possible 52, there is a 30.7% chance that the dealer will also have a 10 in the hole. That is nearly one-third of the time.

The fact that cards 7, 8, and 9 are frequently in the hole should also be taken into account. Therefore, the dealer has a fair possibility of having a total of 16, 15, 14, or 13 if he has a 6 or lower showing. When the dealer is hit, all of those hands are likely to lose money.

Do you see why?

Considering that the dealer’s next hand will almost certainly contain a 10. Heck, even an 8 or a 9 will bust the dealer with any of those totals.

As a result, standing is nearly always the best course of action when you have a hard total of between 12 and 16 and the dealer only has a 6 or below. To increase your odds of still being in the game when the dealer busts, you want to stay in the game.

This has certain exceptions. If you have a total of 12 or 13, you’ll frequently take a hit against the dealer—not always, but occasionally.

In addition, if the dealer has a 7 or higher showing, he is probably holding a 10 in the hole, therefore he will stand on a strong hand.

Because of this, you ought to take a hit if the dealer is showing a 7 and you have a hard total of 16. Even though you’ll probably lose, the dealer is more likely to have a hand total of 17 or higher, beating you if you stand on that 16.

These are the factors and thinking processes that go into developing a sound basic strategy for the game, albeit there are exceptions to all of these laws.

You should consider the dealer’s up a card while deciding whether to split or double down. Additionally, they frequently presuppose that the cards you can’t see have a value of 10.

Here’s an illustration:

You ALWAYS split aces and 8s.

This is why:

A pair of aces effectively gives you a soft 12 total. You now have a hard total of 12, which is not a strong hand, if you draw a card and it is a 10.

However, if you split the aces, there’s a chance that the second card in each of your two new hands will be a 10. You actually have the chance to get two blackjacks thanks to that. That was undoubtedly a wise choice.

A pair of 8s gives you a hard total of 16, which, if hit, will probably result in a bust. If the dealer doesn’t bust, it will probably also lose. Simply put, it’s a bad hand.

On the other hand, there’s a chance you’ll get two hands totaling 18 if you split those 8s. Even if the dealer doesn’t go bankrupt, that is a respectable total that has a decent chance of beating him.

Here’s another illustration:

You never split 4s, 5s, or 10s.

Let’s focus on just one of those instances.

Given that you were dealt a pair of 5, your hand total is 10.

That hand can be broken into two new hands, each of which starts with five cards. You have two hands of 15, which are poor hands if you are dealt a 10. If you stand on them, they’ll usually get pounded, and if you hit them, they’ll usually bust.

On the other hand, if you are dealt a 10 or an ace while you have a hard total of 10, you will typically have a total of 20 or 21. Against the majority of dealers’ hands, one of those hands is a potential winner.

Although it’s a move you probably won’t get to make often, doubling down is also enjoyable. You almost always double down if your total is 10 or 11. In fact, the dealer showing an ace is the only situation in which you WON’T double down. The dealer would most likely win in that scenario, therefore investing the money wouldn’t be worthwhile.

Although many casinos only allow you to double down on totals of 9, 10, or 11, it can occasionally make sense to do so on other totals. However, you ought to do so if you have a chance to double down on an 8 versus a dealer 5 if you can.

Most people use a chart or table to learn a whole basic technique. You can actually get a chart or table like this from the casino gift store and use it while you play. The casino doesn’t mind as long as you’re not causing the game to lag. After all, employing the proper basic approach doesn’t reduce or even give you an advantage over the house. Simply said, it brings down the house edge to a more manageable level.

We favor acquiring basic strategy in a more comprehensive manner. For a text version of the basic strategy that describes some of the decision-making processes, please visit our basic strategy website.

In any case, bear in mind that some game circumstances can have an impact on the ideal course of action. Basic strategy generators that are adaptable and take into account the local rules are available. You’re not losing anything to the house if you don’t bother with these customizations.

In actuality, even the most devoted basic strategy players go beyond that. They begin to show interest in strategies for playing to their advantage. In the part that follows, we provide a beginner’s introduction to the advantage player.

Advantage Play for Beginners

The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack In the gaming industry, the term “advantage play” is used to describe a gambling strategy that favors the player. Since they don’t deviate from the established rules or game parameters, these strategies are different from cheating. Blackjack card counting is the most well-known advantage play strategy in the industry.

Learning how to count cards could appear to be a complex subject given that this entire page is written with novices in mind. However, this is just an introduction to the topic. On other pages of the website, you can find in-depth sections on card counting and gaining an advantage in blackjack. When you’re ready, you can go back and read those pages.

Some people believe that card counting is beyond the capabilities of their feeble minds, yet we can attest that even the feeblest minds—including ours—can learn how to count cards in blackjack. This is due to the fact that you don’t actually need to remember which cards have been dealt with.

For calculating the proportion of high cards to low cards in the deck, card counting employs a heuristic technique. A card counter increases her bets when there are a lot of high cards in the deck. A card counter lowers her bets if there aren’t many high cards present.

Do you see why this would help you get an edge over the casino?

The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack Consider the blackjack hand, which has the highest reward. The two highest cards in the deck—the ace and the 10—are needed to produce a blackjack. You’d have a better chance of winning that 3 to 2 payment if a deck featured more aces and 10s than lower cards, wouldn’t you?

Consider it in this manner. Your chances of getting a blackjack are zero percent while playing blackjack after all the aces have already been dealt. You won’t receive a 3 to 2 payout until the deck is reshuffled, so to speak.

Card counters track this ratio in both straightforward and intricate ways. The majority of them employ a basic count known as the “hi-lo” count. It operates as follows:

  • Every time you see an ace or a 10, you subtract 1 from the count.
  • Every time you see a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, you add 1 to the count.

The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack You place a larger wager if the overall count is very favorable. You place the minimum bet on the table if it’s negative or 0.

This may seem difficult, and it is, but with practice, it is doable. Before attempting to count cards in a casino, we advise thorough practice at home. They will begin shuffling every hand if they suspect you are counting cards, which will make it impossible for you to gain an advantage.

They might even ask you to leave the blackjack table there.

Some casinos even forbid card counters from being on the property at all.

Card counters employ a strategy known as “camouflage” for this reason. They take care to avoid appearing to be paying attention. They occasionally err on basic strategy. They will provide the dealer’s tips. They won’t spend more than an hour or two at the same casino or at the same table at once.

By definition, if you can’t play, you can’t get an advantage. If you want to try it, practice counting cards without making it seem that you’re doing so.

Author of Comp City Max Rubin advises utilizing just enough card counting combined with a fundamental strategy to play at par with the casino. You won’t even need to get an advantage over the casino because you’ll receive bonuses for simply participating. Additionally, you won’t run the risk of being blacklisted or banned.

There are other blackjack advantage gambling strategies, however, they fall outside the purview of a beginner’s introduction to the game. For more on other blackjack advantage strategies including shuffle monitoring, hole carding, and the dealer tells, visit the relevant page on our website. The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack


The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack Even if you’re a complete newbie, blackjack is the best game in the casino for a number of reasons. It’s the second-easiest card game, after War, to learn how to play with a little practice. However, it would be foolish to ever attempt War because the house edge is so much better.

Additionally, blackjack is one of the few casino games that gives players “agency.” That’s a technical term that philosophers use to denote having some influence over how something turns out. When playing slots, you insert your money and wait impassively to learn whether you have won. Every time you play a hand of blackjack, you make choices that either boost or decrease your chances of winning.

It has the best odds in the casino, is simple to learn, and is enjoyable to play. If you’re committed to learning some basic advantage gaming strategies like card counting, you can even learn how to beat the casino. The Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack

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