BlackjackBlackjack has long been a favourite with the more experienced players and offers the best percentage of all the games (for the player). Like most games, there are many variations available, but we shall be looking at the traditional version.

Before the Dealer begins to “draw” any cards, players must decide what bet they wish to place on the “box”. This has to be no less than the table minimum, and no more than the maximum. Once all the bets have been made the Dealer will usually give you one last “warning” (to make any changes) by either saying “no more bets?”, or moving his/her right hand slowly from the last box to the first. Once the first card is drawn, no changes to the original bet can be made. However, there are some betting options available in the game (more on this later).

The cards are dealt in the following order (all face up in this version): The first card is placed near the first box (between the players box and the Dealers card area), or the first box that contains a bet. Each box receives one card, followed by one card to the Dealer. After this, each box receives a second card and then the game can begin.
The Dealer can not take any further cards until all the players have finished taking theirs. Cards are kept in a “Blackjack Shoe” which contains anything from 4-8 decks of cards.
In principle, the idea of the game is to get as close to a total of 21 as possible, but there are exceptions to this rule as you will discover in “Tips on how to play”
Unlike the players, the Dealer must follow certain rules. A Dealer must continue to draw cards if his total is less than 17, but can not take any more once his total hits a figure between 17 and 21 (they don’t gamble, you do).
Each player must “play” in turn (starting from the first box). The Dealer will usually hold his hand close to your cards to indicate that it is your decision he awaits.
An “Ace” has a value of one or eleven, so if you have a five and an Ace, this can be six or sixteen (your choice). A five and an Ace is commonly called a “soft” total (because it can be low or high). A ten and a six is simply sixteen (a hard total). The Dealer will announce your total before and after you take a card, just to make sure you understand what you have.
When you have a soft total, the Dealer will announce the lowest and highest values. When the Dealer receives such cards, only the highest total can be used.

A “Blackjack” consists of a ten or picture card (Jack, Queen or King), together with an Ace. The payout for a Blackjack is 3 to 2 (or one and a half to one). All other winning bets are paid even money (one to one). So if you place a bet for say £5 and you get a Blackjack, you will win £7.50. If it is not a Blackjack, you only win £5.
If the Dealer gets the same total as you, this is called a “stand off” or “push” (you don’t win or lose). However, a Blackjack beats a normal total of 21.
In the game of Blackjack you will have an opportunity to “Double”, “Split”, “Insure” and occasionally “Surrender” your bet.


In some casinos you can “Double” any total you like (on the first two cards only), in others this may be limited to totals of nine, ten or eleven. Let’s say you have a total of eleven from your first two cards (a good total), all you need is a ten to make this 21. You can increase your original bet by “doubling” it, in the hope of getting a good third card.
Normally the double (or new bet) must equal the original one, so if you bet £5 at the start, you can add another £5 if you double (sometimes casinos allow you to “double for less”). If you create a winning hand, you will then get £10 instead of £5. However, there is a small catch, because you can only receive one card if you double. This means if you only get a “two” (and not a ten), your eleven becomes 13, and you have to hope that this will be good enough.
When making a double, wait until it is your turn and then place your “new” bet behind the original one (not on top of it). If you don’t have the exact value chip to do this, ask the Dealer for change. Never touch the original bet (unless the game has finished and you are collecting your winnings).


Rules can vary considerably with splits, some casinos allow you to “split” any “pair”, while others restrict you to certain combinations (a ten and a picture card is usually considered as a pair). Splitting a pair effectively creates a new “hand”, and you have to place a “new” bet on this second hand (equal in value to the first).

Let’s say you are going to split your cards. You must now place a new bet (equal to the first) on your box. Some players move the bets into the correct position themselves, by using the new chip (not their hands) to nudge the original bet into place. If you are not sure how to do this, just place your chip near the box and inform the Dealer you wish to make a split (and he/she will do this for you). Do not touch the cards, the Dealer must do this.

Now that the bets and cards are in position, the game can continue. The Dealer will now place a new card on the first “new hand” and once this hand is completed, you can then receive a card on the next hand.

To complicate things, some casinos will place a second card on both new hands immediately after the split, others on just the first. Please check the rules, or watch others when they do this and see what happens.

If you have split tens or picture cards and receive an Ace, this is not counted as a Blackjack (only 21).

In many casinos you can split cards more than once. You can also 'Double' your hand after a Split, if the rules allow you to do so.

A pair of Aces can also be split (most people say that you should always split Aces), but you only receive one card on each Ace. Once again, a picture card/ten will not give you a Blackjack (just 21).


When you receive a Blackjack, this is usually paid out immediately if the Dealer’s first card is not a ten, picture card or Ace (because the Dealer can not beat your hand). However, when the Dealer has an Ace showing (first card), there is an increased chance that he may also get a Blackjack, in which case your hand will be a “stand off” (you don’t lose, but you don’t win either).
In this situation you will be offered “Insurance”. The traditional method of doing this is rather complicated, but in effect, by agreeing to “insure” your hand, you are accepting “even money”. This is paid immediately.


Not every casino offers this and only when the Dealer has a certain card (usually a picture card/ten, and sometimes an Ace).
If it is available, you can “surrender” your hand and take back half of your bet. Some people do this if they think their chances of getting a good hand are not very good, in the belief that it is better to lose half a bet now, rather than all of it later.


The main thing to remember is that the dealer must “stand” on 17. So if their card is a “five”, they will need at least 2 more cards to achieve that total. This also increases their chances of getting “too many” (busting their hand).
When the dealer has a “low card” (2, 3, 4, 5 and sometimes 6), most players will not take another card once they have obtained a total of at least 12. It doesn’t really matter what your total is if the dealer busts!
When the dealer’s card is a 7, 8, 9, 10/picture card or Ace, the majority of players will continue taking cards until they reach a total of at least 17. Very few take cards beyond this total, as any card higher than a “four” (there are nine that could do this) would bust their hand.
It is recommended that you always split Aces, although I would think twice about doing this if the dealer has an Ace. Most players would make a “double” if the dealer’s card is low.
Some people confuse Blackjack with a game called “Pontoon” (which is very similar) and use words that are more associated with this game. Here are the more usual commands:
Stay: You don’t want any more cards (not “Stick”)
Card: A request for another card (not “Twist”). In America you might hear the term “Hit me”
Most experienced players follow basic rules and can get upset when “newcomers” take cards which they feel are unnecessary and put their own hands at risk. So be prepared for some angry looks if you do this.
Although there are only 7-9 boxes on a Blackjack table, up to three people can play on one box, but the total of all the bets must not exceed the table maximum. The person whose bet on the box is nearest to the dealer controls the action. Only this person can decide whether to take cards, double or split.

Hand signals are often used on Blackjack (by the players) when they don’t want any further cards. Watch how others do this first to avoid making any mistakes. If the dealer isn’t sure what you want, they will usually ask you to confirm this verbally.