How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is a popular casino game because it’s so easy to play. The rules are simple, and you’ll soon understand the basic blackjack strategies that will help to increase your chances of winning in the long term.

The game is sometimes known as 21, because the fundamental aim is to collect cards that get you to 21, or close to it, without going over and bust. However, to win, you must also end with a higher score than the dealer, or hope that the dealer goes bust.

Finding a Table and Taking Your Seat

Joining a game online at TwinSpires Casino is simple. Select your blackjack game of choice and your stake level. You can play our traditional online blackjack games or visit our live dealer tables to play with other players at a real table with a human dealer and cards.

How a Blackjack Hand Plays Out

Each player bets their stake and is dealt two cards face up, while the dealer has one card down and one card face up. Aces are valued one or 11, and picture cards are all valued 10.

Depending on the total of your two cards, you have a choice to do nothing and stand or to hit and receive another card. You can choose to stand on any total or continue to hit whenever you like – but you’ll bust if you go over 21, forfeiting your stake.

Each player completes their turn before the dealer then turns his second card face up. He must always take another card up to and including a score of 16 and must stand on 17 or above. If you’re still in the hand and beat the dealer score, you get your stake back, and the house pays you the same. But if the dealer score beats your own, you lose your stake. If both scores are the same, your stake is returned.

The best hand is called a blackjack, where you make 21 with your first two cards, so an ace and a ten or an ace and a picture card. In this case, you’ll automatically win a three-to-two payout (unless the dealer also has a blackjack, which would be a little unfortunate).

Hands will continue until you decide to leave the table, hopefully with some winnings. In the live dealer games, the ‘shoe’ which holds the decks of cards, is replaced periodically by new decks of cards that you can see being shuffled first by an assistant.

Further Blackjack Betting Options

Together with choosing to stand or hit, you can also double down, effectively doubling your stake, if it makes sense to do so. There are two reasons you might do this, and both revolve around the concept that because tens, jacks, queens and kings are all worth ten, there’s a high chance the next card will be that value:

  • If your two cards total nine, ten or 11, you can double down and receive one more card, hoping it will be a ten, making you 19, 20 or 21. However, if the dealer’s face-up card is high, the chances are he, too, will make a good total with his second card, so it’s perhaps not worth doubling down in this case.
  • If the dealer’s face-up card is a poor five or six, you might assume his second card is a ten, giving a total of 15 or 16. In this case, he must take another card and will likely go bust.

If you double down and go on to win the hand, you will receive the larger payout from the house.

Another betting option is to split. If your two cards are the same value or two picture cards, you can split them to make two hands and receive one new card on each. You must add the same stake to the second hand, and then play them separately. While it might look sensible to split two picture cards, understand you are breaking up a hand that will normally win on its own with no further improvement required.

Get Familiar with Blackjack Terminology

Here are some more blackjack terms you might come across.

Card value: While your picture cards are valued ten, every other card is worth its face value, apart from the ace. You can use your ace as a high card, valued at 11, or as a low card worth one.

Soft ace: If your two cards include an ace, you can play with either a higher or lower total. So, if your hand is a six and an ace, you can choose to play your hand as total value seven or 17. If you hit and your next card is a five, your current hand reverts to 12, because the 17 + 5 would make you bust.

Dealer Peek: We know the best hand in blackjack is a blackjack. If the dealer is showing an ace, it’s possible his second card is worth ten, making 21. When the ace is showing, the dealer will ‘peek’ at the second card and, if he has made blackjack, he beats all players (unless another player also has a blackjack) and the hand ends there and then.

Insurance: If the dealer has an ace face up, players are offered insurance. You can bet half your stake and, if the dealer does make blackjack, you get a 2 to 1 insurance payout, which ensures you break even for the hand.

Push: If you and the dealer end with the same total, your bet is pushed back to you. It’s a tie or, as they say in poker, a split pot.

Hole card: This is the name for the face-down card received by the dealer.

Multi-hand Blackjack: Some games in our blackjack lobby allow you to play more than one hand at a time, up to three. You’ll need to add a stake for each one.

Side bets: You might notice the option for side bets, especially on the live dealer tables. By adding a bet in the Perfect Pair box, you’re making an independent wager that your two cards will be the same value. The payout increases if the two cards are the same color, and rises further for the same suit. 21+3 sees you betting on making a three-card hand from your two cards and the dealer’s face-up card. Payouts, up to 100 times your stake, depend on making a flush, a straight or three of a kind. See in-game rules for more details.

Get Started Playing Blackjack Today

Now it’s time to try your luck at the tables. You can play some games for free but if you’d like to play for real money, make sure you opt-in for our first deposit casino bonus.