Blackjack is probably one of the most-straightforward table games out there. However, it does have certain rules you need to follow if you want to make sure to walk away from the table with piles of chips waiting to be cashed out.
Learning when and how to use those to your advantage will turn you into a fearless opponent and maximize your winnings in the process. Read up and practice applying these blackjack rules at some of the best casinos found in our listings.
Top 4 blackjack card game rules you should know
There are many principles that dictate how you should play, but the four below are the core of the popular table game. Learning them allows you to know how and when to act. Ultimately, combining a good strategy with the 4 basic rules will increase your winning percentage.
Blackjack rule 1: What card values are there?
In blackjack, all cards have a specific value. Each card numbered 2-10 has a value equal to the number indicated on it (a 3 of hearts has a value of 3, a 7 of spades has a value of 7 and so on). All Kings, Queens and Jacks are considered face cards and have a value equal to 10. The final card is the ace, and in blackjack rules, ace values are either 1 or 11.
Understanding how the value of each card can impact your hand when compared to the card being shown by the dealer is integral in the course of a game. As you play more frequently and understand this, you will gain a better grasp why it is one of the 4 blackjack card rules never to forget.
Blackjack rule 2: What does split mean in blackjack?
Splitting cards in blackjack means to split any pair of like valued cards. While it is fairly easy to understand, knowing what cards you should split and the best cards to split in blackjack takes time and practice.
- When to split cards in blackjack
The first rule when it comes to splitting is always to split aces. As the dealer stands on 17, an ace has a value of 1 or 11, and the odds of hitting a higher valued card (7, 8, 9, 10) is in your favor and therefore your odds of beating the dealer are increased. The same applies to 8s. If you do not split 8s, you have a starting hand of 16 and that puts you in a weak position. By splitting, you increase your odds (about 60%) of getting 18 and in the event the dealer busts or draws 17, you will win. Re-splitting aces and 8s is also a blackjack rule to follow if you are dealt a second pair after your initial split. This once again increases your potential of winning one or more hands against the dealer.
- When not to split in blackjack
There are some card values that should never be split. This includes a pair of 10s as you already have a high value (20) and unless the dealer hits 20 or blackjack, you will win. Other cards you should never split include 4s and 5s. Should you hit a 10 card after splitting, your odds of busting are dramatically increased and experts strongly avoid splitting those cards. Of course, the same rule applies to 2s, 3s, 6s and 7s.
Blackjack rule 3: What is surrender in blackjack?
The act of surrendering is one many new blackjack players fail to use properly. The most common mistake is not being able to tell whether the dealer has a good card or not. Surrender is offered by the dealer when their face up card is an ace. If you accept to take it you can fold your hand and get half your staked bet back. If insurance is taken, it will require a bet equal to the original staked bet. The reason for taking the surrender option is the possibility that the dealer’s face down card could be a 10 value card, thereby giving the dealer a natural blackjack.
- When to surrender in blackjack
There are two best times to surrender. Early in the game or late. In early surrender, the dealer will show an ace or ten card and will offer surrender before checking to see if they have blackjack. That is called an early surrender. Late surrender is only available if the dealer has checked to see if they have blackjack and at that time will offer surrender (generally identified as insurance). Where many new players go wrong with insurance is that the odds of beating the dealer is 50%, so forfeiting 50% of your bet is not a good move to make. It is recommended to study surrender tables to gain a better understanding of this, and we will go deeper into this option in a later article.
Blackjack rule 4: What does double down mean?
Doubling is a well-known element of the game, but knowing when is the best time to double down in blackjack is an entirely different matter. Doubling down is when you choose to double your bet and receive one additional card to form your hand. If your hand is higher than the dealer’s or the dealer busts, you win, if it’s less you lose.
While the premise of doubling down is easy to grasp, there are typical numbers to double down on and others you should not.
- When to double down in blackjack
The most popular time to double down is if you have a total hand value of 11, as the odds are to your advantage that you will get a ten card or close to 21 without the risk of busting. While certain casinos will allow you the double down option on 9, 10 and 11, ultimately you should reserve the right to double down whenever you want. The most common number to double down on is an 8, 9, 10 and 11. However, there are other things to consider before jumping the gun, namely the face-up card shown in the dealers’ hand. Rules to follow include doubling down if our hand total is 9 and the dealer’s cards are between any card less than 7 but not including the ace. This is called a “hard 9” hand because neither of your cards is an ace. If you are showing an ace with a 5, 6 or 7 you have what is called a “soft 16, soft 17 or soft 18”. Should the dealer be showing a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, this is an ideal time to double down as it is advantageous that the dealer will bust and you have no risk of doing the same. Another opportune time to double down is if your card count is 10 or 11. In this case, it is recommended to double down if the dealer shows a card less than 10 or ace.
Land-based vs online blackjack rule differences
Online casino and land-based casino rules differ when it comes to doubling down. When playing online, most casino blackjack software will allow you to double down on 9, 10 or 11, but will not offer the option for other hand totals. The main reason is that it affects the house edge. Ultimately, this is favorable for most blackjack players, as doubling down on other hand totals is not advised, so the limitation is to your advantage.
When playing at a land-based casino, the rules are not the same. As a general principle, most land-based casinos will only allow doubling down on hand totals of 10 or 11. The option to double down on hand totals of 9 is not provided. Some land-based casinos remove the double down option altogether. This, of course, is clearly not in your favor but favors the house as it reduces the risk against the casino and limits the advantages for the player.
For blackjack players, the house edge is always relevant, especially for those who are experienced at the game. Even a small edge in the player’s favor can amount to gains over time. Those who like blackjack often play for longer sessions, so those small gains add up over time. While there are those who prefer land-based blackjack for the live entertainment aspect, if you compare it to live dealer casinos online, the choice is rather simple.
Live dealer blackjack follows the same double down rules as traditional online casinos, as it allows doubling down on hand totals of 9, 10, and 11. Ultimately, it means an increased edge for you as a player when compared to land-based casinos that do not offer the double down option for hand totals of 9 or not at all.
As you become acquainted with these 4 rules it will help you know how to maximize the odds and work towards greater profits. This is always the goal to blackjack, and for those that master its basic principles of play and apply strategy in the deployment of those rules they will find their sessions far more rewarding let alone profitable.