In its simplest sense, blackjack rules are a set of explicit or implied regulations that oversee how this casino game is played. From the way you and the dealer should interact, to when and how your chips are placed and the many variants to the rules of blackjack, there’s plenty to take in. But as with all undertakings, personal or professional, the old-age adage you reap what you sow rings true. Take your time as you read through this page and learn about general and variant-specific rules. And if at any point you feel a little frustrated, remember that these game rules are the key to unlocking your potential as a successful player.
Triumphant tales of current members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame will undoubtedly impress you. There’s Don Johnson who beat the Atlantic City casinos for over $15 million and the author of Beat the Dealer Edward O. Thorp, to name a few.
While these names may have eventually been 86’d from their casino of choice, they all have one thing in common. They mastered the rules like the back of their hand and manipulated them to their advantage.
You too can follow in their footsteps by learning the betting rules of blackjack to suit your bankroll and gambling style, by getting to grips with our guide. It begins by defining the term, before moving onto the common, changeable and unwritten rules of the game. Think of this as blackjack explained easy. So, settle in, this one’s a bit theory-heavy.
An understanding of the rules of blackjack are paramount before you head to a table. They can be categorised in two: the basics and exceptions to these. Take your time going through each one – they’re the essence of becoming an expert player.
We regard there to be three rules of thumb – card rules, betting rules and dealer rules. Let’s go through them one-by-one.
You may remember some of these from the How to Play page, however here’s a refresher.
Number of decks
This casino game is played with one to eight decks of 52-cards In most cases whereas live dealer blackjack is typically played with eight decks.
To recap, the hand values are:
The order of dealing cards
The dealer deals cards from the dealing shoe on their left to the player closest to this first, then onto the next player until he/she deals one to themselves and does the same again to deal the second card. This order is strictly followed so much so that if the dealer strays, the round is considered invalid and stakes are returned to players.
Shuffling blackjack cards is essentially mixing up the order of the cards to ensure that the chances of any hand appearing for a player is fair. It’s the entire process of riffling, stripping, boxing and cutting the deck without revealing or damaging any of the cards. Plenty of time is spent to make sure it is done properly, for example, Evolution Gaming spend around 2 minutes on their shuffle.
The shuffle can be done manually or by using a continuous shuffling machine (CSM). In the case of the former, cards are either shuffled in specially-designed control rooms equipped with security cameras or live in-studio for all players to see, behind the dealer responsible for leading the current game round, depending on the provider in question.
Evolution shuffle the cards on-camera to the right of the dealer leading the current round. In the case of a CSM, several decks of cards are placed in the machine and after a couple of hands (often after each hand), the cards are reshuffled automatically.
Gameplay continues until the cut card is dealt (check out the blackjack glossary for a full definition) and the dealing shoe is then changed. Oftentimes, two dealing shoes are found at the table such that the dealer can simply swap shoes and continue the round with minimal disruptions to the game.
It probably goes without saying but there are rules on how best to play the hand you’re dealt too. We won’t go into them here, however, as the rules of blackjack including when to hit, take insurance, split your pair or take an even money proposition on your bet is all part of basic blackjack strategy, which we cover separately on the Blackjack Strategies page.
Just as rules are to be followed by players, rules for dealers exist too.
Once the dealer has dealt two cards to all the seated players and each person has acted, he/she turns over the hole card. The dealer has no play options – he/she must continue to draw cards until their hand total is 17 and stand when the count total is between 17 and 21. In instances where the dealer has an ace, and counting that card as an 11 would bring their total up to 17 or more, the card must be counted as an ace, therefore, the dealer must stand.
These rules of the blackjack dealer are emblazoned across the felt as shown:
The course of action to be followed by the dealer remains the same round-on-round by design to guarantee that the dealer plays a simple, consistent game every round, protecting the house edge in the long-term.
Aside from the universal rules mentioned above, there are optional rules that are applied at the game provider’s discretion. These include:
Let’s clear up the difference between a soft and hard hand first. The former is a hand that includes an ace valued as 11, as opposed to 1, while the latter is a hand that can only be used at its set value.
This rule stipulates the action the dealer must take when his/her first two cards are an Ace and any other cards whose combined values total six points. As the name suggests, they will either have to stand or hit upon receiving such a card combination.
This rule varies between games so if you’re given a choice, pull up a seat at a table where the dealer must stand on soft 17, it’ll be more beneficial for you.
Most tables allow players to double down but there are some variations which include:
Double down only with 9, 10 or 11 points
Here players will have the possibility to double down on a first-two card result of either 9, 10 or 11. To do this, place a second bet equal to your first beside your first wager and press the x2 button while betting time is open.
Double down only on hard 10 or 11 points
Similarly, some casinos restrict doubling down to hands in which your first two cards total 10 or 11. Again, make a second bet that equals your first next to your first wager by pressing the x2 button while betting time is open.
If the first two cards you’re dealt are a pair (5-5, 7-7, etc.), you may choose to split them however some casinos restrict what kind of cards you’re able to do this with. For example, the split aces rule prevents you from dividing an already split pair. There are also a few resplit rules including resplit aces, resplit all pairs and no resplit. You’ll typically be able to divide the cards up to three times thus obtaining four betting positions. Variations to the split rule include:
Double after split rule
When the double after split (DAS) rule applies, you are able to double down after splitting. If you have an option, choose a live blackjack game where this rule is allowed.
No double after split
It is not possible to double down after a split when the no double after split (NDAS) rule applies.
Resplitting of Aces permitted
If you receive a third ace on the aces you’ve just split, some casinos allow you to resplit the resulting pair. This is rare to find, though.
When the dealer’s upcard is an Ace or a ten-value card there is the strong possibility that he/she will obtain a natural blackjack. The player is offered insurance and then one of the following rules are adopted:
This is the American style of the game where the dealer reveals their hole card before the players take any action. If the dealer obtains a blackjack, the round ends immediately. This rule is advantageous as it protects you from taking an action without knowing what the dealer’s hand is.
The European version of the game where the dealer does not control the cards, and the players bet first, as usual.
Sometimes referred to as a sucker rule, this rule gives you the chance to surrender once you’re dealt your hand and the dealer’s upcard is in view. Variations to the surrender rule include:
This is pretty self-explanatory. Surrendering is not allowed in such instances.
You’re given the option to surrender as soon as you’re dealt your cards and before the dealer checks their own. This rule is advantageous as it lowers the house edge, however you will forfeit half your bet when placing it.
Here, you’re only able to surrender your hand (and again lose half your original wager), when the dealer does not have a natural blackjack. If the dealer obtains one, you won’t be able to surrender and thus lose your entire bet. Although this rule doesn’t lower the house edge in itself, playing blackjack where the surrender rule applies is still more favourable for you.
Early surrender against 10
If this rule is in use, you’re able to surrender immediately so long as the dealer does not have an Ace. In the event that they do have an Ace, they must first confirm whether a blackjack has been obtained. If not, the player is then able to surrender. This rule is sometimes referred to as partial early surrender.
Occasionally some casinos may choose to set a different payout on a natural blackjack to increase the casino advantage. This rule is seldom found online but they’re worth being aware of.
Blackjack pays 6:5
At tables with lower bet limits, blackjack sometimes pays at only 6:5 instead of the standard 3:2.
Blackjack pays 1:1
Alternatively, some casino set the payout of a natural to 1:1.
This rule is rarely found online but it stipulates that bets on tied hands are lost rather than pushed.
In some variants of blackjack, if you succeed in drawing five cards without going bust, you’ll receive a payout of 1:1 regardless of the value of the dealer’s cards. The only exception to this rule is that if the dealer receives a blackjack, you’ll automatically lose.
There are variants to the game where the dealer’s second card isn’t drawn until each player has finished their go, and it’s the dealer’s turn to play his or her hand.
So far you’ve expanded your awareness of the actions that turn you from a good player to a highly skilled one – the blackjack winning rules. But there’s more to the game than what’s been written in many a blackjack rule book. Before you go, take a look at the seven or so unwritten rules that you, the dealer, the game provider and casino are expected to adhere to.
A game of live blackjack can be thought of as a service encounter. You, the player, exchange your money for chips, an entertaining time at the table courtesy of the live dealer and your tablemates and, hopefully, win a few game rounds too. Online casinos ensure that your gaming time remains enjoyable by stipulating a few ground rules that include restrictions against setting offensive usernames, the intolerance of abusive language and the avoidance of touchy or potentially heated conversations. And although you may not think of table manners as one of the official rules, players have been banned for poor etiquette so they are just as important as the others you’ve seen so far.
There are two multiplayer modes in online blackjack. The most widespread is the ability to take two or more seats at the table and play multiple hands. Many suppliers offer this playing option and as far as multi-hand blackjack rules go, they’re pretty much the same as standard ones, however, if you choose to take more than one seat, be sure to place chips on both betting areas so as not to take up another player’s potential seat for no reason.
Another multi-playing option is the ability to wager on two or more tables simultaneously. Once the software supplier (examples include Extreme Live Gaming and Evolution) has the necessary technology in place, you’ll have the ability to place your chips on anywhere from two to four of the operator’s live dealer tables. You can choose to stick to playing live blackjack or venture out to play roulette or poker alongside your chosen game of twenty-one. Again, if you are going to take multiple seats, be sure to remain active on all of them or give your place up for someone you can bet behind instead.
Player participation is on a similar train of thought. Once you’ve taken a seat at any blackjack table (perhaps only excluding LeoVegas Silent Blackjack), you’ll be encouraged to interact with the dealer and the other six-seated players. To break the ice, the games presenter will welcome you to the table by saying your username and typically ask how you’re doing that day.
Most players do not respond to this initial remark but depending on the nature of the table, the dealer will come up with talking points to increase engagement amongst players and encourage conversation in the chat system. For example, hosts on Blackjack Party will bring up the latest gossip and ask players for their opinion, while players will witness a breakdown of the latest sports results and be given the opportunity to discuss their sports bets at the LeoVegas Sports Blackjack table.
We touched on this in more detail on the How to Play Blackjack page so check there, but to reiterate there are rules regarding error handling too. These specify how the varying types of game issues are to be resolved via collaboration with you as the player, the game provider and the operator in question.
OK, perhaps calling this an unwritten rule of blackjack is (unfortunately) a bit of a stretch but any online operator worth their salt knows that handing out bonuses regularly is a solid way to keep players satisfied. More often than not, casinos hand out universal live casino bonuses that can be used on any table but others such as Unibet and LeoVegas give out regular blackjack bonuses, hold game specific tournaments and shuffle blackjack bonus cards into dealing shoes. And if you’re playing at an operator’s bespoke table, keep a listen to the dealer as he/she will more than likely promote any current offers.
Noteworthy mentions include adhering to table limits, being required to set a playing reminder notification at least every 60 minutes on any Evolution table and specific blackjack tournament rules for specific promotions to name a few.
Congratulations, you’re now equipped with the need-to-know basic rules for playing blackjack. Take your time to process what you’ve learnt, sit in on a few rounds and then see how you fair on your own. Remember, the advantage of wagering online is that you can keep this page open as you stake without any prying eyes watching you. Then, become familiar with the odds and side bets of the game next before moving onto the strategies of the game. Phase two is complete!
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