Casino card games don’t come more exciting or simple to understand than Blackjack. Since its introduction to land-based casinos in the twentieth century, the game has grown in popularity to become arguably the world’s favorite casino game. But before you hit the tables and do your best to win big, make sure you fully understand the rules that govern Blackjack. See below for more helpful tips and advice.
The rules of Blackjack can be grasped within minutes. However, depending on which variant you are playing, table rules and betting options may differ. There are a variety of Blackjack game types, and we offer several versions on both Single Player and Multi-Player tables.
In each round of Blackjack, players seated at the table begin by placing a bet into their respective betting positions, also known as ‘boxes’. Each table clearly states the minimum and maximum stakes that players can bet, and bet sizes can be chosen by clicking on the chip icon which denotes the correct value of a desired wager. After all wager(s) are placed, players will be dealt two cards face-up in front of their boxes, and the dealer will receive either one card (European style) or two cards with one face-up and one face-down (Atlantic City style), depending on the variant they are playing.
The goal in any hand of Blackjack is to beat the dealer. To do this, you must have a hand that scores higher than the dealer's hand, but does not exceed 21 in total value. Alternatively, you can win by having a score lower than 22 when the value of the dealer's hand exceeds 21. When the total value of your hand is 22 or more, this is more commonly known as ‘busting’, and you will automatically lose any money wagered.
When prompted, you can draw cards to your hand(s) in order to increase its total value. When you have finished drawing cards, the dealer will complete their hand. There are strict rules as to how they do so, which differ depending on the Blackjack variant you are playing. Make sure you understand each variant’s rules, as this is a major aspect of how Blackjack is played and allows you to make important strategic decisions in each hand.
The best hand in Blackjack is, unsurprisingly, ‘Blackjack’. The game’s best hand pays more than any other combination (up to 3:2 on your wager, depending on which game variant you are playing), and is made up of an ace and any card valued at ten - including any jack, queens, king or ten. Blackjack must be dealt on your two first cards to count, and is unbeatable. It can, however, be tied if the dealer's hand is also Blackjack.
In Blackjack, tens, jacks, queens and kings each have a value of ten. Aces can have two different values, of either one or eleven (you can choose which). For example, when you combine an ace and four, your hand can be worth either five or 15. Whenever an ace is valued at 11, the higher total is often referred to as a ‘soft’ total, so in the given example, 15 would be a ‘soft 15’. Players can request an extra card, or ‘hit’, or double on a soft hand without the risk of busting. However, a soft hand is not guaranteed to improve after you’ve hit.
Winning hands in Blackjack will generally pay one-to-one (1:1), also known as ‘evens’ or ‘even money’. Therefore, if you wager 20 chips and win your hand, you will usually receive 20 chips in profit on top of your original wager. Get dealt Blackjack while playing a game variant which pays 3:2 and you would receive 30 chips in profit on top of your original wager, if the dealer does not get dealt Blackjack as well.
Whenever your hand ties with the dealer's, this is known as a ‘push’. Should this happen, you will be returned your wager, but will not be awarded additional money. Lose a hand and you will forfeit your wager to the house. There are exceptions to these general rules, which are outlined below, and on each game variant's rules page.
Usually, you will be awarded your payout after the dealer has completed their hand. It's very important than you read each variant’s rules to check for any specific differences, as the rules by which the dealer plays and pays are strict, and will often differ. The most common rule difference between variants will be whether or not the dealer draws cards on a soft 17. In some variants the dealer must stand on a soft 17, while in others the dealer must hit.
Your actions in Blackjack are not just limited to drawing cards or sticking with what you are initially dealt. In certain circumstances you will be presented with several additional options. These options are dependent on the initial two cards you are dealt. These options include:
In essence, splitting turns one hand into two, giving you more chances to win. Whenever you split a hand, you can place an additional wager on the newly formed second hand, of equal value to your initial wager. Splitting can occur in the following situations:
Splitting also has restrictions when it comes to being dealt aces. When you split two aces, almost all variants of Blackjack allow only one card to be drawn to each of the new hands, restricting your chances of hitting, splitting or doubling down to improve your hand.
The option to Double Down allows you to double your initial wager, but only in certain circumstances:
In certain game variants, doubling down is allowed after splitting. However, other elements must be taken into account:
In some Blackjack games, surrendering allows you to forfeit your hand and take back 50% of your initial wager if you feel you are bound to lose to the dealer, provided it is allowed in the variant you are playing.
You will be presented with a number of decisions to make during each round of Blackjack. The decisions open to you will depend upon the cards you are dealt and the game variant you are playing. Here are the options traditionally open to you in Blackjack:
You can request additional cards to improve your hand(s). Cards will be drawn one at a time until the total hand value is 21 or higher.
When the total value of your hand is 21 or lower, and can choose to stand and not to risk the chance of your hand(s) exceeding 21 in total value.
In certain variants, when your first two cards have equal value (eight-eight, jack-ten etc), you can make additional wagers (equal to the starting bet) and create a second hand with which to play against the dealer.
You may place an additional wager, equal to the starting bet, in exchange for just one more card for your hand(s), after which you will automatically stand.
In certain game variants, you may forfeit half of your bet and end the hand immediately.
In certain game variants, when the dealer's first card is an ace, you can wager half of your original bet amount and receive a 2:1 payout if the dealer hits Blackjack. If the dealer does have Blackjack, you will break-even on the hand.
If you have been dealt Blackjack, and the dealer is showing an ace, even money is a special type of insurance bet that can be made. If you decide to take even money, the payout will be 1:1, regardless of whether the dealer has Blackjack or not. If you do not take even money, the hand will play out as normal.
When playing Blackjack, it’s critical that you're not restricted from making your preferred choices during a hand. A number of factors can sometimes impact on your play - from internet connection issues to misclicks. While we can't foresee every problem that may impact you, there are a number of protections built into our software to help those players who may make decisions which are inadvertent or accidental, and which are considered outside the boundaries of normal play.
If you attempt to make one of the following decisions, our software will issue a warning, prompting you to double check if the action you indicated is your preferred choice:
PokerStars includes these measures to ensure you don't lose wagers due to misclicks or errors. However, while we don't recommend it, these warnings can be turned off. You can choose to do so when issued a warning by our software.