How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is a card based table game. All players are play against the dealer (house). The goal for the player is to have a hand that is closer to 21 than the dealer's hand. But the value of the hand can't exceed 21.

An ace is worth one or eleven. Kings, queens and jacks are worth ten and all other cards have their regular value. The best possible hand is the blackjack a hand consisting of an ace and a ten or a face card.


Each hand starts with the players receiving two cards face up from the dealer and the dealer also gets two cards, but one is concealed. The player can choose to draw more cards and the aim is to come as close to 21 as possible without going over. Up to seven players can play at the same time.

If you receive a pair (two cards of the same value) you can make a split and divide the cards into two separate hands. In order to do this you have to make a new bet of the same size as your additional bets. If you split two aces you will only receive one more card per hand after the split.

You can choose to double the bet after the deal. After doubling down you only receive one more card face down. If the dealer's first card is an ace the players can buy insurance. The insurance cost half of the initial bet and if the dealer gets a blackjack you receive 2:1 on your insurance (which means that you break even.) But to buy insurance is usually a bed bet.

On most blackjack tables it says; Dealer must stand on 17 and draw to 16. This means that the dealer must draw another card if he/she has 16 or below and stand pat on 17 and above.

The blackjack rules vary between casinos and even tables, both when it comes to live and online blackjack. These variations affect the house edge and therefore the player's chance of winning. Over 100 different rule variations exist. Not all rules are posted, so it can be a goodidea to ask.

Some rules are particularly important to keep an eye on:

  • At some tables the dealer hits on soft 17 (a hand consisting of an ace that also can be counted as 7). On these tables the house edge is 0.20 % higher.
  • The payout for a blackjack used to be 3:2, but nowadays it's often 6:5 or even lower, which is off course bad for the player. Always look for tables with a 3:2 payout ratio.
  • You used to be able to double down on any two cards, but this is starting to change. Limiting the hands you can double down also increases the house edge.

Card counting

By learning blackjack strategy you can play optimal in the long run. But in the short run the deck of cards is changed for each card that is dealt. By remembering which cards that are dealt a player can know when the cards remaining in the deck are advantageous for the player. What a player usually is looking for is a deck with many aces and tens left, this both increases the chance to get a blackjack and the chances to hit a ten after doubling down. When the deck is "hot" the card counter will increase the size of the bets.

To keep track of which cards have been dealt you don't have to remember each single cards, most card counters use a point system instead. Different cards receive different points and the player keeps track of the total point count.

Where to play black jack in Las Vegas

Most people come to Las Vegas gamble You can play blackjack in practically all Las Vegas casinos. But the house rules differ between casinos. How large the house edge is also differs depending on what table you choose.

Here's a list of some of the casinos in Las Vegas where you can find blackjack games with the smallest house edge:

Bellagio, Luxor, Mirage, Encore, MGM Grand, New York New York, Treasure Island, Venetian, Wynn, Paris Las Vegas, Bill's gambling Hall.

The betting limits usually vary between one dollar and several thousands. In the larger casinos the minimum bet is usually $5 or $10 and at Caesars Palace you can bet up to $50.000 per hand!

Blackjack tournaments

A blackjack variation that has become increasingly popular during the last couple of years is the blackjack tournament. Instead of wagering money at each hand, as in regular blackjack, the blackjack tournament usually has a fixed buy-in and you receive a certain amount of starting chips. And instead of competing against the house you compete against other players. The tournaments are usually played in elimination style and the object is to outlast your opponents.

In Las Vegas you can find blackjack tournaments with buy-ins from about $25 and up. Imperial Palace and Boulder Station offers blackjack tournaments on a regular basis but they can also be found at other casinos.