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The Complete Blackjack Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Blackjack is one of the most popular games in a casino. When you think of casinos the iconic cast of characters of the Jack, Queen, King, and Ace often comes to mind. This game can be found in every casino you visit, whether it’s a land-based casino in Ontario or an online casino you’ll be able to play blackjack.

One significant difference between a land-based casino and an online casino is the sheer variety of blackjack games available. Further down in this guide we will cover some of these variations of blackjack commonly found online. There’s then the obvious differences between an online casino and a land-based one, first the simple fact that you are playing from home on your phone or laptop as opposed to sitting in your finest attire at a traditional casino.

In the online casinos, there’s a mix between real-world elements of a casino and a digital experience trying to catch as much as possible of the essence and experiences of a land-based casino. You’ll real dealers and actual tables and cards at a live blackjack table while you interact and place bets through a GUI (Graphical User Interface) on the screen of your device.

What both online casinos and traditional casinos have in common is the sheer amount of fun playing blackjack and other games!

Quick Overview: How to Play Blackjack Step-by-Step

The following steps cover the basics of playing blackjack. The rules and betting options of blackjack are much the same in both land-based casinos and in online casinos. Differences in blackjack rules, betting options, and table layouts are based on blackjack variations, more on that later. For now, let’s go through the basics.

1st Step: Place your bet(s)

Before any cards are dealt you need to place your bets. The empty card slots on the table represent hands you can play. As long as no one is occupying the space you could play anything from 1 to 10 hands depending on the size of the table. So what you do is place some chips in one or more card slots.

Place your bet Blackjack

2nd Step: Cards are dealt

When all bets are placed the dealer will start handing out cards. First, all players will receive a face-up card including the dealer, then all players receive a second face-up card and the dealer receive a face-down card.

Deal card Blackjack

3rd Step: Make decision

This is the stage where Blackjack becomes strategic, depending on what cards you have and what the dealer has there are different options for you as a player. One option might be optional, another neutral and then there’s going for bad options. We will dig into that later when going through all the betting options and blackjack strategies. The basic option we will mention here is, whether you should hit – take another card, or stand – take no additional card(s).

If you have a face card or a 10 and you get an Ace, then you score blackjack and get an immediate payout for your win. If you take a card(s) and the total value of your hand is higher than 21 you automatically lose the hand, you go bust. You have the option to stand as long as you have a total value of 20 and below.

Decision Blackjack

4th Step: Dealer reveals her card

When all hands have been dealt with you and the other participating players, the dealer reveals her card. If the total value of her cards is 16 or less, the dealer is forced to take another card(s) until the value of her hand is 17 or greater. The dealer automatically loses if the total value of her hand exceeds 21. If the dealer hits 17, 18, 20 or 21 they are forced to stop.

You win if you are closer to 21 compared to the dealer or if the dealer goes bust when exceeding 21. The dealer wins if their hand is closer to 21 and as mentioned earlier if you already went bust. As explained in the previous section, if your card total is higher than 21 you’re bust and lose your wager.

Player WinsScenario Player Wins Blackjack

Dealer Wins

Player wins as dealer goes bust
Scenario Dealer Bust Blackjack

5th Step: Repeat

Blackjack has no final winner. You can play for as long as you like. If you play at a casino that plays through a whole deck of cards before shuffling the decks, then you have to wait until the dealer has prepared the deck and then play through it again. In some casinos, the cards are shuffled continuously so the game keeps on going without any interruptions.

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Quick Overview: Layout of a Blackjack Table

Blackjack Table

Further down in this guide you will find out that there are many different blackjack variations, most of these have different layouts. The elements you see in this image are the common blackjack elements you can find on most blackjack tables; the blackjack payout, insurance payout, dealer rule and slots for cards.

Overview Blackjack Table

Blackjack Cards

Blackjack uses traditional playing cards, in decks of 52 cards, with Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades, and numbers ranging from 2-10, Jack’s, Queen’s, King’s, and Ace’s. The Ace cards count as either 1 or 11. The cards depicting Jack’s, Queen’s, and King’s are also called Face Cards in blackjack lingo. At a blackjack table, there are always multiple decks mixed together which the dealer draws cards from, more on that later in this guide.

Overview Blackjack Deck

Blackjack Payouts

Regular win – When the value of your cards is closer to 21 compared to the dealer. Payout: 1:1

Blackjack win – Blackjack is when you get a 10 and an Ace as your first two cards. Payout: 3:2

Take Even Money: When you hit a blackjack and the dealer shows an Ace as their exposed card, you have the option to take even money and get a 1:1 payout instead of 3:2. The reason behind this is that, if the dealer also gets 21, then you only get your wager back.

Insurance: Insurance is a side bet that is offered when the dealer’s exposed card is an Ace. If you take the insurance bet and the dealer gets a blackjack you win. Payout: 2:1

Basic Blackjack Rules

Blackjack rules relate to betting options, payouts, and how the dealer needs to act in relation to the cards they are dealt with. Blackjack is one of the easier games to play but takes a long time to master, as we will see in a later section covering blackjack strategies.

Hit or Stand: Every round you have the choice to take another card to try and improve your hand and get closer to 21, you also have the option to stand and not take any more cards.

Split: If you are dealt two cards of the same value, for example, two 10s, you have the option to split those two cards into two separate hands with the option to hit or stand on each of the hands.

Double Down: You usually have the option to double down on your hand, this means that you double your bet on your hand and you receive one additional card with no option to take another one.

Some casinos only allow players to double down on any cards they have, while online casinos often limit the option to only double down on 10 and 11. Normally it only makes sense to double down on 10 and 11 anyway.

Push: If both the player and the dealer have the same hand value, whether it’s 21 or 17, there is a push and no one wins. The player then keeps the wager they had put down on that hand.


16 and below: The dealer must hit and take more cards if their hand value is 16 or less.

17 and over: The dealer must stand and take no more cards if their hand value is 17 or more.

Additional Blackjack Betting Options

While not necessary to play blackjack, it’s worth taking note of the following advanced blackjack rules.

Soft Hand: In blackjack lingo, a soft hand is when you have an ace in it. An ace is valued at either 1 or 11, giving your hand a greater range of outcomes.

If a dealer has a soft hand with a value of 17, some casinos may require the dealer to take more cards while other casinos may require that they stand. You should ask about the rules before starting to play.

Surrendering: In some casinos, you have the option to surrender half of your bet if you are not happy with your hand.

Blackjack Strategies

In blackjack, you need to make decisions at every turn, whether to hit, stand, split or double – all comes down to what cards you have and the exposed card of the dealer.

The good part about Blackjack strategy is that it’s narrowed down to just three options each time you need to make a decision. Four options if you are playing blackjack at an online casino that offers surrender as an option.

In each of the options we have included blackjack strategy charts that you can download, these are practical cheat sheets you can study and reference while playing blackjack.

#1 Can or should you Surrender?

If you are playing in an online casino that offers surrender as an option. This option is only available for the first two cards you are dealt with, if you have taken another card, split or double down you’ll not be able to surrender. Without going into any details we’ll let this handy blackjack ‘surrender chart‘ explain it to you, you can download it for free and start using it straight away.

If you decide not to surrender…

#2 Can or should you Split?

This is the second option to consider, whether or not you should split. Splitting is only possible if your first two cards have the same value, for example, 9 and 9 or if you have two face cards, for example, and King and a Queen. Again, without digging into the details we ask you to download our handy blackjack ‘When to split’ blackjack chart, you can download it for free and start using it straight away.

If you can’t split then you need to consider whether to…

#3 Can or should you Double?

If doubling down is the right thing to do, that means you’re already ahead. You should only double when you are most likely to win the hand. This makes doubling down the most exciting act in blackjack, it’s no guarantee that you would win though, just that you are likely to win. Please refer to our handy “When to double” blackjack chart, you can download it for free and start using it straight away.

If you are not likely to win the hand, then you won’t be doubling down and it’s time to decide…

#3 Can or should you Double?

If doubling down is the right thing to do, that means you’re already ahead. You should only double when you are most likely to win the hand. This makes doubling down the most exciting act in blackjack, it’s no guarantee that you would win though, just that you are likely to win. Please refer to our handy “When to double” blackjack chart, you can download it for free and start using it straight away.

If you are not likely to win the hand, then you won’t be doubling down and it’s time to decide…

#4 Should you Hit or Stand?

If none of the options above are optimal, then you need to decide whether to hit or stand. As with all the other decisions, there is a handy ‘When to Hit or Stand’ blackjack chart available for download. It’s free and you can start using it straight away to improve your blackjack game starting from today.

If charts are not your thing, then you can memorize these 29 one-liners which neatly summarize a lot of the basic blackjack strategies in short phrases.

29 Blackjack One-liners to Memorize


    • 15 surrender against a dealer 10, otherwise doesn’t surrender.
    • 16 surrender against a dealer 9, 10, Face cards and Ace, otherwise don’t surrender.

In all other cases, refer to Hard Hands below.

Split (descending):

    • Always split Aces
    • Never split 10s
    • Pair of 9s split against a dealer 2 through 9, stand on 7, 10, Face card and Ace.
    • Always split 8s
    • Pair of 7s split against a dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
    • Pair of 6s split against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
    • Pair of 5s split against a dealer 2 through 9, otherwise hit.
    • Pair of 4s split against a dealer 55 through 6, otherwise hit.
    • Pair of 3s split against a dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
    • Pair of 2s split against a dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.

Hard Hands:

      • 17 and higher always stand.
      • 16 stand against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
      • 15 stand against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
      • 14 stand against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
      • 13 stand against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
      • 12 stand against a dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
      • 11 always double.
      • 10 doubles against dealer 2 through 9, otherwise hit.
      • 9 doubles against a dealer 3 through 6, otherwise hit.

Different Blackjack Variations

If you are playing or are interested to play online blackjack, you’ll notice that there are many different blackjack variations available. When you visit a land-based casino the offering of Blackjack is usually limited to classic blackjack with different wagering limits.

Classic Blackjack

The most popular version is the Traditional or Classic Blackjack. Classic Blackjack is played with one up to eight decks, most commonly with 6-8 decks. This is the version we based our step-by-step walkthrough on earlier in the guide. You and the dealer are dealt two cards each, two open cards to you and one open and one face down for the dealer. The hand that is closest to 21 without exceeding this value is the winner. If you exceed 21, you go bust, this also applies to the dealer.

European Blackjack

European Blackjack is played with only two decks as opposed to the classic variant where 6-8 decks are most commonly used. Another difference from the classic version is that the dealers’ second card, the hole card, is not dealt until the player makes a decision on how to play his cards. The decisions are the same as that of traditional blackjack – hit, stand, split and double.

Atlantic City Blackjack

Atlantic City Blackjack is always played with eight decks. The dealer is allowed to stand on a soft 17. Splitting is capped at 3 hands maximum. In a typical American manner of blackjack, the dealer is allowed to peek at his hole card.

Vegas Strip Blackjack

This version of blackjack is very popular to play online. Vegas Strip Blackjack is played with four decks. Same as with the Atlantic City Blackjack, the dealer is allowed to peek at his hole card and for a player, splitting is capped at 3 times maximum. There are significant differences from Atlantic City though, the dealer has to stand on soft 17 and the player is allowed to double down after splitting aces.

Spanish 21

Also called Spanish Blackjack, this variant is played with six or eight decks. In this version of blackjack, all the 10s are removed from the decks, leaving only 48 cards in each deck. This effectively increases the edge of the house.
Similar to American versions, the dealer is allowed to peek at his hole card and wins if it’s a blackjack. If the player also has a blackjack, the hand results in a tie. To decrease the edge of the house, players are given the option to surrender after doubling down.

Progressive Blackjack

Progressive stands for progressive jackpot. In Progressive Blackjack, the player has a chance to win the growing jackpot. On each hand, the player has to bet an additional $1 Canadian Dollar, this bet goes into the progressive jackpot and also gives the player a chance to win. In all other regards progressive blackjack plays the same as classic blackjack.

Blackjack Switch

In this version of blackjack, the player is dealt two hands instead of one and can then improve his hand by switching cards between the hands. The payout for blackjack in this version is significantly lower, at 1:1, compared to the usual 3:2. If both the dealer and the player gets a blackjack, there is a tie and the player keeps his bet amount.

Pontoon Blackjack

Pontoon Blackjack is played with all the 10s removed as in the Spanish version, leaving each deck with 48 cards instead of 52. The naming convention in this variant is different:

Hit = Pontoon.
Stand = Twist.
Blackjack = Stick.

Super Fun 21

Super Fun 21 is packed with action as it’s played with a single deck and plays according to classic blackjack rules. The payout structure is different, where a player’s blackjack will beat the dealer’s blackjack. These blackjacks pay even money instead of the usual 3:2 with a slight twist, if there is a Diamond blackjack (Ace of Diamond combined with a 10, J, Q or K of Diamonds) the player will get a 2:1 payout.

Live Blackjack

If you want to play blackjack online and still get a touch of that real-life experience of playing in an actual land-based casino, you should definitely try Live blackjack. The game rules are the same as if you would play offline. In Live Blackjack, you watch the dealer of a stream and interact with the dealer, cards, and table through your phone or computer.

History of Blackjack

Similar to roulette, the origins of blackjack can be traced back to fictional literary sources dating back to 1601. Considering that 1601 is the first time the game surfaced in literature, it’s safe to assume that the game was around prior to the 17th century. The Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, most famous for ‘Don Quixote’, left references to a game of chance reminiscing of modern-day blackjack in two of his books. The author, Cervantes, was a gambler and the main characters of ‘Rinconete y Cortadillo’ and ‘Novelas Ejemplares’ are a couple of cheats working the local scene in Seville, Spain. These cheats are especially good at cheating at a game of chance called “Veintiuna”, which is Spanish for 21. In the books, it’s stated that the object of Veintiuna is to reach 21 without going over (going bust) and that the values of the cards used were similar to that of modern-day blackjack with Ace valued at 1 or 11, Face cards and numerical cards.

Around 1700, a new game started surfacing in French casinos, the name of the game was “Ving-et-Un”, which is French for 21.

Through the centuries the game continued to evolve and gain momentum and popularity. When it was first introduced in North America, saloons and casino houses would offer bonus payouts. One bonus that stuck was a 10:1 payout when the player’s hand consisted of the Ace of spaced and a black Jack. This bonus was called Black Jack. The rest is history. The bonus was removed and the name stuck.