In this casino guide from GoodLockMate, we’ll take you through how to play blackjack, as well as teaching you all the rules and the best blackjack strategy. Because, even though this is partly a game of chance, it’s first and foremost a game of skill, which means you’ll win more if you truly know how to play. The easiest way to play perfectly is by using a blackjack strategy chart, and that is, of course, something we’ve also put together for you. But before we get to that, let’s have a look at what the game is about and how to bet in blackjack. 

How to play blackjack

When you play blackjack online, you play against a dealer. On a normal blackjack table, there will be up to seven players and one dealer. Your battle is strictly against the dealer's hand, and the other player’s results are irrelevant to you since they won’t impact whether you win or lose. The course of the game and which blackjack rules apply depend on the version of the game you’re playing. However, since the standard version is known as American Blackjack, this is the game we’ll guide you through first.

The round starts with each player placing a bet. The table will have a limit for both the maximum and minimum bet, but within this range, you can bet however much or little you want. The dealer will then deal two cards for each player, progressing clockwise and one card at a time. The dealer will, however, only deal one card for him- or herself. All cards are dealt face up on the table so everyone can see each other's cards. The second card for the dealer will not be drawn or dealt until all of the players are done playing their hands. This card is called the hole card.  

Blackjack card value

In blackjack, the best hand you can end up with is when you get 21 with the two first cards that you’re dealt. If that happens you have a ‘Blackjack’, and this has its own payout. However, it doesn’t  mean that you’ll necessarily win over the dealer since the dealer could also get 21, either as a ‘Blackjack’ or with more than two cards. We’ll get back to payouts in blackjack later on, but first let’s look at the cards and their applicable values.

Value of cards in blackjack:

  • 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9: Same point value as the number on the card
  • 10, J, Q & K: 10
  • Ace: 1 or 11

The special card in blackjack is the ace. This card can be used as both 1 and 11, depending on what gives you the best possible outcome. To get a “Blackjack,” you need an ace and a card valued at 10 points in order to get 21. A “Blackjack” will always be a “soft” hand, since the ace is valued at 11. If you’re using an ace as 1, the hand will be “hard.” For example, if you get an ace and a 7, this can either be considered a Hard 8 or a Soft 18. 

Players’ choices

The dealer is the last one to play their hand, so the players always start. There are several different moves you can make to play your hand, and each of them has its own name. At land-based casinos, you’ll use hand gestures to indicate to the dealer what you want to do, but when you’re playing blackjack online, you’ll choose the buttons on the virtual table to make your choice, which makes it easy to figure out how to play blackjack for beginners as well. Here’s an explanation of each of the options you’ll have, along with some other terminology:

Hit – get a new card

If you choose to hit, this means you’re choosing to have another card dealt to you. Choosing to hit also keeps the option open to double down or split your cards later on, although you may also choose to stand after your new card is dealt. You can hit as many times as you’d like until you get 22 or more, which means that you’ve lost the current game round. 

Split – play with multiple hands

If you get two cards of the same value, you can choose to split them into two hands. If you do, you’ll have to place a second bet for this extra hand, and you’ll then have two separate hands to play for the round. Most versions of blackjack have a limit on the number of times you can split a hand during the same game round. It differs from version to version whether the extra bets you have to place for splitting a hand are counted towards the table limit or not. Some tables have a max bet per hand while other tables have a max bet per game round. This is something you should check before you start betting so you can still place a bet for an amount that’s within the table limit if you chose to split a couple of times.

Insurance – in case the dealer has blackjack

If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, you’ll have the opportunity to buy insurance. This will allow you to place a bet as insurance in the event that the dealer has ‘Blackjack’. This bet is a side bet and won’t impact any of the other potential payouts for winning the game round. If you bought insurance and the dealer has “Blackjack,” what you’ll get is a payout of 2:1 on your insurance bet. In American Blackjack, the dealer won’t check their hole card for “Blackjack” until all of the players have finished playing their hands. Because of this, adding more to your bet by splitting or doubling down is not recommended if the dealer's card is an ace, regardless of whether you choose to buy insurance or not.

Double Down – double your bet and get one more card

If you have a hand you think you can win with just one additional card, you can choose to double down. This means you’ll place an extra bet that matches your initial bet in order to get one more card. What’s important to know is that no matter what card you get, you’ll have to stand with the hand you have after doubling down. Whether or not you’re allowed to double down on a hand you’ve previously split varies based on the version of blackjack you’re playing and/or the house rules.

Stand – stop with the hand you have

When you choose to stand, you’re choosing to end your game round. You won’t be able to get any more cards or make any more moves, and all that’s left is to find out what the dealer’s hand is. In contrast to the dealer, as a player, you can choose to stand at any point, regardless of what the value of your hand is. 

Push – it’s a tie

If you and the dealer both get a hand with the same value, this is known as a push. Usually this means you’ll get your bet back because the game round is a tie, but in some versions of blackjack, this might in fact mean that you lose. If a push occurs where you and the dealer both have “Blackjack” in your hands, you’ll get a push for the game round, but the payout for getting 21 with only two cards still applies since this is an extra type of payout not connected to winning or losing the game round.

Bust – you just lost

If you get more than 21, you go bust, and this always means a loss. Even if the dealer’s hand, once his or her hand is played, is also a bust, this won’t result in you getting a push. The reason is that you’ve dropped out of the game with a loss even before the dealer started playing the house hand. 

Surrender – give up your hand

In most versions of blackjack, you can choose to surrender your hand. You can only do this if you haven’t chosen to use any other moves, such as a hit, a double down or a split. In other words, this has to be the first and only thing you do after your two cards are dealt. In some versions of blackjack, if the dealer has a face-up ace, they need to check for “Blackjack” before a player is allowed to surrender, which can only be done at this point if the dealer doesn’t have this card combination. This only applies to games where the hole card is drawn at the beginning of the game round. Surrendering will usually give the player half of their bet back, so it’s a 1:2 payout. 

Dealer’s choices

Players can play blackjack in almost any way they choose, which means the player is the one who decides how the two cards they’re dealt will be played until they bust or choose to stand. For the dealer, it’s different, though, because they have to play by the house rules, which are usually the standard rules for the blackjack game that is being played. They can never split or double down since the only option they have is to hit until they reach the limit set by the house blackjack rules.

After all of the players at the table have played their hands and have either busted out or chosen to stand, it’s the dealers turn. The dealer will start by drawing the hole card from the shoe. Once this is dealt, the dealer will check the value of the hand, and if the value is less than 17, the dealer will draw another card. The dealer must keep drawing new cards until the total is 17 or more. Once the total is 17 or more, the dealer must stand and cannot receive any more cards. Once this happens, the game round is over. 

The only exception to this in standard blackjack is that some casinos require the house to still draw a new card if the dealer's hand is a soft 17 but stand on a hard 17, a soft 18, or higher. 

How to win at blackjack

To come out on the winning end of a game of blackjack, you’ll need to beat the dealer. There are several ways to do this. You can get a higher valued hand than the dealer, without passing 21. You know the dealer will always get either a minimum 17 or bust out since the dealer can’t stand before this value is reached. This is an important fact to keep in mind when you consider how to play and how to win in blackjack. 

You can still win by standing at less than 17, but then you’re basically betting on the dealer busting. As long as the dealer draws 22 or more, you’ll win, provided you haven’t busted first. This means you can, in theory, still win if you choose to stand on a hand with a very low value, even though this is not something that’s recommended according to any blackjack basic strategy. 

The last way you can come out on the winning end is by getting a “Blackjack.” As mentioned earlier in this blackjack guide, you don't necessarily win the game round by getting this combination of an ace and a card valued at 10, but no matter what, you’ll end up winning a bit. If the dealer also has 21 or “Blackjack,” the game round ends with a push — in other words, it’s a tie. But every blackjack game has a special payout for a “Blackjack,” which is usually 3:2. This means you get €/$15 if your initial bet for the game round was €/$10. If the dealer doesn’t have 21, of course, you’ll also win the game round and get the standard 2:1 payout for doing so, along with your extra 3:2 payout.

Blackjack strategy

Since this card game is a game of skill, you should always make sure you use a blackjack strategy when you’re playing. No matter what strategy you use, you’re never guaranteed to win every hand you play, but you’ll be sure to win as often as possible. You can, of course, also just trust your luck and your gut feelings; this might work for a while, but in the long run, it will make you lose.

There are several strategies you can use, but all of them are based on a blackjack strategy chart. Even if your strategy is counting cards, you still need to know what the probability of a particular outcome is, and you can then choose your moves based on that. So the first thing you should learn as a basic blackjack strategy is the chart that will help you play perfect blackjack – because yes, there is such a thing as perfect blackjack.

One of the great benefits of playing online blackjack is that you can have the chart next to you, or on your screen, while you’re playing. Using the strategy chart, you can make the optimal choices for each hand, and in this way, increase your chances of winning. However, if you play at a land-based casino, they probably won’t allow you to do this, so you should memorize as much of this chart as possible before heading to a real casino. Since counting cards is frowned upon at land-based casinos, learning to use strategy charts is a good trick for understanding how to win at blackjack without counting cards. 

Blackjack strategy chart

There are many online charts for blackjack, and you should know that not all of them will work optimally for all blackjack games. For instance, you can’t use the same chart for American Blackjack as you do for European Blackjack, Double Exposure Blackjack or any other kind of the game. Since each version has its own rules, you have to use a chart made especially for the game you’re playing. The number of decks used in the game will also determine which move is the best one, so an 8-deck American Blackjack game can’t use the same blackjack strategy chart as Single Deck Blackjack, even though it’s still the American version that is played. For this blackjack guide for beginners, we’ll share some charts used for standard blackjack, meaning American Blackjack played with between 6 and 8 decks of cards.  

Chart explanation:

S – Stand
H – Hit
SP – Split
SU – Surrender
SU/S – Surrender if allowed, if not stand
SU/H – Surrender if allowed, if not hit
SU/SP – Surrender if allowed, if not split
DD – Double Down
DD/H – Double Down if allowed, if not hit
DD/S – Double Down if allowed, if not stand

Blackjack Strategy Chart – hard hands without a pair

This chart should be used if your hand is hard, meaning you don’t have an ace, and when your cards aren’t a pair (2 cards of same value that can be split).

Dealers card (face-up)

Your cards

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

A

21

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

20

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

19

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

18

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

17

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

SU/S

16

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

SU/H

SU/H

SU/H

15

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

SU/H

SU/H

14

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

13

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

12

H

H

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

11

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

10

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

9

H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

8

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

7

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

6

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

5

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

Blackjack Strategy Chart – soft hands

This chart should be used if your hand is soft, meaning you have an ace used as 11. If, after using this chart, you end up with a hard hand where the ace is valued at 1, use the chart above.

Dealers card (face-up)

Your cards

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

A

A + 9

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

A + 8

S

S

S

S

DD/S

S

S

S

S

S

A + 7

DD/S

DD/S

DD/S

DD/S

DD/S

S

S

H

H

H

A + 6

H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

A + 5

H

H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

A + 4

H

H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

A + 3

H

H

H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

A + 2

H

H

H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

Blackjack Strategy Chart – pairs 

If your hand consists of a pair, and the rules of the game allow you to split, this should be done according to this chart. If the rules don’t allow you to split, use the chart for hard hands above. 

Dealers card (face-up)

Your cards

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

A

A + A

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

10 + 10

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

9 + 9

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

S

SP

SP

S

S

8 + 8

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SU/SP

7 + 7

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

6 + 6 

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

H

5 + 5

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

4 + 4

H

H

H

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

H

3 + 3

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

2 + 2

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

How to count cards in blackjack

Perhaps the most common and best-known blackjack strategy is counting cards. However, unless you have a photographic memory, trying to count every card will be impossible. Therefore, if you want to learn how to count cards in blackjack you should instead try to count high and low cards. This means you don’t have to keep track of every card, just whether the card is high or low. 

Even though you might get a bit of an edge if you successfully count cards, it’s far from a sure thing that this strategy will work. Since this is a strategy that has been used in blackjack and other card games more or less as long as these games have existed, casinos have done what they can to make it harder for you. They do this in several ways. First of all, the common number of decks used at most blackjack tables is 6 or 8, and when these decks are shuffled together, it’s not possible to accurately judge which cards are left in the dealer’s shoe until you get closer to the end of the shoe. Second of all, there’s a thing called a cut card.

The cut card will be placed in the shoe, usually about halfway or ⅔ of the way down the shoe, so that it separates the last half or the last third of the cards left in the shoe. Once the dealer has dealt all of the cards ahead of the cut card, the decks will be replaced or reshuffled. That way, you never get to the portion of the cards where you can predict which cards are left to be dealt. 

If you still want to try to count cards when you’re playing blackjack, we suggest you choose to play Single Deck Blackjack so you’re only playing with one deck at a time.

House edge and blackjack payouts

Since blackjack is not just a game of luck but also very much a game of skill, there’s never a fixed house edge. The minimum house edge you can get, if you play with a perfect strategy, is 0.5%. However, if you don’t use a blackjack strategy but instead just play according to your gut feeling, the casino’s edge over you can be 2% or even more. Basically, this means your chances of winning in the long run depend on your own blackjack skills and strategy. The best possible outcome is, of course, if you use a blackjack strategy chart in combination with counting cards. Using the chart as a base while implementing other strategies is something most professional players do, whereas most casual players simply use a basic strategy, or no strategy at all.  

The payout you’ll get if you win in blackjack is 2:1, meaning you’ll double your money if you win. The payout can, in certain versions of blackjack, also be higher or lower, depending on the rules of the games and how many “extra” benefits the rules give the house or the player. The standard payout for a “Blackjack” hand is 3:2, but here, as well, some versions may give you more or less depending on which cards you have to make up a “Blackjack.” For instance, in Red Queen Blackjack, getting 21 with the first two cards if the card valued at 10 is a queen of hearts or diamonds means you’ll get a payout of 2:1. Red Queen Blackjack is, by the way, also one of the blackjack games with the lowest house edge, since a perfect game gives the house an edge of only 0.18%!

Different versions of blackjack online

There are so many different versions of blackjack that it’s almost considered more of a game type than just one game. But, if you find a game marked only with Blackjack at an online casino, it will be the American Blackjack version that’s played. If there’s another type of game, it will be prominently marked on the game. The payouts for different games are usually found on the table felt or in the game information. 

When you play blackjack online, you’ll usually find a vast selection of blackjack games. Classic blackjack is only one of the options you’ll have. The number of different types of blackjack the casino offers usually depends on which game providers they have, and if they’ve chosen to focus only on live blackjack games or if they’ve also included slots. In general, the selection of different types of blackjack games is usually better in the digitally controlled games but playing live casino blackjack with a live dealer is usually the preferred way to play for most players. However, if you want to try out a new version of blackjack, you should try to find it in a slot version first because this will also enable you to practice playing blackjack for free. This way you can improve your skills without risking your own money before you head over to the live casino. 

Let’s have a look at some of the most popular and common blackjack games you can play online:

European Blackjack

Perhaps the biggest difference between European Blackjack and the standard version is something you’ll notice as soon as the cards are dealt. The dealer will not only draw one card, face up, to him- or herself, but also a second hole card at the very beginning of the game. This card will remain face down until all of the players are done playing their hands. This might seem like a small and insignificant difference, but it’s not. In the event that the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, the dealer will check for “Blackjack” straight away, after players have decided whether or not to buy insurance. If the dealer doesn’t have “Blackjack,” it means you can split and double down, and in this way, increase your bets for the game round without worrying about the dealer having the perfect hand. Another major difference between American and European Blackjack is that European Blackjack is only played with 2 decks of cards. 

Drawing the hole card and having only 2 deck gives players quite a few benefits, and as always, when you get a benefit, you also get a disadvantage. In European Blackjack the disadvantage is found in the split and double down moves. You can only split once per game round, and you can only split the same cards. This impacts splitting cards that are valued at 10 because you can’t split with a queen and a king. You can only split a queen if you have another queen, a jack if you have another jack, and so on. Doubling down is only possible if your hand is valued at 9, 10 or 11, and you can’t double down on a hand that has already been split.

Double Exposure

The main difference when you’re playing Double Exposure Blackjack should be obvious – both of the dealer’s cards are exposed from the very beginning of the game. This means you’ll immediately know what hand the dealer has, which makes it easier for you to choose a strategy for your own cards. For instance, if the dealer's hand is 18, you know they’ll stand with this hand since they are not allowed to draw more cards. So, they won’t get a hand with a higher value and risk busting. On the other hand, if the dealer has 16, you know the chances of them busting are quite high. So, figuring out when to stand, hit, or do something else is easy for you to determine.

So, seeing the dealer's hand in this game is to your benefit, but you also get three disadvantages. First of all, you can’t surrender in this game. Second of all, you can’t get insurance (obviously). The third disadvantage is, however, the worst: you can’t get a push. If you and the dealer both end up with hands of the same value, you’ll lose. You’ll have to beat the dealer to win since a tie will mean that you lose your bet.

Single Deck

Single Deck Blackjack isn’t really a separate type of game since several different rules can apply. The main thing, though, is that there’ll only be one deck of cards used. This means it’s the best game for you to use the card-counting strategy. Only having one deck is a massive benefit, and because of this, the true version of Single Deck Blackjack is almost never found at casinos, either land-based or online. However, you may find games that are called Single Deck Blackjack, but they often have added different game rules designed to increase the house edge. You might find limits on your options for splitting, doubling down, getting insurance or surrendering. It’s also normal that the payout for ‘Blackjack’ is only 6:5 instead of the normal 3:2.

Pontoon

There are two different games that are called Pontoon, but Pontoon Blackjack is the most common one. In this game, your best hand will always be 21. No matter how many cards you need to get this value, you’ll win. It doesn’t matter if you get a “Blackjack” hand valued at 21 with only two cards or if you draw more cards to get this value, the dealer won’t be able to win over you. There’s no push for 21, and you’ll always get the payout for winning the game round. If you do get 21 with only two cards, of course, you’ll also get the extra payout for this.

There are two disadvantages in Pontoon Blackjack compared to normal versions of the game. You can only choose to surrender if the dealer’s exposed card is either a card valued at 10 or an ace. However, before you’re allowed to surrender to get half your bet back, the dealer will check for “Blackjack.” If the dealer has an ace and a 10, you won’t be able to surrender. In addition to this, there are also special rules for doubling down. If you double down, you won’t be able to get a soft hand since the ace will always only count as 1. 

Blackjack FAQ

Blackjack is one of those games where players tend to have a lot of questions, and in this section, we’ve tried to answer as many of the frequently asked questions as possible.

When to bet in blackjack?

You place your bet before the game round starts, meaning before the cards are dealt. Additional bets can be placed later on, either by splitting your cards, by doubling down or by placing a side bet. Your bets must be within the table limits for minimum and maximum bets.

Related question(s):

  • How to bet in blackjack

How to count cards in blackjack?

To count cards in blackjack, you can count each and every card, or you can count high and low cards. High and low is the easiest way to count. If you want to count every card, you assign a value to them, and calculate + and -, depending on which cards are being dealt. The sum will tell you the value of the cards left in the deck, depending on whether you end up with a positive or a negative number.

Related question(s):

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What is a blackjack?

“Blackjack” is when you get 21 with only 2 cards, meaning you’re dealt an ace and a 10, J, Q or K. If you get 21 with more than two cards, it doesn’t count as a “Blackjack” but as a hand valued at 21. Only a true “Blackjack” hand will give you the extra payout for this combination of cards, which is normally a 3:2 payout. 

Related question(s):

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How do you play blackjack?

You play blackjack against the dealer, and whoever gets the highest valued hand, without exceeding 21, wins. Players can choose to hit, split, double down or surrender when they play their hands. Dealers, who are playing for the house, have to play by set rules. The players always start, and the dealer plays the house hand once all players have busted or chosen to stand.

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How to win in blackjack?

You can win a game round in blackjack either by winning against the dealer or by getting “Blackjack,” or both. Winning against the dealer, meaning you have a higher valued hand without going bust, will give you a payout of 2:1, so you’ll double your money. Getting a “Blackjack” doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll win since you might get a push with the dealer. But no matter what, you’ll get an extra payout of 3:2 for this card combination.

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What is insurance in blackjack?

Insurance is a side bet that protects you and doubles your insurance bet if the dealer has “Blackjack.” It can only be used if the dealer's face-up card is an ace.

Related question(s):

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When to hit in blackjack?

Hitting is the most common move players make in blackjack because it means you’ll get a new card, and you keep your options for all other moves open, except for surrendering and buying insurance. You can choose to hit when you don’t believe you can get a good hand with just one more card because you should double down instead, when you can’t or don’t want to split your cards, or when you think standing isn’t a good option.

Related question(s):

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When to split in blackjack?

When you have two cards of the same value, you have the option of splitting them into two hands. You can only do this as the first move in a hand, so if you’ve already chosen to hit and you now have three cards, the hand can no longer be split. Some versions of blackjack only allow you to split cards with certain values. Generally, you can split all cards of the same value, but in some blackjack games you can only split a 10 and a 10, a J and another J, a Q and another Q or a K and another K, even though all of these cards are worth 10. To understand whether you can split or not, check out the blackjack strategy chart. 

Related question(s):

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What is double down in blackjack?

Doubling down is a move you can make when you think you can win by getting just one more card. This is the last move you can make in a game round since no more moves can be made after this one. In addition to limiting yourself to only one additional card, you also have to double your bet. Have a look at the blackjack chart to see when this is considered a good move and when it’s not. 

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How to play blackjack at a casino?

There are several ways to play blackjack at a casino because this is a game all casinos offer. When you play online, you can play a digitally controlled game against a random number generator, or you can play against a live dealer in the live casino. Most casinos not only offer several tables and machines with blackjack, they also offer different versions of these games. You’ll also find tables with limits for casual players, as well as tables for professional high rollers. Just find the table that suits you best: make sure that the version of the game you choose is the one you’re best at and have the best strategy for, and then place your bets. 

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  • How to play blackjack at casinos?
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What is surrender in blackjack?

Surrendering is also known as folding. This is something you can choose to do if you don’t want to play the hand you’ve been dealt. You can only surrender before you’ve chosen to hit or before you’ve played your hand in other ways. Some games have limits on when you can surrender, based on the cards the dealer has. If you surrender your hand, you’ll get half of your bet back. 

What is an ace in blackjack?

The ace is the special card in blackjack. This card can be used as either 1 or 11, and the value is determined by which of these makes the best hand. If an ace is used as 11, this means the hand you have is soft, whereas the hand is hard if you use the ace as 1. At casinos the dealer will call out the value of the hand before you play your cards, and if you have an ace, they’ll call out both the hard and the soft values. 

How to deal blackjack?

The cards are always dealt clockwise, one card at a time. A player is never assigned to the dealer position, which is how it’s done in some other card games, because it’s always the house that deals the cards with the help of a dealer/croupier.