A Beginner’s Guide to the Game of Blackjack


Blackjack is a game of skill that requires analytical thinking and composure. It can be challenging, but also rewarding for players of all skill levels. While many novices assume that blackjack is a game of chance, it’s actually a fairly complicated and highly strategic card game. Fortunately, with some practice and basic strategy tips, even novice players can become masters of the game.

A game of blackjack involves two or more players competing against the dealer, with the goal of making a hand score higher than 21 (called busting) and closer to 21 without going over, than the dealer’s. All bets are made against the dealer, and each player is dealt two cards. Numbered cards count at their face value, and Jacks, Queens and Kings are worth 10 points. Aces may be counted as either 1 or 11, and players can choose whether to hit (take a new card) or stay (play with the current hand).

The game is played with one to eight standard 52-card decks, and betting is done by placing chips in a designated area on the table. If your first two cards add up to a total of 21, you have a blackjack, which pays either 6 to 5 or 3 to 2 depending on the game rules. In some variations of the game, a player may “split” any pair of cards of the same rank (including aces) by putting an additional bet equal to their original stake and receiving one additional card for each split. In other games, a player may double their original stake only when they receive two cards of the same rank.

After a player places their bet, the dealer deals each player two cards face up and himself one card face down. If a player’s first two cards add up to 21 or any Ace with a 10-valued card, they win instantly. If their hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s, they win and are paid based on the table’s posted limits. If their hand is less than the dealer’s, they lose and their bet remains on the table.

Occasionally, the dealer will offer insurance bets to players. These are side bets that pay if the dealer has a blackjack, but they lose money in the long run. Typically, insurance bets are made by placing a bet of up to half the player’s current bet on the “insurance bar” above their cards.

To play blackjack, look for an open seat at a table and ask the dealer if you can join a game in progress (unless a chip or coat is holding the spot for a player who just stepped away or is playing a second hand). Once you are seated, be sure to look over the game rules before beginning to make a proper bet and follow basic etiquette. Observe the other players and dealers, paying close attention to what they are doing, as their actions can affect your strategy.