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Home » online casinos » blackjack » how to play
James McMath
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Our guide on how to play blackjack aims to provide tips on everything you need to know about playing online.

From the basics of blackjack for beginners and rules of the game to advanced strategy, aiming to equip you with all you need to learn about how to win at blackjack.

Blackjack Basics

The aim of blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand. Unlike the strategy for online poker, for example, you are not playing against any other players at your table.

How To Win At Blackjack

There are three ways to beat the dealer:

  1. Your hand has a higher value than the dealer’s
  2. The dealer is ‘bust’ – their hand’s value is over 21
  3. You draw a hand of 21 with your first 2 cards, while the dealer does not

How The Dealer Wins

  1. You go bust – your hand is over 21
  2. The value of the dealer’s hand is higher than yours at the end of the round

Blackjack Guide For Beginners

Online blackjack is among the simplest casino games and it’s easy to get started. Also known as 21, it’s a popular card game with fairly straightforward rules. Here’s a brief step-by-step blackjack tutorial:

1. Place Your Bet

Choose the amount you want to bet on the next hand. Depending on where you’re playing, the minimum and maximum stake will vary. For example, you could play for £2 per hand or £20 per hand.

2. Your Cards Are Dealt

You and any other players at the table will be dealt two cards, while the dealer will deal two cards for himself, once face up and one face down.

3. Play Your Hand – Stand, Hit Or Double Down

Now it’s time to work out the value of your hand by adding your cards together. Now you have some options:

  • Stand: Keep the cards you have
  • Hit: Be dealt another card to add to your total
  • Double down: Double your stake and receive one more card

4. Dealer Reveal

The game continues until all players have either bust, hit blackjack, or decided to stand. The dealer then reveals their face-down card and total.

How to play blackjack - a guide to the rules

5. Have You Got The Winning Hand?

Any player closer to 21 than the dealer wins. If both the player and dealer’s hand are the same, it’s known as a “push” and your stake is returned with no winnings.

Understanding Blackjack Payouts

Blackjack payouts are really simple. Regular wins are usually paid out at even money. For example, if you bet £2 and you win, your return is £4 – your stake returned plus your winnings. However, if you hit blackjack – many operators payout 3:2, so your return would be £6.

Card Values In Blackjack

Cards numbered one to nine have a value of that number, regardless of the suit. For example, if you have a 7 of hearts and an 8 of spades, your total is 15.

Face cards – jack, queen, and king – are worth 10.

Aces are worth 1 or 11 and offer flexibility mid-hand to prevent you going bust or add to your total.

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James McMath

Quick tip from our editor: It's a numbers game

“Card suits don’t matter in blackjack – only the numeral value of your cards is important.”

Blackjack Strategy: 5 Top Tips

Like any form of gambling, there’s no sure-fire way to win at blackjack, but there is a strategy for maximising your chances of winning. There’s no shortage of psychological studies into blackjack player behavior, and the key takeaway is almost always to remove emotion from the mix. Play with your head, not your heart.

Here’s some top-level blackjack advice to quickly improve your game.

1. Stand On Hard 17

“Hard” means your hand doesn’t include an ace, so you don’t have the flexibility of choosing between 1 and 11.

So if your hand is 17 or higher, the risk of going bust is high if you choose to hit.

2. Hit On Soft 17

If your hand is soft 17 or lower – i.e., includes an ace, then you can hit with a lower risk of going bust.

If you’re on soft 19 or higher, then stand.

3. When To Double Down

Consider doubling down when you’re on 10 or 11, unless the dealer has a 10 or ace. If you’re on 10 or 11, you can’t go bust on your next card. However, be wary of the dealer’s hand. If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace or a 10, then their chances of having a strong hand are increased.

4. Play Safe When The Dealer Is Struggling

When the dealer’s face-up card is 6 or lower, they are in a weak position and more likely to go bust.

In this situation, you should play conservatively and just score as high as you can without risking going bust.

5. Split Aces

Another option during play is to split your hand. This creates two hands to continue the round with, doubling your chances of winning.

If you have two aces, it’s a good idea to split them as it provides a strong foundation for two good hands.

Some casinos have different rules on what you’re allowed to split. But it’s also worth considering splitting 8s if you’re allowed.

6. Don’t Split Face Cards

While it’s a good idea to split aces, the opposite is true of other face cards. Splitting two jacks, for example, means you’ve given up a strong hand of 20 for the chance of two hands that could be bust or weak.

7. Avoid Taking Insurance

Blackjack insurance might seem tempting when the dealer’s face-up card is strong, but stats say you will lose in the long term.

8. Can I Play Online Blackjack For Free?

Most online casinos no longer offer free versions of their table games and slots, but there are a few out there that do, so it’s worth checking. Any UKGC-regulated casino requires players to be age-verified before playing demo play casino games. Even if you’ve chosen a casino where you can’t play blackjack for free, it’s a good idea to start with low stakes to familiarize yourself with the game before you start playing with serious money.

Blackjack Insurance

No blackjack tutorial is complete without explaining blackjack insurance.

If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, players will be offered insurance. This is the chance to place a separate bet that pays out if the dealer hits blackjack.

It covers the loss of your original bet so you break even. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘even money’.

You should note that it’s possible for the dealer to hit blackjack without offering insurance – if the face-up card value is 10, then the face-down card is an ace.

Surrendering in blackjack

One final option in your blackjack strategy is the choice to surrender. This is a last resort when you think your chances of winning are very low.

You can choose to surrender before the dealer reveals their face-down card, and half of your bet is returned.

A guide to blackjack rules

Blackjack Cheat Sheet

The Safe Betting Sites cheat sheet provides a guide on how to play blackjack depending on your cards and the dealer’s hand. Check out the blackjack table below for advice on how to play in various scenarios.

Player’s Hand Dealer’s Upcard Action
5-8 2-9 Hit
9 2-6 Double
9 7-ace Hit
10 2-9 Double
10 10-ace Hit
11 2-10 Double
11 Ace Hit
12 4-6 Stand
12 2-3, 7-ace Hit
13-16 7-ace Stand
17-21 2-ace Stand
A-2/A-3 5-6 Double
A-4/A-5 4-6 Double
A-6 3-6 Double
A-7 2-8 Double
A-7 9,10,ace Hit
A-8/A-9 2,7-ace Stand
2-2 2-7 Split
3-3 2-7 Split
4-4 5,6 Split
4-4 2-3,7-ace Hit
5-5 2-9 Double
6-6 2-6 Split
6-6 7-ace Hit
7-7 2-7 Split
7-7 8-ace Hit
8-8 Any Split
9-9 2-6, 8-9 Stand
9-9 7 Split
9-9 10-ace Stand
10-10 Any Stand
A-A Any Split

Blackjack Side Bets

Some online blackjack sites offer side bets – the chance to place a separate wager aside from your main bet.

This might be betting on your hand including a pair, or your hand matching the dealer’s hand. Side bets can be fun but the risks are increased and, long-term, not advisable as part of a profitable blackjack strategy.

Insurance is technically an example of a side bet in blackjack as it is a bet separate from your main wager.

Bet Behind

Bet behind in blackjack originates from the real casino experience when all the seats are taken at the table. Bet behind allows those players watching to bet on the hands of players seated at the table.

Bet behind is offered by some online casinos in both blackjack and live dealer blackjack games.

The strategy remains the same, except you don’t get to choose how to play the hand, of course.

Blackjack House Edge: What You Should Know

Any blackjack strategy needs to be underpinned by an understanding of the house edge. The house edge is the casino or gambling company’s advantage on any given game.

Casino slots and table games are weighted in favour of the house. Whether it’s roulette, baccarat, or online slots, this is the casino’s margin and how they make their profits.

Players will get lucky and win, of course, but the edge exists to ensure that, over a long enough number of games, the house always wins.

In blackjack, the house edge is typically around 2%. Put simply, for every £100 wagered, the casino can expect to make £2 in profit.

The house edge in blackjack can change depending on variations to the game such as side bets, whether re-splitting is permitted and when players are allowed to take insurance.

Different Blackjack Rules

So far we’ve mainly talked about how to win at blackjack in the game’s standard form. But some casinos – real and online – offer a variation on the traditional rules of blackjack which are worth knowing as you improve your experience. Here’s some common examples.

Double After Splitting

If you’ve chosen to split your hand, this is the option to double down on one of your hands. Most online casinos allow this but not all, so it’s worth checking.

Split Aces Again

After splitting aces, if you’re dealt another ace, you split again to create a third hand. Aces are the most effective cards in blackjack, so this gives you a strong advantage. Again, not all casinos offer this option.

Where To Play Online Blackjack

Most online gambling sites have a casino and will almost certainly offer blackjack. If you’re a sports betting fan, you might need to download a separate app to play casino games on mobile, depending on who you have an account with.

If you’re creating a new account, remember to look around for the best casino welcome bonuses and always choose a company that’s regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.

Our current top 10 online casinos offering blackjack:

  • PlayOjo 
  • Magic Red
  • All British Casino
  • 21 Lucky Bet
  • Fafabet
  • Casiplay
  • Yeti Casino
  • Winomania
  • LeoVegas
  • HeySpin

Live Dealer Blackjack

Many players prefer live dealer blackjack. This is still online blackjack but the difference is there is a real person dealing the cards, rather than a random number generator.

The blackjack rules are exactly the same but some players prefer live dealer blackjack as it provides a more authentic casino experience. One drawback is that live dealer games tend to be a little slower.

Most major online casinos offer live blackjack. Our favorites include All British Casino, PlayOjo, Fafabet, and 10Bet.

Live dealer blackjack

Blackjack Alternatives

Blackjack is thought to be the most widely played casino game in the world and forms the basis of many other related games. Here’s some of the most popular blackjack alternatives.

Pontoon

Also known as Spanish 21, this variant sees all the 10 cards removed from the decks. Players are also usually welcome to double down twice on the same hand.

Super Fun 21

This single-deck variant allows players to double on any number of cards and pays out on a 6-card 20 or 5-card 21. However, blackjack only pays even money (rather than 3:2) and the house edge is almost 3 times higher than traditional blackjack.

Free Bet Blackjack

The “free bet” part of this name stems from the fact players are allowed to double down at no extra cost. The downside is that the dealer is allowed to hit 22 and force a push from all players. This effectively doubles the house edge.

FAQ

What is a hard hand in blackjack?

What is insurance in blackjack?

What’s the difference between blackjack and 21?

What is the difference between blackjack and pontoon?

What does ‘push’ mean in blackjack?

What is the shoe in blackjack?

James McMath
James McMath

James is writer and editor, specialising in sports betting and iGaming content. He has worked in the gambling industry since 2015 after spending 15 years as a journalist and sub-editor for top-tier UK media outlets including BBC Sport, The Times and The Guardian. James studied at the University of Central Lancashire and earned a degree in linguistics and journalism and a postgraduate diploma in journalism. James joined SafeBettingSites as iGaming Editor in 2023.

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