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How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack TableBlackjack is by far the most popular casino card game in the world. The simple rules and low house edge make blackjack a favorite among novices and veteran gamblers alike.

There are only a few rules you need to know to play, and basic strategy can reduce the house edge to under 0.5%.

Rules of the Game

The object of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. The face cards Jack, Queen and King count as 10 and Aces can count as either 1 or 11, depending on your current hand. All other cards are counted at face value.

Each player at the table competes against the dealer in getting as close to 21 as possible without going over. If a player or the dealer draws a card that puts them over 21, it's called a "bust" and that person loses the hand.

The best possible starting hand is called a blackjack and consists of a face card (or ten) and an ace for an automatic 21. Casinos pay out winnings at 3:2 odds on blackjacks. So if you place a $10 bet and make blackjack, you win $15 instead of the usual $10.

If the player and dealer tie with the same point total, the bet is considered a push and your bet is returned. If you bust, the hand is considered a loss for you even if the dealer busts too.

Blackjack Play

A typical blackjack table seats about 6 players with a dealer in the middle. The cards are dealt from a box (called the "Shoe") that consists of 6 to 8 decks of cards. Each player is then dealt two cards face up, and the dealer is given one card face up and one card face down.

The players may then choose to draw another card as many times as they wish by saying "hit." If the starting hand is strong enough as it is, the players can decline to receive any more cards by saying "stand."

When the players are finished, the dealer then reveals his hidden card and hits or stands as dictated by casino rules. If the dealer busts, the players remaining in the hand all win. If the dealer doesn’t bust, the players with higher totals than the dealer win and the players with lower totals lose their bets. Practice on this blackjack game, courtesy of Cherry Red Casino:

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Other Blackjack Bets

Once you are comfortable with the rules of blackjack, there are other, more advanced bets you can make. Some of these are good bets, others are sucker bets. To play blackjack at an expert level, you should be able to quickly identify each of these bets, as well as realize when they are smart options and when they are awful options.

Double Down

This allows you to double your original bet after seeing both of your cards. If you double down, you must take exactly one more card - no more, no less. This is a good bet if you have nine, ten, or eleven, because if you receive a face card you make a strong hand.


If you are dealt a pair of equal cards, you can separate the cards and play each one as a separate hand. Indicate you wish to split by putting another bet equal to the first one next to your first bet.


Insurance is a sucker bet. If the dealer has an ace showing, the player has the option to take insurance at a cost of half the original bet. The player will then be paid 2:1 money on his insurance bet if the dealer ends up having a blackjack. If the dealer has any other card total, the insurance bet is lost. The 2:1 payout on insurance bets results in the player breaking even if the dealer has a blackjack.

Early Surrender

Early surrender is a great bet but it is rarely offered at casinos because it reduces the house edge by more than half a percent. In games that have the early surrender option, players may forfeit a poor hand and take back half the original bet instead of playing on.

Late Surrender

This is also a good bet but it is not as good as early surrender. The idea is the same except that the dealer checks to see if he has a blackjack before the surrender option is enabled. If the dealer has a blackjack, surrender is not an option.

Surrender Anytime

Surrender anytime works just like the other surrenders except the players may surrender at any point in the hand, even after taking hits. This is a rare rule but some casinos still offer it.

Blackjack at Cherry Red Casino

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Blackjack Pays 6:5

This isn't actually a bet, but a type of blackjack that is (unfortunately) becoming more and more popular at live casinos. Instead of paying 3:2 on blackjacks, this rule makes it so that the casino pays 6:5 instead. So instead of winning $7.50 on a $5 bet for a blackjack, you would only be paid $6. This increases the house edge and kills your chances of winning.

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