The Rules of Blackjack

The Basic Premise

The fundamental premise of the card game, Blackjack, is to have a hand closer to 21 than the dealer, without exceeding the limit of twenty-one. Any hand that exceeds 21 is called ‘bust’ or ‘too many’. Each player has an independent showdown with the dealer, and the rules of play for the dealer are strictly dictated, leaving no decisions to the dealer at all.

Value of the Cards

  • Cards 2-9 each carry the face value of the specific card
  • The 10 and the face or court cards each have a value of 10
  • The Ace can either count for 11, or if it would ‘bust’ the player, it is reduced to the value of 1.

The four suits – spades, hearts, diamonds and spades – are immaterial in Blackjack, and the value of the hand is simply the sum of the points of each card in the hand.

The value of an Ace does not have to be specified – it is always assumed to have the value that makes the best hand, and a hand that contains an Ace is called a ‘soft’ total if the Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11 without the total exceeding 21.

For example Ace, 5 is a soft 16 meaning the player can always draw another card to a soft total without being in danger of "busting" or going over 21. The hand Ace,5,10 on the other hand is a "hard" 16, as the Ace can only be counted as 1 and not as 11 as the hand would then go over 21 and be ‘bust’.

The Deal

Once all bets are made the dealer will deal two cards to each player either from 1 or 2 hand held decks, known as the pitch game, or from a ‘shoe’ containing 4 or more decks:

  • In the shoe games the player’s cards will be dealt face up and the players are not allowed to touch the cards
  • In the hand-held or pitch games the cards are dealt face down and the players may pick up the cards with one hand only. All cards must be held over the table and all subsequent cards must be left on the table and not added to the cards in hand.

On completion the dealer will flip over one of his cards exposing the value.

Play proceeds from the dealer’s left and each player in turn indicates to the dealer how he would like to proceed with his hand. Take a look at our Blackjack player’s choices page for an in-depth look at the options open to the players. After each player has finished his hand the dealer will complete his hand and then pay or collect the player bets.

There is one exception to the rule, the European No Hole Card Rule. Some European casinos allow the dealer only one card face up until all the players have finished their hands. Only then does the dealer deal his second card and complete his hand.