How to play blackjack – A Step-by-Step Guide for First-Time Players

Struggling to understand blackjack can take the fun out of playing. This classic card game has been a casino staple since the 18th century. Our guide breaks down the basics, from rules to strategies, making it easy for anyone to start playing confidently.

Let’s deal with it!

What is Blackjack

Blackjack, also known as 21, is one of the most popular card games in the world, both in traditional and online casinos. Its allure lies in its blend of simplicity, strategy, and the thrill of gambling. The basic objective of Blackjack is to beat the dealer by having a hand total that is closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, without exceeding 21.

The Basics of Blackjack

The game is typically played with one to eight standard decks of 52 cards. Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, while face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are valued at 10. An Ace can be worth either 1 or 11, depending on which value is more beneficial to the player’s hand.

Blackjack Gameplay

The game begins with each player placing a bet. The dealer then deals two cards to each player and two to themselves, with one of the dealer’s cards being dealt face up. The players take turns deciding how to proceed based on the value of their cards and the dealer’s visible card. The main choices available to a player are ‘hit’, ‘stand’, ‘double down’, ‘split’, and ‘surrender’.

Winning and Losing

After all players have completed their hands, it’s the dealer’s turn. The dealer plays according to set rules: hitting until their hand totals 17 or more, at which point they must stand. Players win by having a hand total higher than the dealer’s without going over 21, or by the dealer busting (going over 21). If a player’s hand equals the dealer’s, it’s a ‘push’, and the player’s bet is returned.


The best possible hand in the game is a ‘Blackjack’, which is an Ace and a 10-value card as the first two cards. This hand typically pays out at 3:2 odds, though some tables offer 6:5 or other variations.


While luck plays a significant role, strategy is also essential in Blackjack. Basic strategy charts exist that tell players the optimal move in every scenario, based on their hand and the dealer’s visible card. This strategy reduces the house edge to a minimum.

Variations and Side Bets

Blackjack has numerous variations, each with slightly different rules. Common variations include European Blackjack, Atlantic City Blackjack, and Blackjack Switch. Additionally, many casinos offer side bets like ‘insurance’, ‘perfect pairs’, and ’21+3′, which can add extra excitement to the game.

Blackjack captivates with its unique blend of luck, tactical decision-making, and player expertise. Its appeal is rooted in straightforward rules, the thrill of competing with the dealer, and the scope for implementing strategy. Played in both traditional casinos and online platforms, Blackjack continues to draw enthusiasts eager for entertainment and the chance to win.

The Objective of Blackjack

In the best online casinos for real money in South Africa, grasp the objective of blackjack. It’s simple – get a hand closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. Understanding this basic rule adds excitement to your gameplay, making your blackjack experience enjoyable and potentially rewarding.

To win at blackjack, players need to have a hand value closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand without going over. Understanding the card values is crucial in achieving this objective.

How to win at blackjack

Mastering the art of blackjack starts by aiming for a hand value closest to 21 without going over. Players compete directly against the dealer, who represents the house, betting that they will have a better combination of cards.

Strategic moves like hitting to take another card or standing to hold your current hand play into this primary goal.

Utilizing smart strategies increases your chances of winning at blackjack. Practice makes perfect—knowledge of when to split pairs, double down on favorable hands, and purchasing insurance against potential dealer blackjacks can shift the odds in your favor.

Always stay aware of each game’s dynamic flow and adjust accordingly for optimal success.

Understanding the card values

Understanding the card values is essential when playing blackjack. Each card holds a specific value, and knowing them will help in making strategic decisions during the game.

  1. Number cards (2 – 10) hold their face value.
  2. Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are each valued at 10.
  3. The Ace can be counted as 1 or 11 depending on the player’s hand.

Basics of Playing Blackjack

The player places a bet before the dealer deals the cards.

Placing a bet

To start the game, players must place their bets before the dealer deals the cards. The following steps outline how to place a bet in a game of blackjack:

  1. Decide on the amount you want to wager and place your chips in the designated betting area on the blackjack table.
  2. Each player’s bet should be within the minimum and maximum betting limits set by the casino.
  3. Once all bets are placed, the dealer will begin dealing the cards and the game can commence.

Dealing the cards

The dealer shuffles the deck of cards thoroughly and then offers it to the player on their left to cut.

Blackjack Gameplay Techniques

– Signal your intentions clearly to the dealer before making any moves.

Signal your intentions

When playing blackjack, signal your intentions clearly to the dealer and other players. This ensures that your actions are understood and recorded accurately by the casino staff. Here are some key signals to use:

  1. Hit: Tap the table with your finger near your cards, or make a scratching motion towards yourself.
  2. Stand: Wave your hand horizontally over your cards to indicate that you do not want any more cards.
  3. Double down: Place additional chips next to your original bet and hold up one finger.
  4. Split pairs: Place matching additional chips next to your original bet and create a V with your index and middle fingers.
  5. Insurance: Place half of your original bet on the insurance line and signal with a thumbs-up gesture if you wish to take insurance.

Options for splitting pairs

When playing blackjack, players have the option to split a pair if they are dealt two cards of the same value. This gives them the opportunity to play each card as a separate hand and potentially win twice as much. It is important to make this decision based on the dealer’s upcard and the specific rules of the game.

Doubling down

To double down in blackjack, the player is allowed to increase their initial bet by up to 100% in exchange for committing to stand after receiving one more card. Here are the key steps for doubling down:

  1. Assess your hand total and dealer’s upcard.
  2. Determine if the conditions are favorable for doubling down, typically when you have a starting hand value of 10 or 11.
  3. Signal your intention by placing an additional bet equal to your original wager next to your initial bet.
  4. Receive exactly one more card.
  5. Be prepared to proceed with the outcome regardless of whether you improve or worsen your hand.


When the dealer’s up card is an Ace, players have the option to buy insurance against the possibility of the dealer having a natural blackjack. To take insurance, players can place an additional bet that equals half of their original wager.

If the dealer does indeed have a blackjack, the insurance bet pays out at 2:1, effectively resulting in a push for the player’s initial wager. However, if the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, the insurance bet is lost and the game continues as usual.

casino insurance

Players should consider taking insurance based on their understanding of basic strategy and their assessment of potential outcomes. While some strategies advise against taking insurance due to its lower probability of winning in the long run, others view it as a viable option under certain circumstances.

Basic strategy

Mastering basic strategy is fundamental to increasing your chances of winning at blackjack. It’s a set of rules that dictates the best move for every possible hand you could be dealt, considering both your own cards and the dealer’s upcard.

By following basic strategy, players can minimize the house edge and make more informed decisions during gameplay.

Players need to study and memorize basic strategy charts to fully understand when to hit, stand, double down, split pairs, or surrender based on their hand versus the dealer’s upcard.

Tips for beginners

For beginners, it’s important to start with the basics. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the rules of blackjack and understanding the card values. As you get more comfortable, practice using basic strategy charts to help guide your decisions during gameplay.

Don’t be afraid to start with smaller bets until you gain confidence in your abilities. Additionally, consider finding a table with lower minimum bets as this can reduce potential losses while you’re still learning.

If you’re a poker player venturing into blackjack, consider beginner tips. Learn card values, basic strategies, and betting rules, just like playing poker. Acquiring these basics enhances your blackjack skills. Soon, you’ll confidently navigate the tables, enjoying the thrill of playing blackjack for real money with newfound expertise.

Playing blackjack or poker for real money is about starting simple. Learn the rules, understand basic strategies, and play at a comfortable pace. Whether you’re at the cards or chips, these tips help new players enjoy the game and increase their chances of winning real money.

Once at the table, observe how others play and interact with the dealer as this can provide valuable insight into proper blackjack etiquette. Remember that practice makes perfect when it comes to mastering the game of blackjack!

Joining a table

Approach the table confidently and stand behind an empty chair.

Making decisions

When playing blackjack, the player must make strategic decisions during the game. Here’s how to approach making informed decisions:

  1. Evaluate your hand and the dealer’s upcard before deciding whether to hit, stand, double down, or split pairs.
  2. Consider the basic strategy for blackjack and follow it as a guide for your decision – making process.
  3. Take into account the specific rules of the variant of blackjack being played, as they may influence your decisions.
  4. Keep track of your bankroll and bet size when making decisions to manage your funds effectively.
  5. Be mindful of the pace of the game and make well – considered decisions without feeling rushed or pressured.


When the dealer reshuffles the cards, it is essential to be patient and wait for the process to be completed. This ensures fairness and prevents any potential advantage from card counting or tracking.

Players should refrain from touching their chips or making any additional bets until the shuffling is finished. Reshuffling also marks a new beginning for each round, offering everyone an equal chance at winning.

During reshuffling, players can take a moment to consider their strategy for the upcoming hands. It’s an opportunity to reset and refocus before diving back into the game. Embracing this brief pause can help maintain composure and make informed decisions when play resumes.

Tipping the dealer

When tipping the dealer, it is customary to do so after winning a hand. Players can place their tip directly in front of their bet or hand it to the dealer as a token of appreciation for their service.

Tipping etiquette varies, but generally, a 5% tip on your winnings is considered appropriate. It’s important to remember that tipping is voluntary and should align with your level of enjoyment and satisfaction with the game.

To acknowledge exceptional service or if you’re on a winning streak, consider increasing your tip accordingly. Tipping dealers not only shows gratitude but also helps build positive relationships at the table.


In summary, Blackjack is a compelling blend of skill and chance, offering players the opportunity to influence the outcome through strategic decisions. Success in Blackjack hinges on understanding the basic rules, mastering card values, and applying basic strategy to reduce the house edge. While no strategy guarantees a win, informed decisions on when to hit, stand, double down, or split can significantly increase the chances of profitability. Remember, responsible gambling is paramount; set limits and adhere to them. Whether played in a casino or online, Blackjack remains a classic, engaging card game with enduring appeal for both novice and seasoned players