How to Play Blackjack - A Guide for Beginners

how to play blackjack

If you’re new to blackjack, you have nothing to worry about. This table game is easy to understand. With the help of this guide to blackjack, you’ll be a pro in no time!  

Ready to learn how to play blackjack? Let’s go! 

Objective 

The objective of blackjack is to get your card count closer to 21 than the dealer, without going over. Going over 21 is known as a bust

Keep in mind that each player is playing against the dealer. Players are not competing against one another. 

Card Values 

Unlike other table games such as poker, suits do not matter in blackjack. As a result, there are only 13 card denominations to consider.  

Jacks, Queens, and Kings are all worth 10. Aces are worth 1 or 11, whichever is best for the player’s hand. All other cards are worth their face value. 

Step By Step Guide to Blackjack 

  1. Each player places a bet. 
  2. The dealer deals each player, and themselves, two cards. The players’ cards are both dealt face-up. The dealer’s cards are dealt one face-up and one face-down. 
  3. Each player (starting from the left of the dealer and going clockwise) gets a chance to “hit” or “stay”. 
  • If a player chooses to hit they are dealt another card face-up. The hand signal for hit is to tap the table. 
  • If a play chooses to stay, they are not dealt an additional card. The hand signal for stay is to wave your hand over the table.  
  • Dealers must hit when the value of their cards is less than or equal to 16. Dealers must stay when the value of their cards is equal to or higher than 17.  
  1. Once all players have either hit or stayed, the dealer flips over their second card.  
  2. All players who got closer to 21 than the dealer (without going over) are paid out.  

Outcomes and Payouts 

Here are the payouts you can expect when playing blackjack: 

  • Player gets a blackjack - a player gets a blackjack when their cards add up to 21 exactly. In this case, the dealer pays them one and half times their bet (i.e. the payout for a blackjack is 1.5x).  
  • A player’s hand exceeds 21 - when a player busts (i.e. goes over 21), they lose their bet.  
  • The dealer busts - when the dealer busts, all remaining players win. The payout in this case is 1x the player’s original bet.  
  • Player ties the dealer - when a player ends up with the same total as the dealer, no one wins. This is referred to as a push. The player’s wager is returned. 
  • A player beats the dealer - when a player gets closer to 21 than the dealer (and the dealer does not bust), the player wins. The player is paid out at 1x their wager.  

Side Bets 

There are also various side bets in blackjack. Side bets often have a higher house edge but create a way to make blackjack more engaging.  

Some of the most common blackjack side bets include:

  • Split - if a player is dealt two cards of the same denomination, such as two queens, they can split them.  

When a player chooses to split their cards, they place a second bet equal to their original bet. They continue playing but now with two hands. For example, if a pair of aces are split, the dealer deals the player two more cards - one for each ace.  

In most cases, the player continues playing as usual (i.e. hitting/staying). However, if two aces are split the player may not hit more than once. 

If blackjack is achieved with a split, the payout is 1x instead of the usual 1.5x. 

  • Double down - after their first two cards are dealt, a player can decide to double their bet. This is known as doubling down. 

If a player decides to double down, they are dealt one more card. After this card is dealt, the player must stay. 

The choice to double down is most common when a player’s first two cards add up to 11.  

To indicate that you want to double down, simply point your index finger at your cards. 

  • Insurance - an insurance side bet can be made when a dealer’s face-up card is an ace.  

When a player places an insurance bet, they are betting that the dealer’s second card will be a 10. In other words, they are betting that the house will get a blackjack. 

When placing an insurance bet, players can wager up to half of their original wager. 

The payout for an insurance side bet is 2x the insurance wager. 

Blackjack Rules 

Now that you have a better idea of how to play blackjack, let’s take a look at some essential rules. 

These rules help determine the odds of the game. Some rules create odds that are in favour of the player, while others result in odds in favour of the house.  

The following blackjack rules result in better odds for the player: 

  • Cards can be split more than once - though most casinos only allow players to split pairs once, some allow pairs to be split more than once. This increases a player's chances of getting 21.  
  • The dealer stays on a soft 17 - a blackjack hand that adds to 17 and includes an ace that is used as an 11 is referred to as a soft 17. For example, an Ace-6, Ace-3-3, etc. 

When a dealer stays on a soft 17, they can’t achieve a hand of 21. As a result, the player’s odds increase slightly.  

  • Ability to double down after a split - some casinos allow players to double down on their bet after a split. This increases their chance of winnings.  
  • Surrender - when there is an option to surrender, a player can fold their hand before hitting or staying. When a player surrenders, half their bet is lost.  
  • Double down on any two cards - certain casinos allow players to double down only if their initial score is 9, 10, or 11. That said, some casinos allow players to double down on any two-card combinations. In this case, the player’s chances for a higher payout increase. 

Here are some blackjack rules that result in odds in favour of the house: 

  • Dealer hits on a soft 17 - When a dealer hits on a soft 17, they can still achieve a hand of 21. Therefore, this rule creates a disadvantage for players and better odds for the house.  
  • Cannot double down after a split - some casinos do not allow players to double down after a split. This blackjack rule results in odds that favour the house. 
  • No option to surrender - in some cases, casinos do not allow players to surrender. This means that a player cannot fold their hand before hitting or staying. 
  • Can only double down on certain hands - some casinos use blackjack rules that allow players to double down only in certain circumstances. For example, when the player’s initial hand is 9, 10, or 11. These rules create less appealing odds for players. 

Blackjack Hands

Many different hands are possible in blackjack. Here are some examples: 

Ace-10  

  • Total = 21 
  • This hand is referred to as a blackjack. 

Ace-6 

  • Total = 7 or 17 
  • This blackjack hand is commonly referred to as a soft 17. 

Ace-6-10 

  • Total = 17 
  • This hand is often referred to as a hard 17. 

Jack-5-9 

  • Total = 24 
  • This hand is known as a bust because its total is over 21. 

Online Blackjack Tips & Strategies  

Blackjack is a table game that relies on skill and good decision-making. Many gamblers love blackjack because it is not completely based on chance.  

Here are some strategies that will increase your odds of winning blackjack: 

  • Dealer’s hand is 7 or higher (including ace) - if the dealer’s face-up card is 7 or higher (including ace), the player should draw until they reach or exceed 17.  
  • The dealer’s hand is 4, 5, or 6 - when the dealer’s face-up card is 4, 5, or 6, the player should stay once they reach 12 or higher.  
  • Dealer’s hand is 1, 2, or 3 - the player should stay once they reach 13 or higher. 
  • Splitting - players should split pairs of aces, 2s, 3s, 7s, 8s, 10s, jacks, queens, and kings. Keep in mind that if the dealer has an 8, 9, 10, jack, queen, king, or ace, it’s not best to split 2s, 3s, or 7s. Splitting 4s, 5s, and 6s is not recommended. 
  • Doubling down - the best strategy for doubling down is to double down on a hand of 11. It is not recommended that players double down on a hand of 10 unless the dealer’s face-up card is a 10 or an ace.  

Other blackjack tips to keep in mind: 

  • Use a strategy card - players can find blackjack strategy cards easily online. These cards indicate the best way to play on any given hand. Keep one handy while you’re playing to increase your odds! 
  • Avoid placing insurance side bets - insurance side bets have low odds for players. Therefore, these side bets are not recommended, especially for beginners. 

Where to Play Blackjack in Canada

Want to try your hand at blackjack? There are many places Canadians can play blackjack, including online casinos and domestic land-based casinos.  

It’s even possible to find free blackjack online! Playing free blackjack is a great way to learn and gain experience before playing with real money.  

Online  

When it comes to online casinos, Canadians can choose to play blackjack at the following:

  • Provincially-run online casinos 
  • Provincially-regulated online casinos   
  • Offshore casinos  

Many online casinos offer live dealer blackjack as well. This means players can get a life-like experience from the comfort of their own homes.  

Here are some great blackjack online casino sites:

  • PlayNow.com (provincially-run online casino in BC) 
  • Unibet (provincially-regulated casino in Ontario) 
  • Jackpot Casino (offshore casino) 

Domestic 

In addition to numerous online casinos, each province in Canada has domestic land-based casinos where players can find blackjack tables. 

Land-based casinos often have tables with a live, in-person dealer. However, video blackjack may also be available at these locations.  

Some of the best land-based casinos in Canada that offer blackjack include:

  • South Beach Casino and Resort (MB) 
  • Casino Niagara (ON) 
  • Parq (BC) 
  • Great Northern Casino (AB), and more 

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FAQs

What is blackjack?
Can you play blackjack online for real money in Canada?
What is insurance in blackjack?
When to double down in blackjack?
What is doubling down in blackjack?
When to split in blackjack?
When to hit in blackjack?
What is a push in blackjack?
How many decks in blackjack?
What is a soft 17 in blackjack?

Thomas is responsible for all content on BettingGuide Canada. With his extensive knowledge of the gambling industry and college degree in law, he knows what you should look out for when choosing the best casino or sportsbook.

Last updated: 8/12/2022