How to Play Blackjack: The Ultimate Guide

Blackjack (also referred to as “21”) is one of the most well-known and sought-after table games in Las Vegas. The basic rules are easy – get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. Players have the options to stand, hit, split, or double down to beat the house.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game and would like to test your luck the next time you’re in Downtown Las Vegas, here’s the ultimate guide on how to play blackjack.

The Blackjack Basics

As mentioned, the goal of blackjack is to have the sum of your dealt cards (your hand) get as close to 21 without going over. When adding up your cards, each one carries its own point value:

  • Cards 2 – 10 count as whatever number they denote
  • Face cards (kings, queens & jacks) are each 10 points
  • Aces can either count as 1 or 11 (whichever is more beneficial for your hand)

The best possible hand would be a “blackjack,” or a two-card 21 consisting of a face card and an ace. Getting a blackjack means you automatically win. However, if the dealer also gets a blackjack, the result is a “push” and you get your original bet back.

In the game of blackjack, there are three fundamental ways in which you can win:

  • The value of your hand is higher than the dealer’s hand without going over 21
  • The dealer’s hand goes over 21
  • Your first two cards are a blackjack, and the dealer does not have a blackjack

Placing Your Bets

Like with any table game at the casino, the first thing you should do is verify the minimum bet at the table. Then, place your wager in the betting area. Don’t worry, the dealer will let you know exactly where to put it.

You must place the minimum bet to be included in the game before the cards are dealt. You will need to give your cash to the dealer to exchange for chips before placing your bet if you don’t already have chips.

The Game Begins

After placing your bet, the dealer and the players get two cards each. With traditional blackjack, the players’ cards will all be dealt face up. One of the dealer’s cards faces up, and the other is dealt face down. That card is referred to as the “hole card.”

The dealer looks to the first player on his or her left and moves in a circle for each player to make a decision regarding their hand. Here are your choices:

  • Stand: The player stays with their hand without requesting additional cards. Generally, you want to stand if your hand is close to 21, so you don’t risk busting.
  • Hit: The player draws another card or cards, depending on the sum of the hand. Once you reach a satisfactory number close to 21, then you stand. If the additional card(s) causes your total to exceed 21, you bust and are out of the game.
  • Double: With this option, you can double your bet and get one more card. However, you only get one more card and have no other options after that.
  • Split: If you are dealt a pair or two face cards, you have the option to split them into two separate hands. You must double your bet if you choose to split. You then have the opportunity to stand, hit, or double for each hand.

When all players complete their hands, the dealer plays his or her hand last, starting with the reveal of the hole card. If these two cards add up to 16 or less, the dealer must hit until reaching 17 or more. If the two cards add up to 17 to 21, the dealer must stand. Like the players, the dealer busts after exceeding 21.

If you lose to the dealer, you lose the bet. If you win, you get your bet back plus more money. If you tie, the bet cancels (push). If you get a natural blackjack, you generally get one and a half times your bet.

Insider Blackjack Tips

Blackjack hand

It’s one thing to understand the rules of blackjack, but it’s always helpful to have some basic tips in your back pocket.

Tip #1: You’re Playing Against the Dealer

Remember, the house will always hit if the dealer’s hand is 16 or less and always stand if it’s 17 or more. Even with one card facing down, you can predict what the dealer may have by assuming the hole card will be a face card.

The odds of getting a card with a value of 10 is higher than any other card in blackjack, so it’s generally a safe and wise assumption to make. Keep the dealer’s hand in mind rather than just trying to rack up your own total.

Tip #2: Hand Signals

Don’t be intimidated if you see other players using hand gestures rather than simply saying, “stand,” or “hit.” You won’t have to play long before picking up on these. Whether you choose to use hand gestures or not, the dealer does not expect you to know them and will respond just as easily to your verbal choices. However, if you do want to use them, here’s what you need to know:

  • Stand: Wave your hand over your dealt cards to let the dealer know you do not want any additional cards.
  • Hit: Using the tips of your fingers, tap or scratch the table next to your cards. This signals to the dealer that you want another card.
  • Double or Split: First, add your additional bet to the table. Then either hold up 1 finger to double down or 2 fingers to split.

Tip #3: Give Yourself Extra Time

If you’re new to blackjack, the best place for you to sit is to the dealer’s right. Dealers always start with the first person on their left, meaning that “base seat” person may feel rushed to make a quick decision because all the other players are still waiting to go. By sitting in the last seat, you give yourself some extra time to think about your hand and observe the other players’ moves without any pressure.

Blackjack at Downtown Grand

Of course, blackjack isn’t confined to the Strip. Downtown Las Vegas has become increasingly popular for blackjack players due to lower table limits, better odds, free drinks, and an endless list of fun things to do in Downtown Las Vegas.

All of your favorite table games, including blackjack, are in one easily accessible Downtown Las Vegas location: the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino. Here, you’ll have a riveting gambling experience that will keep you coming back again and again. Thanks to the 11 blackjack tables on our downtown casino floor, you’ll always find an open seat for your chance to win big!

Tags: Gaming Guides