The basics

The objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer by accumulating cards with a point total as close to 21, without going over 21.

Face cards (Jacks, Queens and Kings) have a value of 10 points. Aces are worth 1 or 11, whichever the player prefers. All other cards are represented by their number.

If the player and the House tie, it is a draw and neither the house nor the player wins. Ace and 10 (Blackjack) on the first two cards dealt is an automatic player win and pays 1.5: 1, except if the house ties. It is up to the individual player whether they want to stand or draw.


To win you must beat the dealer without going bust. You go bust if your cards total is more than 21 if this happens you lose automatically. The winner is whoever has closest to a total of 21.

The blackjack table sits around six players. In most casinos either six or eight decks of cards are used and are shuffled together by the dealer and placed in a special card distributing box known as the ‘Shoe’.

Before getting any cards, players must first place a bet. The players are then dealt two cards face up, while the dealer receives one face up and one face down. Each player in turn chooses to either stay or take additional cards in order to get closer to 21 without going bust. Players who do not bust wait for the dealer’s turn. Once all the players have had their turn, the dealer flips up the facedown card. By rule, if the dealers total is 17 or higher the dealer must stay; on counts of 16 or lower the dealer must draw.

If you get a total of 21 with the first two cards (an Ace with a ten or a picture card), you win instantly (unless there is a chance that the dealer can tie). This is known as ‘Blackjack’. If you get Blackjack, you will win one and one-half times your bet unless of course the dealer also has Blackjack.

The players with a higher total than the dealer’s win an amount equal to their bet. Players with a lower count than the dealer lose their bet. If the dealer goes bust, all the enduring players win.


Once a player has placed their initial wager and received their first two cards, there are a number of other betting options which players can elect to do, depending on their first two cards. These options are listed below.

  • Insurance – this is a side bet which is up to half the initial bet which was placed against the dealer, it is only allowed when the dealer’s showing card is an Ace. If the dealer then has a 10 face down and gets blackjack, the insurance bet pays at 2-1 odds, but loses if the dealer does not.
  • Surrender – a player gives up their hand and loses only half their bet.
  • Double Down – players are permitted to double their initial bet following the initial two-card deal, if a player decides to double down they will receive one card only.

This is often a good bet if the player is in a strong situation. Most casinos will permit players to double down on any two cards. Some casinos also allow players to double down after splitting while some will limit your doubling down to hands that total ten or eleven.

  • Split Hand – players can split the initial two-cards they receive into two separate hands. This is only permitted if the two first cards are of equal value (two 3s or two kings). Use each card as the start of each separate hand. A second bet equal to the first is required in order to split.
  • Even Money – this is when a player cashes in their bet immediately at a 1:1 payout ratio when dealt a natural blackjack if the dealer’s showing card is an Ace.

House advantage (approximate, these can vary with different rules)
Without a basic strategy 7% average.
With basic a strategy 0.5% or less.
Card counting can reverse the advantage up to 1% to the player.

Perfect Pairs Blackjack

Perfect Pairs is a blackjack side bet. It is played on standard blackjack tables and does not require the main game rules to be changed. All Perfect Pairs wagers are determined and dealt with at the completion of the first deal

Perfect Pairs wagers are made before any cards are dealt and must be made alongside a regular Blackjack bet on the same betting box.

Perfect Pairs bet wins if the first two cards dealt to a player are a pair and it loses if they are not a pair.

There are 3 different types of pairs and the payout odds vary appropriately:

  • Mixed pair (a pair which consists of one red suited card and one black suited card. For example 4 of clubs + 4 of hearts)
  • Colored pair (a pair which consists of two of same cards of the same colour but are of different suits. For example 6 of clubs + 6 of spades) example 8 of spades + 8 of clubs)
  • Perfect pair (an identical pair. For example K of diamonds + K of diamonds)

Perfect Pairs rules

  • A player is permitted to place a Perfect Pairs wager on any box on which the player has placed a Blackjack bet.
  • A Perfect Pairs wager must have been placed before any cards in the round have been dealt
  • A Perfect Pairs wager wins if the first 2 cards dealt to the player are a pair
  • A Perfect Pairs wager loses if the first 2 cards dealt to the player are not a pair
  • Winning Perfect Pairs wagers must be paid as per the displayed paytable
  • After each player has been dealt the first 2 cards, the dealer must take all losing Perfect Pairs wagers and make a payout to each player who has a winning Perfect Pairs wager
  • The dealer then goes on to deal with each player in the usual way for Blackjack

Perfect Pairs payouts

  • Perfect Pair pays 30 to 1
  • Colored Pair pays 10 to 1
  • Mixed Pair pays 5 to 1

The house edge on Perfect Pairs blackjack side bet is 6.76%.

While you can work on perfecting the various blackjack strategies to increase your odds, it is still possible to lose money.  Before going to a casino, I recommend practicing by playing a free blackjack game to get the feel for these strategies in real time.  Your perception will change once you have real money on the table and the online casinos are a good step before going into a casino as the pressure is ramped up when you are playing at a table.  One site that I like is since it shows current bonuses for signing up at the different online casinos, so once you are done playing for free you can play for real with the casinos money.