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How to Play Blackjack in Vegas

Blackjack in Las Vegas

Blackjack, also known as 21 is one of the most popular casino card games in Las Vegas. The rules on playing blackjack in Vegas are quite simple, which is a major reason for the game's enduring popularity. In Las Vegas casinos, blackjack is played on a semi-circular table, with the round portion of the table facing the players, and the straight edge side facing the dealer.

There are usually five to seven seats at a table and every blackjack table will have the words, "Insurance Pays 2 to 1", also, "Dealer must Hit Soft 17" or "Dealer Must Stand On All 17's".

Object of the Game of Blackjack

The object of the game of Blackjack is to have your cards total 21 or as near to 21 as possible without going over 21.

How to Play Blackjack in Vegas

In Blackjack, everyone plays against the dealer (the house). Your goal is to draw cards with a value as close to 21 as possible without going over. A hand that goes over 21 is a bust or break . The players at a blackjack table do not play against each other, they play against the dealer. Each player only has to beat the dealer's hand to Win. You do this in one of two ways: 1 Have a card total value greater than that of the dealer and not "bust". 2 Win “by default” if the dealer “busts.

Ready for Vegas Blackjack!

The minimum bet is printed on a sign on the Blackjack table and varies from casino to casino and from table to table. For example Minimum $5, Maximum $500.

Find an appropriate bet-limit table and find an available seat you like. Sit down and wait for the current hand to be finished. Before the next hand starts, place your cash on the table in front of you (NOT in the “betting circle” or "betting square", where you place your bets) – and say: “Change, please.” The dealer will understand this to mean you want to join the game. The dealer will then take your cash, count it, spread it on the table so that the Pit Boss can see it, announce the amount, and then convert the amount of the cash into an equivalent amount of playing chips, in various denominations.

Place a bet with the chips in the designated area. The dealer then begins the game. Depending on how many people are playing, the dealer will deal each player two cards. The dealer is also dealt two cards, one face up, and one face down.

When you receive your first two cards, you may either “stand” or “hit.”

When you “stand” it means you feel you are close enough to 21 and no longer wish any additional cards. On the other hand you may wish to receive another card or “hit”.

Blackjack Card Value
Face Cards
1 or 11
Cards 2 - 10
Face Value
What's the differences in the two versions of Blackjack?

Most casinos in Las Vegas provide two versions of Blackjack. Double Deck 21 and Multiple Deck 21. With Double Deck 21 the cards are dealt from the hand and with Multiple Deck 21, the cards are dealt from a box called the "shoe"

Hand Decks:
In the hand-dealt version of Blackjack, the players are dealt two cards face down and the house (the dealer) receives one card face up and one card face down.

(In hand dealt games only)
Scratch the surface of the table with your first two cards. If you wish to “stand” with what you have, then wave your hand horizontally over the table or simply tuck your cards underneath your bet.

Shoe Games:
In the shoe-dealt version of Blackjack, players receive both cards face up and the house (the dealer) receives one card face up and one card face down.

(In the shoe-dealt version)
In shoe games, you don’t need to touch your cards, simply indicate a “hit” or “stand” by using your hand motion for another card, or wave off the dealer if you are standing. (read more on this below)

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Rules of Blackjack in Vegas

In Blackjack, the hand with the highest total wins as long as it doesn't exceed 21. A hand with a value over 21 is called a “bust” or “break" and it is an automatic loser.

Queens, Kings, Jacks and 10s count as 10. An Ace's value is 11 unless this would cause the player to bust, in which case it is worth 1. All other cards are played at their face value.

A hand in which an ace's value is counted as 11 is called a soft hand, because it cannot be busted if the player draws another card. When an ace is counted as one point, this is called a hard hand.

If the table is designated a must-hit-soft-17 Blackjack game, the dealer must draw on all soft 17 hands until he or she obtains a point total of a hard 17 or higher.

The best possible hand in Blackjack is a combination of an Ace with a 10-card or a face card. This is an automatic 21, when counting the Ace as an 11, and is called, "Blackjack", or a Natural. It cannot be beaten, unless the dealer has the same, which would be a Push, a tie. In a push, the player receives the bet back.

Blackjack Playing Options

To increase your chances of winning, or winning a bigger payout, consider the following options:
Remember you as a player have all the options and the house has none.


When you Stand in Blackjack, your intention is to “stay” with the original two cards you have been dealt, and do nothing else for the current hand in progress. You “stand” when you feel you are close enough to 21 and no longer wish any additional cards.

To indicate this, you simply extend your palm over the cards, and slightly wave your hand from side-to-side. This indicates to the dealer that you are satisfied with the cards you already have, and do not wish to do anything else. The dealer will then move on to the next player, in turn. Please Note: Once you've made the decision to "Stand", you CANNOT go back and change your mind, after the dealer has already moved on.


"Hit" is your intention is to “draw more cards”. You “Hit” when you feel your hand is not close enough to 21 and you need to draw additional cards.

To do this you extend your palm near the cards, and “scratch” the table in front of you, gently.” This indicates to the dealer that you want another card, and he or she will then deal you one card from the shoe, face up, and place it next to your original two cards. You now have to make a decision, on whether to “stand” or “hit again.”


You "Bust" in Blackjack when you draw more cards to your hand (by asking to “hit”) and the combined total value exceeds “21”. When you "Bust", you lose your wager and that round is over for you.

Splitting Pairs

If your original two cards are of equal value, you have the option of “splitting” them into two separate hands. For example, two Aces – you can “split” them into two separate hands, and play them both for this round. To do this you simply say to the dealer: “Split, please.” The dealer will then separate the two original cards, place them side-by-side, and then ask you to make a second wager on the second hand. The wager on the second hand must equal the original wager. Once you make that wager, you are now playing two hands.


After receiving your first two cards, you may “double down” if you have two cards whose total value can be much improved by just one good hit (usually cards whose initial combined value is either “10” or “11”). You simply say to the dealer: “Double-Down, please.” When you say this, the dealer will then ask you to place an additional wager, equivalent to the amount of your original bet next to that original bet, and then deal you one additional card.


A "push" happens when both you and the dealer have the SAME total value of all cards. For example, if your total is, say, 18, and the dealer has the same total of 18, then neither you nor the dealer win or lose. It’s a “push”, a sort of “stand-off” where you don’t lose, and don’t win, and neither does the dealer. If you “push” ANY hand, you can either leave the same wager for the next hand, or change the amount of that wager for the next hand, or remove all your wagers altogether, and even leave the game.


If the dealer's "up card" is an Ace, you may elect to take insurance. The insurance bet is a wager that the dealer has a Blackjack. You can bet only half your original bet. If the dealer does have a Blackjack, your original bet loses and the insurance is paid 2 to 1. If the dealer doesn't have a Blackjack, he takes the insurance bet and the game continues.


In Blackjack, players have the option of surrendering one half of their original wager after receiving their first two cards. If you surrender your cards, the dealer will take half of your wager. (Note: the Surrender option is not available on the Double Deck game.)

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What are some blackjack basic strategies?

The odds of winning can be improved by following blackjack basic strategy. Below are blackjacks basic strategies.

If you have
And the Dealer shows
Do this
8 and under
Always hit, regardless of the dealer's up card
3, 4, 5, or 6
Double down
2 or 7 and above
2 through 9
Double down
10 or Ace
2 through 10
Double down
2, 3, or 7 and above
4 through 6
13 through 16
7 and above
13 through 16
2 through 6
17 through 21
Always Stand, regardless of the dealer's up card

Stand on a hand of 17 or more
Never hit on 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16 when the dealer is showing 16 or less
Always split 8's
Double down on 11 if dealer is showing 17 or less

Other Blackjack Tips

4 easy rules on when to hit and when to stand in Blackjack

  • 1 If your hand is 11 or less, always hit. You can't possibly bust, so the extra card will only help your hand.
  • 2 If your hand is 17 or greater, and the dealer is not showing a Seven or higher, always stand. The risk of busting if you hit is very high.
  • 3 If your hand is 12 to 16, and the dealer is showing an up card likely to bust, always stand. Although this is a weak hand, it will still win if the dealer busts.

    Exception - If the dealer has a Two or a Three showing, hit if you have 12.

  • 4 If your hand is 12 to 16, and the dealer has a Seven or higher showing, always hit. The dealer is far more likely to get a better hand than yours unless you can improve it. There's a risk of busting, but in this case you have to take that risk.

Exception: If you're holding a soft Ace, you can be more aggressive than these rules indicate. You might even hit on a 17, depending on what the dealer is holding.

Although basic blackjack strategies can get infinitely more complex, these four rules are the core of most of the strategies in use today.

Do you know: you can print out a cheat sheet and bring it to the table with you. It's 100 percent legal. The casinos won't give you any slack for it.

Download Frank Scoblete's Lucky 13: A Simple Blackjack Basic Strategy

Las Vegas Blackjack Etiquette

Las Vegas Blackjack Communicate your wish to stand or hit through hand signals.
Tap the table with your finger to indicate you want to hit.
Wave your hand horizontally to indicate you want to stand.
Announce your intention to surrender verbally. This allows you to abandon your hand and keep half your bet.
Switch your cell phones off. However If you must answer a call, step back from the table and make your conversation as brief as possible.
Feel free to ask the dealer any questions you want regarding the rules.
It's customary to tip the dealer. To do so, simply place an extra bet in from of your original bet. If you win that bet, the dealer keeps it as a tip.

Blackjack House Edge
Blackjack is a game with strategic decisions and if you’re willing to put in a little work (learning the game). Blackjack offers one of the best table game odds in Las Vegas. The game has a house edge of about a .5 percent. Meaning, for every dollar you gamble, you'll lose only half a penny on average.
Blackjack House Advantage and Expected Loss
  House Advantage For Every $100 bet, the player can expect to lose
Natural pays 3 to 2 0.5%-1.5% 50c - $1.50
Natural pays 6 to 5 2.0%-3.0% 2.00 - $3.00

Dealers play according to house rules for their table. Be aware that blackjack odds may vary from table to table. Feel free to ask the dealer for clarification.

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What is the difference between Double Deck and Multiple Deck Blackjack
Double Deck Blackjack (Hand Decks)

Cards are dealt from the hand
Everyone plays against the dealer
Players are dealt two cards face down
The dealer receives his first card face up and the second card face down
Player may draw as many cards are they want until you are close to 21 or until they "bust"
The object of the game is to get as close as possible to 21 without going over 21.

Multiple Deck Blackjack (Shoe Games)

Cards are dealt from a box called the "Shoe"
Everyone plays against the dealer
Players are dealt two cards face up
The dealer receives his first card face up and the second card face down
Player may draw as many cards are they want until you are close to 21 or until they "bust"
The object of the game is to get as close as possible to 21 without going over 21.
Players use hand signal to indicate a "hit" or "stand"

Winning and Losing in Blackjack

If you are closer to 21 than the dealer, you win and are paid an amount equal to your original wager.
If your hand is less than the dealer's, you lose.
If the player busts he loses, even if the dealer also busts
If the dealer's hand “busts” or “breaks”, you win.
Ties are a stand-off or “push” and your bet remains on the table.
If your initial two cards total 21, (this will happen if you are dealt an Ace with a 10, Jack, Queen or King), you have a blackjack or a natural. Blackjacks are paid 3 to 2 or up to 50% more than any other hand.
A hand totally 21 points, but having more than two cards, loses to a two-card backjack/natural hand.
Each player has an independent game with the dealer, so it is possible for the dealer to lose to one player but still beat the other players in the same round.

Did you know...
The Sahara Hotel & Casino hosted the very first blackjack tournament in Las Vegas, back in 1978.

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