International BlackJack League

How to play Blackjack

The game of Blackjack is a fairly old one. Its original forerunner was the French ‘vingt-et-un’, dating from the 1700s. Its other names are ‘21’ or ‘pontoon’.

A game of skill

Blackjack is a game that, although fairly easy to understand and play, requires skill as well as luck. A game of Blackjack can use one to eight decks of cards. The basic breakdown of the game is this: the player has to come as close to the number 21 without going past it, while still having a higher – closest to 21 – total than the Dealer. Before receiving the two starting cards, the player must make a bet and will then receive the cards face-up. The player wins if he/she comes closer to 21 than the dealer, or if the dealer ‘busts’ – goes over 21. Similarly, if the player exceeds 21, he/she busts and loses the bet.


Important rules

Face Cards count as 10

  1. All face cards, e.g. Jacks, Queens and Kings, count as 10s.
  2. Aces can count as 1s or 11s, depending on the cards being played (for example, a ‘soft’ Ace plus a ten-card totals 11, whereas a ‘hard’ Ace plus a ten-card counts as 21. The value is decided depending on what would be more beneficial to your hand.

    Ace counts 11

  3. In addition to your two initial upcards, you may draw up to nine more. This would give you a hand of eleven cards, as long as your hand doesn’t exceed the total of 21. This occurrence is rarer than a Royal Flush in Poker, though!
  4. The Dealer must always stand with a hand totaling 17 (called ‘Soft 17’), and must always draw on 16.
  5. More often than you might think, the Dealer’s hand might tie with yours. When this happens, your bet is ‘pushed’; you get your money/chips for that round back. A push also occurs when both you and the Dealer have a Blackjack.
  6. Blackjack usually – unless specified otherwise – pays on a ratio of 3:2. This means that if you bet two chips and win a hand, you get paid 3 chips.
  7. Making that perfect or winning hand is not as hard as you think: ten-cards are the most common in the deck (in a single deck you can find sixteen!)
  8. The International Blackjack League plays the European version of Blackjack. This means that only a single deck of 52 – no Jokers allowed! – is used.

    No Jokers Allowed

Blackjack Lingo

Hit: This means you want the Dealer to give you another card.

Stand: Meaning you have all the cards you want / you’re satisfied that your hand is strong enough, so the Dealer doesn’t give you anymore.

Split: A ‘split’ is when you receive your two cards at the beginning and they are identical in numerical value, e.g. two fives. When this happens, you can ‘split’ them, and both cards can count to a separate hand. Remember: your bet amount is doubled when you split!

To sum up…


  • The cards are reshuffled after each hand
  • The Dealer must always hit Soft 17
  • You can ‘double’ on any two cards that total 9, 10 or 11
  • You can split up to 3 hands
  • You may surrender any of your first 2 cards
  • When splitting Aces, you may do so only once
  • Aces may not be re-split
  • Card suits have absolutely no meaning in Blackjack
  • All cards from 2 through to 10 have their face value
  • Face cards, or the Jacks, Queens and Kings, are valued at 10
  • Aces count as either 1 or 11, depending on whatever would work best for a hand
  • Blackjack – an Ace and a ten-card – is the strongest hand in the game. It can only be matched, never beaten
© 2011 International BlackJack League