In a span of six months in 2011, Don Johnson, a professional gambler, won over $15 million playing Blackjack at the Tropicana, Borgata and Caesars in Atlantic City. His winning streak turned him into a celebrity – something most Blackjack pros avoid, but hey, who doesn’t want a lavish lifestyle?

Blackjack is serious business for a lot of gamblers. If you’re interested in learning how to play Blackjack like Mr. Johnson, you’ve got to start with the basics before learning strategy. Playing online Blackjack at gives you the opportunity to practice your craft on your own schedule, at your own stakes. We’ll show you the ropes in the latest installment of our table games guide series.


Standard Blackjack Rules and Playing Styles

Blackjack is played against the house. Your goal is to get a hand that scores higher than the dealer’s without exceeding 21 points (aka “going bust”). You also win if the dealer busts. Jacks to Kings are worth 10 points, Aces can be 1 or 11, and the rest are face value.

At the start of every round of Blackjack, you and the dealer will be dealt two cards; the dealer will show one card face-up. You then modify your hand by initiating any of the following actions:

  • Hit: Receive an additional card.
  • Stand: Keep your hand as is.
  • Double Down: Double your bet, then receive one (and only one) more card.
  • Split: When you’re dealt two cards of the same value, you can split them into two separate hands, matching your original bet with each split hand. With most standard versions of Blackjack, you can split up to three times during a round; only one additional card is dealt after splitting Aces.
  • Surrender: Forfeit the round and retrieve half of your wager. The option to surrender is available immediately after the initial two-card deal only. You cannot surrender after hitting or splitting.
  • Insurance: When the dealers’ up-card is an Ace, you can buy insurance for half of your original bet. You get paid 2:1 if the dealer has a Blackjack (an Ace and any 10-value card).
  • Getting these fundamental rules down-pat is mandatory before you play serious Blackjack – or at least it should be. In addition, different Blackjack game variations will present slightly different twists to the rules, as we’ll explain shortly.
  • You’ll also need to learn the basic Blackjack strategy if you want to crush like Johnson. It’s actually not so basic; there’s an optimal way to play every round of Blackjack, but it depends on which variant you’re playing as well as which cards you’re dealt. Before worrying too much about the optimal strategy, try using a simpler, near-optimal strategy while you’re learning the ropes.

While you’re working on that strategy at, think of Blackjack in terms of two playing styles: social, and mathematical. Both are useful when you’re at a live casino; even if it’s you versus the house, there are other players at the table, as well as the dealer and the rest of the staff, so there’s always a social dynamic at play. Your own style should play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, so take a moment to consider what gifts you bring to the Blackjack table.


Single Deck vs Multi Deck Blackjack: What’s the Difference?

If you’re thinking of playing Blackjack, you also have to think about how many decks you want to play with. Most casinos offer several types of Blackjack, from single-deck right up to eight decks. We have nine Blackjack games at that use between one and six decks, but if you’re an aspiring pro, the decision boils down to single-deck vs. multi-deck.

Casinos originally introduced multi-deck Blackjack to limit the amount of card counting done by pro Blackjack players. You can still count cards with several decks in the shoe, but it’s harder than with a single deck. To encourage players to play the multi-deck games, many casinos decreased the payout for landing Blackjack in single-deck versions from 3-2 to 6-5. With the 3-2 payout, a $10 bet on a Blackjack would yield a $15 payout, but with the 6-5 payout structure, that $15 decreases to $12, making single-deck games less appealing than double-deck – unless you play at We’ll show you why in the next section.


Top Four Favorable Blackjack Rules

There are a lot of Blackjack game variations out there, each with its own twist on the rules – and not all are created equal. Certain variations favor you, while others favor the house. We’ll wrap up our online blackjack guide by showing you how to distinguish between favorable and less favorable games; figuring out these top four rule variations will help you win more money at the tables.



As we just mentioned, Single-Deck Blackjack pays only 6-5 when you play live and hit a “natural,” which isn’t nearly as good as the standard 3-2 payout for other games. But here at, we pay out 3-2 when you hit Blackjack playing our single-deck games.



Blackjack is more profitable for players when the dealer has to stand on soft 17 (“soft” hands include an 11-point Ace). Most Blackjack games have transitioned to the dealer hitting on soft 17, but at, we still have one Blackjack game that follows this old pro-player rule: Double-Deck Blackjack.



The surrender rule favors you, the player – not the house. The option of dumping your hand and retrieving half of your wager is an excellent choice when the dealer has a 9, 10 or Ace showing, and you have 15 or 16.

Note that there are actually two types of surrender: early and late. Early surrender lets you drop your hand before the dealer checks to see if they have blackjack (which they’ll do when their up-card is an Ace, and before you make your first action), whereas late surrender doesn’t give you that option until after the dealer checks – which means you won’t even get the chance when they turn over a 10-value card and win instantly. Very few casinos still offer the early surrender option, and some won’t let you surrender at all; however, you will find late surrender options in all of our six-deck Blackjack variants.



As you may recall, the more decks used in a blackjack game, the higher the house edge. Let’s see how the house edge changes as more decks are added. For this example, we’ll assume the dealer hits on soft 17, and you can double after a split:

  • Single-Deck: 0.007%
  • Double-Deck: 0.379%
  • Six-Deck: 0.615%
  • Eight-Deck: 0.644%

Being on the favorable side of these four Blackjack rule variations will improve your chances of success. Next time you’re wandering around the casino, wondering which blackjack game you should play, try to find a game that offers 3-2 payouts for Blackjack, requires the dealer to stand on soft 17, lets you surrender, and uses fewer decks.

Now that you know these Blackjack fundamentals, it’s time to hit the tables at and see what you’re made of. You can even use the Practice mode for free to work on your Blackjack strategy before playing for real money. Remember to be patient while you’re just starting out: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Mr. Johnson’s bankroll. Only play Blackjack with money you can afford to lose, enjoy the games, and best of luck at the tables.