I don’t think there’s one set way to deal blackjack. There are, however, some guidelines that should be followed.

  • Before beginning, shuffle the cards. Have a player cut the deck by inserting a “cut” card into the deck. The cut shouldn’t be cut too close to either end of the deck. Next, put the cards in the shoe. Finally, before you begin, discard the first card in the deck without looking at it. This is called the “burn” card and, for some reason, is always discarded without being used.
  • Before dealing, make sure all players put a bet in their betting circle. This can be a BIG problem in friendly games where people often forget to place their bets and then receive their cards. If this happens, the person really shouldn’t be allowed to place a bet after seeing their cards. Just play the hand with no bet.
  • Deal from the dealer’s left to right (start with the player to your far left.)
  • Deal one up card to each player, followed by a down card to the dealer. Then deal a second up card to each player, followed by the dealer’s up card.
  • Make sure the cards are laid out diagonally so that both numbers on each card are visible. This makes it easy for both the player and the dealer to read the cards. See the following diagram:
  • If the dealer’s up card is an Ace, ask if anyone wants insurance.
    • Players may place a separate “insurance” bet. They are betting that the dealer HAS blackjack. It pays 2-to-1. So, if a player has $10 bet on their hand, they could lose it all if the dealer has blackjack. So, they can bet $5 on insurance. If the dealer has blackjack, they lose their original $10 put win $10 on the insurance bet. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, they lose the $5 but still might win the $10 bet.
    • Despite what is described above, insurance is a BAD bet (unless the player has been counting cards and knows there’s a good chance of the down card being a 10.) The bet pays 2-to-1, but there’s slightly worse than a 2-to-1 chance of the dealer having blackjack. Thus, the payout is worse than the odds.
  • If the dealer has a 10 or Ace up, peek at the down card to see if the dealer has blackjack. If so, every player who doesn’t have blackjack loses immediately and their bet is collected. Player who were dealt blackjack keep their money – it’s a “push.”
  • Starting with the player to the dealer’s left, play each hand until it is completed before moving on.
  • If a player has blackjack (and the dealer DOES NOT,) pay the player 3/2 their bet. If they bet $5, you pay them $7.50, for example. If the dealer also has blackjack, it’s a “push” and nobody wins. They keep their money.
    • If the minimum bet is $1, for example, make sure you have a 50-cent chip. This way, you can pay $1.50 if they get blackjack with a minimum bet. Of course, don’t allow them to place bets with 50-cent chips. However, they can redeem two 50-cent chips for a $1 chip.
  • Ask the player if they want to hit, stand, double down, or surrender. If they have a pair, they may also split.
    1. If they hit, add another card in the same pattern as the above picture. If they’ve “busted” by going over 21, immediately collect their money and move on to the next player. Leave their cards on the table until all players are finished. If they didn’t bust, they may choose again.
    2. After taking a hit, a player may no longer split or double down. They may only hit or stand.
    3. If a player stands, move on to the next player.
    4. If a player doubles down, they only receive one more card and then MUST stand. They must also double their bet by placing a second bet behind their original bet. The card should be dealt sideways, like in the following picture:
    5. If a player surrenders, they forfeit the hand, but get to keep half their money. This is a good strategy if the player is dealt 15 and the dealer has a 10-point card showing, for example. Collect half their bet and leave their cards on the table.
    6. If a player splits, they must double their bet by placing a second bet next to the original bet. Separate their two cards and then deal one card to the hand to the dealer’s left. Play this hand out entirely before continuing to the second hand.
    7. Some casinos will allow splits after splitting – this is up to you.
  • After all the players are finished, turn up your down card and push your cards to your RIGHT. Keep hitting by dealing cards towards your left until your total is 17 or higher. Do not overlap your cards like you do for the players, just deal them out next to each other in front of you, from right to left. The dealer does NOT get to choose how to play. If their total is less than 17, they hit. If their total is 17 or higher, they stand.
  • Pay off or collect from those players who didn’t bust or surrender (ie, those players whose money is still on the table.) Pay off from left to right, in the same order as the deal.
  • A quick way to pay is to grab a stack of chips the same color as the stack the player bet. Lay your stack next to theirs and cut it off at the same height as theirs with a quick swipe of your fingers.
  • Collect all the used cards (try to do it in one long motion if possible) and place them in the discard holder.
  • Make sure the players place their bets before beginning the next hand.


Hosting a Friendly Party

Here are some suggestions for hosting a friendly blackjack party if your goal isn’t just to make money.

  • Have everyone at the party (including you) buy their chips. All chips in play should be owned by someone. If someone runs out of chips, they can always buy more from the “pot”. At the end of the night, everyone can redeem their chips and take their money back from the pot.
  • Keep a good eye on the money, keep track of it, and make sure people pay the right amount for their chips! If the bank is short at the end of the night, you (as host) are likely going to end up covering the difference. Plus, this situation can be quite uncomfortable! (I once had a party where a kid kept stealing chips from everyone… including the bank. At the end of the night, the bank was short and nobody got paid off correctly.)
  • If you’re going to be the dealer all night, then you don’t have to buy chips. You can simply own all the chips in the party and sell them to people as they need chips. You are effectively the bank and must finance all winnings and collect all losses incurred by the players. This option opens you up to bigger gains or losses, and also makes it logistically more difficult to let other people be the dealer.
  • If you want to have different people play the role of dealer (which is often more fun,) then I recommend you also buy your chips from the “bank” and take any unpurchased chips out of play (and out of sight.)
    • Since you’re the host, you should start off as the dealer. This helps get everyone comfortable and, most importantly, establishes the ground rules for the game.
    • Since you’ve bought your own chips, remove all unpurchased chips from the table’s chip rack and just put your own chips in the rack. You’ll use your own chips to finance the game.
    • Before beginning, make sure some of the important ground rules are known by everyone. This avoids uncomfortable disputes. Important rules include:
      1. What’s the maximum bet? What’s the minimum? (I HIGHLY recommend enforcing a maximum. At every party, someone will inevitably push all their chips into the betting circle and “let it ride.” If they win, the dealer has to finance this huge bet and if they lose, they’re done for the night. Neither outcome is good for the party.)
      2. Can you double down on all hands?
      3. Can you surrender?
      4. Can you split after splitting?
    • When it’s someone else’s turn to deal, remove all of your chips from the rack and let them put their chips in the rack. As dealer, they may want to buy more chips to finance the game. They can sell the chips back when they’re done. They should make money while dealing, particularly if there are several players at the table.
    • Stay nearby and help the new dealer get comfortable dealing. They might be a bit overwhelmed at first.
  • At the end of the night, have everyone sell their chips back to the bank (or to you if you’re acting as the bank.)
  • Most Importantly: have fun and be a generous host. It’s easy to make money with a blackjack table, but that’s not the best way to have fun with friends.