You might think all you need is a deck of cards, but there’s much more to knowing how to play blackjack with friends.
Get your equipment, knowledge, and dealer skills downpat and you’ll be the pro that everyone goes to when it’s time for a home game or a casino party.
Let’s see how to play blackjack at home, or even at a party or official event, and ensure everyone feels like a winner.
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Why is blackjack a great party game to play with friends?
When it comes to playing cards with your friends, Texas Hold’em poker is often the number one choice, but poker is not an easy game for beginners, and that’s where blackjack comes in.
Blackjack is normally played in casinos, but it’s a great alternative for games nights with your friends, and it’s a popular choice for parties and events too.
Blackjack is very easy to play, it’s fast and doesn’t last long. You play against the house, not each other, so there is less room for a falling out!
Multiplayer blackjack also has that iconic James Bond glamour about it, so it’s the perfect fun game for special occasions.
You’re here to learn how to play blackjack with your friends, so I’ll oblige.
I’ll assume you either already know how to play blackjack itself, or you’re happy to head off to my blackjack guide to skill up on the basics.
So today, I’ll just focus on the factors you need to consider when setting up your own blackjack game.
Run the game smoothly, fairly and with some energy, and your mates are guaranteed to have a good time.
What you’ll need for a blackjack party?
Let’s be honest, you could play blackjack with 1 friend and a deck of cards – the game is that simple.
But that’s hardly a party, is it? For a truly professional experience, here’s what you need to run a proper game of blackjack.
A blackjack table
A blackjack table is the number one ingredient for an authentic blackjack party.
It gives the look you’re after and provides the correct number of seats, betting boxes, and areas for decks of cards.
Plus, it should display the rules, so there’s no room for arguments!
You’ve got several options, depending on your budget. If you want to go the whole nine yards, a pro blackjack table will set you back hundreds of pounds.
It will fit up to 7 players and give you the true casino look and quality, but you’ll need somewhere to stash it.
If space and cash are concerns, a table-top version is a great middle ground. It delivers the crescent shape and iconic design, and all you need to do is place it on a regular table.
Just make sure you secure it, as you don’t want cards and chips on the floor.
And finally, a blackjack mat or felt is the bargain bucket end. You can pick these up for less than £10, and you can roll it up and play anywhere.
Playing cards with friends
Obviously, you cannot have a blackjack party without cards. But how many decks do you need, and what quality should you go for?
Let’s deal with quality first. After years of painful experience with cards, I can tell you it’s always best to spend a little more for plastic-coated cards.
A cheap deck of cards will not last one round without marks and damage, let alone a full blackjack party.
Beginner dealers will also find it easier to deal with high quality cards that can stand some punishment.
How many decks do you need for a blackjack party at home?
When you play in a real casino, they will use 8 decks of cards at the same time and change them every hour or so. However, they are using dealing shoes and often shuffling machines too.
If you are intending to use a shoe, then go for as many decks as it will hold.
Yes, it’ll take the dealer longer to shuffle them, but once you’re ready, you will get many hands uninterrupted before you have to pause the game and shuffle again.
There’s no shame in running a blackjack home game without a shoe and using one deck of cards.
Just be aware that you’ll need to shuffle the deck after every hand. Unless the dealer is a competent shuffler, it could get annoying for the dealer and the players.
Decide how often you will be running a blackjack game, and the expectations of your players, and go from there.
In theory you could run a blackjack table without chips.
But betting and winning, building a big stack, and feeling the chips in your hands, are all part of the magic of a blackjack game.
You can buy casino chip sets for nothing online, so there’s no excuse for not having a good set to use, and you can use them for poker and other games too.
When you’re searching for a chip set, remember that your blackjack players will need to have at least 3 denominations of chips, probably worth £1, £5 and £25.
The chips in your new set may only be coloured and not have a number written on them.
So either buy a set with numbered chips, or remind everyone at the start of the game, and during, what each colour of chip is worth.
How to shuffle and deal during a blackjack party?
Shuffling and dealing are probably the biggest fear of any amateur. Whether they’re playing poker or running a blackjack home game.
Unless you have played poker in a casino where the games are not dealer-dealt, you won’t get much practice shuffling cards efficiently.
And shuffling properly isn’t just about looking like a pro. It’s important to shuffle the deck well so the cards are random in every round, and to cut down on the delays between rounds.
There are several accepted ways to shuffle, but the quickest, most effective and most publicly fair involves splitting the deck in half.
To do so place the halves face down on the table, and use your thumbs shuffle the decks together, alternating cards from each half.
Head to YouTube and start practicing!
Dealing blackjack is another skill you should learn before you run a game for real.
The old school method of holding the deck in one hand and peeling the top card off doesn’t really cut it these days.
It’s slow and leaves you open to concerns about cheating, like dealing off the bottom.
It’s how magicians do card tricks, and it’s used by people we call ‘card mechanics’ – people who are skilled at cheating methods.
The safest and easiest way to deal blackjack is to invest in a shoe.
You can also stick the deck on the table and move the cards off the top with the palm of your hand. Again, You Tube is your friend.
At this point, you’re ready to start the first round.
I’m going to assume you know the order of play, how to calculate the total value of each player’s hand, and what options to offer them.
If you need help with any of these – and they’re critical if you want to run your own blackjack game – then head to my guide on how to play blackjack.
I would not recommend trying to run a proper game before you have the basics nailed down.
Basic blackjack rules aside, it’s worth looking at something you don’t really ever need to do when you’re playing blackjack at an online casino – taking bets and paying out.
Taking and settling bets
For a blackjack party to get into top gear, your friends need to be betting and ideally winning! And that means
As well as the dealer, you are also the cashier. So make sure everyone starts with the same stack of chips, and enough to be able to play plenty of hands before they go broke.
Before you deal each round, invite players to place their bets. Give them a few seconds to place their chips in the box in front of them, and then deal away.
As well as giving out chips, you might also want to place table limits such as minimum and maximum bets.
It helps create a realistic experience, but also prevents people betting their entire stack, busting, and having to reload every few hands, which may spoil the game.
Help each player to play their hand in turn. Pay out Blackjacks as soon as they are dealt.
Then settle all other bets once all players have played their hands and you as the dealer have played yours.
Pay out winners and gather in losing bets to the chip rack, then gather in and shuffle the deck, and you’re ready for the next round!
Providing a fair game
Even when you play blackjack with your friends just for fun, it’s important to run a fair game.
That means making sure the cards are random, and that both you as the dealer are seen to play fair, and to encourage fair play from your players.
Nothing kills a blackjack party vibe like cheating, or even the suspicion of cheating.
Tip: To ensure the deal is fair and appears to be fair, always use a Cut Card
And when it comes to fairness, there are a few issues you need to be aware of:
As I said earlier, a strong shuffling technique not only helps to keep the game flowing, but keeps the cards random, and gives players confidence in your ability.
After you’ve shuffled the cards, it’s good to ask a player to cut the deck (placing the coloured cut card anywhere in the deck, then moving the cards above it to the bottom of the deck).
So they have a hand in a fair deal. Go round the table clockwise during the game, asking a new player to cut the deck each time.
Cash and chips
Security and transparency are a big deal if there is something at stake, even if it’s just pride.
Keep the chip set in a rack where everyone can see and use the casino’s methods to cash in and cash out – placing chips on the table, rather than handing them to players.
Playing for real money
You now know what it takes to play blackjack with friends or run a successful blackjack party. But I want to end with a note of caution about running a blackjack game for real money.
First, it’s illegal to run a blackjack game unless you have a gaming licence.
Sure, the police aren’t likely to take an interest in your £1 home game but playing for real money can lead to arguments and issues that take the fun out of the occasion.
You will also need to focus much more on your fairness and security too.
There is another aspect to playing for real money; you are the dealer, which means you are the house, and as they say, the house always wins.
Now when there is luck involved, that’s not always the case, but you are playing with a built-in advantage (the 1% house edge), and some could see that as unfair.
You will also need to make sure you have limits in place, so you don’t end up having to pay out money to a big winner that you cannot afford.
So, it’s far better to stick to a fun game where there is no money at stake. But that does not mean playing free blackjack with friends has to be dull or lack that competitive edge.
There are many ways to inject some excitement into a blackjack game with friends without playing with chips that are worth real money.
Try offering a prize, reward or trophy for the player who finishes with the most chips. For a group of friends playing blackjack, there’s often nothing more dramatic than a forfeit for the player who loses the most.
Do some research on blackjack tournaments, print out some common tournament rules and use them to create an exciting theme for your blackjack party.
Blackjack with friends: FAQs
Do I need a shuffling machine or a shoe?
You can still deal a blackjack game without a shuffling machine or a shoe. But these types of basic equipment are fairly cheap to buy, especially a shoe, and they make your life much easier. Your game will also look more professional.
What are the best rules for a home blackjack game?
Stick to European blackjack rules and you’ll be fine. These are the simplest rules of all for you and everyone else to follow.
The dealer hits 16 or less and stands on 17 or more. Players can double any 2 cards and split any pair up to 3 times. It’s up to you if you want to offer Insurance or not, but I probably wouldn’t bother.
Finally, if you are the dealer and your up-card is an Ace, there is no need to peek at your second card.
What happens if there is a dispute?
In a casino card game which revolves around luck, winning and losing, there are bound to be the occasional arguments, fun or otherwise.
You won’t have CCTV footage to check, or a pit boss to back you up, so just be clear about the table rules before the game, and if in doubt, void the hand and restart the round.
If you follow my advice about equipment, competent shuffling and fair play, you should keep disputes friendly, and to a minimum.
How many players do I need for a blackjack party?
In theory you could play blackjack with just 1 friend, but the game might get boring quickly.
Multiplayer blackjack is best played with a full table of 7 players – that’s 8 people in total including the dealer – but even with 4 or more players, you should get plenty of excitement and a fantastic atmosphere at the table.