Most of what’s written about the game of blackjack on the internet concerns itself with blackjack as it’s played in a casino setting. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that younger blackjack players even know that blackjack is also often played in a private setting (like poker games are), too.This post explains some of the differences between how casino blackjack works as opposed to private blackjack games. Even if you’ve never really played blackjack before, you should be able to participate in or host a private blackjack game after reading this.

Blackjack is fun, whether you play with your buddies or in a casino setting. I’m hoping that private blackjack games start picking back up in popularity.

The main difference between playing a private game and a casino game is that in the private game, the deal moves from one person to another. This is a major difference, as you’ll see. There are a few other minor differences, which I’ll also cover in this post.

One of the exciting things about playing in a private game, though, is that you get just as much of a chance of being the dealer as everyone else. And being the dealer is fun, because you have an edge over the other players.

On the other hand, if you’re the dealer and banking all the action from multiple other players, you can lose much more money on a single hand than usual, too.

How Private Blackjack Games Are Played

In a private game of blackjack, you’ll have between 2 and 7 players, usually. This includes the dealer. More players than this, and the game becomes unmanageable.

You’ll use a standard 52-card deck with the addition of a joker, which substitutes for the burned card in a casino game of blackjack.

The cards have the same values as in casino blackjack. Aces are worth 1 or 11, face cards (the jack, queen, and king) are worth 10 points, and all the other cards are worth their ranking. Suit still doesn’t matter.

In most private games, you start with one player picking up the deck and shuffling the cards. The player to the right of the shuffler gets to cut the cards. Then cards are dealt one by one to each of the players until someone gets an ace.

The player to get the 1st ace gets to be the dealer 1st.

I’ve heard of games where the cards are dealt until someone gets a blackjack (2 cards totaling 21), but that seems unlikely to me, as it would take a lot of time to choose a dealer that way. I think it would be more likely to deal cards until someone literally gets a “black jack”—either the jack of spades or the jack of clubs.

Any of these random methods for choosing a dealer work fine, though.

Once the dealer is chosen, he shuffles the cards, lets the player to his right cut the cards, and he deals the game. The joker is placed face up on the bottom of the deck to replace the burned card. This makes it impossible to see what the bottom card of the deck is.

How Betting Works in a Home Blackjack Game

Sometimes, the dealer gets to choose the betting limits. It’s better, though, that this decision be made in advance before the game by a consensus of the players. You might, for example, agree that you can bet between $1 and $5 on every hand. I like to use the same poker chips I use for my Thursday night home poker game for my private blackjack games. If the betting limits keep changing from hand to hand, players get confused and sometimes frustrated.

In casino blackjack, it’s customary to bet before you get your 1st card. This is how the game is played in some private games, too.

But in other private games, you’re not required to bet until after you get your 1st card. The dealer in a private blackjack game has advantages that the dealer in a casino doesn’t have, and this change helps compensate for that. (The dealer in a private blackjack game doesn’t have to follow the “casino strategy” of standing on a 17+ and hitting a 16 or lower. He can use his own judgment.)

It’s also customary that a dealer can decide to double everyone’s bets after he gets his 1st card.

And the final big difference for the dealer, which is also advantageous for the dealer, is that the dealer wins ties in a home game of blackjack.

Players also get some advantages they don’t have in the casino, though. The biggest of these is the payout for a blackjack. In a casino, the payout for a “natural” (a 2-card hand totaling 21) is 3 to 2. In a home game, the payout for a natural is 2 to 1 instead.

How the Deal and the Hand Plays Out in a Home Game of Blackjack

Everyone—dealer included—gets a single card, face-down. (This is different from casino blackjack, where the dealer’s card is face-up.) In a home game, the dealer would face too great a disadvantage if he were to get his first card face-up.

Then everyone gets to look at his hole card and decide how much to bet. The dealer acts last, and he gets to decide whether everyone has to double the size of their bets.

Also, if the dealer doubles the bets, each player gets the option to redouble his bet again.

Then everyone gets their next card face-up. If the dealer has a blackjack, he announces it immediately. He gets to collect double from each player.(In casino blackjack, the dealer doesn’t get a bigger payoff when he has a blackjack.) If a player also has a blackjack, the player loses the tie, but he doesn’t have to pay double.

  • If a player gets a blackjack, HE gets paid double. But he also gets to deal on the next hand, unless the dealer also has a blackjack. Remember, in home blackjack, the dealer wins all ties, including blackjacks.
  • If 2 or more players get a blackjack at the same time, the one closest to the left of the dealer gets to deal next. It’s determined in the same order that the betting is determined in.
  • And if no one has a blackjack, the players get to hit or stand, in much the same way they would in a casino game of blackjack.

Hitting and Standing in a Private Game of Blackjack

The 1st player to the dealer’s left gets to decide whether to hit or stand. A player can hit until he has a total of 22 or higher. If he does get a 22 or higher, he busts, and he loses his bet to the dealer. As in casino blackjack, he loses his bet immediately. If the dealer busts later in the hand, it doesn’t matter, because that player has already lost his bet.

Players in home games of blackjack are allowed to split pairs. They’re also allowed to re-split. And even though in most casinos, when you split aces, you only get to take one more card after splitting, in a home game, you can take more cards if you want to.

A blackjack after splitting is paid off at 2 to 1.

Most home games don’t allow doubling down, although this rule should be made clear at the beginning of the game.

Common Bonus Payoffs

It’s customary to have bonus payoffs for certain hands in a home game of blackjack. If you have 5 cards with a total of less than 21, that’s a 2 to 1 payout. And if you have 6 cards with a total of 21 or less, that’s a 4 to 1 payout. If you have 7 cards totaling 21 or less, than’s an 8 to 1 payout. With 8 cards, you get a 16 to 1 payout if you win. (It doubles for each additional card.)

These payouts might seem to put the dealer at a disadvantage, but a lot of times, players will try to improve their hand to get a bonus payout and bust instead.

The dealer, by the way, is not eligible for these bonus payments.

Auctioning Off the Bank

Obviously, one of the biggest differences between casino blackjack and private blackjack games is the opportunity to play as the dealer. I’ve already discussed one way for the dealer position to change—anytime a player gets a blackjack, he takes over as the dealer.

But there’s another way for the dealer position to change.

The dealer has the option to “sell” the role to another player. All he has to do is ask the players if anyone is interested in buying the dealer role. If someone says yes, then they can make the dealer an offer, which he can then accept or reject.

Sometimes a dealer might be running out of money after a streak of losses. In that case, he can decide he doesn’t want to deal anymore. In that case, the dealer role is auctioned off, and he gets the money. In this case, the dealer cannot reject the auction winner’s bid.

Finally, if no one is willing to bid on the auction, the player to the immediate left of the dealer gets to deal next. But he also has the option of rejecting the deal, in which case the position rotates again, to that player’s left.

Home Blackjack Game Strategy Advice

Some strategy advice for home blackjack games ought to be obvious.

Here’s an example:

Since you get to see one card before making your bet, you should always bet the max when your 1st card is an ace or a 10. The probability of getting that 2 to 1 payoff on a blackjack is just too good to ignore in that situation.

If you’re the dealer and you get an ace or a 10, you should force all the players to double their bets. Your odds are just too good here to not get more money into action.

Also, you can count cards in a home blackjack game, just like you can in a casino blackjack game. But if you increase the size of your bets based on the count, you don’t have to worry about casino security escorting you off the premises. In fact, if you’re a card counter, you stand to gain a lot if you can find some reasonably high stakes private blackjack games to participate in.

Basic strategy changes based on the situations in private blackjack, especially depending on the dealer’s tendencies. In poker you have tight players and loose players, passive players and aggressive players. You’ll face the same phenomenon in home blackjack games.

You can use your knowledge of the dealer’s tendencies to inform your decisions about hitting and standing. Paying attention to what the other players have is also smart, because that can affect both the dealer’s decisions and what your decisions should be.

If you’re the dealer, you should make your decisions based on the players’ tendencies, too.

Finally, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to buy the dealer position most of the time—not if the price is too high, anyway. If you’re a card counter, you definitely don’t need to buy the bank. You’ll have enough of an edge over the dealer that you won’t need it. I don’t know how much to value the dealer position at, but I’ve seen at least one recommendation to not spend more than 10X the minimum bet on it.


Private games of blackjack have a lot of notable differences from casino blackjack games. Just to summarize the most important of these:

  • The dealer is one of the players at the table.
  • The dealer doesn’t have to follow a prescribed strategy.
  • You don’t place your bet until after you’ve seen your 1st card.
  • The dealer can force everyone to double their bets.
  • The dealer wins all ties.
  • There are bonus payoffs for hands with 5+ cards that don’t bust.
  • A natural (or blackjack) pays off at 2 to 1.
  • If a player gets a blackjack, and it’s not a tie with the dealer, the player gets to be the next dealer.
  • The dealer can sell the role of dealer.
  • The dealer can also step aside, in which case there’s an auction to be the next dealer.
  • Basic strategy doesn’t really apply, as the dealer’s behavior is a major factor in deciding what you should do.
  • Counting cards isn’t frowned on by the casino staff—as there is no casino staff.
  • Changing the amount you bet based on the 1st card you’re dealt is a major strategy factor.

If you’re an expert blackjack player, it might be worth your while to host a private blackjack game with these rules. Of course, rules like these are just options, just like the rules of poker are, and your home game can adjust or modify any of these based on what the players there are willing to agree to.

Just be sure to have a large enough bankroll to handle being the dealer if you need to be. It’s a profitable role to play in the game, but only if you can afford the swings up and down. There’s a big difference between playing heads-up with a dealer in the casino and having to pay off 5 or 6 other players when you go bust.

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