Felt Blackjack Table

Scott Nazelrod, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Blackjack fans don’t just play the game to try and win money, they also enjoy the game itself. Crunching the numbers, quick mathematics, trying new formulas and card counting are all enjoyable ways to challenge yourself, and a game of black jack can be a great social occasion too.

For that reason, many people enjoy a game at home among friends, and whether it be for real money or just for fun, there is an obvious problem with playing away from the casino.

There is no dealer.

So how do we get around the lack of a professional casino employee when we are trying to play the game among a group of friends who all want to be in on the action?

There is no set way of managing this, but we have a few ideas below. You can even adapt them from here if you wish – the great thing about a private game is that you can do whatever you want with the rules to make it work for you.

Who Deals When Playing a Private Blackjack Game?

Everyone is different, so some people will be happy enough to play for enjoyment only, others will throw in a small amount of money to make it interesting, and some will want to take the game very seriously and play for a significant amount of money.

The options below should cover most situations, but they won’t all suit everyone, so keep in mind what you want from your blackjack evening and also who you are going to be playing with before deciding which route to take.

Pick a Dealer

Man PointingThe first option is potentially not that much fun for the person who ends up being picked, but if one person in your group is happy to be the dealer for the game then that makes things very easy indeed.

It does of course mean that they don’t get to play their own hands though, which is why we say it might not be so much fun for them, especially if playing for real money.

Of course they could be the dealer as well as playing their own hand, but this should be judged on how seriously you are taking the game and how well behaved your friendship group is; if there are likely to be accusations of cheating when the person playing as the dealer has a hot streak with their player hand, maybe think again.

This option also poses a problem if you are playing any sort of rule where the dealer checks for blackjack, because the person dealing would always know what the dealer’s hand was and it would be impossible for them to play fairly.

Take Turns at Being the Dealer

Dealing CardsAnother, fairer way to handle a game of blackjack from home, is to take in in turns to be the dealer. In this way, everyone sits out one game in every six (if there were six people playing for example). It’s a good option for people playing for small amounts of money.

This works better with a larger group because then people can have a bit of a run at playing hands before their turn comes around to deal, but even if there are only three of you it can work well.

The good thing about this solution is that everything is spread out equally, so the game will be nice and even at the end, with everyone having played and dealt the same number of times and no one getting a better crack at the whip than anyone else.

It also means that each player’s position in the deal is different after each hand, as the dealer will be constantly changing but whoever it is will always deal to their left. So if you have just been the dealer you will be last to receive a card on the next game, then 2nd to last, 3rd to last, etc. until you are first, just before taking your turn to deal again.

No One is the Dealer

Dealer ChipObviously someone has to handle the cards, but so long as no one is looking at the dealer’s hole card until it is turned over at the end, you could just collectively handle the duties of the dealer since the rules they play by are set.

A dealer typically stands on 17 so you just keep hitting until you reach that number or above, or go bust.

Now this will only be possible with certain variations of the game, but so long as you are keeping things relatively simple it should be easy enough to implement.

This way of doing things could get a bit messy though, since no one person is tasked with being the dealer, so there might be hands everywhere, but if taking turns or picking one person to deal isn’t going to work for you then it is an option.

Caddy Blackjack

Casino Chips Cards and MoneyOne of our famous blackjack players, Ken Uston, writes about Caddy Blackjack in his book. It’s probably better suited to players with a bit of cash to spend, but if you take your blackjack seriously it’s a fun option.

At the start if the game, the players cut to decide who will deal first. The dealer then must declare his bank, and will continue to act as the dealer until that bank is depleted or until another player gets blackjack.

The player who got blackjack then becomes the dealer and it starts over again. If the player with blackjack does not want to be the dealer they can auction off the opportunity to the other players.

Other rules include:

  • Once all players have been dealt, the dealer can hit or stand as they choose
  • Ties go to dealer
  • Blackjack pays 2:1
  • No insurance
  • No splitting Aces
  • If 2 players get blackjack, player closest to dealer’s left wins dealer position
  • If dealer gets blackjack they can restate their bank amount

There are a few others but that is the gist of it.

So to be the dealer you need a decent bank to cover bad runs or you could be wiped out, but you also have the advantage the casino would usually have and can make good money on a long run in the dealer’s seat.

It’s a much more dynamic way to play the game but it’s much less friendly as one player can dominate

Is it Legal to Play Blackjack at Home for Money?

Legal Gambling at Home

As long as certain conditions are met then there is nothing wrong with hosting a game among friends with some money in the pot.

The rules on gambling at home are slightly different depending on whether you are ‘gaming’ or ‘betting’.

The definition of private gaming is:

“any game of chance for a prize, which may or may not involve an element of skill“

That pretty much covers blackjack, but there are some key points to note:

  • There must be no charge to take part. So although gambling between each other is fine, the person hosting must not charge any sort of entry fee or be getting any sort of rake from the game.
  • Members of the public must not be allowed access to the game. You can invite your friends over, but you couldn’t put up a sign inviting people to Number 22 Allensdale Avenue at 7pm for blackjack.

Interestingly, there are no limits on how much you can play for in a private game, so if there are any millionaires reading this you could host a game with your friends and play for hundreds of thousands if you wanted to.

If you were to host a game at home and charge an entry fee, or act as the house and earn money in the same way a casino does, or if you were running a game that any old Tom, Dick or Harry could come in and join, you would be breaking the law.

If caught, the fine is unlimited and you could even get jail time.

How to Manage the Money?

Money in Jar

However you handle the dealer conundrum, if you are playing for real money then this is something else that needs to be thought out.

It’s safe to assume you won’t have house backed funds to play for, so a good way to do it is for each player to put money into the pot at the start of the game, and then play with an equal number of chips per player.

In this way, a winner can be decided at the end based on who has the most chips in their possession. You could even split the pot into first, second and third if you wanted to, in the same way a blackjack tournament might run.

If 6 players put in £10 each, you might decide on this:

Final Position Winnings
First £30
Second £20
Third £10
Fourth £0
Fifth £0
Sixth £0

So the winner gets half the pot, the person coming in second doubles their money, and the third place player gets their stake back, while the other three lose their money.

You could structure it in any way you please though – maybe in your game the winner takes the lot and everyone else gets nothing – but agree it in advance with all of the players present.

It’s difficult to do it any other way if you are only wanting a friendly game, because to handle the money in a similar way to a casino means the dealer needs a lot of money to cover payouts, whereas the players can risk much smaller amounts.

If you are ok with risk and all players have cash to spend though, rotating the dealer can work, but it’s just tough luck if it’s your turn to deal when 2 blackjacks are dealt, another player doubles and wins, and you have to pay out.