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21 Card Game Rule and How to Play

21 goes by many names like Pontoon and even Black Jack in the United States. These games are very similar, but there are some important differences. However, many people do use the names interchangeably. 

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the 21 card game rules, so you can see exactly how to play. 

What is The 21 Card Game?

What is The 21 Card Game

Let’s talk about the card game itself before we begin our look at the 21 card game rules. 21 is a great 2 player card game, and because of its fast nature, it would make a great card game for the pub. 

The aim of 21 is to get a hand that is 21 in value. Or at the very least, as close to 21 as you can get without going over. The game is believed to have been derived from Spain. A Spanish dictionary from 1611 mentions a game called Ventiuno. Which literally translates to 21. 

Many of the classic 21 card game rules are still the same. Although over time, there have been many variations and new versions as well. In this guide, we’ll focus on traditional 21, which is best suited for casual play. 

What You’ll Need? 

Under the traditional 21 card game rules, all you need to play is a regular deck of playing cards. 

Like many card games, you don’t use the Joker cards either. It’s just your standard 52 deck of playing cards. 

You can find playing cards almost anywhere, so finding a deck shouldn’t be overly difficult. The cards below are just one example of what you could buy. Now let’s talk a little more about how the cards work in 21.  

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The Cards 

In the 21 card game, most cards have their face value. A 10 is worth 10 points, and a 2 is worth 2 points, and so on. The king, queen, and jack are worth 10 points each. However, the ace is generally considered the most valuable card. 

The ace is worth either 11 points or 1 point. It’s up to the player how they use this card, making it one of the most valuable cards in the game. That’s all you need to know about how the cards work. Let’s now take a more in-depth look at the rules and gameplay. 

The 21 Card Game Rules and Gameplay 

The 21 Card Game Rules and Gameplay

The Aim of The Game 

One of the main reasons 21 is so popular is that the game’s aim is quite simple. All you need to do is score as close to 21 as possible. It seems easy enough, right? But there is a lot of strategies involved. If you have a hand of 18, do you risk taking another card or not? Let’s take a look at how you set up and play 21. 

Setting Up and Playing

There are a few different ways to play 21. Some involve having one player be the dealer, while others don’t use a dealer at all. While 21 is generally played with 2 people, it can be played with a group as well. 

For group games, one player will be the dealer. And each player will be trying to beat the dealer. The dealer will alternate each turn. The general gameplay and rules stay the same though. We’ll be looking at the traditional 21 card game rules for more casual play. 

So, to get started, take a deck of cards and remove the jokers. Shuffle the deck then each player should draw 2 cards. Each player should keep their cards hidden; once players have been drawn their cards, they can opt to take another. 

This is known as a hit; if you want to use the traditional lingo, you simply say hit to take another card. Under traditional 21 card game rules, there are no limits to how many cards you can take. Although the more you take, the higher the odds are of you going over 21. 

If you go over 21, you have busted and must declare this to the other players. If you don’t want to take any more cards, you say stick. Once every player is happy with their cards, they will show their hands. 

The player with 21 or the closest to it wins. While it’s rare, multiple players could have the same score, so it could end in a draw. That is basically how you play the 21 card game; it’s fast, simple, and a lot of fun. If you want to add a twist to your game, you could try adding a few of the advanced rules below. 

Advanced Rules 

Because of its age, there have been plenty of new or advanced rules you can add to your 21 card games. These rules can make the game more challenging and strategic. Let’s take a quick look at some of the rules you can use. 

Number Limits: With this rule, a player must have above 16 (or a set minimum number of your choosing); if they don’t, then they must ask for a hit and take another card. This rule helps increase the risk of going bust. 

Card Limits: This rule says you can only take up to 5 cards. While it’s unlikely you could still net a very low score even with this amount of cards. But it does add an extra layer of strategy to the game. If you like the 31 card game, this rule could be a fun addition as it adds a similar gameplay element. 

First Card Draw: With this rule, the first card drawn to each player (including the dealer) will be drawn face up. This makes the game much more strategic because every player will have some idea of their opponent’s hand.

21 – Simple, Fast, and Fun! 

The 21 card game is simple, fast, and fun! The game can be learned and played in just a few minutes, and all you need is a deck of cards. Whether it’s at home or down at the pub, 21 is sure to be a fun card game you can enjoy anywhere. 

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Bar Games 101 is a website devoted to helping you learn about the best games to play with your friends. We review the games, research the rules, and uncover helpful tips and strategies.

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