Blackjack

A Complete Guide to Blackjack

Blackjack became popular during World War I, but it’s origins trace much further back than that. In the 1760s, it was a common card game in France and was called “Vingt-et-un” or Twenty-one. To this day, it still goes by the name Twenty-one or blackjack. Now, it has taken its place as one of the most popular online casino games because of the relatively simple rules and strategy. It is more complex than online slot machines, but it requires less skill than games like poker, making it the perfect game for many people. As long as you are a relatively competent player with some knowledge of strategy, the casino odds are more favourable than most other online casino games. 

In this online card game, only one person is required: a player. However, if the casino offers live blackjack, you might be able to play with up to seven others at one table as well as the dealer. What makes blackjack different from poker is that you don’t compete against the other players; instead, each player takes turns competing against the dealer and trying to beat their hand. 

If you are new to blackjack and want to go to a brick and motor casino in Las Vegas to play, it might be a good idea to start with a few rounds of online blackjack first. The online casino software is beneficial to new players who have trouble remember the rules and strategy of playing black blackjack. Many times, online casinos will have helpful cheat-sheets with tips for online players to follow. 

Online blackjack is very similar to regular blackjack in Las Vegas, but it does move quicker online. The same also applies to Baccarat, much higher tempo online. Because you won’t have to wait for a dealer to deal out the cards physically, you might realize that you are winning faster (or losing more!) than you are used to. Remember, in online blackjack, you control the speed. You can slow it down if you want to check strategies or think longer about each hand. 

Here is a guide on how to play online blackjack. 

In blackjack, the dealer shuffles the standard 52-card pack. If you are playing at a live table, the casino will likely shuffle several decks of cards into play at one time. When there is a real dealer, there will also be a white plastic card that is never dealt. Instead, the dealer will put it near the bottom of the deck of cards, and once they reach that white card, it means that it is time to reshuffle the deck.

When the dealer has four or more decks, they will typically use a shoe to hold the cards. A shoe is a box that makes it easier for the dealer to remove the cards one at a time, face down, without having to hold all the cards at once in their hands.

When playing an automated version online, you likely won’t have a dealer. The cards will just appear quickly in front of you.

Object Of The Game

All of the players are competing against the dealer. You as the player must attempt to win by getting as close to 21 without going over 21.

There are three ways to beat the dealer and win your money back:

  • On the first two cards you are dealt, you have exactly 21 points. When this happens, it is called a natural blackjack.
  • Without going over 21, you must be dealt a higher final score than the dealer. For example, if you have 18 and the dealer has 17, you would win.
  • If the total of the dealer’s hand equals more than 21, that means they “bust.” For example, if the dealer has 24 points in their hand, that means everyone else who didn’t already bust automatically wins.

Betting

If you are playing an automated online blackjack, with a computer dealer, nothing will happen until you make a bet. However, if you are playing at a live table, then you might have 10-15 seconds to make your bet. If you don’t act within that time period, then the game will continue without you, and you will have to wait till the next hand to jump back into the betting action. Luckily, each hand doesn’t last very long, so you can jump right back into the game. The minimum and maximum bets vary from online casino to online casino, but often, the limits will be between $2 and $500 a hand.

The Deal

Once you have made your bet, the cards will be dealt out to you. Regardless if you are playing by yourself or with others, each player is given one card face up in clockwise order. The dealer also receives a card face up. Next, in the same order, the players get a card face up, but the dealer will get their second card face down.

In the deck, the cards will have an assigned value. Two through ten are valued at their number amount (the 5 of clubs is worth 5 points, the 7 of spades is worth 7 points, etc.). The face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) are all worth ten points each. The ace can be worth either eleven points or just one.

Naturals

If the first two cards you get are a ten-card (a Jack, Queen, or King, or a 10), or an ace, that means your total is 21, and you get a natural blackjack. If you are lucky enough to get one, and the dealer does not also have a natural blackjack, then you get one and a half times the amount of your bet. For example, if you bet $10, got a natural blackjack, you would win $15. If you are playing with other players on a live blackjack table at an online casino, and another player gets a natural blackjack, it does not affect you, and your money isn’t lost. The other player simply collects their winnings, and the game continues.

However, if the dealer gets a natural blackjack, that means you automatically lose. If you both you and the dealer get a natural blackjack, then that hand is considered a stand-off or tie, and you don’t win any money, but you also don’t lose it. Everyone else at the table would lose their money if they also didn’t have a natural blackjack.

Once all the players have gone, the dealer will then go. The dealer will turn over the hidden card and must continue to hit (deal themselves another card) until the cards total 17 points or more. Players win when their card totals more than the dealers without busting (going over 21). If the dealer and the player have the same total, then it is a push, which means the player doesn’t lose their money, but they also don’t win.

Game Play

If you are playing with others, then the player on the left from the dealer’s perspective always goes first. As the player, you must decide whether or not you want to “stand,” meaning not ask for another card, or you want to “hit,” meaning you want the dealer to give you another card. You might choose to take another card because you want to get closer to 21, with the goal being to hit 21 without going over.

The player always starts with the two cards and can receive additional cards one at a time, until they decide to stop, or they bust (going over 21). If you were to bust, that means that you lose all of your bet, meaning the dealer will collect your money. Once you decide to stand or you bust, your turn is over. Then, the next player or the dealer will take their additional cards or decide to stand (do nothing more).

When you receive your first two cards, and you receive an ace with any card other than a ten-card, that is considered a “soft hand.” Remember, the ace can either count as a one or an eleven. If you were to get a six and an ace, that would mean your total would be 17 points. While this might be a pretty good hand that would win you quite a few rounds of blackjack, you might want to consider hitting for a higher total.

Having the ace can be interesting if you do decide to hit. If the additional card would cause you to bust if the ace is counted as an eleven, that same ace would instead be counted as a one. For example, if you had a six and an ace (6 + 11 = 17 total points), you might consider hitting again. If you were to draw a five, that would bring your new total to (6 + 1 + 5) 13 points.

The Dealer

The dealer must follow a certain set of rules that are different from the players. Once all the players have played, the dealer must then flip over the card that was face down. If the total of the two cards is 17 or more, the dealer must stand and cannot draw any more cards. That means if you also had 17 cards in your hand, you had a stand-off, and you don’t win or lose any money. However, if you had 18, 19, or 21 points, that means you won. If you had less than 16 points, it would mean you lose your bet.

The dealer must continue to draw cards until he hits 17. He is not allowed to continue to draw cards after he reaches that threshold of 17. That means even if the dealer has 16, he must hit. The dealer has automatic movies that he must always follow, but you as the player have the choice to stand or take more cards. Because the dealer is more predictable, you can use this to your advantage in your strategy choices.

Blackjack Jargon

When your turn comes, you might see two options pop up on your screen. You can say “hit” if you want another card from the dealer or stand if you don’t want another card. If you press stand, then your turn is essential over, and you will see what the dealer does.

Splitting Pairs

One of the playing options that will be available to you when you play blackjack is to split a pair. If the first two cards you get are of the same domination, such as two kings or two sevens, you can choose to split these cards and essentially treat them as two separate hands. It’s important to note that the amount you bet doesn’t then split in between the two hands. If you initially bet $50, that all will all go one hand, and you must then place an equal amount on the other hand.

You then will play the hand first on your left, and you can choose to hit as many times as you like before going over 21. Once you stand or have busted on the left hand, then the dealer will move on to your hand on the right. You can then hit or stand as you want. Those two original cards are treated as two separate hands, so you might lose one bet or win both bets.

However, if you are dealt two aces and decide to split, you receive only one card and nothing more. You may not receive any more cards. If you are lucky enough to get a ten-card (10, Jack, Queen, or King) on that second card, it is not treated as a natural blackjack, and you receive the normal payout for a winning bet (one to one).

Let’s say you receive two sixes and decide to split it. On the hand on the left, you could request another card and get another six. If you happen to get another pair, you can choose to split it again. That means that you will have to put down a third bet, though (one for each hand.)

Doubling Down

Doubling down is another gameplay option that is available to you when playing at an online casino. You can do this when you place a bet equal to the original bet, and the dealer will give you just one more card. You are only allowed to do this when you have a nine, ten, or eleven on your first two cards.

If you were to get two fives (for a total of ten), you could choose to split the cards, double down, or continue to play the hand as normal.

It’s important to note that the dealer never has the option to split or double down. Their style of playing is more automatic.

Insurance

When the dealer’s first card is an ace, that means that the players can make a side bet to help protect the full amount of their original bet. This side bet can be up to half of the original bet, and if the dealer does get a natural blackjack, then you are safe.

If you decide to make the side bet, then the dealer checks the card that is face down. If it is not a ten-card, then that means you lose your insurance bet, and the hand continues as usual. However, if they do have a natural blackjack, then that means you are paid double the amount of their side bet, making it a two to one payoff. When the natural blackjack occurs, that means all the players who didn’t also get a blackjack lose their bets.

In general, especially in online blackjack, insurance is typically going a good idea for the player. It is impossible to tell how many ten-cards are left in the deck, so it’s hard to judge the odds.

Bet Payouts

The most important bet to remember about blackjack is once a bet is paid, it is never returned. Because the player goes first, it is a slight advantage to the dealer and the house. If a player busts, that means that the dealer immediately collects the wager. Even if the dealer busts, that amount is never returned to you.

If the dealer does bust, all players who did not bust, receive their bet payout. If the dealer doesn’t bust, they will then collect the bet of any player who has a lower total than them, and payout any player with a total more than them. If you and the dealer both have the same total, then it is considered a stand-off, and you get to keep your bet, but you also don’t win anything.

Basic Strategy of Blackjack

In order to get the best house odds and win more often than you lose when you play blackjack, knowing the basic strategy and rules is absolutely essential. You should understand how to play each hand optimally. This means taking into account what the dealer’s first upward-facing card is as well.

Whenever the dealer’s upcard is a high card, like a seven, eight, nine, ten-card, or an ace, the player should continue to draw until they reach at least 17. The chances that the dealer will also get at least a 17 is pretty high, so you want to ensure that you will at least have a chance of tieing or winning the bet. Remember, the dealer must draw until when he hits 17, but you are not bound by those same rules.

If the dealer’s upcard is a lower one, like a four, five, or six, then you should stop requesting another card when you hit 12 or higher. Because the dealer has a high chance of busting, you want to use that to your advantage. Once you have a total of twelve points in your hand, you have a higher chance of busting yourself. Your primary strategy at this point is never to take a card that gives you the opportunity to bust and lose your money. Even though you don’t have a solid hand yourself, your best hope is to wait for the dealer to bust himself.

If the dealer has an okay upcard, like two or three, you as the player should stop requesting more cards when you reach 13 or higher.

Another strategy for when you have a soft hand is for you as the player to continue to hit until the total in your hand surpasses 18. Therefore, if you have an ace and a five, your total in your hand would be 6 or 16. You should hit at least one more time.

When doubling down, there is an essential strategy you should follow. When the cards in your hand total 11, you should always double down. If you have a total of ten points in your hand, you should only double down when the dealer doesn’t have a ten-card or an ace showing in his first card. If you have a total of nine points in your hand, you should consider double down only if the dealer’s upward-facing card is fair or poor, meaning it is between a two and a six.

When deciding if you should split, you should always split a pair of eights or aces. You should never split identical ten-cards or a pair of fives. If you do get a pair of fives, it would be more beneficial to you to double down. You should also never split a pair of fours.

You might want to split a pair of 2s, 3,s, or 7s, depending on the dealer has. If the dealer has an 8, 9, or ten-card or ace, it isn’t a good idea to split in that situation. Last, a pair of sixes should never be split unless the dealer’s upward-facing card is weak (a two through six).

Of course, there are many different rules and variations to blackjack, but that is the most basic version.