Blackjack, commonly known as twenty-one, is one of the most popular casino card games out there.
Blackjack has its earliest roots in a Spanish, gambling game called Veintiuna, or 21. The game was featured in a short story in 1601 by Miguel de Cervantes, a Spanish gambling enthusiast and author better known for writing Don Quixote. Cervantes mentions the game and even explains the basic rules. This shows us that in the beginning of the 17th-century blackjack was already a popular game, and it hasn’t changed all that much over the centuries. Today, it is the most played card game in any casino. The primary reason for this is the very low house edge.
Depending on the version of 21, or blackjack, the house edge can be as low as 0.17%. That is one of the lowest house advantages possible. Another aspect of blackjack that makes it attractive to so many is that there can be more than one winner per round. Each player at the table is competing against the dealer and not their fellow gamblers. This makes it possible for all of the players at a table to win against the dealer at the same time.
There are several versions of blackjack available, and some of them vary by country. Blackjack AU is very similar to Blackjack UK with the exception of the orientations in which the player’s cards are dealt and the number and orientation of cards for the dealer.
This classic game has starred in Blockbuster movies – Holy Rollers, The Last Casino, Breaking Vegas – and even had one named after it: 21. This is a thrilling, fast-paced game: a new hand can be dealt in the blink of an eye, so get ready to be on the edge of your seat.
How to Play Blackjack
Like many long-standing favourite casino games, the basic rules of play are pretty simple. The game is played with a standard 52-card deck. Each card has a value:
- 2 through 10 are worth their face value
- Kings, queens, and jacks are worth ten
- Aces are worth 11 or 1
The object of the game is to create a hand with a higher value than the dealer’s and that’s as close to 21 points as possible, without going over. A 21-point hand is the highest and the best version possible is a two-card 21.
Playing starts with placing a bet on your hand, and the odds vary depending on the type of Blackjack played. To start, the dealer will deal each player (and themselves) two cards; in some game styles the player’s cards are face-up and in others, the hands are kept private. At least one of the dealer’s cards is turned upright so all players can see part of the dealer’s hand.
After the deal, players have to decide to hit or stand. With a hit, you’ll receive another card from the dealer – go over 21 and you’ve ‘bust’ and lost your wager. If you decide to stand, you’ll keep your hand as is and hope it beats the dealer’s. Whoever has the highest hand wins the bet. Traditional rules say the dealer must draw if they have 16 or less or a ‘soft 17’ (a 17 with an Ace), otherwise they stand.
Odds In Blackjack
Blackjack is one game where the odds really can be in your favour. Because the game is based on the probability of either you or the house busting, you can calculate that probability and know how to react on every hand. Blackjack usually pays out at about 3 to 2 or in a case of doubling down, 2 to 1. As mentioned earlier, blackjack has one of the lowest house edges of any casino game and depending on the number of decks being used can be as low as 0.17%.
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Blackjack Common Rules
With every great game comes great responsibility – wait that’s not right… rules, with every great game, there are common rules. This classic game always follows a few rules that we’ve got detailed for you here:
- The game is played with a standard 52-card playing deck.
- Cards 2 through 10 have their face value, face cards are also ten points, and aces can be worth 1 or 11 – player’s choice.
- The sum of all cards in the player’s hand is the value of the hand.
- Blackjack is the highest hand – an ace with any 10-point card – and it beats all other 21-point hands.
- Every player and then the dealer is dealt two cards to start the hand. The dealer must always have one card face up, the face-down card is known as the ‘hole card’.
- If the dealer has a 10, Jack, Queen, King or ace showing, he will offer an ‘insurance’. This is an opportunity to place a wager worth up to half the value of your original bet on the dealer having a blackjack. This wager pays out 2-1, meaning even if you lose your hand you earn your money back if the dealer has 21.
- After offering insurance, the dealer will check their hold card to see if they have blackjack. If he has blackjack, insurance wagers are paid out and all players without ‘insurance’ lose the bet.
- If the dealer does not have a ten-value card or ace, gameplay is as normal: each player has their turn before the dealer turns over his hold card. If the dealer’s hand is worth sixteen or less he automatically draws a card. Likewise, if they have a ‘soft’ 17, a seventeen with an Ace.
- If the dealer gets more than 21 points, they bust and all other players who have 21 and below win their wager.
- If the dealer doesn’t bust, whoever has the highest hand value wins the round.
Knowing your limits, how much to bet, and when to double down is extremely important to being a successful blackjack player. Follow this key tips for managing your playing money:
- Know all the rules in the game you’re playing. There are many variations to blackjack, so be sure you know all the rules and terms of the game before you start playing.
- Cash in on bonuses, but be familiar with the terms and conditions. With many online casinos, there are lots of great bonuses that can help lead you to boosted winnings. Take advantage of them but don’t let them take advantage of you – know all the terms before you sign up for a bonus and make sure you understand the wagering requirements.
- Shop around for a casino that fits you. There are hundreds of online casinos on the web these days, make sure you find one that isn’t only licensed and regulated by a reputable institution (like the UK Gambling Commission) but one that offers you opportunity to grow and benefit as a player – check reviews for bonuses, quick payout times and any complaints.
- Study up on your betting strategy. Know when betting and doubling down is in your favour and know when it’s best avoided, so you don’t blow money when it can be avoided.
- Make yourself as close to unbeatable as possible. Read up on blackjack strategies and combine the skills you have with the way you manage your money. Bet smart, play smart and you’ll be winning smartly, too.
Popular Blackjack Variants offered by Casinos
A classic blackjack game with a unique twist: the dealer deals each player two hands as opposed to one. The top card of each hand can be switched between the two hands during the game, allowing the player to create a stronger hand. Payouts are 1:1 for natural blackjacks in this game.
Fairly similar to standard blackjack, this variation is played with anywhere from 2 to 8 decks, though 6 is most common. In this game, the dealer takes his hold card after he deals all the players cards and will stand on a soft 17. Aside from that, there are more specific rules regarding when you can split or double down, so check the fine details before playing.
In this variation, which despite its name actually came about in the 1990s in America, you can double down with any number of cards. All tens are removed from the deck before game play and players who hit 21 with more than 5 cards in their hand receive a bonus. There are some special 21-valued hands (like a 7-7-7) that have extra value as well, so read up on all the rules to get the greatest edge in the game.
This challenging variation of blackjack is great for more seasoned players. The big difference between classic blackjack and this game is that the ace is set as a hard 1 – no option for 11. It changes the game play quite a bit, as the option for a two-card blackjack is eliminated. Instead, a Caribbean 21 is two 10-valued cards and an ace.
Play against others as well as the dealer, this popular variation of the game adds an extra thrill to the felt. Usually, 5 seats are available at the table, so brush up on your strategy to give yourself the highest chances of winning.
Basic Blackjack Strategy
With any casino card game, there is an optimal strategy to follow. Most of the strategies for winning at blackjack involve calculating the probability of which cards have already been played and which cards remain in the deck to be played. Some people refer to this method as card counting. Here are are a series of questions to ask yourself, so you can make the most of a game from the get-go:
- Should you surrender? Some versions of blackjack allow you to surrender after the first deal and before a hit. Your decision to surrender depends on what card the dealer has showing and what’s in your hand. If you choose not to surrender, answer this:
- Should you split? In a classic game the time to split is if your first two cards are identical 10-valued cards (like two Kings or two 10s). This allows for you to play your hand two ways with the same bet. If you choose not to split, then answer this:
- Should you double? The option to double is given after the player receives one hit. It’s best to choose this option if you’re hand is valued at 21, as it’ll increase your initial wager by 100% and it also means you’re forced to stand. If doubling down isn’t ideal for you, then answer this:
- Should you hit or stand? The choice to hit or stand should be based on the dealer’s top card and your hand. The best way to know which option is better is to study basic strategy charts so you can perfect your play.
Playing the best, learned strategy in blackjack can help you reduce the house edge to a measly 0.5%, so don’t blow it off as something of little importance. That small percentage can be the difference between a winning hand or a total loss.
Top 5 Blackjack Tips
Because blackjack is all about probabilities and odds, there are some tips that can actually help you win more often than you lose. We have gathered info from the experts and brought it all together for you. Check out our best online blackjack tips:
- Remember your ‘always’ and ‘never’ rules – Since we are dealing with straight statistics, this is one place where you know you can count on always and never.
- Always split pairs of aces or 8s. Both will give you the highest chances of reaching 21.
- Always stand on 17 or higher. Your chances of drawing the right card without busting are slim.
- Always draw on anything less than 11; you can’t go bust.
- Never split a pair of 10s or similar value. You already have 20, and the chances of you getting better than that on each split are low.
- Never buy insurance. It’s not worth anything and is in favour of the house.
- Never hobble yourself with the dealer rules. Dealer rules state that on 16 or below a dealer must take a card and on 17 or above they must stand. If both of you bust, you lose, but if the dealer takes a card on 16 and busts, you win!
- Memorize a strategy table before you play. These charts are available online and will tell you exactly when to stand, draw, or double down for every possible combination of cards dealt to you and the dealer.
- Start small. Even better; play some practice games to get comfortable with the rules and different situations that come up throughout a game. Once you’re more comfortable, you can start to increase your betting.
- Don’t bother trying to count those cards. The reason card counting works in a land-based casino is that you are tracking the cards that have already been played against what remains in the deck to be dealt. In online blackjack, the electronic deck is shuffled in between each round.
- Keep playing…and learning. While blackjack is not a super complicated game, the more you play and learn about it, the better your game will be.
Variations Of Blackjack
We have briefly reviewed some of the variations of blackjack such as Spanish 21, Blackjack AU, and Blackjack UK in this article. There are, however, many additional options out there including Double Exposure, Single or Multi Hand, Pontoon, and Single Deck which we will detail in future articles.
Blackjack Side Bets (200)
Intro to Side Bets
Classic blackjack offers the opportunity to wager in the beginning and take insurance in the case of a high face up card in the dealer’s hand. However, there are a variety of games that also have what’s called a side bet, an opportunity to wager again during game play. Here are a couple of popular versions of a side bet:
- Perfect Pairs: this side bet offers players the option to wager whether their first two cards will be paired. There are three different pair types: Perfect Pair (matched number and suit – odds 25:1); Coloured Pair (when you have two cards of the same number and colour – odds 15:1) and a Mixed Pair (the cards match in rank only – odds 5:1).
- Bonus Blackjack: this side bet is offered when playing bonus blackjack variations. Bet on winning with a blackjack for a generous payout with this side wager. Payout amounts can vary based on the exact cards in your blackjack hand.
- Super Sevens: this exciting side bet offers a nice reward for landing sevens in your hand. Some games will pay as much as 5000:1 for three suited sevens, whereas others will offer a nice, but more standard 3:1 for something like a first-card seven.
- 21+3: this unique side bet offers you to wager on your first two cards and the dealers face-up card. Odds vary from 100:1 for a Suited Triple (for example, three Jack of Hearts) to 5:1 for a Flush (three cards from the same suit).
Best Blackjack Software Providers
The making of great casino games is based on great software providers. Here are some of the top blackjack creating software providers in the industry:
- NetEnt: for over 20 years this software provider has been making casino games that appease the masses. Famous for slot games like Starburst and Gonzo’s Quest, they’re also well-known for making top-grade card games, including awesome blackjack varieties like: Blackjack Professional Series and Single Deck Blackjack Professional Series.
- Microgaming: as one of the older and most reputable software providers out there, it’s no wonder Microgaming has a great selection of casino games. At a Microgaming-powered casino you may find over 10 varieties of blackjack games, including Atlantic City, European Gold and Vegas Strip.
- Playtech: another industry-leader, this software provider has created a selection of fun blackjack variations, from Blackjack Surrender to Perfect Blackjack, try your hand at exciting side bets and twisted rules for an added edge.
Regular Casino vs Live Casino Blackjack
When playing blackjack online there are two common variations you’ll find: live versions and online casino game versions. A game version involves a computer that uses a random number generator (RNG) to randomly deal cards, so the games should be just as fair and safe to play as a live game. A Live Casino blackjack game will bring you to a live table, where a dealer selects real cards at random and you play as if you were sitting in a real casino. Both versions have the option for multiplayer games and different variations on the classic rules themselves, so there is no shortage of fun ways to play online.
Blackjack has a long history and has remained an amazingly popular game from the beginning. While at first glance it can seem complicated, it is actually a fairly easy game to learn and master. It offers fast action, quick rounds, and camaraderie along with some of the best odds against the house with their minimal edge. The great thing about online casinos is that they can take a classic game like blackjack and transform it to create dozens of fun variations. Play the original – Live or in a game – or try your hand at any number of varieties from top software providers. The house edge is always low, and learning the perfect strategy can reduce it even lower, so you’ll be in for a chance for some really big wins.