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. We will discuss the further in the next section. In the meantime, take a look at our list of recommended blackjack casinos and what versions they offer:
Best online casinos
Rules Of Blackjack
The basic principal of blackjack in all of its variations is to get as close to 21 points as possible without going over or going ‘bust’ as it is known. The ace cards are worth either 1 or 11 points (determined according to player advantage) with the ten, jack, queen, and king all valued at 10 points and the 2-9 cards worth their face value.
Each round of play begins with players placing their bets. The dealer will then pass out two cards to each person. Depending on the version being played, these cards can both be placed face down, one down and one up, or both face up. For the sake of simplicity, we will assume the game is Blackjack UK, and the players’ cards are both face down. The dealer then takes a card for themselves and places it face up. Depending on the house rules, the dealer may take a second card at this point which is dealt face down.
At this point the players are given the option to either:
- Stand – This means they do not take any more cards and stay with the total they have on the two cards they were dealt.
- Draw – Receive additional cards trying to bring their total closer to 21.
- Split – When a player has two cards of identical face value i.e. two 9 cards, they may split the cards to create two new hands and receive an additional two cards to facilitate this. It is now possible for them to win or lose on both hands or win one and lose one.
A player can continue to draw cards until they either choose to stand or they bust and break 21.
If a player and dealer both have 21, then there is a ‘push, ‘ and the player just gets their bet returned. If a player has 21 and the dealer is showing an ace, the player can choose to buy insurance which will give them the win in case of a tie.
The last standard play option is to double down. This means that the player believes they will get or come close enough to 21 by taking just one additional card (for a total of three). They must double their initial bet to double down, and they may not take any additional cards.
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%.
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. If you’re good enough, you can treat the casino as your own personal bank account. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though, and you can read more about blackjack strategies <here>.
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 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. Visit one of our recommended blackjack casinos today and try it out for yourself.