There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve come across blackjack before and have a basic understating of the game, but if not, then this article is going to be able to run you though the whole process.
The game is actually quite simple to understand, but it’s also unique in that It’s one of few online casino games that you can apply a legitimate strategy to. The strategy is not shoo-in for a net win, but over the long run the plays that you make will at least be optimal if used properly.
Before we delve into that though, let’s get the basics out of the way first.
Concept of the Game
The game takes place at a table with you, the dealer, and up to 5 more players as well. The dealer will present two cards face up to each player and two cards to themselves, one face up and once face down.
The object of the game is to make a higher total than the dealer when your cards are added together, but without going over 21. Each card is worth its face value, with aces counting as either 1 or 11 and all face cards counting as ten.
After the initial deal, each player has the opportunity to either hit (take another card), stand (stick with the cards you have) or split. Splitting is only an option if you have two cards of the same value, and if you choose to do it, your hand is split and two further cards are dealt so you now have two hands. You will also have to double your stake.
Once the initial round of betting has been completed, the dealer then turns over their second card. The dealer has set rules that they must adhere to for each hand, so whether they hit or stick will depend on what is in front of them.
The dealer will then pay out on any hands that are higher in value than theirs. Any plyer who hit and went bust (over 21) loses their stake as does anyone with a lower hand than the dealer.
If a player’s hand is the same value as the dealer’s then it’s a ‘push’, meaning they get their stake back, and if the dealer goes bust then all players still in the game are paid.
If a player is dealt a ten-value card and an ace, this is known as ‘blackjack’ and will be an automatic winner.
As a player you are able to make whatever decisions you like with your hand, and although there is an optimal strategy you don’t have to follow it. There are a few rules that you need to be aware of though:
- You must state that you are in the hand before the cards are dealt. You do this by placing chips on the ‘bet’ area of the table.
- Your choices once the action is on you include hit, stand, double down, or split.
- The dealer is the only one allowed to touch the cards, and online they will automatically muck or highlight your cards.
- You can’t fold your hand once you have finished betting and made your choices.
Even though you aren’t the dealer, you do need to know what rules they are following, as it will give you a better idea of what to do. It’s worth noting that the rules can differ here depending on which blackjack variation you are playing, and even what casino you are playing at.
- Dealer will stand/stick on 17 or more.
- Dealer will hit on a ‘soft’ 17 (soft is when the hand is made up with an Ace, which counts as either 1 or 11)
Let’s walk you through a working example hand of blackjack.
The table includes 4 players and the dealer. Players will be signified by Seat 1, Seat 2, Seat 3 and Seat 4.
Seat 1 is dealt 2 and 7 as their first two cards. This is a total of just 9, so they decide to hit. The third card is a Queen which is a face card and worth 10. They now have a total of 19 and stand.
Seat 2 is dealt Ace and Jack. This is blackjack! It’s an instant win that pays out at 3:2 of their original stake.
Seat 3 is dealt Queen and 2 to give them a total of 12. They hit but it’s another Queen. This makes for a total of 22 and they are bust.
Seat 4 is dealt 8 and 6 for a total of 14. They hit and it’s a 3, so they decide to stand at 17.
The round of betting is complete. The dealer flips their cards to reveal Queen and 7, for 17 total.
Seat 1 has 19 so they win and are paid. Seat 2 has already been paid out for blackjack. Seat 3 is bust already. Seat 4 has 17 also, so this is a push and they get their stake back but don’t win anything more.
There are a few things that you need to keep an eye out for on the blackjack table.
The table above is a pretty common example, but pay attention to the text in the middle. This will tell you the exact rules that the dealer is going to adhere to for that game. As you can see from this particular game, they are standing on all 17’s and paying 2 to 1 for insurance and 3 to 2 for blackjack.
The squares at the bottom of the table are the available seats at the table and where you enter your stake. Then from this you simply click the ‘Deal’ button when you are ready to play.
In our example the cards have been dealt and you could then decide to double down (which essentially means you buy your next card), hit, stand or split.
Once you have finished then the dealer will deal their cards, before the result of the hand will be shown on screen, as it is below.
There are going to be some customisable options for you to work with both in terms of the gameplay and the aesthetics of your table.
This particular game allows you to increase the speed, toggle sound, safety net and insurance options, before finally changing the colour of the felt on the table.
You’re going to find that most blackjack tables will pay out similar amounts. However, some do differ, so make a note from the table rules (the text in the middle of the table) as to the payouts for each game.
- Blackjack = 3:2
- Win with no blackjack = 1:1
- Tie with dealer = push/stake returned
As with all casino games, the house has an edge with blackjack. However, the edge is much smaller than most at just 0.28% based on Liberal Vegas rules, which is why it’s so popular.
This sounds great but there are actually a wide range of variables in blackjack that can change this. For example, these could include:
- Number of decks used
- Dealer sticking or hitting on soft 17
- If a player can double after split
- Player can resplit
- Can resplit aces
- Can hit split aces
- Surrender rule included
- Blackjack pays either 3:2 or 6:5
Variations of each rule implemented can bump the house edge up to over 2%, which is a significant rise. Also, these percentages are based on the player playing a near perfect strategy almost constantly, which isn’t all that easy for a lot of players.
You may have noticed that we have mentioned a number of different decisions that you can make, so let’s run through the full list and what they mean.
- Stand – If you’ve two cards you are happy with, you needn’t take any more.
- Hit – Take an extra card for free, which you can do as many times as you like before you go bust or decide to stand.
- Fold – You can fold your hand, but given that you pay before you get your cards, you’d be better off either just standing to see if you get lucky, or hitting to try and improve it.
- Double Down – This is when you pay to take on one more card, but then you can’t make any more moves regardless of the value of that card.
- Split – If you’ve two cards the same, you can pay the same as your original stake to split them and create two hands.
- Surrender – This is where the casino allows you to fold your hand and take half your stake back after seeing one of the dealer’s cards.
- Insurance – A side bet on whether you think the dealer has blackjack or not, based on whether their up card is showing either a 10 or an Ace.
We’ve spoken a number of times in this article about playing the perfect mathematical strategy for blackjack. There are actually hundreds of charts kicking about the internet that show you what route to take based on your cards and the dealers’ up card.
These are all based on probability, so someone has worked out how likely it is to win/lose in every possible scenario on the table. As you can imagine, this can get pretty complicated, so committing it to memory is no mean feat!
There are a few rules that are easier starting points though, such as always hit hard 11 or less, and always split ace’s and 8’s. Have a mooch around and give it a go, the information isn’t difficult to find.
If you are new to the game then this is a great way to learn the basics and get going with blackjack to create a solid strategy, and from there you can build yourself up to the scary looking charts and colour coded tables that look like this: