Blackjack is possibly the most popular casino game ever made, and with a long history of providing serious gamblers with a somewhat skill-based opportunity to game, it’s a casino game that’s featured in virtually every land-based and online casino on the planet.
While the game can appear complex to beginners, it’s incredibly easy to pick up, and whether you are a recreational gambler enjoying a lucky £20 after a night out, or a serious punter betting hundreds of pounds per hand, Blackjack offers an unrivalled thrill to ALL types of player!
How to Play Blackjack
Blackjack is, at its core, fairly simple to understand. In short, you, as the player, are dealt two cards, and you must make your hand total as close to 21 as possible. You’ll be playing against the dealer, and, if your hand total is higher than the dealers, you’ll win – although if you go over 21, your hand will bust, and you lose.
Before the game takes place, you choose how much to stake, and whether to play any side bets available (more on side bets later on in this post).
Blackjack Card Values and Hands
The card values within Blackjack are fairly simple to understand, and any cards 2 through 10 are valued at their face value. This means, for instance, a 3 is worth 3, a 4 worth 4 and so on. An ace is worth either 1 or 11, and you can choose – for example, if you were drawn an Ace, and a 6, your hand total would be 17, or 7. All picture cards (which includes Jacks, Queens, and Kings) are worth 10.
Once you have confirmed your bet, the dealer will then deal you two cards, and himself one card. The ‘action’, as it’s called, is then on you, where you have 4 possible choices:
- Hit – Sometimes called ‘twisting’, or, ‘taking a card’, choosing to hit means you aren’t happy with your hand, and want to try to make your hand total closer to 21. You are then dealt an extra card, with the hope of taking your hand closer in value to 21 than before. You can take as many cards as you want, but if you go over 21 you “bust”, which means you lose, and the hand ends there and then.
- Stand – Also referred to as ‘sticking’, standing means you are content with the value of your cards and you don’t want to be dealt extra cards for the hand. For instance, if you were dealt a 9 and a 10, you would have 19 – an excellent hand, and this would usually be a hand you’d ‘stand’ on.
- Splitting – A split is where you are dealt two of the same cards, and wish to split them. For example, if you were given two sevens by the dealer, you’d have a very mediocre hand of 14. But; split them apart, and you would have two sevens, effectively starting two new hands over for you. If you want to split, the cards must be the same number (suit and colour is irrelevant), and you must match the wager of your main bet. You are then dealt an additional card to your main hand, which you then play out, before moving onto your second.
- Double – Also known as ‘doubling down’ is when you have two low cards dealt, which have potential to be a big hand. For example, if your first two cards totalled 9, 10, or 11, you would be in with a great chance of pulling a picture card and making a total of 19, 20, and 21 respectively. If you want to gamble on the fact you think your hand will improve, you can double, which means you double the wager, in return for one card.
You can only double on 9, 10, and 11 in European Blackjack (other variations you can double on whatever you want), and you only get one card. After you have finished making your decisions, the dealer will then begin to draw his hand.
Note: European Blackjack (and most non-American variants) require that the dealer must stand on a soft 17. That means, if they have, for example, and ace, and a 6 in their hand, their total would be 17 – they cannot try to improve, and this is the end of the hand.
After the dealer has either gone bust, or made a hand totalling 17, 18, 19, 20, or 21, the hand is over, and you will be paid out if your hand is a winner. If you are lucky enough to be dealt an Ace, and a picture card, or a ten, you’ll have Blackjack, and this means you cannot lose the hand. (At worst, you can tie, if the dealer gets Blackjack, as well). If you have Blackjack, and the dealer shows an Ace as their first card, you have the option to take ‘even money’, which means you’ll be paid out at 1:1, instead of risking for more, as detailed in the payouts section below.
Once the game has finished, whoever has the highest hand wins! If you win, your bet will be paid out at 1/1, and Blackjack at 3/2. In case of a tie, your wager will be returned to you, and a new hand will begin. It’s really simple to get started, and if you are an avid gambler, you’ll love playing, so go and check it out today, and see how much YOU can win at the tables!
Blackjack Game Variations
Blackjack features two main types of game variations. The first is with the rules itself, and the second is with additional side bets, which you have the option of placing. First, we’re going to look at common types of variation which can be found within regular gameplay; these are the actual rules of the game, and these can differ between various variants of the game.
- Taking Insurance – One of the benefits of playing Blackjack online, rather than in land-based casinos, is that you’ll generally be offered the chance to take insurance if the dealer shows an Ace card. Insurance means you can ‘protect’ yourself from the dealer getting blackjack. If the dealer shows an Ace, you can take insurance – this requires you to wager 50% of your main bet stake, and if the dealer does indeed have Blackjack, this extra bet will be paid at 2/1, essentially paying for the loss of your main bet. Note: if the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you instantly lose the insurance bet, and the hand plays out as normal.
- Surrendering – On certain Blackjack games, you have the opportunity to surrender your stake, after your first two cards are dealt (before you take any action). When you surrender your hand, you lose half your stake, but get the other half back, and the hand ends there. It’s generally not recommended to ever surrender, but there are occasional situations where it’s recommended; for instance, if your first two cards total 16, and the dealer shows an Ace, there’s a very small chance you’ll end up winning the hand, so it’s a wise move to surrender, and limit your loss-liability.
- Single-Deck Blackjack – Most Blackjack games today use multiple decks of cards (typically six), meaning there are 6 lots of 52 cards in play. The reason for this, is that playing with one deck of cards – known as Single Deck Blackjack – offers a lower house edge to the casino, and allows mathematical-thinking players to occasionally gain an edge, through card-counting. While Single Deck Blackjack isn’t impossible to find, it’s generally not something you’ll come across. Although if you DO find it, it can be worth playing!
- Dealer Hitting On Soft 17 – While almost all Blackjack games require the dealer to stand on a soft 17, there are some game variants that allow the dealer to hit a soft 17. When this is the case, the house edge increases by 0.2%.
- Doubling On Any Hand – Some online blackjack games allow you to double on any first two cards – not just on a 9, 10, or 11. It’s not generally recommended to double on any hand other than a 9, 10, or 11, so this shouldn’t affect your gameplay too much.
- Re-Splitting – Some Blackjack games will only allow you to split a pair once, while others let you split multiple times.
- Game Variants & Side Bets – There are many different types of Blackjack game, allowing players to experience something new, and often even wacky! While this list is by no means extensive, below are some of the most common forms of Blackjack ‘alternatives’ you are likely to find while playing online:
- Blackjack Perfect Pairs – If you play at a Perfect Pairs table, you’ll use the exact same Blackjack rules as normal, but will have the option to place an additional ‘perfect pairs’ side bet. This is usually set at a minimum of £1, and pays out if your first two cards dealt are the same. Two cards of the same value, but different colours and suits generally pays 5/1, two cards of the same colour, but different suit usually pays 10/1, and two cards of identical value and suit pays 35/1.
- Blackjack Double Exposure – This is a pretty unique variation of the game, and while the house edge increases, it can be great for a bit of fun once in a while. During Blackjack Double Exposure, the dealer will deal both his cards at the same time as your two cards, but he will turn BOTH of his face up! This clearly allows you to make the correct decision far easier, but there are a few rules that differ; first, if the dealer busts and gets 22, the hand is a tie and your stake is returned. If you are dealt Blackjack, you get paid at even money, instead of 3/2, and Blackjack is always a tie.
- Progressive Blackjack – Progressive Blackjack is played out identically to regular Blackjack, with the addition of a ‘jackpot’ bet, which is optional. The bet is usually available at £1 or above, and pays out if your first card is an Ace – generally at around 5/1. If your first two cards are both aces, the payout increases, with two Aces of the same colour increasing the payout even further. If you manage to get dealt four aces of the same suit in one hand, you’ll win the progressive jackpot, which can often total hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds!
That’s just three of the most commonly-played Blackjack variations. The fact is, there are hundreds of different types, and software providers are always looking for ways to give players something different, so you’ll likely always see new games coming out!
The History of Blackjack
Blackjack, like most century-old casino games, doesn’t have a set ‘time of creation’, with different variations appearing throughout Europe at different time periods, depending on who you speak to. What most historians and gambling experts agree on, is that the game originates from French and Spanish game variations, and originally, Blackjack was known as ‘Vingt-un’, which translates to ‘21’.
Many games evolved out of Vingt-un, and while it would be another hundred years or more until the Blackjack we know and love came about, these old-fashioned variations loosely resembled today’s game, with players trying to get as close to 21 as possible, albeit with differing game rules.
With Blackjack massively catching on in the early 1900’s in land-based casinos in Europe, it wasn’t long until the game became a household casino name, and today, millions of players are battling it out versus the dealer in an attempt to win!
Online casinos have only furthered the demand for Blackjack titles, and today, you’ll find hundreds of titles to choose between, from a multitude of different software providers!
Remember, check out our Blackjack Basic Strategy Guide to make sure you are maximizing your winning potential!