How to Play Blackjack - Definitive Guide
Blackjack, also known as “21,” is a thrilling card game that has captured the hearts of gamblers both in Australia and across the globe. It’s the perfect fusion of luck and strategy, where players aim to beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21.
So, why is blackjack so popular at online casinos, as well as brick and mortar ones?
Well, for starters, it’s incredibly easy to learn. Unlike some other casino games that require complex rules and strategies, blackjack is refreshingly straightforward, taking the average punter no time to pick it up and beat the dealer.
You also may have seen classic films such as The Hangover or Rainman, where using a card counting system made winning money a walk in the park.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the rules so you can hit the ground running at online blackjack.
In blackjack, what it boils down to is beating the dealer’s hand without going over a total of 21.
It’s you against the dealer, not against other players. The game begins with you and the dealer each receiving two cards. You can see both of your cards, but only one of the dealer’s cards is visible.
The rules are fairly straightforward.
After receiving your initial two cards, you have a choice to “hit” (get another card) or “stand” (keep your current hand). The dealer follows a specific set of rules on when to hit or stand. Once both you and the dealer have completed your hands, whoever has a total closest to 21 without exceeding it wins.
Card Rankings and Values
Wondering what has the same value and what a ten-value card is?
Here’s the lowdown:
All of the numbered cards you’ll find in a standard deck will represent their value (eg 9 is 9, 2 is 2, 3 is 3 etc), so in that sense, it’s quite simple.
The Ace is perhaps the handiest card in the game of blackjack, with the ability to represent 1 or 11, depending on how you’d like to utilise it. This flexibility makes the Ace a vital card in most blackjack strategies.
All face cards (kings, queens, jack) represent 10.
Hard and Soft Hands
Next, you have “hard” and “soft” hands.
A “hard” hand is when you don’t have an Ace or when the Ace is counted as 1 to avoid busting. A “soft” hand is when you have an Ace that can be counted as 11 without going over 21. For example, an Ace and a 6 would be a “soft 17” because it can be either 7 or 17.
Key Blackjack Terms
Like most popular casino games, there are a few terms you’ll need to know to get fully in the zone when you play blackjack.
- “Hit”: This means you want to add another card to your hand. You can keep hitting until you’re satisfied or until you bust by going over 21.
A common phrase used is for the player to say ‘hit me’ to the dealer.
- “Stand”: When you’re happy with your hand, you can choose to stand, meaning you don’t want any more cards.
You’ll wait for the dealer’s turn and then go from there.
- “Double Down”: Feeling confident?
You can double down on your original bet, receive one more card, and then automatically stand. It’s a very ballsy move that looks fantastic (if you pull it off)
- “Split”: If your first two cards have the same value (e.g., two 8s or two Queens), you can split them into different hands.
You’ll double your bet and play each hand independently. It’s like getting two chances to beat the dealer.
Sample Game of Blackjack
Before you start playing blackjack or applying basic strategy to your playstyle, here’s how the game goes down.
Before the dealer starts doing their thing, the betting circle is required to make a full rotation.
Every player will need to dictate their desired amount to place down, with minimum and maximum bets usually applied according to house rules, which can range from as low as $5 all the way up to $200.
The Cut and Shuffle
A common tactic used in popular casino card games to thwart professional card counters and punters alike, parts of the pack are thoroughly shuffled and mixed up by the dealer before the entire pack is done.
The plastic insert card is put in such that the final 60 to 75 cards won’t be employed, and the dealer chooses one player to make the cut.
Now, once everyone has placed their bets, everyone will receive one face-up card from the dealer respectively.
Upon realising this action, the dealer will finish the circle by dealing themself one card face up and one face down card.
The players will then all receive a second card face-up to finish up the rotation.
Key Blackjack Table Outcomes
All good things must come to an end, and that includes every round of Blackjack.
When you’re in the thick of a blackjack game, here are the possible outcomes.
- Your hand’s total is closer to 21 than the dealer’s without exceeding 21.
- You have a blackjack, which is an Ace and a 10-value card (10, Jack, Queen, or King) as your first two cards, and the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack.
- Your hand’s total exceeds 21, resulting in a bust.
- The dealer’s hand is closer to 21 than yours without exceeding 21.
- The dealer has a blackjack, and you don’t.
- Push or Tie:
- Your hand and the dealer’s hand have the same total.
- Both you and the dealer have a blackjack, resulting in a “push 21.”
Mastering the Blackjack Game
While playing blackjack casually and using intuition and other habits one has learned in the past is quite common, it is equally a game where mastering strategy can be hugely beneficial to helping the player edge out the dealer’s hand and ultimately, the house edge.
Learning blackjack strategies not only enhances your odds of winning but also adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the game. It’s like solving a puzzle or unravelling a mystery with each hand you play. You’ll find yourself engaged, absorbed, and filled with a sense of accomplishment as you make those strategic decisions.
So, put on your thinking cap, grab a deck of cards, and delve into the exciting world of blackjack strategies. With a bit of practice and dedication, you’ll be well on your way to playing like a pro and reaping the rewards at the blackjack table!
Basic Strategy Chart
Putting a basic strategy chart to use is an absolute must when playing casino games like blackjack.
It’s like having a handy guide that helps you make the best decisions in every situation of casino play. By following a basic strategy chart, you can take the house edge down a peg and improve your chances of winning.
It’s a tried and tested tool that maximises your gameplay efficiency and ensures you’re making informed choices based on probabilities.
Check out this basic strategy chart with a more in-depth breakdown.
How To Use One
To use a basic strategy chart effectively, start by locating your hand value on the vertical axis of the chart. Then, find the dealer’s upcard on the horizontal axis.
The point where the two intersect will reveal the optimal action to take for that specific scenario. The chart will suggest whether to hit, stand, double down, split, or surrender, depending on the cards you have and the dealer’s card.
When using the chart, it’s important to take into account exactly what code of blackjack you’re playing. As there are a few variants making the rounds, rules may vary slightly, so make sure you’re using a strategy chart that corresponds to the type of blackjack you’re playing.
Practice and familiarity with the chart will help you make decisions quickly and accurately during gameplay.
Basic Strategy Rules for Different Hands:
Here are some of the most common tactics one would use depending on different common blackjack game scenarios.
- Hard hands (no ace):
- If you have a hard total of 8 or less, always hit.
- If you have a hard total of 17 or more, always stand.
- For hard totals between 9 and 16, have a look at the chart to determine the best action based on the dealer’s upcard (the card dealt on the table face up for everyone to see).
- Soft hands (with an ace):
- Always stand if you have an ace and a total of 17 or more.
- If you have an ace and a total of 18, stand unless the dealer’s upcard is 9, 10, or an Ace.
- For soft totals between 13 and 16, consult the chart to determine the best action based on the dealer’s upcard.
- Always split Aces and 8s.
- Never split 5s and 10s.
- For other pairs, consult the chart to determine the best action based on the dealer’s upcard.
- Doubling down:
- If the chart indicates to double down, it means you have a strong hand and should double your initial bet. This is typically done with totals of 9, 10, or 11.
- Be aware of the specific doubling-down rules of the game you’re playing, as they may vary.
Remember, a basic strategy chart provides guidelines based on mathematical probabilities. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll win every hand, but it helps you make the best decisions to optimise your overall gameplay and increase your chances of coming out ahead in the long run.
Types of BlackJack Bets
As there are many Blackjack strategies, there are also many bets that are available to use as part of a game of blackjack.
Let’s go over a few of the most common ones you’ll find at most casinos.
Ah yes, the insurance bet in blackjack.
It’s a move quite commonly used when the dealer has an ace, with could mean the dealer has a blackjack up their sleeve.
Here’s exactly how it works:
When the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, they will offer you the option to take insurance. If you choose to take insurance, you can place an additional bet, which is generally half of your original bet.
This insurance bet pays out at 2:1 odds.
Now, the idea behind the insurance bet is that you’re betting on the dealer having a blackjack, which means their hole card (the facedown card) is worth 10. When the dealer checks and does indeed have a blackjack, you’ll lose your original bet, but you’ll win the insurance bet, effectively breaking even for that round.
However, if the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you lose the insurance bet and the game continues as usual. One thing to take into account is that it is generally not recommended to use insurance bets often as they have a negative outcome in the long run.
In blackjack, a side bet is an additional wager placed alongside the main bet. It’s a bonus game within the game, offering the chance to win extra money.
Side bets vary, but a common example is the “Perfect Pairs” bet, where you bet on getting a pair with your first two cards.
Side bets can be tempting because they offer the potential for big payouts with small wagers (and who doesn’t like that?) However, it’s important to note that side bets generally give the house a higher edge compared to the main blackjack game.
In casual terms, think of side bets as adding that little extra spice to your blackjack experience. They’re like a bonus feature that you can choose to sprinkle into your repertoire, but they come with more risk.
Minimum and Maximum Bet
When you’re playing at a blackjack table, it’s important to take note of the minimum and maximum bets, as these can vary a lot and affect the flow of the game of blackjack enormously.
Each table will have its own designated minimum and maximum bet limits, and they’re typically displayed on a sign or felt table layout.
The minimum bet is the smallest amount you can wager on a single hand. These are often reasonable, accessible amounts that allow players of all budgets to get in on the action.
On the other hand, the maximum bet is the highest amount allowed on a single hand. It sets a limit on how much you can wager, and maximum bets will dictate if you’re playing blackjack at a casual level or a high roller table.