Blackjack, or 21 as it is also commonly known, is one of the most popular table games at any casino, both on and offline. It’s easy to understand, quick to pick up and doesn’t rely on complicated strategies. Now, Irish players can enjoy countless variations of this game online, play virtual games against a computer or even play against a live dealer from the comfort of their homes! Read on to find out all there is to know about online blackjack.
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Play Blackjack Free
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Also popularly known as 21, Blackjack is one of the world's most popular and most played casino games.
With fast-paced yet straightforward gameplay that allows players to make interesting decisions, the game features a great blend of action and strategy that provides a fun and exhilarating betting experience.
This article has put together a comprehensive guide detailing everything Irish players need to know about online blackjack and more.
How Online Blackjack Works
Like every other casino game, blackjack has its rules and gameplay. The basic rules of play in blackjack are pretty straightforward.
Thus, in this section, we will look at the gameplay of the blackjack game and how a player can win.
The Basic Gameplay
At the beginning of the game, the dealer will shuffle the cards, and players will place a bet on the table.
After placing the stakes, the dealer will deal two cards each to the player and to themselves. All the cards dealt in the first round are face up.
The dealer will deal another face-up card to the player and another card to themselves, which will be facedown this time.
The card will remain facedown until the player makes their decision, and then it will be revealed to see if the player's hand beats the dealer's hand or vice versa.
The main goal of the blackjack game is for you to beat the dealer. You have to score 21 or get a hand that is as close to 21 as possible without going over.
And, to take the win, the dealer's hand must be lower than yours or have a value greater than 21(bust).
How the Cards are Scored
Each card used in blackjack has a value assigned to it, contributing to the player's goal to score 21 or as close to the value as possible.
All face cards (King, Queen, and Jack) count as 10. Aces count as either 1 or 11, depending on the situation of the cards dealt.
Every other card in the blackjack deck, from 2 through 10, is worth its face value. This means that the "2" cards are worth 2, the "3" cards are worth 3, the "4" cards are worth 4, and so on.
Thus if you have a seven and a six, you will have 13. However, when you have an Ace card and any of the 10-value cards, a combo known as natural 21 occurs.
This is also commonly called "Blackjack." As we have mentioned, your goal is to get a blackjack or a hand value higher than the dealer without going over 21.
Blackjack Playing Options
Naturally, if the player's hand reveals a blackjack, the player wins instantly, and the game will go to the next round.
The same goes for the dealer’s hand as well. If the dealer’s hand is a blackjack, the player loses.
However, if both hands turn out to be blackjack or both hands score the same, there will be a tie, which is also popularly known as a push. In such a case, the players will get their stake back.
However, in the case where there is no blackjack or a push after the first two cards, there are a few decisions that a player can potentially make about their hand for the game to progress. A player can surrender, split, double down, stand, or hit.
"Stand" is the decision that a player makes when they are satisfied with their cards and don’t want to take another card or make any other decision.
Once you stand, the dealer will reveal the facedown card, and the winner will be decided based on the two hands' worth.
You should stand if you believe your current hand is high enough to beat the dealer’s hand. Another reason to stand is if you have a high chance of busting if you draw another card.
One of the most common decisions that a player can make if they believe that the total hand score they have cannot beat that of the dealer is to hit.
To hit means that you want the dealer to add another card to your first two cards in the attempt to get closer to 21 or score precisely 21.
You can usually hit multiple times before you decide to stand or bust.
Another decision you can make when you play blackjack is to double down. After the dealer deals the first two cards, the option to "Double Down" the bet will appear.
Once you use this option, the initial bet amount will double, and the dealer will add one extra card to your hand. After doubling down, the hand will auto-stand, and the dealer's hand will be revealed.
The double-down decision brings about a 2-to-1 payoff on the total amount of the doubled bet, unlike the typical 3-to-2 payoff of the blackjack game.
If you receive a pair of two cards with the same value, you can use the split feature to split them into two separate hands.
You will then play each of the newly divided hands independently, meaning that you will place a new bet equal to the original bet on the new hand.
Also, if you receive another pair on any of the two hands, you can split again, resulting in three hands.
You should note that most casinos will limit the number of splits players can make one a single blackjack round.
It is also worth noting that a split hand cannot form a blackjack even if it contains an Ace and a 10-value card. Although such a card still counts as 21, it will not be a natural blackjack.
A player can choose to surrender their cards if they believe they have a slim chance of winning.
The insurance option gives players the chance to protect themselves in case the dealer has a blackjack.
Whenever the dealer’s faceup card shows an ace, the game will offer an option to place an insurance bet that is usually half the amount of the original bet.
If the dealer does have a blackjack, the player that placed an insurance bet will receive a 2-to-1 payout on the stake.
The Rule on Soft 17
The dealer must act according to a set of rules known as the Soft 17 rule. The Soft 17 rule is one of the essential rules in blackjack that changes the way the dealer plays and can also impact the house edge and players' strategy when they play.
Typically, Soft 17 is a term used to describe a blackjack hand of 17 points that includes an Ace, with the Ace counting as either 1 or 11.
Soft 17 can appear in various ways. You can have the Ace-6 hand, Ace-Ace-5 hand, Ace-3-3 hand, Ace-two-two-two hand, and so on, as long as the Ace counts as either one or 11.
You can always tell what the Soft17 rule of a blackjack game is by reading the wording on the table layout.
If it reads “Dealer Hits Soft 17", the dealer must hit Soft 17. Instead, if it reads, "Dealer must stand on 17 and must draw to 16”, the dealer will stand on soft 17.
How to Play Blackjack: Step by Step
Now that you understand the basic rules of how the blackjack operates, we will highlight the step by step guide on how to play blackjack like a pro:
- Place the Initial bet
- The dealer deals the cards
- You decide whether to stand, hit, split, double down, surrender, or take insurance.
- The dealer plays out their hand by standing or taking a hit
- The dealer’s cards will then be revealed, and the winner and loser decided
Types of Blackjack
The rise of online casinos created room for innovative developers to get even more creative in developing dozens of blackjack variations that blackjack enthusiasts can enjoy when they play online.
While these blackjack variants maintain similarities in gameplay and rules to the original blackjack, there are still subtle differences that set the variations apart.
In this section of our guide to playing the blackjack game, we will take a look at some of the most popular blackjack variants that you can enjoy playing online:
American Blackjack, which is also popularly referred to as the "classic blackjack" game, is the most popular and the most widely played form of the blackjack game.
Some standout features of the classic blackjack include:
- It uses 6 to 8 decks
- Dealers hit at soft 17
- Doubling and splitting are allowed
- Dealer checks for a natural blackjack
- Up to 2 resplits are permitted, and you can double after a split
The European blackjack's basics and gameplay are pretty much the same as the standard classic version. However, there are a few differences.
First, this version is generally played with two 52-card decks, though you may come across some European blackjacks that feature more decks.
In European blackjack, the dealer will only get one face-up card to start and doesn't get the second card until the player decides what to do.
This version makes it tougher for players to double and split since they might just be doing that against a dealer blackjack.
While the rules for the European blackjack may differ depending on where you are playing, some of the general standout features include:
- Usually features about two decks
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Dealer doesn't check for a natural blackjack
- Dealer’s blackjack versus the player’s blackjack results in a tie or ‘push.'
- Players can only double down when their initial hand is worth 9, 10, or 11.
- Players can double after splitting but cannot resplit after
The blackjack switch's main rules, moves, and gameplay are similar to those in classic blackjack.
However, unlike the multi-hand game, the blackjack switch game has a unique attribute and feature that allows card switching.
The game allows players to swap the second (and only the second) card from one hand to another. This allows players to improve the totals in their hands to create the best hand possible or avoid busting.
Once a player has made the switch, the hands will play out like any other blackjack game before going against the dealer's hand.
The major twist is that with this variant, while the player has to play up to the standard traditional 21 value limit, the dealer is free to play up scores of 22.
This means that if the dealer gets a hard 22, the result will not be a bust but a push against the player’s hand except for blackjack.
Worse still is that the Blackjack Switch pays out even money (1:1) instead of the traditional (3:2) payout.
While the rules of this blackjack variant may differ from one casino to another, some of the standout features of the Blackjack Switch include:
- Most require the dealer to hit at soft 17
- Players can double on any two cards and double after a split
- Allows players to switch cards between hands
- Usually played across 6 to 8 decks
- Pays out even money
The Spanish 21 does not use the standard 52 cards per deck. Instead, a pack of 48 cards will be in the Spanish 21 deck.
The game also has a bespoke payout system for every different hand. 6-card hand, 7-card hand, and any 21 hits with three sevens of the same suit payout 2/1.
6-card hands, 21 hits with any three sevens, and 21 hits with the 6, 7, and 8 cards of any suits payout 2/1.
And if you get a hit of three sevens while the dealer has a fourth seven, you will win a whopping 50/1 payout.
While the rules for this game may differ from one site to another, some standout features include:
- Usually played using six or eight decks
- Players can double after splitting
- Dealer checks for a natural blackjack
- Late surrender is allowed, and you can surrender after doubling
- You can surrender after doubling
Multi-hand blackjack is one of the newest blackjack variations that you will find online.
With the Multi-hand blackjack, you can play with more than one hand simultaneously, up to five hands.
Although the dealer will deal all the hands simultaneously, the bets are independent of each other, meaning that you can place different wagers on each active hand.
Some of the main standout features of the Multi-hand blackjack include:
- The dealer does not check for blackjack
- The dealer usually stands at soft 17
- You can only double on totals of 9,10, or 11
- Players can only split once
Blackjack in Live Casino
With the emergence of live casinos, players have access to real-time streaming of physical casino games with a real dealer in high definition quality.
The best part is that, much like the computer-generated online blackjack versions, you will also find different variants that you can play in the live blackjack casino.
Demo Blackjack Games
Demo blackjack games are free versions of the regular blackjack games. Unlike the regular ones, the demo version does not require real money, which means blackjack enthusiasts can play them free without putting their funds on the line.
Most importantly, you can also use these demo versions to check out the rules and gameplay of the games, giving them the chance to get more familiar with them before trying them out for real money.
Popular Blackjack Strategies
Some betting strategies attempt to offset losses during a losing streak by doubling down until a win materializes. Other methods increase the amount of the wager after every win and return to the original bet after a loss.
The most ambitious blackjack enthusiasts worldwide even go as far as counting cards at brick-and-mortar casinos.
So, let us have a look at some of the most popular blackjack betting strategies that players are using:
This famous negative progression betting system is based on the concept that players could always avoid a loss in even money bets by doubling their wagers after each loss.
In theory, this strategy is solid, and players will often use it at the blackjack table. However, blackjack is not an even-money game, making it hard to see the return that games like roulette usually offer.
Additionally, losing streaks of ten hands or more in blackjack is not uncommon, which means that this approach is not the best idea, especially if you are not playing with a pretty big bankroll.
For instance, if you lose eight straight rounds using the Martingale System with a €10 starting bet, you will have been down €2,250 and will have to wager €2,160 on the next round to keep the game going.
If a player’s bankroll gets exhausted at that point, they will lose out in the long run.
Oscar’s Betting System
The point of this strategy is to try and win one betting unit at a time, as a player starts a gaming session with a particular unit (bet size).
After a win, the player will add another unit. But after a loss, the next bet will be precisely the same as the initial starting bet.
For instance, let’s say you start a blackjack game with a €20 bet using the Oscar system. On every occasion you land a win, you keep increasing your bet size by €10.
But, any time you lose a hand, you go back to the €10 start as your next bet. This will continue until you reach the goal you set for yourself.
2-1-2 (Manhattan) Strategy
One strategy that tries to capitalize on winning streaks during a blackjack game is the 212 strategy, also known as the Manhattan strategy.
With this strategy, you will start the first round with a 2 unit bet (you will decide how much one betting unit will be). If you win, you reduce the wager by one unit.
You will increase the bet by one unit upon a second win, making it two units. Upon a fourth consecutive win, you will increase your stake by another unit.
This will continue until you lose a hand. When that happens, you go back to the original 2 unit bet. The same pattern will continue.
Blackjack comes with its unique language and many different colourful terms and phrases like all casino games.
So, if you want to become an avid blackjack enthusiast, you will need to get familiar with these terms and what they mean, whether you are playing online or offline.
Knowing these terms will help you not feel out of place in casino blackjack.
Here are some of the most common terms you will come across with a brief description:
- Ace: refers to the Ace card, which can count as a value of 1 or 11.
- Bankroll: refers to the money set aside for a gambling session.
- Blackjack: refers to a perfect hand – one ace card and one 10-value card, making a total of 21 and an automatic win.
- Bust: refers to any hand that exceeds the value of 21, resulting in an automatic loss.
- Bust card: refers to the individual card that brings a hand’s total to over 21
- Burn card: refers to the top card of a new deck after a shuffle and cut, which the dealer discards before dealing.
- Card counting: refers to keeping track of the value of the cards dealt at the table to keep track of the remaining cards left to be dealt, all to find out when the deck is favourable.
- Chip: refers to the token of cash value that players stake on a hand of blackjack.
- Deck: refers to the standard set of 52 cards used during the game
- Double/Double down: refers to a playing decision where a player doubles their original stake and receives one (only one) additional card. A player can only use this move on the first two cards. If the hand holds up, the player doubles their bet.
- Face cards: refers to any card that is a Jack, Queen, or King.
- Five-card Charlie: refers to an automatic or bonus win in some blackjack games where a player draws five cards to their hand without exceeding 21. Though, this rule does not apply to all blackjack games.
- Hand: refers to the cards held by the player or dealer.
- Hard hand: refers to the hand that counts the Ace card as one instead of the alternative, 11.
- Hole card: refers to the dealer’s unseen (facedown) card. The card is revealed after the players have acted on their hands.
- Hit: refers to when a player requests for the dealer to draw them another card.
- House edge: refers to the theoretical advantage that the casino has against a player
- Insurance: refers to when a player places an independent proposition bet that the dealer will have a blackjack
How Did We Find The Best Blackjack Sites?
Now that you understand the intricacies of the blackjack game, the next thing you need to do is find a site to play the game.
Thanks to the emergence of online gambling, hundreds of different online casinos provide gaming services, including blackjack, to their players.
However, while you are free to sign up and play blackjack at any casino of choice, there are several factors to consider to get the best possible gaming experience.
Highlighted below are some of the things you need to consider when you are looking to sign up and play blackjack at a casino site online. Our team of experts have listed what you should look for.
- The site must be licensed and regulated by one or more trusted licensing and regulatory authorities in the iGaming industry.
- The site must have state-of-the-art encryption technology, advanced firewalls, secure servers, and other industry-standard security measures.
- The casino must have a good reputation on the market
- The site should have an excellent collection of blackjack games
- The site must feature safe, secure, and fast payment methods, including your preferred ones
- You should also consider the casino bonuses available if you are interested in the incentives.
To sum up, blackjack remains one of the most popular and most exciting online casino games.
Although it comes in various variants, the basic rules and gameplay are simple and easy to learn, especially if you are playing online.
If you are new to the blackjack world, we recommend that you take your time to understand all the game's intricacies and spend time playing the demo version before you start playing for real money.
Blackjack Online FAQs
Can I play online blackjack for money online?
Yes. Like any other casino game, you can play blackjack online for real money.
How does online blackjack work?
The core blackjack game is a single-player game played against the casino, which is the dealer. The dealer then deals the cards with the aid of the random number generator software.
Once the cards are dealt, players will have to make a decision based on what their cards reveal (usually to hit, stand, split, double down, surrender, or take insurance)
What Blackjack game can I play?
Like most casino games available online, there are many different blackjack game variations that you can play online.
Some of the most common examples include the Classic American blackjack, the European blackjack, the Spanish 21, Blackjack Switch.
Where can I play online blackjack for real money?
You can play many different blackjack game variants for real money at any online casino you prefer, as long as the casino offers them.
You can check out the list of casinos we have reviewed on our site to find the best fit for you.
How to win online blackjack?
The main aim of the blackjack game is to obtain a hand that is equal to 21 or as close as possible to the value. Thus, you win the game if you get a hand that is greater than that of the dealer.
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