Introduction to Blackjack
Before you try your hand at blackjack, let's brush up on the essentials and terminology used during this online casino game. In blackjack, you play against the dealer. You win by beating the dealer's hand while not exceeding a hand value of 21 (also known as “busting”).
Players draw cards in turns, with the dealer using either the pitch method (one or two decks in hand) or the shoe method (up to six decks in a gadget). Both the player and dealer receive two cards, with one of the dealer's cards facing down (the "hole" card) and the other facing up. Although blackjack seems simple, it requires both luck and skill to play, which is why you still need to stick around and learn. Blackjack is a game of skill where practice enhances your winning chances.
Rules of the Game
You might be surprised to find out you've already read the basic rules of 21. The rules are straightforward, but having them at your fingertips gives you an edge over the house. There are cases of casinos banning players for being too skilled. Regardless of the style the house picks, pitch or shoe, standard blackjack rules apply to betting and overall gameplay. Your objective is always to beat the dealer without going bust.
Your actions and strategy in the blackjack game depend on the dealer's face-up card, and the idea is to improve your hand value or keep your current hand value. For these actions, you can make any of the five blackjack moves:
- Stand - you are satisfied with your current hand and don't need any more cards.
- Hit - you want another card to improve your hand value or reach 21. However, beware of the possibility of busting by going over 21.
- Double down - you double your original bet for one additional card.
- Split - is only possible when you get two cards of the same value. It allows you to separate the hand into two equal bets and receive two new cards, playing with two hands against the dealer.
- Surrender - lets you save part of your bet by giving up part of your initial wager.
In order to choose the right actions, you will also need to understand some of the basic rules of the game: the card values, what happens when you “bust” and the difference between “hard” and “soft” hands.
Bust Blackjack Rule
Busting occurs when the total card value of a hand exceeds 21. It's a "break" as the bet is won or lost, and the game moves to another betting round. Whoever busts loses the bet to the opponent. For example, if the dealer has a hand of 10-6 but draws a 7, it's a bust as the total of 23 is greater than 21. In this case, you would win against the dealer (unless you also go bust).
Soft and Hard Hand Rules
In blackjack, a hard hand either has no ace or includes an ace but you cannot receive another card without busting. For example, a hand with 10 & 8 cards, or 5, A,10,&2 cards, is worth a hard 18. On the contrary, a soft hand is any hand with an ace where you can count the ace as either 1 or 11. So, a hand with A & 5 cards gives a soft 6 or 16. In this scenario, you are not at risk of busting if you take another card as the maximum card value in blackjack is 10 and you can count the ace as a 1: A, 5 & 10 is 16.
Knowing the difference between hard and soft hands is essential in blackjack as the playing strategy differs, even if the hand total is the same.
Blackjack Card Values
The value of the cards is as follows:
|The blackjack game values number cards at their face value.|
|Face cards are worth 10.|
|An Ace is worth 11, but if it busts the hand, it takes the value of 1.|
|A hand's total is the sum of its card values. For example, 4+5+8 =17; Joker + 7 = 17.|
Basic Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack Strategy helps you to optimise which actions you take in which scenarios. When you play blackjack, the game is between you and the house (dealer), not against other players, as in poker. So, the dealer's, not other players' hands, determine your win or loss.
The most basic blackjack strategy involves hitting with a hand total of 16 or less and standing with 17 or more. Here are some other common blackjack strategies that can help determine your moves:
- Card counting: Monitoring cards to try to predict the probability of different outcomes.
- Basic strategy: Rules based on mathematical calculations that guide the best action to take in any given situation. (Eg. standing on 17 or more.)
- Surrender: Giving up half of your bet and hand when faced with a challenging situation.
- Double down: Doubling your bet for one more card when you anticipate a chance of winning.
- Split: Separate a pair of cards into two hands when permitted by the rules to increase the chance of a win.
- Insurance: A side bet offered to you when the dealer shows an Ace, placed in case the dealer has blackjack.
- Soft hands: Choosing the ace value (1 or 11) that maximises the player's chances of winning.
Blackjack Advanced Strategies
Advanced blackjack players often employ specific techniques to increase their odds of winning. These advanced strategies build on the basic strategies outlined above. A solid understanding of basic blackjack rules, married with the right strategies, raises your chances of winning in blackjack.
Tips & Tricks for playing against different dealer's up cards
The up card is the dealer’s card that is visible to players. If the up card is 7 or higher, the dealer is in a good position to achieve a high hand without busting. It’s best to be cautious in this scenario.If the card is 2 or 3, you should stand if the card you have in your hand is a 7 or higher. If the card is 4, 5, or 6, you are at an advantage against the dealer. They can only have a maximum hand of 16 and on most tables the dealer has to draw another card with a hand value of 16 or less, leading to a higher probability of going bust.
It’s also good to note that at most tables the dealer will stand with a hand value of 17.
How to Handle a Soft Hand
An ace card is a blessing in blackjack as it gets you near the target while also helping you mitigate the risk of a bust. Since it can be either 1 or 11, you are in a good position to hit again without fear. So, if you have an Ace, you should hit, hoping to get a 10-valued card.
When to Double Down
In blackjack, you double down when the odds are on your side and a new card will give you a strong position against the dealer. The best cases for doubling down are when your hand value is 11, and when it's 10 but the dealer's up card is worth less than 10 and is not an ace. It also works when the dealer's up card is a 4, 5, or 6, hinting at a possible bust.
Some casinos will not allow you to or have specific conditions for doubling down, so always check before committing to the game.
Blackjack Split Strategy
The game only allows you to divide your hand into an extra hand when you receive two cards of equal value. However, you don't split all pairs. The ideal conditions for splitting are a pair of aces or 8s, a pair of 2s, 3s, or 7s when the dealer has a card equal to or greater than 8, or a pair of 6s and the dealer's card is weaker. Pairs of 10s, 5s, and 4s are better off not splitting. With a total of 8, the maximum value you can reach by drawing a card is 18, making it a good number to hold.
A pair of 10s equals 20, only 1 away from a winning combination, so it's better to keep them together. Twin 5s make 10, a perfect opportunity to double down unless the dealer has an ace or a 10 card. Even then, it's better to draw one more card instead of splitting.
Blackjack Card Counting
Card counting determines when the advantage is in the player's favour. The player can increase their bet when the benefit is high or reduce or avoid betting when the advantage is with the dealer. By varying their wagers this way, card counters aim to gain a positive edge over the casino. High-value cards (tens, picture cards, and aces) often benefit the player more than the dealer, while low-value cards (twos through sixes) benefit the dealer. The remaining cards (sevens, eights, and nines) are considered neutral, not impacting the player or the dealer much.
However, card counting does not apply to online blackjack, where a random number generator (RNG) issues the cards.
How Blackjack Card Counting Works
Card counting works by tracking the ratio of high-value to low-value cards in the deck as the game progresses. Low cards in the early rounds increase the concentration of high cards in the deck, giving players an advantage. So, you bet more, increasing your chance of blackjack or winning with a double-down. Conversely, if the deck has more low cards, it benefits the dealer, who must hit hands between 12 and 16. Card counters assign values to cards to track the ratio and determine when to bet. Here is how you do it:
- Assign a value of (+1) to 2-6 cards and (-1) to 10-A cards.
- Start counting after the shuffle and add the values to each card drawn.
- If the running count is positive, increase your bet, as the undealt cards have larger value cards.
- If the running count is negative, decrease your bet as the undealt cards have more small cards.
- Bet more on positive counts and less on negative counts.
Playing Blackjack Online
You can't count the cards in online blackjack, but that doesn't mean the online blackjack game is rigged. Nonetheless, the house always has an edge to ensure the casino can make a profit regardless of the skills of its players. The edge is low, usually around 1-2%, but considering all players and sessions, the casino benefits in the long haul. Additionally, many players make mistakes, increasing the casino's advantage and profits.
If you are playing live casino blackjack, professional casino live dealers manage the blackjack game. They deal with the cards in strict adherence to the casino protocols and are responsible for collecting the lost player bets and paying off those who win. The blackjack table has up to seven seats, and a player can sometimes play more than two hands to occupy any empty seats. You'll buy the casino chips from the dealer and take your spot at the table once they slide the chips towards you. If you are playing more than one hand, you wager on each betting hand, and some casinos insist your bet be double the table minimum on each hand.
Betting Limits and Bonuses
Playing blackjack at an online or live casino has more fabulous perks than the traditional system. You get higher betting limits, crazy bonuses, and Blackjack free rolls that could allow you to play real money tournaments. Also, there are exciting opportunities to play free blackjack games if you are making baby steps into the game. Some blackjack players use casino sign-up bonuses to hone their skills without putting a cent in line.
In a standard blackjack game, if your total hand value is 21, you'll receive 1.5 times your bet as a payout (3:2). On the other hand, if you beat the dealer without hitting 21, the payout is 1:1.
The odds of winning at blackjack depend on the specific game. The number of decks, the option to surrender, and the dealer's standing rules all affect the blackjack house edge. Blackjack appeals to players due to its low house edge. When you follow the basic blackjack strategy, the house edge for regular blackjack is less than 0.5%. To increase your chances of winning, be sure to study up before playing. Some blackjack variations, such as Blackjack Switch, may offer rules that benefit the player, but a lower payout for natural blackjack wins often balances this advantage.
Blackjack Bankroll Management
"Bankroll management" is managing your money to ensure you have enough to play and perhaps take some profit home. It's a practice widely applied in gambling, whether poker, online slot machines, or any other casino game, and it helps you play through slumps. To manage your bankroll, you place your bets based on the following:
- Risk of ruins
- Specific betting units
- Daily Limits
- Table limits
The risk of ruin is the chance of losing your entire bankroll. Table rules, bet size, and skills decide this outcome.
How to Manage Your Bankroll
First, you need to decide how frequently you'll play blackjack. Based on this frequency, determine the number of bets, bet size, per-session bankroll, and overall daily spend in line with your risk of ruins.
In the game, maintain mental acuity and use the following rules for managing your blackjack bankroll:
- Ensure you have sufficient funds and distribute them evenly
- To extend your playtime, play with at least 100 betting units.
- Utilise a Hit/Stand chart for optimal gameplay and improved odds.
- Limit your blackjack play to a few hours to prevent exhaustion.
- Stick to a consistent betting strategy, such as betting a single unit.
Go for a break-even game with a low house edge that doesn’t push much pressure on your blackjack bankroll. If you stick to these bankroll management strategies, you’ll manage your funds and have fun at a blackjack table.
Blackjack Table Etiquette
Every social setting has its set of unwritten rules and expectations that dictate what is considered appropriate behaviour. Blackjack table etiquette, too, dictates the accepted behaviours and customs when playing the game. Some of these table etiquettes include:
- Know the rules
- Wait until there is an open seat at the table.
- Exchange your cash for chips before starting to play.
- Be respectful to other players and the dealer.
- Avoid rude or disruptive behaviour.
- Don't touch the cards; let the dealer manage the cards.
- Speak up when placing a bet or making a request.
- Keep the pace of the game moving along.
- If you have a losing streak, it may be time to take a break or leave the table.
Adhering to these blackjack table etiquette can create a pleasant experience for everyone.
Blackjack Tips and Tricks
One thing that makes blackjack stand out among other casino staples is the player's ability to make decisions that affect the outcome. Card counting is out of the equation for online blackjack players, but the other strategies come in handy. Here is how you can enhance your winning chances:
Explore Player Advantage
A skilled player can significantly reduce the casino's built-in advantage with the right strategies and techniques. When playing blackjack, players have certain advantages over the dealer, including:
- Bonus Payoff for a Blackjack: Players receive a 3 to 2 payout on a blackjack hand, while the dealer only gets a 1 to 1 payout.
- Doubling Down: Players can double their wager in favourable situations, while the dealer cannot.
- Splitting Pairs: Players can split pairs, while dealers cannot.
- Hitting and Standing: Players can stand on totals of 12-16, while dealers must always hit on a total of 16 or lower.
Also, play on tables with favourable rules, and take advantage of comps and promotions.
Reduce the House Edge
Using proper hitting and standing strategies, players can reduce the house edge by about 3.5%. Additionally, adequate doubling and pair-splitting strategies can further reduce the house edge by 1.6% and 0.4%, respectively.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
You may already know what to do to enhance your winning chances, but you won't if you make the following mistakes:
- Hit on a soft 17: Another card is highly likely to bust your hand value.
- Place an insurance bet: The potential payout is not worth the risk as the odds are low for the dealer to get blackjack.
- Try to Count cards: RNG deals with the cards, so counting has no bearing.
- Splitting 4s, 5s, or 10s. Splitting these pairs diminishes the chances of success.
- Doubling bet too often: Doubling down puts more money at stake while risking a bust. There's no point in risking more often.
- Assuming all blackjack games are the same. The rules for various variants vary, and you may lose money for making such assumptions.
- Ignoring the payout ratio. Always check the payout to know the game to avoid. For instance, you never play a 6:5 blackjack table, as the casino has a decisive edge.
- Consistently flat betting. Flat-rate betting denies you the opportunity to magnify your wins when the opportunity strikes and cut your losses when the risk is high.
To be successful at blackjack, you need to memorise the basic strategy, adapt to the game and regional rule variations, and manage your finances effectively. While card counting can increase your chances of winning in a live casino blackjack game, it is not available to online players, and in some cases, it's not allowed. Knowing the different game versions, practising often, and consistently following a strict playing strategy are advisable.
Is online blackjack fair?
Yes. Online blackjack can be fair when played on a reputable and licensed platform. The game uses RNGs to shuffle the deck and determine outcomes, and regulators audit online casinos to verify the fairness of their games. Choosing a trustworthy online blackjack platform is crucial for a fair and enjoyable experience.
Can online blackjack be rigged?
Yes, it can. To be safe, playing at reputable and licensed online blackjack platforms that use RNGs and are audited by third-party organisations can reduce the risk of playing a rigged game.
Do the same rules apply to online casinos as physical casinos?
The blackjack rules are similar in physical and online casinos, but there may be variations in specific rules and payouts. Knowing these changes is essential, especially in helping you choose a platform to play blackjack.
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