Most of us casino players like to think we have a pretty good grasp of how to play blackjack. The game is, after all, one of the first card games many of us learn to play. However, there is a big difference between playing blackjack to kill time, learning how to win real money playing blackjack online. In this casino game guide, we will take an in-depth look at one of the world’s most famous card gambling games. We’ll show you how to become acquainted with the ins and outs of the game, and ultimately help you to become a better blackjack player.
If you manage to win a few bucks by following this guide, we’ll consider that a victory. Shall we begin?
A Brief History of Blackjack
Blackjack’s origins – like so many gambling games – are somewhat shrouded in mystery. Some people claim that the Romans invented it. There isn’t much historical evidence to lend much weight to that idea, though. What we do know is that blackjack most likely originated in the 1700s in France. A game from the period called Vingt-et-Un (Twenty-One) sounds similar, doesn’t it? This game itself is believed to be a variant of Chemin de Fer, which may have originated as far back as the Middle Ages.
Popular in French casinos throughout the 1700s and 1800s, the game eventually wound up stateside, predominantly via French colonists. There are references to an early form of blackjack being played in New Orleans in 1820. When the card game made its way to the fledgeling casinos of Nevada in the Twentieth Century, the rules were altered by the houses in a bid to ramp up interest. A bonus payout was delivered if players won with a black jack (of Spades or Clubs) alongside the Ace of Spades. In time, the black jack rule would be dropped in favour of any two-card hand worth twenty-one points, but the name stuck.
Blackjack did not evolve much further until the advent of online and later mobile casinos. The digitalisation of blackjack has enabled the game to develop into many variants, giving today’s online casino players ample options to choose from. We will look at some of those in this gambling guide. First, though, we need to get a handle on how to play the game itself.
How to Play Blackjack
Blackjack can be played either with just a single deck of cards or several. The number of decks featured in the game changes, depending on the variant you opt to go with. The jokers are removed from each deck in play.
In blackjack, each card counts for its numerical points value, with a few exceptions. All face cards (Jacks, Queens and Kings) are worth 10 points. Aces can be worth either 1 point, or 11 points, depending on what is required.
The basic idea behind the game is that you need to beat the dealer by obtaining a better hand than they have. Usually, this is done by getting your points total to as close to 21 as possible, without going over that figure. Going over 21 points leads to instant defeat.
Placing Your Bets
To begin with, you must place a bet which falls somewhere between the minimum and maximum table values. In online blackjack, these will usually be displayed on the screen. Chips are placed into the betting circle.
The dealer will then hand two cards to every player and another two to themselves. One of the dealer’s cards will be dealt face-up, so you can catch a peek at it.
Your next move is usually determined by the dealer’s face-up card, in correlation with the value of your own hand. If you have a natural (a 21-point hand consisting of an ace and a 10-point card), you will immediately win if the dealer cannot match it. The same is true for the dealer. If this does not happen, the card game moves on.
There are several options open to you in most standard blackjack games,and a few specialist moves which you can only make in some blackjack variants. We’ve detailed them below:
Hit: Hitting involves taking another card, or several cards if needed.
Stand: If you are content with your hand, then stand.
Double Down: If your two original cards total 9, 10 or 11, then you can decide to double your bet. Doubling down involves placing a bet equal to the original stake, in exchange for just one more card.
Split: If the first two cards in your hand are of the same denomination, you can split them into two hands. A single new card will be dealt to each, as soon as you place a new bet equal to your first one. You can now effectively play with two hands. Some variants allow you to split aces, and others do not.
Insurance Bet: An insurance bet can be taken if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. You will play an additional bet (often up to half the original stake) that the dealer’s second card is a ten-point card. If it is, you will win an insurance payout of 2:1, even if you lose the hand. If the dealer’s other card is not a ten, you will lose this side-bet.
Surrender: Some blackjack games also allow you to surrender – though not many of them. If you have a particularly bad hand, you can opt to surrender. This will see you forfeit half your bet, and retrieve the other half.
Once your moves (if any) have been made and any additional bets placed, the dealer will decide what they wish to do. Upon completion, the two cards are turned over. Whoever has the highest point-scoring hand wins. However, if that hand is worth more than 21 points, it will bust, and will immediately lose. In the event of a tie, the hands are considered a push, and bets are returned.
In most standard blackjack games, the dealer will hit until 17, and stand on all hands worth 17 or more. This, as well as the push rule, can change in some blackjack variants.
How to Win at Blackjack
You do not need to have a 21-point hand to win. This is a myth. You only need to beat the dealer’s hand, with whatever score may be required, no matter how low. There are several different ways a blackjack player can win, and these alter the available prizes. Again, we’ve detailed them below.
Blackjack: This hand is worth 21 points, and will immediately pay out at a rate of 3:2 in most games.
Any Win: Any victory over the dealer will result in a 1:1 payout being received.
Insurance Bets: Even if you lose the hand, you can still pocket a 2:1 payout if you successfully called an Insurance Bet on the dealer’s hand.
Some blackjack games also contain side bets. Here are some of the more recognisable options:
21+3 Side-Bet: A pre-hand bet on your two cards and the dealer’s face-up card. If the three cards equate to a Flush, Straight, Three-of-a-Kind, Straight Flush or Suited Triple (three of the same card all in suit) then you can win prizes worth 5:1, 10:1, 30:1, 40:1 and even 100:1, respectively.
Perfect Pair Bet: A bet solely on your cards, it can result in payouts of 5:1, 12:1 or 25:1 if you land a Mixed Pair (two same-value cards but with different suits and colours), a Coloured Pair (two same-value cards in the same colour), or a Perfect Pair (two identical cards), respectively.
Classic blackjack usually has a house edge of 0.5%. However, this may change depending on the variant you are playing. Each blackjack variant has its own slight take on the rules, and this can alter the house edges and payouts alike. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the more popular ones next.
Types of Online Blackjack Games
There are over fifty major blackjack variants you can play. Naturally, that is far too many for us to cover here, but feel free to explore them yourself. Instead, we’ve chosen to look at the most widespread ones. Here are ten popular variants and how they differ from classic blackjack.
Blackjack Switch: This game allows players to switch cards between one hand and another. However, it requires you to place two bets. Doubling down is permitted before and after splitting, and you can re-split aces. However, blackjack only pays even money.
Super Fun 21: You can double down on any number of cards, even after splitting. Surrender is available at any time. Blackjack only ever pays even money, unless it is made up of an ace and diamond face, in which case you’ll get a 2:1 payout.
Live Blackjack: Any blackjack variant could appear as a live dealer game. These are played over a live video stream, with your actions controlled on-screen.
Double Exposure: A nifty game which allows you to see both of the dealer’s cards. However, blackjack only pays 1:1 and players lose all pushes as a result of this good fortune.
Multi-Hand Blackjack: In most cases, this game is simple classic blackjack, although allows players to wager on more than a single hand at a time.
Atlantic City Blackjack: Based on classic blackjack, this game has a lower house edge as the dealer checks for blackjack immediately, before you lose money doubling or splitting, and also sees the dealer stand on soft 17.
Vegas Strip Blackjack: The dealer stands on soft 17, the dealer will peek for blackjack, and players can double down after splitting, or any additional hand. Players can also split up to four hands. Some games pay 6:5 for blackjack, instead of 3:2.
Pontoon: Essentially, a British blackjack variant. In this game, the dealer’s face-up card is not revealed until the player has made their move. The player must hit up to 15. A Five-Card Trick (five-card hand) pays 2:1, as does a Pontoon (blackjack with an ace and face).
Face Up Blackjack: Similar to Double Exposure, this game only allows doubling down on 10 and 11 and not after splitting. Blackjack pays even money, and players win tied blackjacks. All other ties belong to the dealer in this game, which features all cards exposed.
Blackjack Early Surrender: Unlike traditional surrender rules, which typically take place after a move is made. Early Surrender allows you to fold immediately.
Other blackjack variants worth a look include the rapidly fading Spanish 21, Free Bet Blackjack, and variants such as Double Attack Blackjack. Note that some blackjack games are reserved for high-rollers and seasoned pros. Alongside VIP tables, you may also find games which are ideally suited to newbies and amateurs.
Top Tips to Improve Your Blackjack Skills
Blackjack is deemed by some to be a game of skill. Others will claim it is a game of chance. Ultimately, if you deploy a few tips and tricks, you can definitely gear it towards being a skill-based game. Here are a few handy hints to help you improve your blackjack skills, and possibly aid you in becoming a better player.
Use Basic Strategy: It is well worth looking out for Basic Strategy. Often displayed as a series of charts and tables, Basic Strategy can tell you exactly which move to make, based on the hands on the table. It is not a guarantee for success but can be used to help you cut down the house edge a little further. You can find numerous guides on Basic Strategy across the internet.
Pick the Right Game: Some blackjack games are more favourable than others, depending on how you like to play. Before you get settled playing for real money, have a look around and try a few different variants. Of course, you should always check what your casino is offering first.
Play for Free: One of the best ways to try our new variants and learn to deploy Basic Strategy is to play for free. There are many free blackjack games out there (some can be played at online casinos), which are ideal for this. Playing for free is arguably the best way that you can hone your skills before wagering with real money.
Stay Away from Side-Bets: As tempting as they are, stay away from side-bets. They increase the house edge. Ask any blackjack player worth their salt, and they will also tell you to avoid Insurance Bets, too.
Betting Systems Can Help: It is possible to find a few betting systems which might help you stay in the game. Systems such as the Martingale aren’t going to guarantee you success, and could (if you go through a prolonged losing spell) cost you. However, they can help you maintain your balance when playing even-money games such as blackjack. The Martingale is just one of many betting systems you can try out with free play blackjack games.
Where to Find the Best Blackjack Games Online
Online casinos represent your best chance of finding a wealth of blackjack games which you can play for real money. Ideally, you should select a casino which supports blackjack games from multiple providers, as these will give you an excellent selection of titles to choose from. Live casinos are also ideal if you fancy a touch of realism with your blackjack. Ultimately, though, any casino which offers you a few different variants, and is well-licensed, secure and reputable (such as those recommended by us) should fit the bill nicely.