Introduction to Blackjack
Blackjack is an extremely popular card game played in both terrestrial and online casinos. Much of its popularity is down to the fact that the player odds are higher than most other casino games available to you. The return to player percentage averages at around 99% from reputable games providers, which means that the house edge is a measly 1% in their favour. What this means, is that if you learn how to play this game well, you can win regular rewards at the virtual table.
The origin of this popular table game dates back to the early 17th Century when it has evolved into the base game that we have now. The title of the game derives from the highest hand available in the game and has evolved from its original name of ‘Twenty-One’.
Learning the game
We highly advise that if you are a novice at this game, read our guide before staking your hard-earned cash at the table. Rookie mistakes can cost you loads of money. That would be a pity when just a little bit of experience could have saved you all the pain in the world.
The object of the game is simple enough: defeat the dealer/house by either outscoring them in getting closer to the value of 21 or by forcing them to ‘bust’ by exceeding the 21 limits themselves. The game principles and strategies are however slightly less straightforward and are only learned properly with practice.
This quick guide aims to teach you the basic rules and provide a foundational understanding of the game so that you are prepared for the next level of gaining some valuable experience, as well as, getting an advantage of the newest Blackjack bonuses.
Learning the card values is vital to playing this game, as the entire hand is underpinned by your ability to calculate card values to produce a hand closest to 21. Unlike poker, there are no special hand combination values that need to be learned. The individual card tallies are as follows:
- Cards with a face value of 2 – 10 maintain the value shown on the card.
- Face cards, such as Jacks, Queens, and Kings carry a value of 10 each.
- The Ace holds two values, which can change as the hand progresses. This can prove very handy. The Ace can either count for a value of 1 or a value of 11.
- The top hand playable in Blackjack is the combination of an Ace and another card with a value of 10 (10, J, Q, K). This hand is actually called a ‘blackjack’. Unless the house is also dealt a blackjack, they will automatically concede defeat and payout 2.5 times your bet. Any normal win (i.e. other than with a blackjack), only matches your bet value in return.
It always helps when a player is familiar with the common terms adopted at the Blackjack table. Failure to learn these could leave you either confused or in some instances, red-faced. Here is a list of some of the words you will need to recognise in order to succeed:
- Chips: These are the round, coloured betting tokens used to lodge your bets on the table. Different colours represent different monetary values.
- Betting box: The betting box is the area on the table in which your stash of chips is kept. Any chips outside of this area are considered as a wager.
- Wager/bet: this is the monetary value you stake on the chance of your success in beating the house. You stand to lose this if you lose the hand, or have it multiplied in your favour if you win the hand.
- Hand: The cards that are dealt with you with which you play each round.
- Hit: This is the word you use to request another card from the dealer.
- Stand: This is the instruction given to the dealer to indicate that you will not be taking any more cards. It will prompt the house to either move on to the next player at the table or play themselves.
- Split: If you are dealt two cards with the same symbol on them (e.g. 2x jacks or 2x 9’s etc.), you can call for a ‘split’. You then proceed to separate the two cards into two different hands, where after the dealer will deal an additional card onto each hand. Your bet will be split across the two hands evenly, where you will need to top up the bet to match your previous bet on each of these stacks.
- Double down: If your hand looks positive, but you want to draw only one more card, you can call to ‘Double Down’. Here you can double your initial bet before receiving a single card before ending your turn.
- Insurance: This is a side bet that you will be able to employ if the dealer’s initial face-up card is an Ace. In the event of the dealer winning Blackjack, you will win on your side bet, although still lose on your main hand. Unfortunately, you will lose the side bet if the dealer does not have a ‘blackjack’.
Game features and rules
- These features and rules apply to both terrestrial casinos and online games alike.
- Between 5 and 7 sevens, players take their seats around the outer edge of a semi-circle shaped table. The dealer stands in the ‘arc’ of the table where he represents the house and controls the game, almost like a referee.
- The number of card decks used in a game can vary from table to table but generally, vary between 1 and 8 decks. The lower the number of card decks used, the greater the player’s edge/advantage in the game.
- As stated previously, the chips are kept in the demarcated betting box before each seat. Any chips outside that box are considered wagers/bets.
- The dealer will proceed to deal 2 cards to each player from the left to the right direction. The furthermost left position is called ‘first base’ and the furthest position to the right is called ‘third base’. All cards are dealt face up.
- The dealer then deals with his own hand. The ‘hole card’ is dealt facing downwards and the other dealt facing up.
- Should the dealer’s face-up card be an ‘Ace’, he will offer ‘Insurance’ to the table. This is done so that players can cover themselves in case the ‘hole card’ carries a value of 10, thereby giving the dealer a ‘blackjack’. If you opt for Insurance and you are correct, you will win on the side bet and lose on your main hand. If it is however not a ‘blackjack’, you will lose your side bet (half of your main bet value) but can now still win or lose on your main hand.
- Once all of the initial cards are dealt, the dealer will proceed to consult players with active bets, about instructions for their hands. Players can now, based on their hand, decide to ‘hit’, ‘stand’, ‘split’, or ‘double down’. Should they feel that their hand is not up to par, they can also choose to ‘surrender’.
- When it comes time for the dealer to play, he/she will turn the ‘hole card’ over to reveal their hand.
- The dealer will then deal consecutive cards to him/herself and must usually ‘hit’ on any value lower than 17 but is obliged to ‘stand’ if the hand value reaches between 17 and 21. This limitation on the house raises the players' edge in the game.
- Should you force the dealer to ‘bust’ (exceed a value of 21), you will win the wager, and the round is over. Likewise, if you bust, you forfeit your wager.
Broader table rules
Various rules of the game can vary slightly from table to table, though the base guidelines of the game do not change. It is vital that you read up on the online version of Blackjack you are about to play before placing your bet, to ensure that you fully understand the ‘Table Rules’. Variables include:
- How many ‘splits’ you can do in one round.
- The number of ‘double downs’ in one hand.
- At which hand value the dealer is obligated to ‘stand’.
- The number of decks being used and dealt amongst the players.
Always learn to play the game before staking your hard-earned cash on an inevitable loss. You can also benefit greatly from a further study on legally admissible tactics of the game, in order to raise the edge in your favour when you sit on the far side of the moon-shaped table.