Blackjack is a huge casino game. It is also one of the very few games where you play the dealer, independently of other players. The aim of the game is to defeat the dealer.
You do this by drawing cards that total more than the dealer’s or add up to 21. If your first two cards total 21 you will have achieved a natural Blackjack, with Blackjack being the highest hand.
The Basics Of Blackjack
The first thing you need to do is place your bet. Once you have done this, you and the dealer will be dealt two cards each. Your cards are dealt face-up, the dealers’ first card is placed face down.
The cards have different values: picture cards have a value of 10 points. The Ace can be used as 1 or 11 points while all other cards have the same value as is printed on them. Suits have no relevance in Blackjack.
If you are dealt your first two cards and they do not produce a Blackjack then you have some decisions to make. Depending on the value of your hand you can refuse additional cards. This is known as a ‘stand’.
You also have the option of accepting another card, known as a ‘hit’. If you hit, you can keep getting cards dealt until you either ‘stand’ or ‘bust’, which is where you exceed 21.
If you bust, you are out and lose your bet, no matter what the dealer’s hand is like. However, if the dealer busts by exceeding 21 and you have managed to stand without going bust, then you win.
If you finish with the same totals, then you will have a ‘push’ which is a tie.
Any card combined with an Ace (with a value of 11), other than picture cards with their value of 10, is considered a ‘soft hand’. ‘Hard hands’ are those where there is no Ace or the Ace has a value of 1.
If you are dealt two cards with the same value you can split them into two separate hands. Creating two hands required two bets, so you must be prepared to make another bet equal to the first. However, a hand can only be split once in a game.
An important thing to remember is that blackjack is not a mere game of luck – it is a game of strategy. Basic strategy is making a mathematical analysis of the best way to play every hand given, whatever the circumstances at the table. The key to strategy is to know when you should hit and when you should stay or stand.
A general rule of thumb is that you should ‘stand’ if your cards have a value of 12 or higher if the dealer’s exposed card is 4, 5 or 6. But if you have less than 17 and the dealer has a face card, 10, 9 or 8 it is recommended to ‘hit’. These cards make it very likely for the dealer to win with a high hand.
Blackjack Game Variations
To use basic strategy to its full advantage you need to know the rules that you are playing to as online casinos provide multiple variations. One of the fairest Blackjack games online is known as zero edge Blackjack.
In ‘zero Blackjack’ a Suited Natural Blackjack, where the players first two cards total 21 and are of the same suit (eg Ace of Spades and Jack of Spades), pays 2:1 instead of the standard payout of 3:2 for a Blackjack. Just remember that a Suited Natural Blackjack does not beat a standard Blackjack. If both the player and dealer have a Blackjack (regardless of whether it is a standard Blackjack or Suited Natural Blackjack), it is always a ‘push’.
If at any stage the player achieves a points total of 21 having taken exactly 5 cards on the hand, the player will immediately be paid out at 2:1. A player 5-card 21 beats any dealer drawn 21, but does not beat a dealer Blackjack. The 5-card 21 rule does not apply to the dealer and therefore a dealer 5-card 21 will “push” against a player 21 with less than 5 cards.
You’ve probably heard of card counting or the MIT team that cost the casinos millions of dollars. That strategy of being able to memorise all the cards that come out of the deck, and therefore reduce the possibilities of dealer blackjack, do not work with online casinos. If you’re playing a computer, then the cards are computer-generated.
If you’re playing an actual dealer in a real-life version of blackjack online, then they will be using multiple decks and you really won’t be able to keep up.
There are plenty of online casino options for blackjack beginners. In fact, most will offer very low stakes tables so you can play and practice for very little money. So if you want to play blackjack, check the offerings at your chosen casino. You are bound to find one that suits your budget.