Blackjack is one of the oldest casino games out there and a proper fan-favourite. Many casino goers enjoy this game, thanks to the great odds, low house edge, and the simplicity of the actual gameplay. In fact, novice players can learn the ropes and become good at blackjack rather quickly.
However, to truly master this game and be successful in the long run, you must understand more than just the basics. In this article, we will discuss different types of bets and actions and pretty much everything else that you need to know in order to improve your odds of beating the dealers. So, if you want to learn more about blackjack rules, stay tuned!
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Learn the Basics of Blackjack Casino Game
Mastering any casino game starts with understanding the rules and gameplay fully. The objective of blackjack is to have a hand in which the total value of the cards is either 21 or as close as possible to 21. The card values are different and vary depending on the group and type of cards. For example, suits, or face cards (Jack, Queen, King, Ace) are worth 10 points each, while cards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are taken at their face value. The interesting thing about the Ace is that it can be worth 10 points, like any face card, or just 1 point, which can give your hand an important advantage if used well.
Before you get your cards, you need to place a bet. The minimum bet limit is usually indicated on the casino table, and if you have your doubts, you can always ask the dealer about the betting range. In online versions of the game, the betting limit will be presented on the screen right from the start.
After the bets have been placed, the players are dealt two cards from the deck shoe face-up. They can see which cards they can play with immediately, so they can plan their moves accordingly. Usually, the shoe (the box where the cards are housed) will contain up to 8 decks, which will be used in the game. However, there can also be blackjack games where only a single deck is used. Still, finding a single deck game sometimes feels like finding a needle in a haystack. The general rule here is that the more decks in the game, the more difficult it will be to form any viable blackjack strategy, let alone count the cards, but we will get to that later on.
While players get two cards face-up, the dealer gets one face-up card and one hole card, which will be revealed only after the players have played their hands. This rule is seen in most blackjack versions and casino facilities, but there are some types of blackjack where each card the dealers get is in the form of a face-up card, thus giving way to a dealer’s natural blackjack. We will focus on this more in the subsequent paragraphs.
Now that all the parties at the blackjack table have received their cards, we can move on to the action you can take to play your hand and hopefully earn some money from it.
1. Playing a Blackjack Hand
Unless a player receives cards with a combined total value of 21 (a natural blackjack), there are a couple of options and moves at their disposal.
You have probably heard blackjack players in movies say, “Hit me!” In case you’ve been wondering what this phrase means, we have to tell you that it doesn’t have anything to do with punches. It’s actually a request for an additional card in a bid to get as close to 21 as possible.
When blackjack players are content with the initial cards dealt, they can choose to stick to them, and the dealer won’t give them any more cards. This is a prudent move when the first hand has a total value of 15 or more since the danger of going bust is pretty great at this point.
Speaking of going bust, in blackjack terms, it means to have your total hand valued over 21, which automatically means you have lost that hand.
5. Double Down
Many blackjack variants allow players to double the size of their bets and receive an additional card, after which they are required to stand. This move, which is called the double down, is perfect when the initial total value of the cards is low.
Splitting the cards is a useful ploy many players love to use when they get two identical cards (two Jacks, tens, etc.). Then, each card is considered a separate hand, and you must cover it with another bet of the same amount as the initial one.
7. Insurance bets
Some blackjack variants allow players to resort to insurance bets when the dealer’s upcard is an Ace. The insurance bet is valued at half of your original bet. It has a payout of 2 to 1, so you can receive at least some of the money back if you think the dealer might get a blackjack.
As its name suggests, the surrender is a move that is the least favourite among blackjack players, as it basically means you are abandoning the hand and forfeiting your bet.
Get to Know Blackjack Variations
The essence of blackjack hasn’t changed considerably over the years. Still, the game has seen its fair share of improvements and alterations, which have made a considerable impact on the playing experience.
For instance, there are some blackjack versions that let you double down after splitting, but there are also others that forbid this kind of play. Of course, this can also depend on the casino’s policy, but you get the point. That is why we’ve decided to discuss some fan-favourite blackjack variations in detail.
So, without further ado, here are the most popular blackjack variants and their main characteristics.
European Blackjack is one of the most widely played versions of the game. It’s also one of the most standardised versions. It includes all gameplay rules we have mentioned above, but there are also some additional traits that make European Blackjack special. For example, the dealer gets the second card only after all players have received their cards and played their hands. This dramatically changes the house edge and impacts the game. Also, splitting is only available for Aces and identical 10-point cards. What’s more, the dealer is required to draw another card on 16 but has to stand on soft 17.
American Blackjack is a blackjack variant similar to the European version, but it has some special features that make it unique and attractive to players. For example, the dealer gets both cards at once, just like the player, but only one of them is dealt face-up. The dealer can check for blackjack if the upcard is an Ace or a Ten. The players can also use the surrender option in American Blackjack, thus saving some money when they think the dealer is up to a blackjack.
Pontoon is a version of blackjack that is played with a single deck of 52 cards. Its set of rules is slightly different from the versions we’ve mentioned so far. For example, the term “twist” is used instead of “hit,” and the players can buy on any hand between 2 and 4 cards, and twist after the buy.
Blackjack Switch is a game where players get to play two hands instead of one. They can even switch the top 2 cards between the hands, which is how the game got its name. However, this version has some downsides too. Namely, natural blackjacks come at a 1 to 1 payout instead of the standard 3 to 2.
Double Exposure Blackjack
In Double Exposure Blackjack, the dealer gets 2 cards face-up, so the player can see the dealer’s hand before making a move, which reduces the house edge. On the other hand, the payout for a natural blackjack is reduced to even money instead of a standard 3 to 2. Also, there are no insurance and surrender options in this version.
Spanish 21 is a type of blackjack played with 6 decks composed of 48 cards since all 10’s have been removed. In this version, you can split Aces up to four times, and you can double down after the second card or any other cards that come afterward. Furthermore, ties go to the player’s balance, which is not the case with most game versions.
Apply the Basic Strategy
Your search query about how to play blackjack is bound to produce multiple results, but most of them are not as good or even as effective as the basic blackjack strategy. To learn basic strategy, you must first learn the difference between a hard and a soft hand.
In blackjack, a hard hand is the one that doesn’t contain an Ace, or, if it does, it is counted as 1. For example, a 10-8-Ace is a hard 19 hand. On the other hand, a soft 17 hand is the one that contains an Ace, which counts as an 11, and a 6.
Now that you know the difference between the soft and the hard hand, we can turn to some universal basic strategy moves.
First, always hit on a soft 17 or less or hard 11 or less. Also, always split Aces and 8’s, and never split a pair of 4’s and 5’s. Moreover, always split any pair of 2’s, 3’s, 6’s, 9’s if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6. Never split a pair of 10’s.
For hard hands, stand on 17 or higher and hit on 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 if the dealer has a 7 or higher. If the dealer’s cards have the value from 2 to 6, it might be prudent to stand at this point.
If the dealer shows a card between 2 and 9 and you’ve been blessed with cards with a combined total value of 10 or 11, this could be the right opportunity to double your bet.
All of these basic strategy moves and tips are very useful, but they are far from the only ones. Therefore, make sure to read into the matter and pick up as many of these basic moves as possible, as that is the best way to boost your chances and lower the house edge even further.
Inquire About the Side Bets
Many versions of blackjack offer a number of side bets that help diversify the game further, and they give the players an extra betting chance. Also, blackjack is a game where the house edge is admittedly lower than in most other casino games, and side bets could be considered as the casino’s way of evening things out a bit.
Read about the most common ones you can find in the following section.
If you successfully predict that the sum of a player’s hand will be as over or under 13, you will get a 1 to 1 payout for that bet. If the outcome is exactly 13, you lose the bet. The Ace here counts as 1.
This side bet revolves around the first two cards you are dealt and the dealer’s upcard. If the three cards make a poker-style combination, such as a flush, straight, three of a kind, straight flush, and suited triple, then you will get the corresponding payout.
If a player’s cards are suited, this bet pays in a 5 to 2 ratio, and if the cards are a King and a Queen, then the payout is 25 to 1.
With a Super 7’s side bet, you are supposed to bet on whether there will be one or more 7’s in a player’s hand. The more 7’s you get in consecutive order, the better the payout.
With the Lucky Ladies side bet, you will get paid if the player’s cards add up to 20.
Learn the Blackjack Table Etiquette
The blackjack table etiquette refers to not only the manners of conduct at the blackjack tables, but also the rules related to how the payouts and odds work, how many decks there are in play, and many other similar details that can help you save the move and build your advantage.
For example, casinos will usually pay 3 to 2 odds for a winning blackjack hand. However, some pay 6 to 5, and those casinos and games should be avoided.
Also, you can find both blackjack games with 1 to 8 decks used in a game and the ones with 4, 5 or 6. We have mentioned that single-deck game types can make all the difference in the world — the lower the number of decks in play, the smaller the house edge gets.
Finally, almost every blackjack basic strategy considers both the soft hands and the hard hands, so you need to know if the dealer stops at soft 17 or hits on soft 17.
These rules might be the most important things to remember when playing blackjack at a casino.
Learn Card Counting
Counting cards is a legitimate system that a player can use to decrease the house advantage even further. Of course, card counting is very complex, as it requires a lot of mathematical skill and intellectual power. If you learn how to count the cards and memorize them after they have gone through the game, you will reach the ultimate level of blackjack skill, which will give you the upper hand over the casinos.
Even though some people say that, to count cards, you simply need to use some of the known card counting systems, such as hi-lo, KO, or Red 7, but we won’t go so far as to say that everyone can do it. Still, if you don’t try it, then how can you know if you are capable of it or not?
Card counting won’t constitute your basic strategy for playing the blackjack, but, if you learn how to predict which card is up next, you’ll certainly be able to earn a lot of money.
Still, you should know that casinos have reserved their rights to kick out card counters, so be careful.
Every casino out there is looking to offer a great gaming choice to its visitors and thus get them to come back to the place. Sure, having a good gift shop, fancy restaurants, and other amenities is great for land-based casinos, but the games are the key.
Blackjack is one of those games that casino goers love and always come back to, thanks to its simple rules, effective strategy that you can apply, and many exciting bets. Here, you could find all the info you’ll ever need for learning how to master blackjack, so step into the casino gaming arena and play on.