Blackjack rules, tips and strategies

Blackjack, also knows as 21, is one of the most popular casino games in the world. Different games have their own perks but there is something about Blackjack that makes it stand out. It’s a reserved, calm game where both skill and luck are involved. Learning Blackjack strategies can reduce home advantage significantly. If you’re not yet familiar with the most popular casino game, here is everything you need to know from the most basic Blackjack rules to the advanced strategies to use to improve your chances of winning.

Blackjack history

This card game was found in 1600s in Europe. You probably know that its original name is Twenty-one. It’s unsurprising given the fact that the perfect score in the game is 21. But don’t make the beginner’s mistake. Your goal is not to collect 21 points in each hand. You play against a dealer and you simply have to have a better score than him whether it’s 12, 15, 20, etc.

While “21” is a pretty obvious name for this game, you might be wondering where Blackjack’s current name originates from. Blackjack got its current name in U.S. when casinos started offering special payouts like 10-to-1 when player’s exact hand consists of an ace of spades and…you guessed it correctly – a black Jack. The name had caught on and even after special payouts were later cancelled, the name stayed.

Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is played with a dealer and usually 2-6 players, but for now let’s focus on 1v1 play. Once you sit down and decide upon an amount you want to bet, you and the dealer gets two cards each. Yours are both up while dealer has one card face up and the other face down. Take a look at your cards. Maybe you have a Blackjack? If you do, you win!

Blackjack (21) is a combination of an Ace (11 points) and a 10 or any of the face cards (10 points each). If your hand is a Blackjack, you don’t need to do anything else. Unless in a rare case when the dealer also has a Blackjack on the same hand, you win 3 to 2 instead of 1 to 1 you win in every other case. By the way, when the dealer gets a Blackjack, he does not get extra from you, just even money.

Unfortunately, you’ll pick an instant Blackjack pretty rarely so you need to know more about strategies laying different Blackjack variations. So, let’s move on.

Once the dealer and you (as well as every other player at the same table) has two cards, the action goes to the first player on the right and moves to the left. The dealer is always the last to act (that’s part of where the house’s edge comes from).

So, you have two cards. Once you know your points, it’s time to make a decision whether you want to Hit, Stand, Split or Double. The decision is based on your own points as well as any other available information like cards of players next to you, dealer's exposed card, etc.

• Hit

Ask the dealer for one more card. Of course, if you have up to 11 points, you are safe to take one. But if you have 12 or more points, you have to consider other factors than your own points like what are other cards exposed, whether the dealer has to hit or stand on soft 17, etc.

• Stand

You feel that your current points are enough to win this hand, you choose stand. Most often, whenyou have over 17 points, you should stand.

• Double down

You increase the size of your bet by 100%, ask the dealer for one more card at the same time committing yourself with standing after. Consider doubling down when you have 10 or 11.

• Split

If your hand is paired (Queen-Queen), you can split so instead of 20 points all together in this case you would get 10 each and able to draw additional cards on each of the Queens. Should you split depends on your own cards and the dealer’s exposed card.

• Surrender

Sometimes, the cards you are dealt will result in you losing more often than winning. Some casinos allow you to surrender – give away your cards and 50% of your initial bet. So, if the probability of losing is greater than 50%, you should surrender. For example, if you have a 16 points while the dealer has a face cards or a 10. In this situation you will bust around 53%. If the casino doesn’t allow you to surrender, your best option in this case is hitting.

Let’s look at a few examples:

• You have Q and J. Dealer shows 5. You choose to stand with 20 points, the dealer opens an A for 16, draws another card which is an 8. With 24 dealer exceeds 21 and you win.

• You have 7 and J to make 17. You choose to stand. The dealer shows a total of 16 that forces him to draw. He hits a 3 for 19 which makes him the winner.

• Your hand includes an A and a 5. You have 6 or 16. You can stand as well as hit. Let’s say you hit a 5. Great, it’s 21. It’s not the start of the hand, so you don’t get paid 3:2 but the good news is that you still win.

Basic Numbers in Blackjack: Odds and more

Before you play casino games, it may help to know a few numbers about your game like odds. You of course know that every casino game has a house edge. Do you know what the house edge in Blackjack is?

Playing Blackjack without a strategy gives the house 7% edge. However, if you do use appropriate strategies you can reduce it to as little as 0.5%! Whereas in a vacuum, the dealer and the player has equal chance of busting - 29% and a 6% a chance of a draw (push), these numbers change in live play. For example, the house edge consists mostly of acting last. Thus, casino doesn’t have to pay players that bust (when the dealer busts as well). Also, house’s edge comes from the decks they are using. Specifically, it’s +0.17% if there’s one deck on play, +0.46% if there are two decks, +0.65 if there are 8 decks. So, if you can choose a 2 deck game instead of 6 or 8, make sure you do that.

The player’s edge includes the freedom to split, double down, stand or hit when the opportunity is right, while the dealer can neither split nor double down and is forced actions on certain situations (like draw on 16, stand on 17. And something we already mentioned, player gets 3:2 payout on Blackjack whereas the dealer gets even money.

Playing Blackjack at Online Casino

Playing Blackjack online differs a lot from a live play. For example, you can’t really count cards online as every hand is drawn based on RNG. But the upside of Blackjack online is variety of stakes you can play (you can play as low as $0.10 per hand or even for free).

In fact, the days when you had to go to a casino to play casino games are long gone. Yes it’s exciting but it can also be distracting and sometimes it’s hard to leave a casino even when you have been on a losing streak for a while.

Playing online gives you the freedom to play Blackjack and other casino games whenever, wherever. When compared to land casinos, online casinos also have a disadvantage. It may become too easily accessible. But it’s easier to manage your bankroll because you can play for a bigger variety of games from $0.1 to $200 per hand and even more.

Also, you can jump though different variations of Blackjack if you want (something you can’t really do in a casino). And one of the greatest things in online play is the fact that no one cares if you have a pile of cheat sheets lying next to you (at the end we have provided some Blackjack strategy sheets to use while playing.

Popular Blackjack variations

There are dozens of Blackjack variations you can find around online casinos and casinos worldwide. You probably know the most famous variations including European Blackjack, Vegas Blackjack, Atlantic City Blackjack.

The most important differences between different variations include soft 17 rule, blackjack payouts and insurance.

• Soft 17

When a dealer has 17 points that includes an A and any 6, called a soft 17. In some variants dealer must stand on soft 17, on others he has to hit.

• Peaking and insurance

This is an important difference in Blackjack. In some variations, when a dealer has an A or a 10 he peaks at the second card. If he has an instant Blackjack, all hands without an instant Blackjack are killed and the hose wins. But before the dealer peaks at his second card, you can take insurance that's equal to half of your initial bet. If the dealer has Blackjack, you get even money on your insurance but if he doesn't, the house collects your insurance and the hand proceeds as usual.

Let's look at real Blackjack games and how they differ exactly. We will take a look at Vegas Blackjack, Atlantic City Blackjack, European Blackjack, Double Exposure Blackjack and Spanish Blackjack.

• Vegas Blackjack

A classic style Blackjack that’s probably mostly common around the world. It’s preferred because the house edge is the smallest. The rules are the same of a classic Blackjack however only 4 decks are used.

• Atlantic City Blackjack

This is also a popular variation of Blackjack. There are 8 decks in play. Classic Blackjack rules apply. The game commences with the dealer peaking at the second card and insurance is available.

European Blackjack

European Blackjack has a major difference in play – the dealer has no hole card.

Double Exposure Blackjack

In this variation of Blackjack, both of the dealer’s cards are exposed. Players lose instead of tie. Also, Blackjack pays even money.

Spanish Blackjack

The game is played with the same rules as Blackjack but Spanish cards are used that have 48 instead of 52 cards. They don’t have any 10. The game is played with 8 decks of cards.

Strategies

Compared to other casino games, Blackjack involves quite a bit of skill. Card counting and general observation of the cards can help you reduce the house’s edge. This of course does not really apply to playing Blackjack online unless you play via live stream that some casinos do offer. In this case it’s similar to playing in a land-casino.

Other than that, you have to rely on using correct strategies that are mathematically based taking into account your points and the dealer’s exposed card. There are a few tables you can use while playing online.

You can hit, stand, split, hit if you can’t double down and stand if you can’t double down.

Blackjack is a superb game played all over the world. Now you know the rules of the games and the best strategies to use to reduce the house edge and win more often. Make sure to also try several variations of Blackjack to see which one is the best for you. If you were new to this game, start with practicing for free money online before you step into real money games. Good luck.