How to Play Blackjack
Blackjack pits the player against the dealer, with the objective being to get as close to 21 as possible without going over that number. In blackjack games, aces can be worth 1 or 11, while kings, queens, and jacks are worth 10, and number cards are simply worth their face value.
There are a number of moves that you can make in blackjack. The most common ones are hit and stand. Ask the dealer to hit, and they deal you one more card. When you stand, your hand stays as it is.
A split is another option. If you get two cards of the same value, you can make this move. Your two cards are split into separate hands, and you put down a second wager equal to your first. Playing two hands can mean double the winnings, but, obviously, doubles the risk, too.
It’s also possible to double down. This means you double your bet, and the dealer gives you one more card before you stand. Keep in mind, some versions of blackjack don’t allow you to double down after you’ve already split.
Some variations of blackjack also allow you to surrender. This basically means quitting the round and getting half your stake back.
How a Round of Blackjack is Played
Here’s a guide to how a round of classic blackjack is played online, and some of the basic blackjack rules to get you started.
- The live dealer will deal you two cards, face up, and then deal themselves two cards: one face up and one face down. The dealer’s face down card is called the hole card, while the face up card is known as the up card.
- If anyone gets a blackjack in the first draw — for example, an ace and a face card — then they win instantly, and that’s the end of the round. If the dealer also has a blackjack, that’s called a push and no money is won or lost.
- If nobody has a blackjack, you can choose to hit, stand, split, or double down. Exceeding 21 is a bust, meaning the player loses.
- Once your turn is complete, the dealer makes their play by drawing cards. Generally, the dealer must hit on 16 or less, and stand on 17 or more.
- The player wins if they get closer to 21 than the dealer, or if the dealer busts (goes over 21).
Live online casino games are run by real dealers, so it’s just like sitting at casino tables in real life. However, there is one difference for those who use systems such as card counting, which is that the deck tends to be far more frequently shuffled, with lower deck penetration than brick-and-mortar casinos. This makes card counting far less viable as a strategy.
Once you’ve learned to play blackjack, there are a number of side bets you can add on too, to mix things up.
A perfect pairs bet is a bet that your first two cards will be a pair. 23+1 is a bet that your two initial cards, plus the hole card, will make three of a kind, a flush, or a straight.
Some games also allow for insurance. If the hole card is an ace, you can add insurance, which is half the amount of your initial bet. If the dealer has blackjack, you then get the amount of your initial wager back.
Bet behind is another option that’s sometimes available. It simply refers to betting on other players’ hands during live games.
The details laid out above cover the basics of any blackjack game. At a live blackjack casino, however, the sheer volume of available games means you’re likely to come across minor modifications to the rules at each different table. Below is a brief introduction to blackjack’s additional rules and side betting options, some of which are unique to live dealer casinos.
In blackjack, a hard 17 is a hand that contains a one-valued ace, and a soft 17 is one that contains an 11-valued ace. You’ll find that many live blackjack casino games declare that players and dealers must hit if their hand is a soft 17 and that there may be other rules surrounding these situations.
Bet behinds allow players to place wagers on someone else’s hand while they wait for a seat at the table. With some live dealer blackjack games, players can make an unlimited number of bet behinds.
To spice things up, many live blackjack tables introduce a series of side bets. These will be aimed at a specific outcome; for example, side bets targeted at pairs being dealt is a common inclusion.
Hit Split Aces
Aces are incredibly valuable in blackjack — not only because they can hold both the highest and lowest value, but they also give flexibility to a player’s hand. As a result, the majority of live blackjack dealers will only be able to hit a split pair of aces one time.
The re-split rule allows players to split their hand again if they’re dealt another pair following a split hand. This gives players a total of four different hands to play in one round of betting, although they’ll be required to match their initial bets behind each hand.
Rewarding brave play, the six-card Charlie rule gives players with any hand that contains six cards and hasn’t gone bust a payout. How much players with six cards stand to win depends on the casino and the game, but they often trump all hands of equal value. Some live casinos also deploy a ten-card Charlie rule with much larger payout potential.
Live Blackjack Variations
All blackjack games — whether played as an RNG game, in a live dealer format, or at a real casino — will adhere to the rules of one of the two foremost variants: American or European. But within this framework, variants can be split by many different factors, some of which we’ve detailed above. Below are some of the most popular live blackjack variants and what you can expect to come across when you deal yourself in.
Free Bet Blackjack
Live dealer masters Evolution Gaming are the developers behind Free Bet Blackjack — a variant played with eight decks with a return to player (RTP) rate of 98.5%. Free Bet Blackjack allows players to make use of four side bets, including the popular any pair and 21+3 options. The dealer must stand on all 17s, and the six-card Charlie rule is also in play. Wagers on this game start at €1 and can rise to €2,500 per hand, making it suitable for casino players of all budgets.
Live Cashback Blackjack
This variant, created by Playtech, also involves eight decks and centres around a cashback calling option. With the cashback rule, players can cash out their bet at any time during the round. You won’t receive the full wager back, but if you’ve got a bad feeling about a hand, this rule offers the chance to recoup a portion of your bet. Crucially, aces in this game are worth either one or ten, meaning that they can be split with other ten-value cards. There are six different side bets available, some of which mix elements of poker into the game, such as the Top 3 call, which rewards three of a kinds and straight flushes. Live Cashback Blackjack has a huge RTP of 99.6% and bets range from €1 to €100.
Live Blitz Blackjack
As the name suggests, NetEnt’s Live Blitz Blackjack is all about speed. This game draws on the previous success of Common Draw Blackjack, but NetEnt has scaled Blitz so that an unlimited number of players can join the action. All of the players involved are dealt the same hand, which is where the game derives its speed — since everyone is dealing with the same cards, betting calls are made at a faster pace. Perfect pairs and 21+3 are the available side bets, and this game is also served by eight decks. Bets range from €1 to €100, and this variant has another high RTP rate at 99.5%.
Play High Stakes Live Dealer Blackjack
When you’re surveying the blackjack live dealer tables at your online casino, you’ll notice that the betting ranges are given in the game’s thumbnail. This gives a good indication as to whether the table will suit your gambling budget, with bets on most tables starting at €1, and rising all the way to €20,000 on the most expansive games. If you can afford to take a seat, these high stakes blackjack games really match the authenticity of a physical casino. Take a look at our game recommendations for the highest rollers.
Evolution’s suite of blackjack tables found in its Salon Privé suite will satisfy any casino player with a large account balance. These are exclusive games: no other players can join the table once you’ve started, or even watch from the sidelines. If you’re interested in taking a seat, you’ll need to have €6,000 in your casino account and be willing to make starting bets of €1,500. In most games, maximum bets are limited to €10,000.
Released in 2018, Playtech’s Soirée Blackjack has a much more accommodating starting point than Evolution’s Salon Privé. Minimum bets begin at €50, but reach €10,000 at the other end of the spectrum. Playing Soirée affords gamblers a couple of added features: players are able to request a dealer change or an extension of the current dealer’s session, and they’re also able to request a reshuffle.
Blackjack Betting Strategies
Blackjack requires skill as well as good fortune, and using blackjack strategy can decrease the house edge and improve your chances of landing a win. Blackjack strategy essentially boils down to knowing which move is best to make depending on the strength of your hand, such as always hitting on a hard 11 or standing on a hard 17.
You can use blackjack strategy charts available online to tell you which move to make for any given hand.
As well as in-game blackjack strategy, there are also several classic betting strategies that some players adhere to. These betting strategies don’t affect the house edge, but are used as a way of structuring your betting. One traditional system is the Martingale, which is known as a “negative progression” system, which means you double your bet with each loss.
Simply put, if you lose a hand, you bet double on the next one, and carry on until your losing streak ends. At which point, you’ll have recouped your losses and then return to the original bet value.
A contrasting strategy favoured by many players on live blackjack sites is called Oscar’s Grind, which is a “positive progression” system where you bet one unit more with each win but bet the same as the last hand when you have a loss, with the aim of coming out with just one unit profit in any series of bets.
It’s important to bear in mind that these betting systems are not foolproof in any way and can’t guarantee you’ll win more often.