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 bricks-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.
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.