If you want to learn the game of Blackjack, it would be helpful to you if you read our ultimate guide.
Essential Information About the Rules of Blackjack
Blackjack is one of the most popular table card games. It is also known under the name of Twenty-One. When you read our article, you’ll agree that the name suits it perfectly. Many players think that rules of Blackjack are easy to comprehend and that trying to achieve the objective of the game is fun.
Namely, certain players, newbies perhaps, would be quick to tell you that the goal is to come as close to 21 as you can. Interestingly, that is not entirely correct.
While you are trying to reach 21, at the same time, you need to watch out for the dealer’s cards. Your final goal is to win against the dealer either by hitting a Blackjack or outscoring them. So in the text below, we will get deeper into the strategy and tips on how to increase your chances of winning.
Origins of Blackjack
The exact origin of this popular card game is still unknown, and who invented the game is still in question. Miguel de Cervantes, a Spanish author, was the first one to write about this game in his book “Rinconete y Cortadillo.” In this book, he calls Blackjack “Twenty-One.”
Today, twenty-one is the second name for this game. However, the rules of Blackjack haven’t changed a lot since then; back in Cervantes’ days, just like today, the goal was to come as close as you can to 21 but not exceed that number.
Blackjack as we know it today appeared in the United States. And when Blackjack first got to the U.S. market, casinos changed the rules a bit. Namely, their idea was to entice more players to play it for real money.
The gameplay, for the most part, remained identical, except for one of the crucial changes according to which there was a payout in ratio ten-to-one. This payout was due when a player had a hand that included the Ace of Spades and a “Black Jack” (the Jack of Spades or Jack of Clubs).
That combination was specifically named Blackjack, but interestingly, even though this special combo is no longer relevant, the name Blackjack stuck.
In casinos, a number of decks used in the gameplay can vary. You might already know that some land-based casinos use six decks, which is 312 cards in total.
The dealer puts one plastic card (it is not used in the gameplay) in a shoe that will hold the deck. And that card is used to show that all the decks have been used. With the idea of not losing precious time, most tables have a shoe which provides faster dealing.
Before we go into the details about rules, it’s important to mention the values. In the end, if you plan on winning against the dealer, you must know how to count the values of the cards correctly.
- Numbered Card — Cards with numbers from two to ten. For example, if you see a card that shows 4, its value is four.
- Ace Card — This card has two values, one and eleven, and you choose which better fits your combination. What you’ll choose depends on the other card in your hand. At certain situations, an Ace can be counted as one, with the idea of avoiding busting. For that reason, hands that include an Ace are called “soft hands” because they can give their players a chance to get a free Hit with next to no risk.
- Face Cards — These cards are cards valued as ten, and alongside the Ace, can help you get a Blackjack hand. Face cards are King, Queen, and Jack.
What’s a Winning Move?
So after all the players received their cards, the tension starts to rise. At that moment, players have to think about their cards and the face-up card that the dealer holds as well. All that will help you devise your next move.
As we’ve already pointed out, the goal is to win against the dealer; and believe it or not, the easiest way is to hit a Blackjack. A Blackjack consists of a ten-valued card and an Ace.
It is only possible to get a natural Blackjack with the first two cards you received. In such a situation, the payout ratio is 3:2 of your initial bet. This indicates that you’ll get winnings which are one and a half times the initial bet.
Soft and Hard Hand
New players might be confused with the terms which are used in this game. For example, they’re confused with what’s the difference between soft and hard hands. It’s paramount to think about your moves wisely. And the decision might depend on whether you have a “soft” or “hard” hand.
- Soft Hand — Players have a soft hand when they have an Ace, whose value is either 1 or 11. This type of hand gives you an advantage because you can choose between two values and then make a move. Don’t forget to take a look at what card the dealer holds.
- Hard Hand — This type of hand doesn’t have an Ace, and this limits players’ decision-making to some degree. For example, a soft 17 means that you can safely hit looking for that 4, without worrying about busting. A hard hand, on the other side, doesn’t give you that freedom.
How to Play
Prior to the start of the game, players have to place a bet. The minimum and maximum amount for betting are not the same at all tables. Usually, players have to wager at least five dollars. When the chips are in front of players, the game can commence.
For starters, every player will receive two cards which all players can see so that they can be aware of who is the closest to 21. Since Blackjack is played against the house (dealer), they receive two cards as well. From those two cards, one is face-up, so everyone can see it, and the other one is not visible to players (the other name for this one is hole card).
After receiving cards, players should take a look at their values. This is essential because the next thing they should do is decide what their hand is going to be.
The player who is sitting left of the dealer has a variety of choices. Let’s take a look at them below:
When you see this term, that means that a player wants an additional card. But bear in mind that if a player’s total sum is over 21, they will bust, and on top of that, the dealer will take their bet.
Gesture: When you opt for a hit, you just tap the area behind your cards.
When players are sure about their combination, they can opt for a stand. That implies that they don’t want another card.
Gesture: You wave your hand if you want to stand.
This option has its own rules. When a player doubles down, that implies that they want to increase their bet, and also, it means that they can receive only one additional card. So be sure to remember that you can opt for a hit when you’ve doubled down your bet.
Gesture: When players put a new stack next to the old stack of chips, the dealer will notice that you want to double down.
When Blackjack is played with multiple decks, oftentimes, players receive two cards with identical values. Opting for split allows players to split those cards with the same values, so they can play two hands in one round.
They need to place the same number of chips as before the game started, and those should be placed outside of the betting box. After the dealer sees that you’ve placed them, they will split those two cards. After splitting, the dealer will put one additional card to both cards that were previously split.
At some casinos, players aren’t allowed to double down after splitting. Also, there are casinos where you cannot split any further if you’ve already chosen to split. And if you win after splitting, that’s called a non-blackjack twenty-one.
Many players hope to get Aces so that they can split them and increase the odds of winning. But beware that, in some casinos, players cannot opt for splitting Aces.
Sometimes, surrendering is not that bad of an idea. If players, after receiving two cards, opt for a hit, the dealer will give them back half of the initial bet.
Gesture: When you draw an invisible line behind your chips, the dealer will know that you’re surrendering.
What Is the Dealer Going to Do?
When all players have had their moves, the dealer can make theirs. That’s the moment when players get an adrenaline rush as they wait to see if the dealer has gotten 17 or more, but not more than 21. If they got a sum that is low, they have to get more cards.
On the other hand, if the dealer gets a soft 17, which is a sum of an Ace and a six, players can win if they don’t have more than 21 and if their sums beat the dealer’s. Naturally, sometimes it will happen that a player and the dealer have the same sum. That is called a push.
If a push happens, players get all of their chips back.
This is something that new players might want to opt for. More experienced players know its flaws and therefore, avoid the insurance bet. In a nutshell, players can place the insurance bet if the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace. In that case, they can use the insurance bet, which implies that they hope the dealer’s hidden card is a ten-valued card.
Players will have to add half of their initial bets. And if it happens that the dealer wins the round, they can retrieve their money. The other scenario is that the dealer doesn’t have a natural (21 or Blackjack), which means that players lose all their chips.
It’s Time for Players to Make Decisions
If you plan on being good at Blackjack, you should memorize the basic blackjack strategy so that you can make swift decisions. The point is, there are several rules you need to learn. It will take a while until you get a handle on them, and until then, look at the strategy charts.
The things you can do in order to become better at Blackjack games is to play at online casinos, and look at charts and strategies while playing. By doing this, you’ll memorize them eventually, and then you are going to be ready for games in land-based casinos. Below you’ll find the basic blackjack strategy when it is played with four to eight decks. If you apply it the right way, it will help you make a good decision every single time.
- Surrender a hard 15 against the dealer’s 10.
- Surrender a hard 16 vs. the dealer’s 9, 10, or Ace (if you have a pair of 8s, in that situation you should opt for a split).
- Split 2s against the dealer’s 2–7. If not, hit.
- Split 3s against the dealer’s 2–7. If not, hit.
- Split 4s against the dealer’s 5–6. If not, hit.
- Split 5s against the dealer’s 2–9. If not, hit.
- Split 6s against the dealer’s 2–6, If not, hit.
- Split 7s against the dealer’s 2–7. If not, hit.
- Always split a pair of Aces and 8s.
- Never split a pair of 5s and face cards.
- Split 9s against the dealer’s 2–9 (except 7). If not, stand.
- Always double 11.
- Double soft 13 and 14 against the dealer’s 5–6. If not, hit.
- Double soft 15 and 16 against the dealer’s 4–6. If not, hit.
- Double soft 17 against the dealer’s 3–6. If not, hit.
- Double soft 18 against the dealer’s 2–6. If not, hit.
- Double soft 19 against the dealer’s 6. If not, stand.
- When you have soft 20, always opt for a stand.
Hit or Stand
- In case of a hard 11 and lower, always opt for a hit.
- Hard 12 stands against the dealer’s 4–6. If not, hit.
- Hard 13–16 stands against the dealer’s 2–6. If not, hit.
- In case of a hard 17 and higher, always opt for a stand.
- In case of a soft 17 and lower, always opt for a hit.
- Soft 18 stands but not against the dealer’s 9–A.
- In case of a soft 19 and 20 always opt for a stand.
Tips for Winning
Aside from the basic strategy we elaborate in detail in the above paragraphs, we want to give you some useful tips which can help you take a win at a Blackjack table.
Don’t Opt for Insurance
Insurance provides the opportunity to make a side bet when the dealer holds an Ace. Basically, you bet that the dealer will hit a Blackjack. If that is the case, you will win the side bet, but at the same time, you’ll lose the initial bet. In the best possible case, you would only break even.
The catch is that the house has an advantage of approximately 6% if you choose this bet. And also, you are risking to lose more money this way. What you should do is make peace with the fact that the dealer has an Ace and accept that you’ll probably gonna lose.
Note that if you think of leaving with any profit, you don’t have to win every round. If you win more than you lose, you will end up with some money in your wallet, maybe even more than you had in the beginning.
Don’t Sit Near the Dealer
It might be weird to hear this information, but it would be beneficial for you if you sat the furthest away from the dealer. This way, you won’t get better cards, but maybe you can have some extra time to think about your hand and make a good move.
Don’t Believe in Superstitions
Always have in mind that, in Blackjack, you only play against the dealer. Nothing except their move should have an influence on your decision because you’re not playing against other players. One more thing — try not to listen to know-it-alls at the table; you should simply listen to your intuition.
Refresh Your Knowledge
Before going into a casino, go over the basic strategy one more time. The majority of players think they have everything memorized, but when they are at the table, they soon realize that there’s a rule they don’t remember. For every skill, you need to practice in order to become the best, and the skills needed for playing Blackjack require just that.
Go over the basics — read thoroughly how the game is played, what gestures you have to signal, and perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if you repeated the values of the cards. Perfecting the usage of the basic Blackjack strategy will help you make split-second decisions whether you get a hard hand or a soft hand.
There are a lot of casinos out there, and they have different rules. It would be advisable to learn the rules of the Blackjack variant you want to play. Study all the odds at the table because every detail is important, and it can help you learn the game better.
Choose the Type of Blackjack You Like
Blackjack is a casino game with the lowest house edge. But it’s vital to understand that not all types of this game have an identical house edge. For example, if you opt for Blackjack Pro, you can count on the house edge of 0.47%.
On the other hand, if you want to play Blackjack Peek, you can count on the house edge of 0.58%. These distinctions are not that apparent, and you’ll find out that Blackjack Switch has the lowest edge of all types — 0.17%.
When we compare this to the house edge of slots, which is approximately 4—6%, you get the picture of why it is a popular table game.
We must point out that, from casino to casino, types of Blackjack can vary as well as the rules and house edge. Pay close attention while picking out a casino to play at; some of them have a house edge higher than 3%. That’s a questionable practice, and you should leave the site momentarily.
Side Bets in Blackjack
If you are a newbie, strategy charts will help you a lot. By using them, you’ll know your options, and you’ll be ready for some situations. But when it comes to side bets, charts cannot be of use to you.
The chart which will tell you when to place a bet and when not to doesn’t actually exist. Casinos are making it harder by including more decks to all versions of Blackjack and also, by devising side bets with the purpose of increasing the house edge.
Some players might think of side bets as of something that increases fun and excitement, but in reality, these bets cause players to lose their money, slowly, over time. Therefore, we strongly advise you not to place them. Consult the strategy charts which will provide you with an advantage and hope that luck is on your side. Placing side bets is for pro blackjack players, who have a lot more experience than you and a bigger balance too.
How Card Counting System Works
If you haven’t heard about card counting, it’s time that you do. To cut a long story short, the most prominent players use card counting. If you learn how to do this, you’ll be in the position to memorize the cards that were used, which will make it easier to guess the card that will come next.
The system which is often used is the Hi-Lo system. It colors the cards of particular values. For example, if you receive the card with values 2–6, you are going to add one point.
And when you receive a 10, A, J, Q, K, you are going to take away one point. Therefore, the higher the count, the higher the chances that you’ll receive a ten-valued card and win against the dealer.
Bear in mind that card counting is used while playing at land-based casinos, so if you opted for playing at an online casino, you can’t count cards because the deck is mixed after players finish playing their hands.
What’s more, if you do decide to count cards, watch out for cameras in casinos because they are watching players closely. You have to be really stealthy if you plan on succeeding in this without being seen and later prohibited from participating in that casino.