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This is broken down into chapters with easy to follow text so that you can master the game skillfully over time. If you are hoping to jump in and immediately begin seeing a profit, you will be mistaken. While an easy game in its simplistic form, the finer sides and attributes of blackjack require knowledge, practise and skill. However, those willing to invest that time can see the desired results when compared to the financial investment made along the way. At the conclusion of this guide, you will not only understand the game but be in a position to become profitable.
To get you started playing blackjack, we will first discuss its history touching base on its origins and how it came to be known as blackjack. We will also discuss who invented the game and who first began to develop playing strategy and how that impacted the game and its popularity. However, before you can begin playing, you must understand the basics and understand how to play and the end objective.
There are few other card games that have seen its origins so hotly contested as blackjack. This is partly due to there not being any factual proof as to where it was originated however most believe that was in France in the 1700’s. At that point in history, blackjack, as it is called today, was known as Vingt-et-Un, which in French means twenty-one. That consensus also believes that is was derived from, French Ferme and Chemin de Fer, both of which were popular card games of the time.
As Vingt-et-Un evolved, its popularity grew as did its reach as seafarers took to the oceans, eventually reaching the shores of North America. This was directly responsible as a result of French colonists, and it wasn’t long before it became common in many parts of the continent. The main difference of Vingt-et-Un compared to the game as it is played today were its rules as it permitted the dealer to double down and allowed for bets with each dealt card.
However, the game 21 did not begin to gain momentum until the state of Nevada legalised gambling. This saw the birth of Las Vegas and a version of the game providing special bets that involved the jack of spades and the ace of spaces. Eventually, as time passed, the game became known as Blackjack and is seen as one of the most popular games in land-based wombat casino today, and also one of most favoured in online casinos.
First and foremost, the most basic rule in blackjack is to beat the dealer. This is accomplished by getting 21 or as close to it as possible without exceeding it. If the total of your cards is higher than the dealers, you win. However, if you go over 21, you lose – that simple.
With that said, there are various aspects that need to be understood if you are to play blackjack successfully. These include knowing the card values, the definition of going bust, the difference between a soft and hard hand and most importantly, having a keen understanding of the game's rules.
All cards dealt in blackjack carry a specific value and for beginners, that makes things a little easier. Cards numbered 2- 10 carry a value of the number displayed while face cards such as the King, Queen and Jack are valued at 10. The ace however is the only card in blackjack that has two values, which is either a 1 or an 11. Therefore, to determine a hand total, it is the total sum of the cards that have been dealt.
There are two types of hands in blackjack. The first is identified as a soft hand while the other a hard hand. The purpose behind understanding the difference between the two is the strategy employed with each is different.
A soft hand is defined as one that you cannot go bust on. By definition, that means that the sum total of the first two cards dealt will not allow you to bust when hitting. Soft hands are those where you are dealt an ace with a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. As the ace counts as either 1 1 or an 11, the sum total of each is 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Therefore if you hit, which basic blackjack strategy dictates, if a face card were drawn, your sum total would be 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17.
A hard hand is when the total sum of the first two cards dealt totals 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16. In this case, electing to hit can result in the hand being bust. While the hard hand can be improved upon, the odds are not in your favour, strategy dictates that attention must be focused on the dealer’s hand. This is especially so if your hard hand total is a 14, 15 or 16 as the card they are showing face up will be part of the determining factor whether to hit or stand.
The game of Blackjack is played on a cloth covered table that is semi-circle in shape. If playing in a traditional casino, it will seat as many as seven players and in front of each will be a betting box where chips are placed. Dealers are responsible for the collecting and payout out of chips and the general operation of the igame.
As a general rule, all bets are placed using chips which can be purchased in various denominations. When sitting at a table, the purchasing of chips is carried out by the dealer who will then hand you a selection of chips based on the amount you purchased. All chips are stacked neatly in front of each player and if an empty spot is available, the option will be offered to play more than one hand. In the event this option is offered, all bets placed for each respective hand will be placed in the relevant betting circle.
The majority of casinos chips will be colour coded to identify their value. In most cases, the amount will also be shown on the chip to avoid any possible confusion. The range of chips will include $1, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $500 and $1000. However, if playing high limit blackjack, those amounts can increase dramatically. The same applies to online poker, whether traditional using a random number generator or when playing live online blackjack. As a note of interest, all tables will identify the minimum bet and maximum bet allowed at the table you are seated.
The number of decks in play will depend on the casino. However, the majority use a 6-deck show, which means six decks of cards are shuffled before the cards are placed in the dealing show. This is to combat the risk against professional card counters who put the casino at a disadvantage.
Before any cards are dealt, all seated players must place a bet in the bet circle. Once completed, the dealer will deal two cards face up to all players, which are known the player cards. The dealer will then deal one card face up and one down for the house. These are known are the dealer’s upcard and dealer’s downcard. At the conclusion of the cards being dealt, players will be given the opportunity to act on their hands. This can include standing, hitting, splitting, doubling down or surrender.
Hitting is the act of requesting another card from the dealer. If playing live blackjack, this is accomplished by tapping your finger on the felt. If playing traditional online blackjack, you need simply to select the “hit” button and another card will be dealt. The same applies when playing live blackjack online whereby this action is chosen by selecting the hit button.
Splitting is permitted when you have two cards of the same value. If electing to split your hand, it will be required that you place another bet equal to the initial bet made before the cards were dealt. This is carried out by placing a chip beside your initial bet. Each hand will be played separately and with each, you are free to draw however many cards you wish.
Standing is when you wish no further cards be dealt. If playing in a traditional casino, simply wave your hand over the top of your cards to advise the dealer you chose to stand. In the event you are playing in an online casino, you need only to click the “stand” button.
Doubling down is the act whereby you elect to double the amount of your initial bet. This is carried out after the initial two cards have been dealt and generally only chosen when a face card or an ace and the other card is a lower valued card. If chosen, you will be required to add an equal sized chip to that of which you initially bet whereby you will be dealt one additional card. The sum total will then count and no further actions will be allowed.
Surrendering is when you wish to forfeit your hand. If chosen, 50% of the initial bet will be forfeited and the other 50% returned. Generally, this is seen as a bad decision and optioned when the dealer’s face up card is a face card of an ace and it has been confirmed the house does not have blackjack. To surrender a hand in a land-based casino simply advise the dealer you wish to surrender. If playing online, select the “surrender” button.
Insurance is an option a dealer will offer when the dealer faceup card is an ace. If chosen, a cost equal to 50% of the initial bet will be required. In the event the dealer has blackjack you will receive a 2 to 1 payout.
Even money is when the dealer is showing an ace and the player has blackjack. When this occurs, the player will be offered “even money”. If selected, the player bet will be returned in full before the dealer checks their facedown card.
All hands played will require the dealer to stand at 17. However, if their hand is less, they must draw another card.
Side bets are an integral aspect of playing blackjack, and many are found when playing in land-based casinos or those online that are live dealer based. Below we have highlighted those most popular and their respective house edges, which is important to consider when placing side bets when you consider that overall, they are not wise bet and more often than not, should be avoided.
Royal Match is a side bet that is found on single and multi-deck tables. If making this bet while seated at a multi-deck table, and the first two cards dealt are of the same suit, this will pay 5:2. However, if those cards are a King and Queen, then the payout increases to 25:1. Additionally, a bonus payout of 5:2 will be awarded for having a suited blackjack. The house edge with Royal Match side bets is 3.7%, which is quite high. However, if playing at a single deck table, the payouts differ quite substantially dropping to 3:1 for two identically suited dealt cards and 10:1 if those cards are a King and Queen. The house edge here for single deck table is slightly higher coming in at 3.8%,
21+3 is another side bet in blackjack that pays based on the dealer’s upcard and the first two player cards. In the event these form a straight, flush, straight flush or three of a kind then this will be deemed a win. The general house edge for this style of side bet is 3.24%, and the payoff is 9:1. However, the house edge could be higher depending on the casino as some feature different paytables.
Super Sevens will pay 3:1 if the first card dealt to a player is a 7. If by chance the first and second card is a 7, then that payout jumps to 100:1 is suited and 50:1 if unsuited. This side bet also allows the chance to hit triple 7’s whereby if the first three cards dealt are all 7’s then the payoff increases to 500:1 if unsuited, but if suited, that skyrockets to 5000:! The house edge here is a staggering 12.6% so clearly this is a risky side bet, yet for a $1 bet, if you hit triple 7’s suited, the payoff is worse the minimal risk depending on your bankroll.
An over/under side bet will allow for a side bet to placed on the total of the first two dealt cards If those cards total 13, it is considered a loss. If under or over 13, it is considered a win. The house edge for the total sum being over is 6.5% and the for under 13 it jumps to 10%
A Pair Square side bet is betting that the first two cards will be of the same value (6+6, 8+8). If the cards are unsuited, the payout will be 10:1, and if suited, that payout increases to 15:1. This is a high risk side bet and comes with a house edge of 10.6%,
Lucky Ladies is a side bet where you are betting the total of the first two cards dealt will total 20. If the total is 20 and the two cards are unsuited, the payout is 4:1, suited pays 10:1, but where this side bets takes a turn is if the two cards are both queen of hearts as it will pay 200:1. However if at the same time the dealer has blackjack, that will jump to 1000:1. If the total is 20 and both cards are of the same rank and suit, the payoff is 25:1. The house edge is a whopping 17% so be mindful of the risk if choosing to make this side bet.
Blackjack tournaments are popular online as they allow players to compete against others versus playing against the dealer. All participants are given equal starting bankrolls and play an equal number of hands. At the conclusion of each round, those with the largest bankrolls will advance to the next round. This reduces the number of remaining players until only a handful remain where they once again will play a set number of hands to determine the winner. Depending on the tournament, the number of players winning a portion of the pot will range of a winner takes all to one that awards payouts to the top three finishing players. However, depending on the number of entrants, this can increase to include a larger number of paying positions.
The ultimate goal is to have the most chips at the conclusion of the tournament. The focus needs to be on your fellow players and the size of their bankrolls so you can monitor your position and adjust your strategy if needed to remain in the game. While most tournaments are open to all players however some will be invitational only. These will generally include an entry fee and may allow for re-buys and a number of re-enter buys.
Blackjack Switch is a popular variant played in tournaments that will see players betting the same amount for two hands per round. The choice is given to keep the hands you are dealt or elect to have the second card dealt in each hand switched. This is ideal as it allows the opportunity to turn a bad hand into what could possibly become two good hands.
Spanish 21 popular version of blackjack used in tournaments. In Spanish 21 instead of the usual 52 deck of cards, only 48 cards will be in play due to the removal of the four 10 cards. This puts players at a disadvantage but to maintain an even opportunity, Spanish 21 rules always will pay if the total cards equal 21. Also, the option for surrendering at any time is given and that includes after splitting, hitting or doubling down. Tournament play follows standard tournament rules as noted above with a series of rounds to determine the winner.
Online Live Blackjack is played in the identical fashion as blackjack is at a land-based casino. The main difference is that when playing online, all action is covered with the use of high-definition cameras within a gaming studio. All dealers are professionally trained and will ensure that the act of shuffling and dealing is viable at all times, as will their hands and any actions that take.
Game play is also as you would expect with each player placing their bets and then waiting for the dealer to deal the cards. Then any actions the player wishes to make will follow before the dealer will complete their hand. The real advantage is that access is 24/7 and that all rules are identical saving time having to adjust to new rules. Those wishing to play should be mindful to select casinos that are licensed and recommended by trusted partners.
The act of surrendering is one of those in blackjack that is misunderstood. For many it is seen in a negative light as many feel surrendering goes against the mindset that in blackjack you should try to win each hand versus giving up, which surrendering is essentially.
However, if used correctly, surrendering can be a smart strategic move when the only alternative is to stand and hope the dealer loses or hit and hope you do not exceed 21. The reality is, after being dealt your first two cards, and considering the dealers up card, if the odds of winning are low, surrendering is a smart bet. Remember, that lets you retain part of your bet, which can be used towards the next hand. Surrendering two hands versus losing those two hands means you are left with an equal number of chips that is the third hand wins, equals out.
Splitting pairs can be tricky at time, especially if temptation and hope are factors that drive how you play. The reality is we all want to maximise the amount we win and splitting offers potential, but that depends on the number of decks in play and how many cards have been dealt from the show. Remember, that basic strategy on splitting changes based on the decks in play.
If playing singLe deck blackjack, only split pair 2’s or 3’s if the dealer's face card is a 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7. If dealt 3’s, only split if the dealer shows a 4, 5, 6 or 7, and never split 4’s, 5’s or 10’s. Splitting 6’s should only take place f the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 and 7’s should be split if the dealer's card that is face up is a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7. When dealt a pair of 8’s, always split and only split 9’s if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 9 whiles aces should always be split.
If playing double deck blackjack, only split 2’s or 3’s if the dealers face up card is a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7. If you have 3’s, only split when the dealer shows a 2, 4, 5, 6 or 7, and only split 4’s if the dealer has a 5 or 6. Split 6’ if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 and 7’s should be split if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8. When dealt 8’s or aces always split and when dealt a 9’s, split if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 9.
If playing four, six or eight deck blackjack, only split a pair of 2’s, 3’s or 7’s if the dealer's shows a 4, 5, 6, or 7. If dealt 4’s only split if the dealer has a 5 or 6, and never split 5’s or 10’s. If dealt a pair 6’s only split if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, never split 8’s and always split 9’s and aces and if the dealer's card is a 2, 3, 4, 5, 86, 8 or 9.
There are various strategies that can be employed for hitting and standing, and in similar fashion to slitting, the strategy changes based on the number of decks in play. Obvious we know one can double down on any cards but using the strategy in the chart below is a good rule of thumb to go by.
NOTE: The creation of a Hitting/Standing CHART will need to be added similar to that below
11. Etiquette while playing Blackjack
Depending on the casino, some etiquette rules are expected to be followed. While this does not relate to all casinos, many of the etiquette rules listed below are expectations that when not followed, can create unrest at the table. Consider the following etiquette rules when playing blackjack as it will ensure smooth, uninterrupted play and will not annoy your fellow players. These rules apply to live play and not online for obvious reasons.
After your cards are have been dealt, do not touch them. As your cards in blackjack are face up, there is not any need to touch them. This removes any possible accusations of cheating, and if splitting your cards, the dealer will reach over and do this for you. Additionally, your hand total will be announced by the dealer and that once again removed any need of touching your cards.
Never remove a card from the blackjack table. The main reason for this is your cards must be viable to the dealer and other players at all time. Additionally, removing cards from the table will see attention being drawn your way by the dealer, other players and security and could see you removed from the table.
Avoid placing any items on the blackjack table. This would include your mobile, wallets, purses or any other items. The only exception to this is if being served a drink, whereby it should be placed in the appropriate drink holder either at the table or on a trolly cart beside you.
Telling the dealer to “hit me” is considered rude and will not be accepted at most casinos. As all gameplay is monitors by cameras in the sky, all actions at the table must be made by hand. If you want another card, simply signal the dealer by tapping the felt.
After placing your bet, do not touch your chips in the betting area. The only exception to this is if you win the hand and only after the dealer has paid your winnings.
Never tell other players how to play their hands. One it is rude and inconsiderate, and two frowned on by other players. The only exception to this would be if a player requested your advice.
Placing higher valued chips on lower valued chips
Never place a higher denomination on top of a lower one. If betting two denominations, always place the highest on the bottom and the lowest on the top.