Blackjack, or as it’s also known, the game of 21, has established itself in every casino around the world. Whether you visit a traditional land-based casino or an online casino, Blackjack has truly made it big! You’ll be able to find different variations and more tables than you can imagine where any player can try out this exciting game. Although it’s still a popular game amongst friends, you can also compete against a virtual dealer anytime you want to test your luck. Read and learn blackjack card values.
In this article, you'll learn:
- The origins of Blackjack
- Blackjack rules
- Card values
- How to play Blackjack
- Blackjack actions
But why has this game skyrocketed in popularity? Well, anyone looking for a straightforward game has hit the jackpot with Blackjack as it’s very easy to learn. There’s no need to memorise hands like in Poker; the player's task is simple - he must beat the dealer by building a stronger hand. The player just needs to learn how to play the game, know the card values, and the best strategic moves he can make in relation to his hand value and that of the dealer. Thus, Blackjack also requires some skill and strategy, unlike other casino games which simply count on luck. The game of 21 boasts a low house edge, and the player can put himself in a more favourable position if he plays according to the Blackjack Basic Strategy. This strategy chart is based on the theory of probability, so it recommends the best actions to take in each possible scenario, consequently increasing the player's chances of leaving the table with a win.
Before you get involved with Blackjack, you must get acquainted with the fundamentals - which is what this guide is all about. So if you’re still new to Blackjack, this is an excellent place to start before you set out on your casino adventure.
The Origins of Blackjack
The origins of Blackjack are not so clear-cut. It’s widely believed to have been introduced in Spain around the 15th or the 16th-century. In one of Miguel de Cervantes's novels, we find references to a game known as ‘Veintiuna’, which stands for twenty-one in Spanish, and subsequent references to the game ‘Vingt-et-un’ were also found in France. Consequently, Blackjack found its way to America! How? Thanks to the pursuits of the colonising Europeans in the 1800s. As a way to promote this game, casinos introduced a 10 to 1 payout to players whose hand consisted of a jack of clubs/spades and an ace of spades. Thus, the derivation of the name ‘Blackjack’ we know today.
Over time, more exciting variations started cropping up, and with the introduction of online Blackjack, players could begin to enjoy further advantages. Online casinos began offering attractive bonuses and promotions which could help players enjoy more possible wins, and provided lower minimum bet limits than brick-and-mortar casinos.
The player has one clear goal in Blackjack - to beat the dealer by building a hand with a value equal to or as close as possible to 21 without busting. If the player exceeds 21, he loses immediately. The best Blackjack hand he can obtain is a natural Blackjack - an ace and a ten-value card. In this case, the player wins automatically and enjoys an exciting payout of 3 to 2, unless the dealer also has a natural Blackjack. This unlikely situation would result in a tie, and the player's bet is pushed forward to the next round. Unlike other casino games, the player only competes against the dealer in Blackjack, even if there are other players at the same table. Each one has the same objective - that of beating the dealer.
So how do you achieve this mission? There are three ways a player can emerge a winner:
- You get a natural Blackjack when the dealer deals your cards - an instant win
- You build a hand stronger than the dealer’s
- The dealer goes bust while you’re still in the game.
Sounds simple enough, no? However, you still need to tread carefully when playing Blackjack if you want to increase your chances of winning. You may draw too many additional cards - in the hope of improving your hand’s value - where you’ll risk going bust. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to play it safe by not drawing another card - where you end up with just an average hand which can be easily defeated by the dealer’s hand.
Blackjack Cards Value
Before you decide to start placing any bets on Blackjack, you must first understand the card values. They’re easy to remember and retain the same value in nearly all the Blackjack variations.
- Cards 2 to 10 - Value is equal to their numerical value.
- Face cards (Jack, Queen and King) - Value is equal to 10.
- Ace - A value of 1 or 11
The ace is the most dynamic card in the whole deck as it can take on one of two values. It’s up to the player to determine which value will make his hand stronger than the dealer’s, depending on his current hand situation. It’s generally regarded as an 11-value card, but if the player's hand value exceeds 21, the ace is assigned a value of one. Thus, it’s the one card which gives the player a level of flexibility with his choices.
Bear in mind that although card values remain intact in most Blackjack variations, the rules may vary in a few, so you need to keep yourself up-to-date. For instance, in the Caribbean 21 Blackjack variation, the ace always counts as one, so the best hand you can build will have an ace and two 10-value cards.
Blackjack - Soft or Hard hands?
In Blackjack, the player can either acquire a hard hand or a soft hand. What differentiates them? It all boils down to the value of the ace card. A hard hand has no ace or an ace worth 1, while a soft hand has an ace which counts as 11. In most scenarios, if your soft hand goes over 21, it becomes a hard hand as the ace’s value will revert to 1. Which hand you have will determine the playing strategy you adopt. Let’s say you have a hard 16 - drawing additional cards is too risky because you’re too close to 21. However, you can choose to draw more cards with a soft 16 because if you exceed 21 with the extra card you draw, the ace’s value can be reverted to 1.
The dealer will also have a different set of rules imposed by the casino with regards to the actions he can take with a hard and soft hand. If the dealer is only required to stand on a hard 17, he can draw additional cards on a soft 17, shifting the odds in his favour. On the other hand, if the dealer must also stand on a soft 17, the player is in a more favourable position.
Placing bets in Blackjack
Now it’s time for the Blackjack game to commence! Each round begins with the player placing his bets. If you’re playing at a land-based casino, you either buy chips at the table or at the casino’s cash desk. You stack your chips neatly in front of you, with the higher-value chips at the bottom and the low-value chips at the top, and place your desired bets in the designated betting sectors. Chips are colour-coded according to their value to avoid confusion. The values are as follows: white - €1, red - €5, green - €25, black - €100, purple - €500 and orange - €1000. If you’re playing at an online casino, all you need to do is place a deposit into your casino account and put virtual chips on the table. Bear in mind that you can play two hands at one time if there are empty seats at the table.
Once the betting stage is over, the dealer deals two face-up cards to each player on the table, and one face-up and face-down card for himself. The face-down card is known as the hole card and is what gives the dealer the higher edge. As soon as the dealer deals the first two cards, it’s the player's job to study the cards’ values. Suits have no impact on the game of Blackjack, so all he needs to calculate is his hand value and that of the dealer. As we’ve already mentioned, the player only competes against the dealer, so don’t waste time scrutinising other players’ hands.
Possible Actions in Blackjack
It’s now the player's turn to play! You have five possible actions to take - each one with its own set of rules. Making the right choice is crucial as it can profoundly impact the outcome of the game. For this reason, you must take into consideration both your hand and the dealer’s and make the best use of the Blackjack basic strategy to decrease the house edge. As the casino game with the lowest house edge, you can significantly boost your chances of winning if you play strategically. This basic strategy showcases all the favourable actions for each scenario which can come into play. Still, you need to remember that an absolute win cannot be guaranteed since the value of the dealer’s hole card is unknown. Nevertheless, following this strategy will be useful in the long-run, and you’ll be able to keep losses to a minimum.
Here are all the possible actions, together with a quick overview of when to choose each one.
- Surrender - First and foremost, you need to decide whether you prefer to surrender. Not all Blackjack tables offer this option, but when it is available, you’ll be able to withdraw from the game as soon as the dealer deals your first two cards. In return, you’ll receive half your bet back. Although you might want to surrender when your initial hand has a very low value, the odds of improving your hand’s value in such a situation are quite high. In fact, the basic strategy recommends players to surrender when the dealer has a 9, 10 or ace, and they have a hard 15 or 16. The dealer is at an advantage when you have such average hands as the chances of winning are not so good.
- Split - If you decide not to surrender, your next decision should be whether to split your hand or not. A split is only possible if your hand consists of an identical pair of cards, but it’s not recommended for all pairs. According to the basic strategy, you should always split a pair of aces and eights to increase your chances of winning, but never to split fives and tens. For other values, you must take into account the value of the dealer’s hand to make your decision. You can find more detailed info in our Blackjack Basic Strategy guide. One final point to remember - if you do split your hand, you must place a second bet equal to your first bet on your new hand.
- Double Down- You may decide to double your bet if you have a good hand and the dealer has a lousy upcard. This action is only possible as soon as your first two cards are dealt unless your hand is a Classic Blackjack and you enjoy an instant win. You’re not allowed to double your bet once you draw another card. One important rule to remember is that you can only draw one card after you double down. Thus, if your third card is a low-value card, you may risk losing both your original bet and your second bet, so you should only double down when you have lower chances of losing against the dealer. The basic strategy advises players to double their bet only in particular circumstances, depending on their hand value and the dealer’s, and whether they have a hard or soft hand. It’s generally advised to double on a hard nine, 10 or 11 except in some instances, and on soft hands between 13 and 19 against selected dealer upcards—more info in the Blackjack strategy guide.
- Hit or Stand- After you split your hand, double your bet, or decide against any of these actions, your next step is to either hit (draw more cards) or stand (refrain from drawing any further cards). Your decision boils down to the type of hand you have, and your hand value and the dealer’s total hand value. You can hit as many times as you want until you’re satisfied with your hand’s value, or you go bust, so be careful how long you keep hitting. If you decide to go forward with your current hand value, you stand and stop drawing more cards. So when is it recommended to stand or hit? If you have a soft total, it’s advised that you stand on a soft 19 and 20, stand on a soft 18 unless the dealer has a nine, 10 or ace and hit a soft 17 or less. With regards to hard hands, you should always stand on a hard 17 and any higher number, stand on hard 13 to 16 if the dealer has a card between two to six and stand on hard 12 when the dealer’s card is either four, five, or six. On the other hand, you hit whenever you have a hand value lower than a hard 11.
If you intend on playing at an online casino, this section is not relevant. You just need to click on the respective buttons on your screen. However, if you’re playing at a traditional casino, you must learn how to signal your actions to the dealer when it’s your turn:
- Hit - Point at your two cards or tap on the table.
- Stand - Wave your hand across your cards without using your arm.
- Double down/split - Place the second bet in the betting sector and raise one finger to double and two fingers to split. Remember - never touch the cards.
- Surrender - Draw your index finger across the green zone behind your cards.
The dealer’s turn
When all the players have executed their actions, it's time for the dealer to make his moves. The possible actions he can carry out are determined by a set of rules imposed by the casino. Unlike the player, he cannot surrender, split his hand or double down; he can either hit or stand. The most common rule which the dealer must follow is to stand on a hard 17. Until his hand value is lower than 17, he must keep on drawing more cards, even if he’s already outscored the player. Some tables might prove to be more favourable for players because they require dealers to stand on a soft 17, rather than on a hard 17.
A Blackjack round can have several different outcomes - each one with a different payout. Here are the possible wins you can enjoy when playing this popular casino game:
- A Classic Blackjack pays 3 to 2
- A stronger hand value than the dealer pays 1 to 1
- A tie’s payout varies according to the casino you’re playing at. Your bet may be pushed forward to the next round or may count as a win or a loss for the player.
- f you surrender, you’ll receive half your initial bet.
- An insurance (betting on the possibility that the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 when his face-up card is an ace) pays 2 to 1, but the original bet is lost.
⭐What is the value of an ace in blackjack?
Ace is the only versatile card in Blackjack. It can either take on the value of 1 or 11, so it’s up to the player to determine which value would boost his hand and help him outscore the dealer. Generally, the ace is deemed as an 11-value card, but if the player exceeds 21 when he draws more cards, its value becomes one. Bear in mind that the playing strategy you adopt must take into account which value your ace is at that point in time.
⭐Are aces high or low numbers in Blackjack?
An ace in Blackjack can either be used as an 11 or a 1, depending on which value would make your hand stronger. This flexibility makes the ace the most valuable card in Blackjack.
⭐ What are the values of the playing cards used in Blackjack?
The values of cards 2 to 10 are equal to their numeric value, face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are worth 10, and the ace’s value can either be 1 or 11, depending on which value is more convenient for your current hand.