How to play Blackjack
How often do you find yourself playing cards? Despite being around for thousands of years, card games still prove to be a fantastic source of entertainment! Hundreds of games have evolved throughout the ages, different countries and continents have come up with their distinct adaptations, and today, we can still enjoy some variants which have survived the test of time. One such example is none other than Blackjack!
This article will take you through:
- the basic game rules
- the objective of the game and what you need to look out for before you start playing
- how to play the game of Blackjack
- how best to fulfil that objective
But first, let's go over the origins of this wonderful game!
Despite the continuous tech progress, the popularity of Blackjack and other card games hasn't been suppressed. With the introduction of online casinos, you can easily learn how to play Blackjack and start playing against other players from all over the world without the need to meet in the same room and use a physical pack of cards.
Today, Blackjack can be deemed as one of the most popular casino games, providing intrigue to players looking for a simple, yet entertaining game. Its fast and straightforward gameplay can illude players into thinking that it's just a game of chance. However, there's more to it than meets the eye. It requires skill and thought if you want to increase your chances of winning and enjoy the game even more.
A quick history on the origins of Blackjack
Blackjack's inception details are unfortunately quite obscure. It may have originated in Spain between the 15th and the 16th century, as we find references to this game made by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes in one of his novels from the second half of the 16th century. It was called 'Ventiuna', which is Spanish for twenty-one.
We also have consequent references in France, where the game 'Vingt-et-un' was very popular. This version differed slightly from the game we know today as the players placed their bets after receiving their first card, and if the dealer got a natural Blackjack, players would have needed to pay him triple their original bet.
In the 1800s, it found its way to America when Europeans voyaged across the Atlantic to colonise the continent. To encourage players to try out the game, casinos began offering a 10 to 1 payout when the player's two cards were a jack of clubs or spades and an ace of spades. The name 'Blackjack' derived from this very promotion. The rules and gameplay continued evolving throughout history, especially when online Blackjack was introduced.
Why should you play it?
How is Blackjack different from other casino games? Why should you opt for this game? Apart from being easy to grasp, Blackjack is considered a game of skill, and not one solely based on chance. You can potentially shift the odds in your favour if you use the most suitable hitting and standing techniques in the right situations. Thus, you may potentially reduce the house edge to less than 1%, an advantage which you cannot experience in other casino games.
The house edge in Blackjack is a result of the fact that one of the dealer's cards is face down. Also, the player draws first in Blackjack, so if you bust, you lose instantly, even if the dealer busts in the same round. By taking the right actions and ensuring you don't bust, you can lower this house edge.
There are some advantages which you, as a , can benefit from. You can enjoy a 3 to 2 payout on classic Blackjack, decide to double your original bet if you find yourself in a favourable position and split pairs where possible. Moreover, whereas the dealer must hit on a hand value of 16 or lower, a player can stand in such situations.
Blackjack Game Rules
The aim of the game of Blackjack is to build a hand value equal to or as close as possible to 21 to try and outscore the dealer. When you exceed this number, it's referred to as going bust and would signify an immediate loss. The best hand you can have is referred to as a classic Blackjack - whereby your first two cards are an ace and a ten-value card. This offers the best payout: 3 to 2.
Blackjack game rules are fairly straightforward. All you need to do is place a bet and watch your cards be dealt. During this time you may review your cards and decide whether to hit or stand.
There are three ways you can win at this game:
- You either build a hand with a higher value than that of the dealer.
- Remain in play when the dealer goes bust.
- The dealer deals you a hand worth 21 - whereby the player is immediately crowned a winner.
Although this might seem all too straightforward, it's not so hard to go bust, especially if you have a low-value hand and keep on drawing further cards in the hope of nearing the value of 21. On the other hand, you may be an all-too cautious player who stands too early. This action will still lead to a potential defeat if the dealer manages to obtain a higher-value hand.
Blackjack Card values
It's essential to know the value of each card if you are to take suitable actions. Cards 2 to 10 have a value equal to their number, face cards (jack, queen and king) are worth 10, and the ace can either take on the value of 1 or 11, depending on which value would put your hand in a more advantageous position. The ace is generally assumed as being an 11-value card, but if this means your hand's value is over 21, the card value reverts to 1.
Hard Hand vs Soft hand
Since we're going over the versatile value of the ace, it's worth mentioning the two hands you can build in Blackjack. A hard hand has no ace or counts the ace as a 1, whereas a soft hand has an ace with a value of 1 or 11 depending on your preference. In many cases, when you draw more cards, a soft hand may become a hard hand - which would require the player to adopt a different playing strategy. For instance, you will generally stand on a hard 16 since it's close enough to 21, but you may choose to hit on a soft 16 since the ace's value can be reverted to 1.
Possible Blackjack Actions
When your hand is dealt by the dealer, you have to decide which action would be the best option, depending on your hand's value and the dealer's. Here are all the actions you can choose from:
- Hit - If you think your hand value is too low, you can draw further cards. You just need to be careful not to go over 21.
- Stand - If your hand already has a high value, you can choose not to draw any more cards.
- Double Down - If you're confident about your first two cards, you may choose to double your original bet.
- Split - If your hand consists of an identical pair of cards, you can decide to split your hand in two and place an equal bet on the second hand.
- Insurance - This action is possible when the dealer has an ace as his face-up card, and you want to bet on the possibility that the face-down card is worth ten.
- Surrender - This option is not always available at all the tables. It allows you to withdraw from the game as soon as the dealer deals your first two cards, whereby you receive half your bet back.
How does the game work?
Blackjack uses standard playing cards, and, in most cases, casinos refrain from using a single deck of cards to hinder players from card counting - which, although not strictly illegal, is not allowed by casinos, and you'll risk being banned from the premises. The dealer shuffles these cards and places them in so-called 'shoes'- which make dealing much easier.
After all the players have placed their bets, he then moves on to dealing two cards face up to each player and one face-up card for himself. His other face-down card is known as the hole card. Upon seeing your hand (i.e. the cards dealt by the dealer), you must decide whether to draw further cards or not, depending on your current score and that of the dealer. As can be fathomed, this is not an easy task, as you can only see the value of his face-up card.
When the player completes his actions, it's the dealer's turn to take action. He has set rules stating when he should hit and stand, which are set by the casino and the table in question. He is, for instance, required to stand on 17. If his hand value is 16 or lower, he needs to draw another card, even if his score is already higher than the player's. Some casinos might also require dealers to stand on a soft 17.
So now that you know how Blackjack is played let's move on to the betting stage. If you're playing at a land-based casino, you'll be sitting at a semi-circular table covered with a green felt cloth. In front of each player is the betting zone where you can place your casino chips. You can either buy these chips at the table or a separate cash desk, depending on the casino in question. You then stack your chips neatly in front of you, with lower-value chips placed on higher-value chips. It isn't so different at online casinos - whereby you select a table, take a virtual seat, and place bets using virtual chips.
Most casinos use colour-coded chips to facilitate the betting process. The standard values are as following:
- White - €1
- Red - €5
- Green - €25
- Black - €100
- Purple - €500
- Orange - €1000
Whether you're playing at a brick-and-mortar or an online casino, the basic Blackjack rules remain. However, each casino will have distinct regulations, and each table will have specific terms and conditions related to the table's maximum and minimum betting limits, the outcome of a tie and the availability of the early surrender option, amongst others.
How do you play Blackjack?
We've mentioned all the actions you can take during a Blackjack game. But when to opt for each of them is a whole different story which we'll delve into now. There are favourable actions for each scenario you may encounter and choosing the best ones will help you make the most of this intriguing game. Most basic strategy charts are based on the theory of probability - how probable is it that you'll bust if you hit? Is it worth the risk? Playing with a strategy based on probability may reduce the house edge over the players, but you need to keep in mind that a win can never be guaranteed.
When to hit
Whether you hit or not depends on the total score of your hand. It's always safe to hit when you have a total value which is 10 short of 21. You can also hit risk-free if you have a pair or an ace (regardless of the total value), as you can split pairs and the ace value can be either 1 or 11. When your hand value is between 12 and 16, only hit if the dealer has a card worth seven or more. However, if the dealer has a low-value card ranging from two to six, you'd better stand. If your total card score is over 16, don't hit.
When to double
You can only double your bet at the beginning of each round as soon as your hand is dealt and before you hit unless you have a classic blackjack (in which case you can't double your bet). Do keep in mind that if you double your bet, you can only hit once, after which your only option is to stand. So when should you double down? When you have zero or meagre chances of busting.
- You can double down on 11 unless the dealer has an ace.
- Double down on ten as long as the dealer doesn't have a ten-value card.
- Double down on nine if the dealer has a card value between three and six.
- Double down on a hand worth 18 to 20, unless the dealer has an ace.
When to split
When splitting hands, you can enjoy higher chances of winning. The best time to split is when you have a pair of aces or eights, but you shouldn't split when you have a pair of tens, nines, fours or fives.
When to stand
Basic strategy books generally agree that you should stand when your hand value is 17 and over. If you have a hand value between 13 and 16, you might want to stand if the dealer has a low-value card.
When to insure
The general advice with regards to insurance is never to take it. It's a very risky action as the probability of the dealer's face-down card having a ten-value is very low, so it's not worth the extra bet.
When to surrender
A few strategies may advise players to surrender if they have a very low hand value (i.e. under six). However, the majority of strategies don't ever recommend it, as you can still hit and obtain a good hand, regardless of your initial value.
Now that you're familiar with how Blackjack is played, let's jump into what you need to look out for, especially when playing at a traditional land-based casino. Blackjack has specific procedures in place to safeguard the game's integrity, and Blackjack players need to respect the codes of conduct at all times.
Here are some rules you need to get familiar with:
- Make sure your hands are always visible to the security cameras, so they should never be under the table.
- If you want to convert cash to chips, place the money on the area outside the betting zone and never hand money directly to the dealer.
- Refrain from placing any objects on the game table. Bags or purses can be put on your lap and drinks in their designated holders.
- Use the specified hand signals (we'll go over these very soon), rather than shouting out actions to the dealer.
- Wait for a new round to join a table. It would be polite to ask the other players on the table for permission to join them first.
- Once the dealer starts handing out the cards, refrain from touching the chips you placed on your bets.
- Always put lower-value chips on higher-value ones.
- Don't dictate players on how they should play, unless they specifically address the question to you.
- Always show respect to the dealer.
Blackjack Hand Signals
As we've already mentioned before, you're required to signal your actions using your hands while playing Blackjack. It may take some time until you familiarise yourself with all of them, but don't worry, experience is all you need.
When cards are dealt face up in Blackjack:
- Hit: Point at the cards or tap on the table.
- Stand: Wave a hand across your cards, and make sure you don't move your arm.
- Double down/split: Add the second bet by placing further chips on the betting zone. Raise one finger to double and two fingers to split. Never touch the cards.
- Surrender: Draw your index finger across the green area behind your card. In this case, it's also acceptable to say 'surrender'.
When cards are dealt face down in Blackjack (not so common):
- Hit: Lightly scrape the table with your index finger.
- Stand: Slide the cards under the chips gently.
- Double down/split: Turn your cards face up while placing extra bets. Then raise one finger to double down and two fingers to split.
A step-by-step guide on how to play Blackjack
Ready to start playing one of the most popular casino games out there? Here's what to expect when playing Blackjack at a brick-and-mortar casino:
- Select a Blackjack table with your preferred minimum and maximum betting limits.
- Buy chips from the casino cash desk or at the Blackjack table (depending on the casino in question). If you're buying chips at the table, place the money on the table (don't hand it to the dealer), and the dealer will push the chips across the table towards you.
- Put your chips in your designated zone.
- The dealer shuffles the cards and places them in the shoe.
- He deals the players' cards in a clockwise direction one at a time face up and deals his hole card.
- Then he deals the second round of cards face up.
- You decide which action to take according to the total value of your hand and that of the dealer.
- The dealer points at each player one by one, at which point you signal with your hand the action you'd like to take.
- You can either hit, stand, double down or split until you have a satisfactory hand or until you go bust.
- When all players have completed their actions, the dealer hits or stands, depending on the casino's rules.
- If your hand has a higher value than the dealer's, you win! If it's lower, you lose, and if it's a tie, the dealer may push your bet to the next round, or you'll win or lose, depending on the casino's rules.
Today, more people are choosing to play on desktop or on their mobile device, as it has proven to be more convenient. You can say goodbye to etiquette rules and hand signals. Now each action is just a click of a button away. By playing online, you can even enjoy further advantages: minimum bets are generally lower, so you can potentially win small amounts of money, which could add up to an exciting sum in the long run. You may even benefit from an attractive Welcome Bonus! If you want a real-life experience, Live Blackjack can provide you with the best of both worlds - the convenience of online gambling, combined with the social aspects of a real-life casino. If you want to play for fun, you can also check out the free demo Blackjack versions you can try out using virtual currency.
Distinctive outcomes are paid differently in Blackjack. Check out all the possible wins you can enjoy if you're lucky
- Classic Blackjack - pays 3 to 2.
- A higher hand value - pays 1 to 1.
- Insurance - If the dealer does hit the value of 21, you lose your original bet, but an insurance win pays 2 to 1.
- Early Surrender - You get back half your bet.
- Tie - Payout is subject to the casino's rules. You may either get back your total bet, win or lose.
No strategy can guarantee a sure win, but here are some tips which can help you get closer to a potential win:
- Find a casino with favourable house rules, with regards to the number of decks used, when the dealer stands (on a hard or a soft 17), and the outcome of a tie.
- Select a table with good odd payouts (3:2 or 2:1 odds are more favourable than 6:5 odds).
- Take advantage of any promotions you can get your hands on.
- Stay concentrated on your hand and that of the dealer. Other players' hands are no use to you.
- Consult a basic strategy chart to decide what actions to take.
- Try out the free demo Blackjack version if available before you start playing for real money.
- Don't risk your money on the Insurance bet as the odds of winning are very low.
Now that you've read this comprehensive guide, you have the necessary know-how on the game rules, card values, possible actions you can take, how Blackjack is played, potential wins you can enjoy, etiquette procedures and useful tips. All that's left is for you to familiarise yourself with the game using a free demo version, practise your strategies and gain confidence. Consequently, you can take a seat at a Blackjack table and taste the fun! Check out EnergyCasino's vast selection of Blackjack tables, and we guarantee that you won't be disappointed! Just make sure you find a table with your preferred betting limits, become acquainted with the rules before placing any bets, and manage your bankroll responsibly.
⭐Where can you play online Blackjack?
You can visit any online casino of your choice and select a Blackjack table which meets your expectations. At EnergyCasino, you'll be able to find several Blackjack variations with different betting rules to suit all kinds of players.
⭐Why play Blackjack?
Blackjack has more favourable odds than other casino games, such as Poker and Roulette and you can lower the house edge considerably if you play responsibly. It's also not solely based on chance but requires some skill which you can gain with experience. Its straightforward rules make it an easy-to-learn game!
⭐Can I play Blackjack online?
Yes, you don't need to visit a land-based casino anymore to play Blackjack. Most online casinos offer several Blackjack variants in their game portfolios, and you can still enjoy a real-life casino experience thanks to continuous technological advancements. You just need to sign up to an online casino, select a Blackjack table and start playing.
⭐Can you play online Blackjack for real money?
Yes, different Blackjack tables will have distinct minimum and maximum betting limits which determine how much you can bet, and possibly win. All you need to do is log in to your casino account, make a deposit and place chips on the Blackjack table to start gambling.
⭐Can you play Blackjack with two players?
When playing online Blackjack, you compete against the dealer, and there is no other player on the table. On the other hand, when playing live Blackjack, most live tables can cater for more players, generally up to seven, who’ll all be trying to beat the dealer.
⭐How can I play Blackjack for free?
You can play online Blackjack for free by visiting the free demo versions provided by casinos such as EnergyCasino. All you need to do is search for the games you'd like to play for free, hover over the thumbnail and click on the grey DEMO button. You can then use virtual currency for as many rounds as you like. Keep in mind that you may be asked to verify your age before you can access the demo versions in certain jurisdictions.
⭐How do you play Blackjack at an online casino?
Blackjack is an easy-to-learn game. The dealer hands out two cards face up to the players and one face-down and face-up card for himself. Your objective is to get your hand's value as equal to or as close to 21 as possible without going bust. You may either decide to stand or hit, depending on your hand's value, to try and outscore the dealer.