How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular table games in online and land-based casinos alike. The card game was invented in French casinos around 1700 under the original game of “Vingt-et-Un” which stands for “Twenty-one”, also your goal in the game. In the paragraphs below, we’re going through every aspect of the game, from the basics and all the way to strategies on how to increase your winning chances. The blackjack guide we prepared is useful to players who want to have a better understanding of the rules and casino enthusiasts that want to improve their gameplay. Keep reading for a thorough approach on how to play blackjack!

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Card Value in Blackjack

We’re setting off with some info on how to play blackjack for beginners that play their first hands and want to understand how it works. The first thing you need to know is that cards have a certain value and you need to combine two or more cards to get a sum of 21. Here’s the card value for all types of blackjack:

  • Ace – counts as a 1 or an 11, depending on which value is for the hand
  • 2 – 10 – count at face value (5 counts as five, 7 counts as seven)
  • Face cards – J,Q,K  count as 10 

How do You Beat the Dealer?

We’ve mentioned earlier that the goal of the game is to get 21. However, that’s not the only way you can win. Actually, you have three ways of beating the dealer in a hand of blackjack: 

  • Drawing a total hand value that’s higher than what the dealer’s
  • The dealer going bust – getting a hand of over 21 
  • Drawing “Blackjack” with the first two cards while the dealer doesn’t 

What is Blackjack?

Before you head to a more advanced blackjack strategy guide, you also need to know what a hand of “Blackjack” stands for. It’s basically getting a value of 21 with the first two cards that you receive. For example, an Ace and a 10, or any of the face cards. In this case, the Ace counts as 11 while any of the four cards have a value of 10, giving you the desired total of 21.

How do You go Bust?

Going bust is the expression used in blackjack when the player gets a total hand value over 21. This can happen when your first two cards amount to a value that doesn’t give you the confidence to beat the dealer. Let’s say you got a 10 and a 7 for your first two cards. While 17 would be a value that can still win you the hand, you have a gut feeling that the third card will be a 4 or lower. You hit and then get a 6, taking your hand total to 23. That’s a bust and the dealer wins no matter the hand’s value.

What Happens in Case of a Tie?

If you and the dealer get the same hand value, including 21 or Blackjack, the hand’s result is “Push”. This means that you simply get the stake back, without losing any funds or making a profit on that hand. 

Do I Win if I Get Two Aces?

Even though a pair of Aces may sound like a great hand, that would be the case for poker rather than blackjack. A pair of Aces counts as a 2 or 12 and forces the player to hit at least once. On the other hand, if you choose to split the aces, you set yourself up for two chances of getting Blackjack. 

Basic Plays in Blackjack

Hit or Stay

The hit or stay system is the most basic actions you can carry out during a hand of blackjack. Depending on the cards in front of you, there’s a choice to hit (get another card) or stay (end your hand with the cards currently drawn) and hope the dealer gets less than that or goes bust. Now, if you’re wondering how to win on Blackjack using the simple play of hit or stay, there’s more to it than just gut feeling. 

  • With a hand value of 8 – you can hit comfortably no matter what the dealer’s hand looks like. There are multiple 9 and 10-value cards and there’s a good chance you’ll get a solid hand value
  • If the dealer has a high card and there’s a good chance he’ll get 21 or a high value, you should also hit since you need to try and bet his total.
  • If you get a total of 17,19, or 20, you should always stand. The chances of going bust are too high to risk hitting again.
  • Similarly, if you get a hard 16 ( 10 + 6 or 9 + 7) you should also stand, especially if the dealer shows a low card (between 2 and 6). It’s less likely you will get the 5 you need to get 21 and the risk of going bust is high.

Doubling Down in Blackjack

Doubling down is the play that requires the player to add another wager of equal value to the initial one before receiving just one additional card. If you decide to double down, there’s no option to hit afterward. Your bet is doubled and you get one more hand before your hand is over. That’s why doubling down is a great idea when you have an advantageous hand total and you think the extra card will bring you the win. A total of 11 or even 10 is a great moment to double down and increase your profit. 

Splitting Pairs

Continuing the plays that help you with how to bet in blackjack, we take a closer look at splitting pairs. Whenever you’re dealt 2 cards of equal value, you can choose to split them and place a wager on each of the two-resulting hands. This is also possible with face cards since they have the same value even though they’re not actually pairs. Splitting pairs is ideal when you have two 10s, Aces, or face cards as you get more chances of getting a blackjack.

What is Surrender?

The vast majority of blackjack tables set in land-based casinos also offer the Surrender play. With online blackjack, you need to check if you have this possibility and it’s usually indicated in the name of the game. If your initial hand doesn’t look like something you can build upon, you can request to exchange it for half of your original stake. Doing so, you get a second chance to win the second hand dealt and at least get your money back instead of playing a losing hand from the start. 

Rules for the Dealer

Both online and land-based blackjack tables come with fixed rules for the dealer in a given situation. More exactly, when hitting a certain hand value, the dealer loses its “free will” and is forced to either hit or stand, according to the rules.

When is the Dealer Forced to Stay?

The dealer is forced to stay at a hand value of 17, 18,19, or 20. Most blackjack tables specify that the dealer’s hand has to be a hard 17, meaning 9-8 or 10/face card -7. If it’s a soft 17 – a hand with an ace and other cards totaling 6 – the dealer is forced to hit. 

Can the Dealer Stop Taking Cards Whenever he Wants?

As mentioned in the introduction of this section with rules for the dealer, he does not possess the ability to just stop taking cards. He is forced to stand at 17 or higher values and forced to hit at values of 16 or lower. There’s no option for the dealer to deviate from this set of rules. 

What Happens if the Dealer Goes Bust?

When a dealer goes bust, gets a total hand value of over 21, you automatically win the hand no matter your hand’s value. Even if you decided to stand on a total value of 13 and the dealer goes bust, you win the hand and the profit that comes with it. 

How Many Cards Does the Dealer Show?

In any game of blackjack, the dealer will only show one of the two initial cards. The first one is placed face-up on the table, just like your card. But the second one is placed face-down so that you have to judge the hand by trying to predict what’s the dealer’s second card.

Blackjack Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we’ve gone through the basic and advanced blackjack features with exhaustive explanations, it’s time to wrap things up with a series of most-common questions related to the card game.

What are Side Bets in Blackjack?

From the desire to give players more opportunities to win, casinos upgraded the blackjack game with a series of side bets. So, in addition to the bet placed on your hand, you can place other wagers on certain outcomes. The most popular side bets include insurance, 21+3, and Perfect Pairs.

What is Insurance?

Insurance is the most common type of blackjack side bet that allows you to get a “safety net” against a potential dealer blackjack when the face-up card is an Ace. If you choose to play the Insurance side bet, you add half of your original stake to the wager and it pays 2:1 in case of blackjack. 

How Many Card Decks are Used in Blackjack?

Depending on the type of blackjack you choose to play, the number of players/hands at a table, between one and eight 52-card decks, is used in land-based casinos. However, most blackjack games from Microgaming or NetEnt come with between six to eight decks when switching to the online environment. 

Difference Between 3:2 and 6:5 Payout?

The main difference between the 3:2 and 6:5 payout for a blackjack hand comes from the house edge. To make it easier, with the first you get paid €3 for every €2 wagers while with the latter you make €6 for every €5 you bet. Assuming you wager €10 and get consecutive blackjack hands, with 3:2 you make €15 wagered while the 6:5 gives you just €12 for the same amount. This translates into a much higher house edge for the 6:5 payout in blackjack. 

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