Blackjack is certainly one of the most well-known and widely played gambling card games in the world and is featured in every land-based and online casino. It is also referred to as 21 as the objective of each player is to rack up as many points as possible without going over 21. The perfect combination of simple concept and low house edge turns this game into an electrifying gambling experience.
Success in Blackjack largely depends on the player’s competence ability to play the game effectively, so it’s crucial to understand best practices. One of the reasons this game is popular among strategic players is because the casino’s edge can be diminished based on how well the game is played. But first things first – let’s start with learning about the most popular types of Blackjack.
Also referred to as American Blackjack, this is one of the most common variations of the game. The main difference from other variants is how the cards are dealt for the dealer. Here the dealer gets their hole card (see terms below if this doesn’t ring a bell) before player decides how they want to act with their hand. This small change in card dealing may look like a small detail at first, but it impacts the house edge.
If you’re a Roulette fan, you probably already know that house edge in European Roulette is about twice lower than in the American variant. Well, not the same with Blackjack although the difference is very small – it has 0.05% higher house edge. In the European version, the dealer doesn’t get a second card until all players have finished making their moves.
Vegas Strip Blackjack
The Vegas Strip Blackjack is another popular variant that has its own set of rules and strategies. It gained its name from part of Las Vegas, which over the years has become famous for housing numerous casinos. It is quite similar to the American version and more player-friendly than European one. One of the main differences is the number of decks in play.
The Switch version of Blackjack got introduced in 2009 and is still quite popular today. What sets it apart is that the player is dealt two (instead of one) hands which gives them the option to play with four cards in total. That is how this variant allows the player to use what would otherwise be considered as cheating a strategy like ‘card switching’ to their own advantage.
Unlike poker, players compete against the dealer. The game is played with multiple card decks (these can be from one to eight depending on the variant) which are mixed together. Both player and dealer are dealt cards and player needs to make bets at each step of the game with the objective of getting as close as possible to, but not exceeding 21. Going over 21 is called “bust”. It might be worth mentioning a common misconception – to win you don’t need to be close to 21, you only need to beat the dealer’s hand without going bust.
Card values are rather intuitive. Cards from 2 to 9 have the value shown on the card. 10, jack, queen and king are each 10. The tricky part comes with the ace can be counted as either 1 or 11.
A hand’s total is calculated by adding the values of each card in it.
How to Play Blackjack
The game starts with player making a bet. Then player gets two cards and dealer can get either one faced up or two – one face up and one face down (hole card). The player then gets to decide whether to get one more card (hit) or stay with the current hand (stand) based and hopefully beat whatever total the dealer has.
If the dealer has a blackjack player loses their bet unless they have one too. In this case player gets their bet amount back.
If the dealer’s cards reveal an ace, player is offered an additional bet called insurance, paying 2 to 1 if the dealer’s streak card is 10 or higher. Insurance wagers are optional and cannot amount to more than half the original bet.
If the player has a pair, they can double their bet and split the current hand in two separate hands. Each of them is dealt an additional card in the next step. Then player decides how to proceed – hit, stand or double.
In case a hand’s total is not more than 11, the player can double their bet and receive an additional card. This is known as double down and some casinos allow players to do that regardless of the hand’s total value.
The player can also surrender after the first cards are dealt retaining half their wager. Note this is possible only in the beginning and depends on the casino’s rules.
The house pays out money equally for any win, with the exception of blackjacks – they are usually paid out 3 to 2, but some casinos are known to pay out less.
Essential Blackjack Terms
With a total of 21, blackjack is the highest hand you can receive. This happens when you have an Ace and a 10 or a Picture Card.
If the hand of a player or the dealer adds up to more than 21 they automatically lose the hand and are bust – i.e. they lose the hand.
Chip down / up
When a player decreases/increases their bet compared to previous round.
When player chooses to double their bet in order to get only one additional card.
When you take additional card from the deck thinking your current hand will beat the dealer’s.
A face-down card which can be received only by the dealer.
Optional side bet when the dealer’s hand has an ace, offered to insure the player against possible blackjack.
Player doubles their bet when they have a pair and splits the hand to form two separate hands.
When player chooses to stop receiving cards form the dealer.
Player gives up to keep half their bet. Possible only when first cards are dealt.