Blackjack is one of the most famous and played table card games both in land and online casinos. Aside from having straightforward gameplay, the thrill of raising your bets as the dealer hands out the cards and the excitement of getting a win make it all the more appealing to play.
Unlike in poker where you need to form a hand based on rankings, you only need to remember one number in blackjack, and that’s 21. Your goal is to have a hand with a value closest to or exactly 21, without exceeding it. Anyone who has a hand above that magic number loses while the player who has a card value nearest to 21 wins.
How to play blackjack
The game is played using a standard 52 card deck and to start, players must first place their bets. Then, the dealer deals out two cards for each player and himself. The player’s cards are dealt face-up, while the dealer’s cards have one face up and one face down.
Afterwards, there are a few actions a player can do once they’ve seen their cards and counted their values:
Stand – If your hand already has a high value close to 21 such as 15 and above, you can stand and no cards will be added to your hand. This means that you’ll be playing with whatever cards you’ve got in your hand.
Hit – This is usually done if your hand has a low value. When you choose to hit, the dealer adds another card to your hand until you either stand or bust, which means your hand value goes over 21.
Double down – When you choose to double down, you place another bet equal to your ante and receive another card from the dealer. You can no longer hit afterwards and will automatically stand or bust.
Split – Splitting means dividing your hand into two separate ones; mostly done on a hand with cards of the same value. Since face cards all have the same value, you can split them despite not being identical. When you split your cards, you’ll need to place the same amount of wager as your original one and the dealer deals out one card for each of the split cards.
Surrender – By surrendering, you give up your hand and get half of your bet back which minimises your loss. This is mostly done when you have a hand with a low value.
Think fast: Best actions to do in blackjack
If your hand is at least above 15, you can take a stand. If it’s at 15 exactly, you can either double down at the risk of busting or surrender. If you have a hand that’s below 15, you can hit to raise its value.
There are also two ways you can win a round. The first is when the dealer busts, meaning their hand total exceeds 21, and the second is when you have the highest hand among the dealer and players. For the former, the dealer will pay out everyone who is still on the game and for the latter, the dealer will pay you the same amount as you wagered.
Strategies to win
Look at the dealer’s face-up card – One of the basic blackjack strategies is knowing when to surrender and you can determine this by looking at the dealer’s face-up card.
Usually, when the dealer’s face-up card has a value of 10, you either hit (if you have a low-value hand) or double (if you have a hand higher than 10). If your hand value nears 21, it’s better to stand even if the dealer has a 10 face-up card.
Card counting – Card counting is one of the most famous blackjack strategies you can find. This is a great way to keep track of the cards so you know if you have great odds or not. It’s based on the evidence that high-value cards benefit the players, and low cards do not.
Once high-value cards leave the deck, their number decreases and so do the player’s advantage. On the other hand, low-value cards increase player advantage when they leave the deck. Mid-value cards, usually 7-8, do not change the odds when they are dealt.
Split your Aces, never your tens – This is a great blackjack strategy as Aces have two values, 1 and 11. By splitting them, you have a great chance to have a high enough hand to beat the dealer, depending on the second card dealt to you.
Splitting cards with a value of 10 is not a good idea though since they’re the closest value to 21 at 20. By splitting them, you’re only reducing your chances to take a win.
Different variations of blackjack
Blackjack may be one of the simplest card games you can find but there are a few variations of the game where you can test your different blackjack strategies.
Spanish 21 – This is one of the most challenging variations of blackjack as it greatly reduces your chances of winning. What makes Spanish 21 different from other variations is that it removes the 10 cards from the decks. As blackjack basics go, 10 is the most important value in the game as it lets you get a value close to 21.
Perfect Pair – This is a unique and ingenious way of playing blackjack as it allows you to make money as soon as you receive your cards. Before the cards are dealt in this blackjack variation, players can make a Perfect Pair side bet where you win if your first hand is a pair, meaning they have the same value or are face cards.
Blackjack Switch – Switch is also a unique way to play the game and test your blackjack strategies. Instead of being dealt a hand of two cards, you’re dealt two hands of two cards each in Blackjack Switch. What makes this variation interesting and enjoyable is that you can switch the second card between the two hands to make at least one or both better.