The truth about one of the most popular casino games

Blackjack IconBlackjack is arguably one of the most famous casino games in the world. Played by millions everywhere, whether it's just for fun at home or on high limit tables in Las Vegas, blackjack is loved the world over.

Blackjack's popularity is down to its relative simplicity. The aim of the game is to simply beat the house by having cards with a value nearer to 21. Anything over 21 and the hand is bust, meaning that the other person (as long as they have a valid hand) wins.

Once dealt cards, players can choose to take another card, stick with the cards that they have, double their bet and take one card only, and, when two cards of the same value are drawn, split them in to two hands. It's important to remember when playing blackjack that you aren't trying to get 21 or as close to it, you're simply trying to beat the dealer. In accordance with this, many blackjack strategies have been created, with basic blackjack strategy offering players a chance to increase the likelihood of winning.

Blackjack is a well publicised game and has made many appearances in popular culture. Often these appearances include some form of card counting. Card counting is a system that takes note of cards drawn to predict the range of cards which will be drawn next. This information is then used to hit, stand, double or split. While it does turn the game in favour of the player, it can be difficult to master, with players often having to spend long hours at the table in order to grind a small profit.

In online blackjack, the cards are reshuffled after every hand, meaning card counting strategies can't be applied. However, you can use basic strategy, which, when combined with a single deck game, can prove to make blackjack even more entertaining.

Online Blackjack

Blackjack in land based casinos is often a fairly social game, as each player around a table is competing against the dealer. However, this can turn sour if players start blaming each other for the cards they receive. Fortunately, blackjack played in online casinos takes this possibility away while allowing it to remain a social game.

Online Blackjack Screenshot Blackjack at 32Red Casino

This happens through the various number of new blackjack variations that are available online. Multiplayer and live dealer blackjack are just two of the ways that online casinos can provide you with a true to life casino experience. But these aren't the only blackjack variations online: casinos have been known to offer up to 70 different blackjack games – far more than you'll ever find in a land based casino.

In terms of gameplay, the transformation of blackjack to an online casino game has not had much of an effect. The only major difference is that playing blackjack online is considerably quicker. This is thanks to not having to wait for other players to play their hands and the cards being dealt quicker than any dealer ever could. On the other hand, it also means that, unlike in busy land based casino games, you're not under any pressure to make a quick decision. This means smarter decisions and hopefully bigger profits.

As blackjack is a recognised favourite of casino players the world over, online casinos tend to offer their patrons specific blackjack bonuses and tournaments. These are extremely helpful and can add extra excitement to your time at the table. These special promotions are also features that you would be extremely hard pushed to find in land based casinos.

Rules of Blackjack

In blackjack, all of the cards have specific values. To help you understand the rules and gameplay of blackjack, we've outlined what cards in blackjack are worth:

  • Cards numbered 2-10 have the same value as the number on the card.
  • Jacks, queens and kings are all worth 10.
  • Aces are worth either 1 or 11, depending on how you choose to play them.
There are multiple ways to get to 21 in blackjack, either with various card denominations (such as 5+5+7+4=21) or through natural blackjack. Natural blackjack is when you are dealt an ace and a card worth 10, such as 10, jack, queen or king. All casinos pay off higher amounts if you win with natural blackjack.

Once your cards have been dealt, a player has a number of options. The two most commonly used options are:

  • Stand – not take any more cards.
  • Hit – Ask for another card, this can be done until your hand goes bust.

The other two options are less frequent and should or can only be used in certain situations:

  • Double down – Double your bet and take one more card only. We recommend only doing this with a hand value of ten or eleven.
  • Split – When you have two cards of the same rank, they can be split to create two separate hands. This requires the doubling of your bet.
  • Insurance – Players are offered insurance when a dealer's up card is an ace. This requires betting of half your original wager, with the return of 2:1 if the dealer has a natural blackjack. This isn't always offered.
  • Surrender – A slightly rarer feature than the others. Surrendering can be done once you have your first two cards and will provide you with half of your bet back.

Unlike in baccarat, player's can choose whether they wish for another card to be dealt (aside from when they have 21 or natural blackjack – then the casino will automatically stand their hand). However, we recommend that you follow basic blackjack strategy, which was devised by four mathematicians and was tested by running thousands of probable blackjack hands through an early super-computer. While this system does improve your chances, don't be fooled into thinking that it's a license to print money, because unfortunately you'll find yourself rather disappointed.

As mentioned above, payouts for a natural blackjack are slightly higher than the 1:1 that you get for beating the dealer. The vast majority of casinos will pay out at 3:2 for a natural blackjack.

Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack basic strategy is one of the most successful gambling strategies of all casino games. Implementing it correctly can result in the reduction of the casino's house edge by half, down to a preferable 2.38%. In addition to basic blackjack strategy, there are also a few tips and rules to abide by in order to further increase your chances of winning consistently.

Most online casino guides will provide you with a basic strategy chart. However, these can often be a bit daunting and confusing so in the interests of simplicity we've separated the blackjack basic strategy chart into three tables, illustrating what to do in certain situations.

The first of these describes the ideal actions when you have a soft total. A soft total is one that includes an ace that can be 1 or 11 (example: Ace + 4 = 5 or 15).

Cards Action
19, 20 or 21Always stand.
18 Hit if dealer's up card is 9, 10 or ace.
Stand if it's 2, 7 or 8.
With three or more cards stand when dealer's up card is 4, 5 or 6.
With two cards double when dealer's up card is 4, 5 or 6.
13 – 17 Hit if you have three or more cards.
With two cards of 17 hit when dealer's up card is 2, 7 or higher.
With two cards of 17 double when dealer's up card is 3-6.
With two cards of 15 or 16 hit when dealer's up card is 2, 3, 7 or higher.
With two cards of 15 or 16 double when dealer's up card is 4-6.
With two cards of 13 or 14 hit when dealer's up card is 2, 3, 4, 7 or higher.
With two cards of 13 or 14 double when dealer's up card is 5 or 6.
12 or lessHit.

The next table describes the ideal actions for playing when you have a hard total. A hard total either has no ace or contains an ace that can only have the value of 1.

Cards Action
17 – 21Always stand.
13 – 16Stand if dealer's up card is 2-6. Otherwise hit.
12Stand if dealer's up card is 4, 5 or 6. Otherwise hit.
11Double when dealer's up card is anything other than ace. Otherwise hit.
10Double when dealer's up card is anything other than ace or 10. Otherwise hit.
9Double when dealer's up card is 3-6. Otherwise hit.
8 or lessHit.

The final table describes how to play when you've been dealt cards with matching values (or pairs).

Cards Action
AcesAlways split.
10sNever split.
9sSplit when dealer's up card is 2-6, 8 or 9. Otherwise stand.
8sAlways split.
7sSplit when dealer's up card is 2-7.
6sSplit when dealer's up card is 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.
5sNever split.
4sNever split.
3s and 2sSplit when dealer's up card is 4, 5, 6 or 7.