An Introduction to Blackjack
Blackjack is one of the oldest and most well-known games in casinos, dating back to the early 1600s with the game’s precursor: Twenty-One. Little has changed with this classic game since then. Our complete beginner’s guide provides you with all you need to know about how to play Blackjack and the basic rules to ensure you’re a success at the tables.
Getting to Know Blackjack
If you’re completely new to Blackjack, it won’t take long to get up to speed. It’s often considered one of the easiest casino games to learn. The online format largely works in the same way as the traditional form which has been played across the world for generations. Unlike many card games, players must beat the dealer rather than other players around them, making it far less complex than the likes of poker.
The Aim of Blackjack
The ultimate aim of Blackjack is to have a hand valued at 21. Achieve this and you will receive a payout. However, a winning hand is any that beats the dealer’s. In order to do this, a player’s hand must:
- Have a higher card value than the dealer
- Not exceed a value of 21
When a player’s total card value exceeds 21, this is known as busting and you lose the game.
Before you even consider playing Blackjack, one of the first things you need to understand is the value of each card you could possibly be dealt. This is relatively self-explanatory with the numbers on the cards each representing their value. For example, the nine of clubs is a contribution of nine to your hand. In the game of Blackjack, picture cards carry a value of 10, while the Ace in all suits carries a value of either one or 11. In the instance of the Ace, it is always assumed that the value is 11, unless the total value of cards combined exceeds 21, when it reverts to a value of one.
Your total hand value is the combined value of all your cards in your hand. For example, if you were to be dealt the four of hearts and Jack of clubs, your hand value would be 14. Hands with Aces in them are often referred to as a soft hand, with any hand dealt with no aces considered a hard hand. How you play each can vary, even if they are the same value. A hand that includes an Ace and five has a total card value of 16. Equally, a hand containing a 10 and a six also carries the same hand value. The reason a soft hand is known as such is because of the flexibility in value the Ace holds. Often you will find that a soft hand develops into a hard hand should you draw further cards to your hand. For example, if you were to draw a seven to your Ace and five, the hand would turn into a hard one with a value of 13. The Ace would have a hard value of 1, as a value of 11 would mean your hand exceeds the value of 21.
Once you understand the value of each card in Blackjack, it’s time to start considering your surroundings. Blackjack is a game between yourself and the house, but you will also find that other players can join you at the table. The anatomy of a Blackjack table is relatively straightforward, with only a selection of details you need to be aware of.
As stated within the aim of the game, in order to win a game of Blackjack, your total hand value needs to beat that of what the dealer is holding. Blackjack is achieved when a hand of an Ace and 10 (or face card) is dealt, equalling a combined value of 21. This pays out more than your average winning hand, and the traditional game carries a 4.75% chance of achieving Blackjack. If you are dealt 21 with your first two cards you automatically receive a Blackjack payout. Should that not happen, you can win a hand by either the dealer going bust or your total card value exceeding the dealer.
As you can see, the graphic above shows four players with different hands taking on the dealer.
- Player A: Blackjack has been dealt to Player A. As the dealer’s hand is valued at 17, this hand automatically wins.
- Player B: Player B’s total hand value equals 22, which means the hand is bust and they lose regardless of the dealer’s cards.
- Player C: Player C has a hand value of 17, which is equal to the dealer. This is known as ‘Push’ and means the player receives their stake back.
- Player D: Player D’s hand equals a value of 20, which exceeds the value of the dealer and therefore wins.
Winning hands are paid out differently depending on the method of victory. Winning with Blackjack, as is the case with Player A, pays out at 3:2, while Player D’s win, in which they bettered the card value of the dealer pays out at 1:1.
|Win Without Blackjack||1:1|
|Equal to Dealer||Push (player’s stake returned)|
|Bust or Hand Value Less Than Dealer||Losing Bet|
How to Play Blackjack
The process of playing Blackjack may be relatively familiar. However, there may be steps in the Blackjack betting process which may have escaped you. Bringing the game down to the very basics, there are just a handful of steps when it comes to placing your bet and playing a hand of Blackjack.
Step 1: Placing Your Bet
The first step is to buy in to the game. Blackjack tables will have a minimum and maximum bet you can place, with any bet in between those figures eligible to be placed. The amount you bet will directly influence how much you are paid out should you win. For example, if you were to bet £10 and won via Blackjack you would receive £15 in winnings, due to the payout of 3:2. If you bet £10 and won without Blackjack, you would receive £10 in winnings.
Step 2: Dealing the Cards
Once you’ve bought into the game, you will then be dealt two cards. You will only receive two cards if you have placed a bet to play. The two cards you are dealt provide your hand value. You will then have the option to make a series of moves. During the deal, the dealer will also deal themselves two cards, with one placed face up.
Step 3: Stand, Hit or Split
In turn, players have the chance to make several choices to improve their hand. The two most common choices are to stand or hit. However, you also have the opportunity to split, double down and even fold at this stage.
|Stand||You don’t wish to draw any more cards and you are happy with your card value.|
|Hit||You would like to receive an additional card to your hand. The card is then added to the overall hand value. You can ‘hit’ multiple times. Once you are happy with your hand, you should then ‘stand’.|
|Split||If you are initially dealt a pair, you can split your hand. Each card will then be dealt another card face up and you are able to play two hands in the same manner as one. Please note, your bet will double in accordance with playing two hands.|
|Fold||Should you be unhappy with your cards you can fold your hand. This puts you out of the game and you lose your bet.|
|Double Down||Doubling down is a move which doubles your bet and delivers one more card to your hand. You cannot ‘hit’ any further by playing this move.|
|Insurance||Insurance is offered to players if the dealer’s face up card is worth either 10 or an Ace. This is a side bet that allows you to bet on whether the dealer has Blackjack.|
Step 4: The Dealer Plays
Once all players have concluded their moves, the dealer must turn over their downward facing card and play their hand. Unlike players, dealers are required to follow certain rules, which limits them to standing and hitting only on certain card values. The rules can vary dependent on the casino, but are generally as follows:
- The dealer will draw cards on a hand that is valued 16 or less.
- The dealer must stand on 17 or more.
- The dealer hits on a soft 17.
- If the dealer is holding an Ace and the hand totals 17 or more (but does not exceed 21) when counted as 11, the dealer must stand.
Step 5: Win, Lose or Push
Following the conclusion of the dealer’s hand, both hands will be compared. The result will either be win, lose or push. If your hand is a winning one, the dealer will payout and the sum will enter your bankroll.
Blackjack Odds & Understanding the House Edge
Of course, the reason for playing Blackjack is to win, so it’s always useful to know what the odds are on doing so. You have around a 42% of winning every hand you play, with the chance of achieving Blackjack approximately one in 20. On average, the dealer busts around one in three hands, while you have an 8.5% chance of a push.
- Chance of Landing 21: 4.75%
- Chance of a Winning Hand: 42%
- Chance of Push: 8.5%
- Chance of Dealer Bust: 29%
What also needs to be factored in is the element of the house edge. All casino games carry a house edge and Blackjack is no different. However, unlike other games, the house edge in Blackjack varies with players having the ability to lower the edge to below 1% by developing strategies. This in turn will improve the odds above, with the chance of drawing a winning hand improving. Blackjack is a game of skill and therefore that skill can be used to boost your chances of beating the dealer. The house edge is essentially a mathematical advantage a casino has over its players and represents the percentage of what they will receive over time in accordance to the amount staked. Adopting a basic strategy will generally offer up a house edge of around 1%. Advanced players can drop that significantly lower, while rookies with little strategy might see the house edge stretch beyond 1%.
While all variations of Blackjack do follow similar rule patterns to the traditional form, the rise of online casinos has also seen a number of games offering slightly different rules, designed to offer even more thrills than the 21 we know and love. Below you’ll find some of the more popular types you can play today with BetVictor, alongside the notable differences to the classic version.
This is the most widely played version and follows all the rules, regulations and gameplay pattern mentioned above. It is the original version of Blackjack, with players winning by having a hand value that is closer to 21 than the dealer.
European Blackjack is slightly different to classic Blackjack in that it only uses two decks of cards in comparison to up to eight in the classic version. In terms of rules, it follows the same betting structure and the two cards dealt to the player are done so face up.
Spanish 21, or Spanish Blackjack as it is often known, is an interesting variation of the classic game, as the cards with a value of 10 are removed from the deck. That means only 48 cards of a 52 deck are played. Insurance and the late surrender play more of a role in this game as the dealer can look at their cards prior to players making a move.
Atlantic City Blackjack
Players can re-split up to three hands with this exciting variation inspired by the Blackjack tables of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Dealers can also look at their hand prior to a player’s turn and they are also allowed to stand on a soft 17.
Live Casino Blackjack
This is played in exactly the same manner as classic Blackjack, but uses a video stream to allow players to play a hand with a real-life dealer. It brings players closer to the action than ever before and continues to prove hugely popular, following all the same rules and formatting of that mentioned above.
Don’t fall foul because you don’t know the lingo. Discover the meanings behind all the common terms found in Blackjack.
Ace: The Ace card can count as either 1 or 11 in value.
Action: The combined total bet on all your hands.
Anchor Player: The player operating from the far left of the table. This is the player who will stand, hit or split last before the dealer plays their hand.
Bankroll: The sum of money you have available in your betting account to play with.
Bet Spread: The minimum bet to maximum bet ratio.
Betting Spot: The area on a table which is designated for a player to place their bet.
Blackjack: When a player is dealt a combination of an Ace and card with a value of 10 as their first two cards.
Break/Bust: When a hand value exceeds the value of 21.
Buy In: You have to buy in to a game. The buy in process is the exchange of money for chips.
Chip: The counter used to place a bet.
DAS: This stands for Doubling After Splitting, and is used when a player doubles their bet after splitting their hand.
Dealer: The dealer is the player you have to beat and is responsible for dealing the cards at the table.
Deck: The collective name for a full 52-card set.
Doubling Down: This is a move in Blackjack where you can double your bet and receive one more card to your hand.
Down Card: A card which is dealt face down.
Draw: This is the receiving of another card to any hand.
Edge/House Edge: The percentage a casino will earn over time, or a player can expect to lose. Due to the nature of Blackjack, the number varies and isn’t an exact science.
First Base: The first seat at a Blackjack table on the right hand side. This player is first to act once dealt cards.
Flat Bet: This is when a player places the same bet in successive hands.
Hand: The cards you are dealt by the dealer is known as your hand.
Hard Hand: A hand which has no Ace in it, or has an Ace which can only be a value of one.
Heads Up: A player playing alone against the dealer.
Hit: To hit is to draw another card for your hand.
Hit 17: A rule in Blackjack which requires the dealer to hit on a card value of 17.
Hole Card: The face down card in the dealer’s hand.
Insurance: A side bet that can be played when the dealer’s face up card is an Ace. This is a bet on the dealer to have Blackjack.
Natural: Another term used for Blackjack
Pat Hand: A hand between 17 and 21 in which doesn’t require hitting.
Push: Push is if your hand is equal in value to the dealer. Push is essentially another word for a tie and your stake is returned.
Re-split: A move in which you split a pair that has occurred after an initial split.
Soft 17: A rule in which the dealer must stand when their hand is a value of 17.
Soft Hand: A hand that contains an Ace which is being valued at 11.
Stand: A player stands when they do not wish to receive any additional cards to their hand.