Blackjack is one of the most popular table games in the world. It’s an American variant of the game we all know as Twenty-One. Basically, it requires players and dealers to play against each other. The dealer deals cards for the players and himself. The idea is to get as close to 21 as possible. However, if you go over 21, your hand is bust. It’s a very simple game that’s easy to learn but it takes years for players to properly master it. Below, we will share details about the history of blackjack as well as how to play. Lastly, we will briefly mention some of the strategies that players use to win at the game. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about one of the oldest table games in the world.
The History of Blackjack
As we mentioned above, Blackjack is a card game that has been around for a very long time. People have enjoyed different variations of the game for several centuries. The origins of the game are not exactly known but there are a couple of stories that might be true. A lot of researchers will say that the game was invented in France, during the 18th century. Casinos back then had a game that was very similar to what we know today as Blackjack. The game was then called “Twenty-one”, or “Vingt-et-Un”, which translates to 21. However, this is not the only story that talks about the origins of this card game.
From France, the game spread throughout Europe, receiving a different name in some countries. Furthermore, it became popular in the US during the 19th century. During the 20th century, when Nevada legalized gambling and became the first location in the world to regulate the gambling industry Blackjack’s popularity increased even further.
According to some people, the game of “21” dates back to the 16/17th century as it was mentioned several times in Spanish literature. Historians agree that the earliest mention of a similar game was in Don Quixote from Miguel de Cervantes. A couple of the characters are gambling cheats who play a game called ‘ventiuna’. Spanish players will notice right away that the translation of that Spanish word is literally “21”. The earliest version was played with a different deck to the one used today. It was a deck in which the 8s, 9s, and 10s were removed. Since Don Quixote was written in the early 1600s, the game–or at least its precursor–is at least 400 and maybe even 500 years old.
How to Play Blackjack?
Before explaining the rules of the game, we have to talk about how the game of Blackjack is set up. First, we have the table where all the actions can be found. We can’t talk about the rules until we explain how the gameplay looks on the table. In an online casino, the player takes a seat at a virtual table. Most online blackjack games have a table with 5 positions and the player can sit on any of them. Each position has a mark in front of it, usually a number, which is known as the “betting box”. This is where the player puts his chips and signals the dealer that he is now part of the game.
One more thing that players will notice on the table is the “shoe”. This is where the cards sit and the “shoe” usually holds from 1 to 8 decks of shuffled cards. At online casinos, you will normally find a sign displaying the table lower and upper limits for each hand as well. Keep in mind that if you join a live blackjack table, there might be other players seated in some of the positions. They will influence the cards you are dealt, so be wary of that. At land-based casinos, the situation is a bit different. You can sit on a table where it will be only you against the dealer or sit on a table that allows other players.
Just like with the gameplay, blackjack rules are very easy to understand as they are straightforward. The first thing players need to do is pick a table and set a bet. The game can include more players, so you have to wait for everyone to place a bet before the dealer starts setting up the cards. When all players are ready, everyone receives two cards face-up. The dealing always goes from the left to the right. The dealer puts two cards in front of him as well – one of the cards are face-up, the other one face down.
When the cards are dealt, the player gets two basic options – to “hit” or to “stand”. Hitting means that you want another card on top of the two that you already have. Standing means that you are happy with the pair of cards you have, and you don’t want any more. If you ask for another card and it takes you over 21, you go bust and lose the game. If the dealer has a higher pair than yours, you also lose. In a case where it’s a tie between you and the dealer, the player receives his wager back. These are the basics of blackjack and as you can see they are very simple. However, there are a couple of actions that players can take that we haven’t mentioned yet. Experienced players use them all the time and we will explain them below. Here are all the possible options:
- Double Down
Since we already explained the terms “Hit” and “Stand”, we will talk more about the other options. First, we have the double down option which is pretty straightforward, considering the name. This allows you to double your initial bet, but you will receive only one more card. This option is often used when players get two small-value cards from the dealer. Statistically, you are likely to receive a face card next, so you double your bet and hope to reach 20 or even 21. Additionally, you can double down when betting behind a player. Betting behind is an action in some online blackjack games where you can bet on another player on your table to win. You won’t be able to control his actions but you can double down on such a bet.
This decision comes into play when the first two cards you receive are of the same value. For instance, you get two Kings which is 20 and a very good hand. Some players want to increase their chances of winning, so what they do is split such a hand in two. So, now you have two hands and each one has a King. You are required to place an identical stake for the second hand if you want to split the hand. Once that happens, you will be asked to make individual decisions about both hands. Most casinos allow for any such hand to be split and then you can ask for one or more cards to be added on both hands. However, most casinos also limit the splitting of two Aces by allowing only one extra card to be added to such a split.
The reason for this is quite simple, two Aces in a pair give a score of 20. However, once you split them, they will be worth eleven on two separate posts. This increases your chances of winning by a lot because it’s possible to receive a face card on each spot and get two unbeatable 21 situations. Experienced blackjack players will always tell you to split only on Aces and on 8s.
This option is only available at some blackjack tables in online casinos. Such tables are usually labelled “blackjack surrender”. When available, this option is only possible before receiving any additional cards. This option will result in the casino taking half the stake, while the player gets to keep the other half. After surrendering, the player is no longer active in the hand and the player’s cards will be removed from the table. Basically, if a player has a bad hand and thinks he can’t win it, he can ask for the surrender option and lose only half the stake.
Soft 17 Rule
Last but not least, we have to mention this rule before we finish this segment of the article. As a rule, it doesn’t exist everywhere but most serious casino blackjack tables will have it. A soft 17 is when you get a hand of an Ace and a six. To protect the player, if the dealer gets at least a soft 17 he has to hit and get another card. In such a case, the next card will likely take the dealer over 21 and bust and the player can win even if he has weak cards. On the other hand, some casinos believe that the player is more protected if the dealer is forced to stand on a soft 17 which makes sense as well. In such a case, the dealer is locked at 17 while the player gets his opportunity to go over 17.
Basic blackjack rules
Before we move on to the next segment, here is a summary of all the basic rules:
- Regular wins pay 1:1 – when the value of your cards is closer to 21 compared to the dealer’s cards;
- Blackjack wins pay 3:2 – when the value of your cards equals 21;
- Hit or Stand – the basic choice for the players. They need to decide whether to add a card (hitting) or not (standing);
- Split – an option of turning your hand into two separate hands, for an extra chance to beat the dealer;
- Double Down – an option of doubling your bet;
- Insurance – if a dealer shows an Ace as their face-up card, they will ask players to take insurance and protect themselves;
- Surrendering – some online casinos give you the option to surrender half your bet;
- Soft 17 – also known as a soft hand, it’s a hand that has an Ace in it. Some casinos require the dealer to hit on a soft 17, while other casinos require that they stand;
- Take Even Money – if you land a Blackjack and the dealer has an Ace, you can choose to take even money and get paid 1:1.
How to Win at Blackjack?
In the last section of this article, we want to share a couple of words about how to increase your chances of winning in blackjack. Once a card is dealt, it’s gone from the shoe until the dealer hits the “reset button” by shuffling the deck. What this means to the player is that if they keep an eye on the ratio of high cards to low cards, they can raise their bets when the deck has a relatively large number of high cards. The aces and tens improve a player’s chances because they increase the odds of getting a “natural” on the first two cards. A natural, or a “blackjack”, is a 2 card hand consisting of a ten and an ace, which automatically has a total of 21. This bet pays the player 3 to 2 instead of even money.
There are several tips and tricks that can help you do better at this game. Additionally, there are blackjack strategies that help players learn how to play this game properly. There are strategies for beginners as well as experienced players and we will explain some of them below. It’s important to have a strategy before playing any gambling game because it’s very easy to lose all your money if you don’t have a plan.
How to Count Cards in Blackjack?
Before sharing a few words about counting cards, we have to say that we don’t support cheating in any game but there are legal ways of increasing your chances at victory. Counting cards is always considered bad because in movies it’s done by people who have a photographic memory which is indeed illegal. Such a person can know what card is next 100% of the time which is obviously a bad thing. However, with a bit of concentration and luck, a player can expect certain cards to pop up at a given moment. For instance, all cards are assigned a value. Face cards are valued at 10 and then come all the rest of the numbers. The Ace can be a 10 or an 11 depending on the situation.
You can separate these cards into two categories in your mind – high cards and low cards. By doing that, you can watch what comes out of the “shoe” and basically predict whether a lot or a high card is coming next. Sometimes, on a casino blackjack table, you will get a sloppy dealer. Such a dealer can very easily show you his face-down card because of improper dealing. That way, you can make a plan, follow all the cards that come out of the “shoe” and have an idea of what’s in store for you. Of course, you won’t always be correct but your win percentage will surely increase.
What’s the Best Blackjack Strategy?
When playing blackjack, it is smart to have a strategy. Since the game is about likelihood, then each decision you make should be based on the statistical probability of the remaining cards in the decks. However, before we go any further, we have to say that there is no strategy that can guarantee you wins 100% of the time. Contrary to other casino games, strategies in blackjack depend on what kind of game you are playing. For instance, let’s imagine you are playing a single-deck game. This means that there is only one deck that give a limited amount of possible card combinations. This is where the Single Deck strategy comes into play.
Single Deck Strategy
This is the simplest strategy out there and it will surely increase your chances of winning. You can only use it when playing a single deck blackjack version. For instance, the dealer gives you a card total of 12 while he is showing a 4 with his face-up card, there is a very smart decision you can make. Since there is only one deck, the possible combinations of this hand are very limited. For example, if your hand is a 10 and a 2, you should always hit against a 4 as a face-up card.
The reason is simple, you are very likely to get another low card while the best hand that the dealer has in such a case is 14. He will hit, likely get a high-value card and bust. On the other hand, if you have any other combination of 12, you should stand. Again, the logic makes sense because you got 12 through two low-value cards. If the dealer has a 4 or any other low-value card as a face-up, chances are the next card will be a high-value card. In such a case, if you hit, you will get 22 and bust.
We will cover more info about strategies in a different article but we want to end this one with a couple of tips & tricks as to which decisions are best in a certain scenario.
Tips & Tricks
Blackjack is a game of decisions and as such, every decision you make will influence your gameplay. As soon as the dealer gives you that first card, you as a player have a decision to make. So, making the right decisions is the best strategy that exists. This is not always possible but certain outcomes always happen the same way. For that reason, there are certain hands where if you force a decision, the outcome will be much better. It’s best to learn these ‘decisions’ so you can always make them when presented with a certain choice.
Every hand that has an Ace in it as one of the cards is called a soft total. Unless it’s two Aces together, the Ace on its own counts as 11.
- 20 (A,9) always stands.
- 19 (A,8) doubles against dealer 6, otherwise stand.
- 18 (A,7) doubles against dealer 2 through 6, and hits against 9 through Ace, otherwise stand.
- 17 (A,6) doubles against dealer 3 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 16 (A,5) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 15 (A,4) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 14 (A,3) doubles against dealer 5 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 13 (A,2) doubles against dealer 5 through 6, otherwise hit.
Contrary to the soft totals, these are outcomes where the player doesn’t start with an Ace or gets an Ace that has to be counted as 1 instead of 11.
- 17 and up always stands.
- 16 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 15 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 14 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 13 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 12 stands against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 11 always doubles.
- 10 doubles against dealer 2 through 9 otherwise hit.
- 9 doubles against dealer 3 through 6 otherwise hit.
- 8 always hits.
- 16 surrenders against dealer 9 through Ace, otherwise don’t surrender (revert to hard totals).
- 15 surrenders against dealer 10, otherwise don’t surrender (revert to hard totals).
- A pair of 9’s splits against dealer 2 through 9, except for 7, otherwise stand.
- Always split 8’s
- A pair of 7’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
- A pair of 6’s splits against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- Never split tens.
- A pair of 5’s doubles against dealer 2 through 9, otherwise hit.
- A pair of 4’s splits against dealer 5 and 6, otherwise hit.
- Always split aces.
- A pair of 3’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
- A pair of 2’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.