How to Play Online Blackjack
Within the ever-growing world of online gambling, players have many different types of casino games to choose from. One popular game is Blackjack and the game objective is simple – beat the dealer without going over 21. Blackjack is a very popular table game which incorporates skill and luck in a battle between the player and the dealer. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't just about compiling a two-card hand value of 21 – that's simply a bonus.
This comprehensive guide on how to play blackjack introduces you to the most important concepts, rules, tactics, and strategies necessary to consistently perform at your best against the dealer. Master the art of blackjack by implementing perfect strategy, effective bankroll management, and systematic game selection.
Understanding the Basics
Overall, blackjack is a tussle between player and dealer in pursuit of the strongest-value hand. This is known as the ranking hand. In blackjack tournaments, players also compete against one another, but in standard blackjack games, it's player versus dealer.
Blackjack variants differ slightly from one game to the next but once you understand how to play, you can apply those rules across the board.
The dealer's actions are always governed by a set of rules. For example, they must draw to 16 and stand on 17.
In contrast, players have more control over their actions in blackjack. Player betting actions in blackjack include the following: Hit, Stand, Double, Split, Surrender, Insurance (if applicable), and Side Bets. In addition, specific rules and suggestions are based on probability analysis for each action in blackjack.
There are three ways a Player can win in blackjack, notably:
- If the dealer busts, the player automatically wins.
- If the player's hand total is greater than the dealer's hand total, without exceeding 21, the player wins.
- If the player scores a blackjack (A two-card 21 consisting of a 10-value card and a face card), the player wins.
Other essential basics include the minimum and maximum bets at the table and whether blackjack pays 3:2 or 6:5. The house edge is a major factor in determining the outcome of any game. This is the mathematical advantage the casino holds over the player. The lower the house edge, the better the odds are for the player.
Blackjack is a great game for all players, from beginners to experienced professionals. With the right strategy, even novice players can be successful. So, if you want to play blackjack, make sure you understand the rules, the house edge, and the strategies to maximize your chances of success.
Blackjack Cards Value
Blackjack is played with a standard 52-card deck (no jokers). Number cards have their original values, with face cards being worth 10. The ace is the only card that can assume two values – 1 or 11 – depending on the strength of your hand.
For example, if you have an ace and a 5, it is considered a soft hand because you can count the ace as either 1 or 11. This gives you more flexibility in how you play your hand, as you can choose to hit or stand depending on the card the dealer has. Of course, if you are holding three cards, including a card worth 10, a 6 and an ace, it's a hard 17 because there is no option for the ace to count as 11 without busting (going over 21).
The Blackjack Table
A blackjack table typically has a semi-circular shape with betting spots for seven players. The table is usually green felt with black inlays for the numbers and other markings. Each spot on the table has a betting circle, where players can place their chips to make their bets. In the centre of the table is an area marked dealer, where the dealer stands and deals out cards.
Blackjack games typically use multiple decks of cards (4, 6, or 8 decks), making it more difficult for players to count cards. The blackjack dealer deals one card at a time from the shoe (an automatic shuffling device) to each player at the table in turn. There may be a blank plastic card in play that indicates to the dealer when cards need to be shuffled.
All players must abide by a minimum and maximum bet limit at any given blackjack table. This limit is determined by casino management based on factors such as time of day, number of players at the table, etc. There may also be side bets available at some tables, which we will explain in more detail below.
What Are the Blackjack Side Bets?
Blackjack side bets are optional wagers that can be placed on top of a blackjack game. These bets offer players the chance to win additional payouts, regardless of whether they win or lose their main bet. We’ve outlined some of the most common here (payout ratios are for illustrative purposes and may vary):
21 + 3 Side Bet
The 21+3 side bet is based on a three-card poker hand made up of your first two cards plus the dealer's upcard, with winning combinations such as Flush 5/1, Straight 10/1, Three of a Kind 30/1, Straight Flush 40/1. If you make one of these hands with your first two dealt cards and the dealer's face-up card, you will receive a payout according to its strength.
Suited Three of a Kind
The suited three-of-a-kind side bet involves betting that all three cards in your initial two-card hand will be of identical rank and suit; for example, 3x jacks of hearts. If this occurs, you will receive an immediate payout according to your combination's strength ( higher ranks yield higher rewards). It has a low probability of happening, but it comes with a hefty payout of 100/1.
Perfect pairs reference side bets on both cards in your initial two-card hand being identical in rank and suit, eg. 2X kings of diamonds. If this happens, you will receive an immediate payout. Depending upon which pair combination it is, there are different levels ranging from Mixed Pairs 5/1 (equal rank/not matching suits) to Coloured Pairs 10/1 (same colour suits), all the way up to Perfect Pairs 30/1 (same rank and suit).
Insurance side bets involve betting that the dealer has blackjack. If this occurs, you will receive an immediate 2:1 payout on your insurance wager. If not, you forfeit your insurance bet but can still play out the remainder of the round as normal.
Insurance side bets are not recommended as the house edge is too high. The odds of a dealer having blackjack are roughly 4/13, or 31%. That means there is a 69% chance that the dealer doesn't have blackjack on any given hand. It's not a safe bet if you're looking to maximize your chances of winning in blackjack.
The basics of blackjack are easy to learn: it's a contest between the player and dealer in pursuit of the ranking hand. The rules of blackjack vary depending on which variant you are playing, but generally speaking, all variants follow certain basic principles. The rules are usually posted on the blackjack table, but to read them you need to understand some common terminology:
A blackjack push is when the player and the dealer have hands with the same value. No one wins or loses, and all bets are returned to their original owners. In most (but not all) cases, this occurs when the player has a hand of 21, and the dealer also has 21.
In blackjack, the player or the dealer can bust at any time. A bust occurs when the hand total exceeds 21.
Hard hands have a set value that cannot change. For example, a 7 and an 8 will always be 15.
A soft hand offers a lot more leeway to players. The ace can serve as 1 or 11, giving you greater flexibility when trying to build a strong-value hand. An example would be a 3, a 2 and an ace. This is a soft hand with a value of 6 or 16.
How to Play a Hand
Understanding the general table rules is essential to learning how to play a hand because they determine the flow of the game and the actions available to you. Various tactics and techniques can also be employed to give you an extra edge and these are presented in blackjack strategy charts, odds calculators and rulebooks. In general, players have the following options when playing a blackjack hand:
When you stand in blackjack, you opt not to take any additional cards. This means you are satisfied with your hand total (or believe that taking other cards could cause you to bust), and you are waiting to see whether you can beat the dealer.
When you hit in blackjack, you opt for another card. Hitting aims to increase your hand value to beat the dealer. Players should always hit on a hand value of 11 or less because the maximum card value you could pick up is a 10-value card, giving you 21.
Doubling down requires players to take one final card with an additional bet for that card. The size of the bet is equal to the size of the original wager. Whatever card you receive will either cause you to bust or not, but no other cards can be dealt.
Splitting pairs of identical-value cards (10, jack, queen, king) is possible based on the rules of your specific blackjack game. When you split cards, you play two individual hands against the dealer. This can increase your chances of forming a winning hand, but it'll cost you for each hand you play.
There are clear rules for splitting in blackjack. Especially regarding when to split based on the cards you are holding and the dealer's upcard, for example:
- Never split a pair of 4s
- Split Aces because you have a good chance of forming 21 (2-card blackjack)
- If the dealer's upcard is nine or less, don't split a pair of fives; double down instead
In American blackjack games, players can split up to 3 times per game, resulting in four hands that can be played. With European blackjack games, splitting is restricted to once per hand.
With the surrender option, players forfeit 50% of their bet after their first two cards have been dealt, and the dealer's upcard is visible. If you have less than 50-50 chances of beating the dealer, consider the surrender option. Early surrender (ES) and late surrender (LS) may be available. ES takes place before the dealer checks for blackjack. LS occurs after the dealer has checked for blackjack. It's best to use the early surrender if available.
The surrender option is not available in all blackjack games, but it can prove useful if the dealer's hand is strong and yours is weak.
Different Variants of Blackjack
Classic blackjack is played with multiple boxes (spots available for players at the table) and 6+ standard decks of 52 cards. The cards are shuffled before the game is played, and the dealer does not receive a hole (face-down) card. The goal is to score a winning hand by getting as close to 21 as possible.
In European blackjack, between 2 and 8 decks of cards can be used, with no joker in play. Players receive two cards face down, while the dealer receives one face up and the other face down. Players can Hit, Stand, Double Down, Split, or Surrender in European blackjack.
American blackjack is a variant allowing players to play 1, 3, and 5 hands simultaneously. This game has specific rules for betting minimums/maximums, with different-colour table felts available.
American blackjack uses six decks of cards, with 52 cards per deck. The cards are shuffled after every round of play. Winning hands are paid even money, blackjack pays 3:2, and Insurance bets pay 2:1. In American blackjack, the dealer is dealt two cards, with one showing face up. The dealer will peak at the hole card if the upcard is an ace. If the dealer has blackjack, everyone at the table loses immediately.
Spanish 21 Variant
Spanish 21 blackjack requires 6 decks of cards dealt from a shoe. Players receive 2 cards and must continue receiving cards until they decide to stand. The highest-ranking hand then wins the game. In Spanish 21, players can Split Pairs and continue betting with two hands in play. Re-splitting is also possible, and winning hands pay even money.
Multiplayer vs Multihand
In multiplayer blackjack, multiple players can compete against the dealer. At online casinos, multiplayer blackjack games can allow a virtually unlimited number of players to compete against the dealer for the ranking hand.
These games are similar to standard blackjack games since each player acts as an individual at a table comprising multiple players. However, it's important to point out that multiplayer blackjack games don't pit players against players. Instead, each player competes on their own against the dealer.
Multi hand blackjack is a variation of the classic game that allows players to play up to five hands at once. The benefit of this option is increased winnings in less time if each hand beats the dealer.
Each hand is played independently, so players can choose different strategies for each. The rules are generally identical to those of regular blackjack, with variations in how certain situations are handled.
For example, when splitting two aces, you will only receive one additional card per ace instead of two, as in regular blackjack. Special bonuses may be available when playing Multihand blackjack, such as winning all five hands or getting four out of five 21s.
Players can usually play anywhere from 1-5 simultaneous hands depending on the version and the online casino they're at.
Blackjack Etiquette: Do's and Dont's
Blackjack etiquette refers to the set of rules and regulations that govern how people behave when playing blackjack in a casino setting. It's important for everyone involved to show respect towards each other by maintaining proper etiquette throughout their play session.
The following are some standard rules and regulations that should be adhered to when playing blackjack:
- Players must never hand money to the dealer directly; instead, money should be placed on the table.
- Players must use gestures to request additional cards, like tapping the table to hit or waving a hand horizontally to stand.
- Harassing other players or the dealer is not allowed under any circumstances.
- Players cannot spill their food, drink, or ash over the table.
- All chips should be of the same denomination when placing bets. Intentional obfuscation of chip values (high-value chip on top of low-value chip stacks) is deceptive.
- It is poor etiquette to touch cards. When a certain number of decks are used, cards are typically dealt face-up to players, and there will be no need for handling them.
- Players must never remove chips from the table, switch cards between hands, or manipulate cards in any way.
- Players should never place obstacles or objects on the table.
- It is polite for players to tip dealers after winning a large pot.
Playing Blackjack Guide Summary
Blackjack is one of many types of casino games which requires both luck and strategy where players compete against the dealer to create a hand with a value as close to 21 as possible without busting. There are three ways the player can win in blackjack: if the dealer busts; if the player's hand total is greater than the dealer's hand total, without exceeding 21; or if the player scores a blackjack.
There are several different variants of blackjack, including European blackjack & American blackjack, each varying slightly in terms of rules & regulations yet all offering the same exciting thrills associated with this game. Players must also adhere to specific etiquette rules while playing at tables, such as not touching cards, manipulating chips/bets before their turn to act, etc.
Understanding house rules and ensuring you play variants with low house edges are vital for success in blackjack.
You can use blackjack strategy charts to tell you when to hit, stand, double, split, or surrender (if appropriate) based on your cards and the dealer's upcard. However, even the best blackjack strategy cannot overrule the effects of lady luck.
Nevertheless, players can gain a long-term advantage by employing careful bankroll management, choosing games with player-friendly rules, and methodical bet selection. You can find more information in our How to Win at Blackjack guide.
How to Play Blackjack FAQs
Which blackjack side bets should I play?
Your options for blackjack side bets can vary from casino to casino but generally include 21 + 3 Side Bet, Suited Three of a Kind, Perfect Pairs, and Insurance Side Bets. From an entertainment perspective, side bets certainly have merit. However, as a general rule, it is better to stick to the main blackjack bets and avoid any bets with a high house edge.
Can I play online blackjack at a casino?
Absolutely! Blackjack is one of the most popular online casino games. Players are encouraged to select reputable online casinos with full licensing and regulation from respected authorities worldwide.
Are blackjack side bets worth it?
Whether blackjack side bets are worth their salt depends on each wager's house edge and your preference for taking risks. Generally speaking, side bets have higher house edges than the traditional bets in blackjack. They may be less attractive to players who want to maximize their chances of winning. However, some players enjoy the added excitement that side bets provide and find them a worthwhile addition to their gaming sessions. It’s your call!
How do you play blackjack?
To play blackjack, you receive two cards face up. You must add the value of these cards together to determine a number no larger than 21. The aim of the game is to hit 21 - and that's blackjack! If you go over 21 you will have gone bust, and lose.