How to Play Blackjack

The aim of the game is to beat the dealer by getting as close to 21 as you can, without going over. If you go over 21 you would have gone ‘bust’ and thus lost the game.


First up, what are the cards values?


The cards from 2-10 all have face value, the face cards, meaning the J,Q and K all have  a value of 10 and the Ace card can have a value of 1 or of 11, the player gets to decide the value of this card to suit the other cards that he has in front of him.


Before cards start being dealt each player places their bets. After everyone had made their bet  the dealer shuffles his pack of cards thoroughly. When this is done one of the players will have the job of cutting the deck. Wherever this cut is made a plastic bank card will be put. Once the dealer reaches the bank card  they will know that it is time to reshuffle the deck, this is done to ensure that there is no foul play. This is also done to reduce the use of the card counting strategy as not all the cards are being used. 


Once all of this is done each player is given one card which is face up in a clockwise direction. They also make sure to deal one card to themselves. Then, another card is handed out to each player but this second card is given face down to the dealer. This means that everyone has two cards, all the players cards are facing up with the dealers cards being one face up and one face down. 


If after this has happened one of the players has an ace and a 10, they would have gotten a natural or a ‘blackjack’ and thus won the game. The dealer will then check his face down card, if he too happens to have  natural then only the players who have naturals will be paid. If the dealer does not have a natural then the player who did would win. In the event that the one face up card that the dealer has is a ten or an ace then the dealer will peek and their face down card to see if they have natural. 


If this is not the case however, then the game will carry on.  The players will keep getting cards until they desire, always keeping in mind to come as close to 21 as possible and if they go over then they would automatically have lost. The player who's on the left hand side goes first and he has 2 options.


He can either stand, which means that he will not be asking for another card or he can try and hit. Hit means that he will be dealt another card in the attempt to ‘hit’ closer to 21 or 21 itself. If the player goes over 21 then the player would lose and all of his wagers will be collected. This is repeated with every player at the table. 


Once the dealer has served everyone he will reveal his face down card. If his card total is that of 17 or more than the dealer must stand. If the total happens to be 16 or under then they must hit, i.e take a card. The dealer has to keep on taking cards until the total value is that of 17 or more at which point he has to stand. Therefore, if the dealers happen to have an Ace and counting it as an 11 would bring his total to 17 or more, then he is forced to look at the ace as an 11 and he is then forced to stand. The dealers decisions are automatic on all plays as they are predetermined but as a player you have all the free will in the world. 


Now, if the first two cards that a player gets happen to be of the same denomination then that player has the option to split these two cards and treat them as two separate hands. Two hands does mean that you have to add another bet which is equal to your original one though. The first to be played is the hand on the left and once that is done with the dealer can move on to the second hand on the right. If these two pairs happen to be aces then the player is given one card each hand only.


Another option that one has is doubling down. This can only happen when the original two cards that have been dealt to the player equal a 9,10 or 11. Once it is the players turn they would place a bet equal to their original one and they will be given another card which is to be kept face down. This card is only revealed at the end once all the bets are settled. It is good to know that the dealer does not have the options of splitting or doubling down.


If the dealer's face up card happens to be an ace then the insurance will come into play. The insurance is when any of the players make a side-bet of up to half their original bet. Once all of the side bets are settled the dealer will look at his face down card, also known as a hole card. If this card happens to be a ten the everyone who made an insurance bet will be paid double the amount of their side bet.


Once every player bets are settled the dealer will collect the cards and place them face up at the side of the table against a clear L-shaped shield. This means that the cards used will be visible to all players at all times. The dealer will continue dealing from the shoe until the plastic bank card previously mentioned shows up. This is the signal to reshuffle and start with a fresh new deck. Once the cards have been shuffled another player gets to cut the deck and the bank card is reinserted.

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How to win at Blackjack?

Now we’re going to speak about some strategies that you can use to further help your chances of winning at blackjack.


The first strategy that we will be speaking about is the basic strategy. Winning tactics in blackjack require that the player should play each hand in the best way possible and the player would always take into consideration what the face up card of the dealer is. If the dealers face up card is a good one, meaning a 7,8,9, 10 or an ace, the player should not stop hitting until they reach a total of 17 or more. In the case that the dealer's face up card is a bad one, such as a 4,5 or 6 then the player should stop picking up the card once the total is that of 12 or higher. The main idea behind this strategy is to not take any chances by taking more cards when you have a chance of going bust.  The reasoning behind this strategy is that the player will be hoping that the dealer will hit and hopefully bust. 


If the player has a soft hand, which means that they have an ace in their hands, the best strategy to go with is to keep hitting until the player has a total of 18. This means that even if you have an ace and a six, which can both be 7 or 17, it is still wise for you to hit until you reach at least 18.


Another strategy that we’re going to speak about is the doubling down strategy. In this strategy, if the player has a total of 11, then they should double down. If the player has  a total of 10 then he should also double down, unless the dealer's face up card is an ace or a ten. If the players cards have a total of 9 then the player should only double down if the dealer's face up card is the numbers 2-6. 


Another strategy is used when it comes to splitting your hand. If the player has  a pair of aces or 8s then they should always split. But, if they have a pair of 10s or a pair of 5s then they should not either as these two pairs will give you more benefits if you double down. A pair of 4s is not wise to be split either. Usually, 2s, 3s and 7s are a good idea to split unless the dealer has an 8,9,10 card or an ace. You should also not split a pair of sixes unless the dealer's card is 2 through 6.


Advantage play is another blackjack strategy, in this strategy the player attempts to win by using their skills of memory, computation and observation. This strategy has been around since the 1960s, so casinos know about it and will be on the lookout for it. With this being said this is 100% legal to do. It usually gives the player a long-term edge in the game being played, thus meaning that the casino has more chances of losing and losing money, which does make the player an undesirable customer. 


The main points in advantage play are card counting and shuffle tracking. In card counting the player would be guessing what cards could be left in the shoe by taking a close look at the cards that have already been dealt and are displayed on the plastic L shape that we have mentioned before. This allows the player to make some inferences about the cards which are left to be dealt. This means that with this knowledge players can adjust their bets accordingly and decide their next move from there. 


Card counting is the most effective when the deck is near the end as a great number of cards will be displayed. Single deck cards are also very advantageous to those players who card count. In fact, this is the reason why more than one deck is used and also why the plastic bank card has been introduced. All in the efforts to try and foil card counters and not let them have that much of an edge over the house. 


Another effort is called shuffle tracking, this is the most effective when multiple decks of cards are in play. In shuffle tracking the player would need to keep track of multiple card groupings while they are in play. The reason for this is so that the player would keep track of this group of cards and when these groups of cards come into play again the player would be able to make an educated guess on what cards are left in the deck and how much the probability is of getting a blackjack or going bust. This strategy does require very good eyesight together with being able to visually estimate how many cards are left in the deck. Even though this strategy is regarded as difficult, it is harder to detect from the casino's side as the shoe has nothing to do with this strategy.


Another strategy that can be used is playing close attention to the cards and seeing if there is anything that can identify them from the back such as wear marks or creases. The player can also pay close attention when the hole card is being dealt to see if they can sneak a peak and what the card may be. This should be done with the utmost attention as if you are caught you will most likely be banned from the casino.

Learn about Blackjack

Blackjack also goes by the name twenty-one. The rules for this age old card game are very straight-forward and many strategies can be used to further your chances of winning. Blackjack itself became popular sometime around world war one but that was not when the game was created. Traces of blackjack are shown way back in the 1760s  with a french game titled Vingt-et-Un, this means 21 in french. Nowadays, blackjack can be found in many casinos all across the World. 


Some people do play this game at home as well, but the rules tend to differ. In the at home version only one deck is normally used and every single player gets to be the dealer at some point. This is different in the casino version as there is only one fixed dealer, who represents the house. The players playing blackjack in a casino do not touch any cards and do not get to shuffle and pass out any cards. 


As previously mentioned, at home usually a single card deck is used but in a brick and mortar casino it is usually the case that six to eight decks are used for a single game of blackjack. The six deck version is more popular than the eight deck version. In addition to this change the dealer in a casino version of blackjack also makes use of a plastic bank card, which is never dealt. Rather, it stays at the bottom of the pack to indicate when the time to reshuffle has come. 


When four decks or more are used in a game the cards would be dealt from a shoe. By shoe I mean a box that the cards are put in that give the dealer the opportunity to remove cards one at a time, face down, without actually having to hold any packs in his hand. This use of the shoe helps make for a cleaner game as the cards are not being constantly handled by someone.


Blackjack is a very easy game to learn as it does not feature many sets of complicated rules. In opposition to poker, blackjack is very straightforward and highly enjoyable. The aim of the game is simply to get as close to 21 as you can, without going bust that is. Even though some strategies and intricacies can be found and utilised to better play this age old card game they are not needed as the basic premise of blackjack is very easy to grasp and all that you need to know really.

Other Games like Blackjack

Blackjack is known to have developed from a game called 21. The first reference to this game can be found in one of Miguel de Cervantes’ books. Cervantes himself was a gambler and he included gambling characteristics within his characters. In fact, the main characters in ‘Rinconete y Cortadillo’ were a couple of cheats passing life by in Seville. These two characters are amazing at cheating at veintiuna, which is spanish for twenty one, and they say that the aim of the game is not to go over 21. Now, what makes this even more interesting is that they treat the Ace in the same way that we do nowadays in blackjack. The Ace can be either a 1 or an 11, depending on the value that the player assigns to it. This story was written around 1601 and this meant that ventuina has been played since the 17th century, if not even earlier.

Where is Blackjack Popular?

In the beginnings of blackjack in America very few people wanted to try their hand at this new card game simply because of the fact that it was new. To help encourage customers to try out this new game casinos started giving bonus payouts to everyone who was at the blackjack table. This of course started attracting customers and peaked the players interest, thus growing to a point where blackjack managed to become one of the most popular card games across the globe. 


In fact, the name blackjack itself comes from the jack of spades and the jack of clubs. Before, whenever a player would get an ace of spades and a blackjack, which is either the jack of spades or of clubs, they would get a ‘blackjack’ and thus be awarded with a bonus payout.


Blackjack is popular all over the world and there are various reasons for this being the case. It is super simple to play. It does not have a set of complex, hard to understand rules but rather it is quite straightforward in its approach. Another reason being the fact that generally it has  a low house edge. The odds are generally quite good in a game of blackjack, due to this low house edge.


Blackjack also usually offers a three to one payout. This means that if a player gets a ‘blackjack’ then they will automatically win the round. If this does not happen to be the case the player would still have the chance of playing until he would beat the dealer, or go bust, whichever one comes first. Blackjack is also a very fast paced game. There are no long standing tactics or long plays to this game. All that goes into it is counting up to 21 and that's all. 


Another upside to this age old card game is the fact that the basic rules always stay the same. With the many variations that exist in blackjack you don't have to learn a new set of rules for each one of them but if you know the basics then you are all set. Blackjack is also a very social game as many people can play in contrast to many card games where the limit is six players, over seven players can play blackjack at one go. 

The fact that this game is so readily available everywhere also helps it gain in popularity. Once you walk into a casino it will not take you long to spot the blackjack table and find a seat to sit in. Blackjack is available at almost all hours virtually anywhere around the world. Blackjack also happens to be on the more affordable side of card games. This is because it does not favour the dealer all the time.


Blackjack has become very much a worldwide game, it can be found anywhere in America, Europe, Asia or Australia. If you wish to play a game all that you have to do is set a date and time and you would be good to go as this card game’s popularity has seemed to take over the world. The fact that the player is free to make his own decisions greatly helped the spread of this card game. Bets are placed before the cards are dealt but then it is up to the player to see how much he wants to risk.

Historical Moments in Blackjack

Blackjack is making gaming history as we speak. This means that it does lack a bit of historical moments so instead we will be speaking about the ways blackjack is currently making history. 

The first ever blackjack tournament was held in 1978. Here players would all start with an equal amount of chips in their hands. The aim of this tournament is to, at the end, have the most chips out of everyone who is still standing. Depending on how many players take part in the tournament the tournament itself can have various rounds, with one or two players from each blackjack table going up to the next round.

There is also another format of blackjack tournament which is called Elimination Blackjack. In this version, there will be predetermined points throughout the game in which the lowest standing player will be dropped from the game. This keeps happening until only one person is left standing.

The strategies used for tournament blackjack are somewhat different to the strategies used for casino blackjack as in casino blackjack you have the extra element of choosing how much your wager is going to be. Usually, to be able to play in one of these blackjack tournaments a fee is asked for as an initial entry fee to be able to participate. Sometimes, re-buys are permitted so if you happen to have been the lowest standing at a point and been dropped off then you can pay your way back in.


With the many new technological developments blackjack has also created its own technological branch. This is known as Video Blackjack. The rules for this branch of blackjack are generally more on the house’s side rather than the player’s side. Video blackjack usually gets dealt from a fresh shoe which makes the card counting strategy ineffective in this particular instance. 


Blackjack is also a widely studied card game. In fact, many scientific attempts have been made to look at an optimal strategy in winning blackjack. This was done by Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbet Maisel and James McDermott. These four had published a paper in 1956 titled   ‘The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack in the Journal of the American Statistical Association’.


This paper is the basis of all strategies derived in the hopes of being able to win at this fun card game. In fact, Ed Thorp would use segments from this paper to verify the basic strategy and later on publish his very own book with the same subject titled ‘Beat the Dealer’.

Blackjack FAQ's

How Do You Play Blackjack?

Blackjack is played using various decks, usually. In a casino a special blackjack table will be available where you will play with other players. You are never in competition with the other players as your main focus is the dealer.

What is the goal in Blackjack?

The goal is to beat the dealer. To beat the dealer you need to get as close to as 21, or 21 itself, without going bust. Going bust means going over 21.

What do the cards mean in Blackjack?

The cards from 2-10 are taken at face value. The J, Q and K all count as 10 points. The ace card can be given a value of either 1 or 11, it is up to the player to decide what value they want to give their card. This value can be changed multiple times.

How do you play?

Before the cards are dealt each player will place their bets on either themselves or the dealer. Then two cards are given to each player face up and the dealer would have one face up card and one face down card. The face down card is known as the hole card. The player then decides whether they wish to take another card to try and get to 21 and whether they are happy with the cards that they have.

What is a natural?

A natural, or a blackjack, is when a player wins by having a J card and an Ace. This is because the J card has a value of 10 while the Ace’s value in this instance is 11.

What is doubling down?

Doubling down is when you believe that you have such a good hand that you decide to double your bet

What is splitting?

Splitting can only be done if you have a pair of the same card, for example, 2 6’s. In this instance you can decide to split them and you will have two hands active. You would need to place another bet equal to your first one but this does mean that you have double the chances of winning.

How do you win in Blackjack?

You win by getting a total of 21, or closer to 21 than the dealer is.

Are there any strategies involved in Blackjack?

Yes there are many. The legal use of these strategies vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and although they may be legal they will still be frowned upon by casino owners. This is because the player who uses strategies has a higher edge over the house usually.