Blackjack is one of the top 5 most popular games in Las Vegas, and in casinos all around the world.
In the Gambling Times guide to Blackjack we will show you the basics of the game, as well as advanced strategies that you can apply when playing in a casino, or in some cases, even online.
Recommended online casinos with Blackjack
- Golden Nugget
- 888 Casino
- Virgon Casino
- Party Casino
To find legal blackjack casinos in the United States, check out the state guides for all US states. New Jersey players can have a look at the NJ online casino website guide, to find a good place to play Blackjack.
Blackjack is one of the most popular games played in a casino worldwide. Also known as 21, it is a game played by comparing cards with the dealer rather than competing against other players at the table.
Like many other casino games, this is a game of chance rather than skill. But there are still tricks and techniques that can be used to improve one’s odds and these will all be detailed here.
Learn how to play, what to do and what not, betting options and simplified strategies in this most comprehensive guide to Blackjack.
Rules in Blackjack
The basic rules for Blackjack are easy, simply try and reach the number 21 with the minimal number of cards possible (2 cards being the smallest option). Each player, including the dealer is dealt two cards. The value of the cards is what determines the score. With the number cards this is simple, being the value clearly written. Picture or face cards, i.e. Jack, Queen and King, are all scored at 10, and if the player is lucky enough to be dealt an ace, this can be counted as a 1 or 11 depending on the players need.
Once the player as viewed their hand they have the option to ‘stick,’ keep the cards in their hand with no change, or to ‘hit,’ request an extra card from the dealer. In order to win a round, the player must reach either 21 exactly with the cards with the value of their cards or to reach the highest possible number without passing 21, a number that is higher than the dealer that is. If the player exceeds this number they lose or go ‘bust.’ If the dealer busts then it is possible to win by having an end value of 21 or the next highest possible value below 21.
Soft and Hard Hands
Coming back to the ace in the hand. If the player is using it as an 11, the hand is deemed to be ‘soft,’ meaning that the player is unable to go bust when receiving an additional card. This is because 11 added to the value of any other card in the deck would always be less than 21. If the ace is valued at 1, the hand is then called ‘hard.’ The dealer has to continue to ‘hit’ until the total of the cards is more than 17. Sometimes the dealer will hit a soft 17 hand which is when the player holds an 11 point value ace and additional cards to the value of no more than 6.
To win, the player must have 21 or the dealer has gone bust and the player has a high score below 21. However, occasionally there is a situation called the ‘push,’ and this is where both player and dealer have the same hand. At this point the bet just remains with no loss or gain.
Splitting and Double Down
There are a few other terminologies that it is important to understand which we will lay out here. Splitting the hand or split, simply means splitting the starting two cards dealt and essentially creating two hands. They are then played separately but are only allowed if the two first cards have the same number value.
Double down means the once the initial bet has been placed; this can then be doubled but only on the first deal. Turn over the two cards and place the equalling bet next to the starting bet and receive an extra card. Really though, the time to do this is if you have a strong hand and the dealers card is weak. There are different rules on when this can be done so check the rules of the game first before committing to this.
Surrender and Insurance
Surrender or early surrender is not often played in Blackjack but when it is this simply means quitting from the round before the dealer has checked for a Blackjack. A natural is when the initial 2 cards dealt instantly equal 21, thus creating a Blackjack with no other moves needing to be made.
Insurance is a side bet that can half or less of the original placed bet against the dealer having a natural. This is only provided when the dealers up card (facing up) is an ace. Insurance wins double if the dealer does indeed have a natural but will lose if not.
Several Blackjack Variations
Whilst the basic rules of Blackjack remain the same, there are different rules and variations which change depending on which country the game is played in, how many decks are used and more. It is important to make sure to understand the particular rules of the Blackjack game you are joining.
Here at Gambling Times, we also have a huge range of Blackjack games you can play for free, many with these exact variances in place. With over 30 different games to choose from including the well-known Classic Blackjack, Multi-hand European Blackjack and Vegas Strip from Microgaming we are sure that there is something for everyone.
Don’t forget that as well as these online Blackjack games Gambling Times also have exclusive offers at legal online casinos, that have a large number of live Blackjack games complete with VIP options too.
In order to make sure your Blackjack gaming is a fully enjoyable experience, here are just as an extra few examples on some of the variants on Blackjack that you might come across when exploring the recommended online casino sites.
Single Deck Blackjack
Firstly, there is Single Deck Blackjack. Unlike the majority of versions, this one only uses one single deck in the game. This allows for less variability and an easier level to predict the cards. Card counters utilized this game hence the majority of games using multiple decks to minimize risk from counters. This follows the basic rules of Blackjack and is the simplest version to play especially as a beginner just getting into the game.
Multi-hand European Blackjack
Multi-hand European Blackjack is played with five decks and a huge range of betting options, something we will delve into later. Double down options occur when the starting hand contains a pair totalling 9, 10 or 11. One card will then be received and the hand then stands, but this is only allowed once per hand. Splitting is restricted to cards that are identical, for example, 10 value cards are not seen as the same as they are in other Blackjack versions. And again, this split is only allowed once. Finally, the dealer must stand on all 17s.
Spanish 21 or Pontoon
A very different version is Spanish 21 also known as Pontoon. Some say this is a better bet than the classic Blackjack. The big difference here is that Spanish 21 uses between 6 to 8 decks of only 48 cards rather than the standard 52. The four tens are removed from each deck which can make a huge difference and gives favour to the dealer. But never fear, to return to the player by allowing more bonuses and rules markedly in favour of the player. Such rules consist of doubling after splitting, late surrenders, re-splitting on aces, player blackjack beating dealer blackjack and much more.
Overall then, the rules are simple but it is off the utmost importance to check the exact rules of each individual game before diving in. These variances may be subtle but they can make a huge difference to the end game. With our huge range of options Gambling Times helps you to find and play the game of Blackjack that is perfect for you.
In addition to Blackjack being an exciting game in its own right, we recommend playing Blackjack at an online casino that offers a wide range of betting limits for you. As with playing Blackjack in a land-based casino, There are games with different limits and payouts.
Ranging from as low as 1p all the way up to €40, which allows all range of players to join the fun. For the most part, the games provided on a casino website payout at 3:2 rather than the less encouraging 6:5. A 3:2 means that on a €5 bet you would win €7.50. However in 6:5 payout a €5 would only gain an extra pound. We always aim to give our players the best experience but please check all these options before joining a specific game.
In this section you will find a large selection of our favourite blackjack strategy articles. Learning the optimal blackjack strategy is vital when playing for real money at a casino, and it does take hard work to enhance your skills. But take it from a professional, it’s well worth the hard work when your new skills pay off!
About Blackjack strategies
When learning strategies for Blackjack, it is important to have understood all the terminology associated with the game already previously described in the how to play section of this article. The set of strategies used for Blackjack is called the Basic Strategy and comprises of many levels.
Learning the basic strategy of Blackjack brings the casinos edge down to only 0.5%, which gives a huge edge when trying to count cards. Many of these basic strategies are detailed in online charts demonstrating in which round when to stick, hit, split and double all based on the cards in your own hand versus the dealers facing card. However, memorizing these alone is not enough to create an effective strategy and the casino will always have a significant edge over the player no matter what.
Even with these basic strategy rules memorized (and this takes a lot of time and incredible patience), there are still variants determined on which type of game you are playing, which casino, how many decks are being played with and so on. No one ever said Blackjack was easy. For example, if the game being played offers the option to surrender (i.e. Spanish 21), then this should be the first move made.
Surrendering on the first two cards dealt is the first option to think about but will be unable to be performed if a hit has already been taken. This is why this is the first step in the basic strategy. From this point, if the answer is no to surrendering for whatever reason, then move onto the next stage.
The second stage is whether or not to split and is considered number two in the most important decisions list in gameplay. This should only be an option if the first cards are a pair or two 10s. If they aren’t, then don’t split. Next up is whether or not to double. If the Basic strategy you’ve learnt ways to double, then double. At this point, you are most likely to win.
The last thing to think about is whether to hit. Having gone through all the previous stages as outlined above, if none of them were options for you then yes, it is finally time to hit and receive that extra card.
To break it down even more to the little details, here are a few of the key moves that should always be made and have been broken down into clear sections. For splitting, always split aces and 8’s. Pairs of 9’s and 5’s split if the dealer has 2 to 9. Pairs of 2’s, 3’s and 7’s can be split when the dealer has 2 to 7. 6’s split when the dealer has 2 to 6. For the most part, if the dealers’ cards don’t match with this situation, then hit. If surrendering is allowed, then 16 should surrender if the dealer holds a 9 to an ace. A 15 to a dealers’ 10. If not then a surrender should not be an option.
When playing soft totals, a hand that has an ace valued at 11 in the first deal, there is a long list to remember what to do and what not to. For example, a soft 20 should always stand. A soft 18 should double if the dealer holds between 2 and 6, hits if the dealer holds 9 to ace and stands for 7 and 8.
This is similar throughout, gradually decreasing in the numbers available to double upon, all the way down to a soft 13 which would double against a dealer 5 and 6 but should otherwise take a hit. Similarly, hard totals, a starting hand with no ace, or an ace counted as a 1 has a whole list of do’s and don’ts as well. 17 and above will always stand. 8 always hits. 13 to 16 will stand against a dealer holding 2 to 6 but otherwise should hit and so on.
This may seem a bit complex but it can be worth it in the long run. Find out which method of learning works for you, whether it is charts for the visual learner or the simplified phrase form we have employed here. Practice makes perfect and to succeed, perfect is what you will have to be.
Once all the basic strategy is learned then it is time to study the deviations. As mentioned before, games differ depending on which one you play and as such this can alter the way the basic strategy works. As before these deviations can be found in numerous charts online and vary from country to country. With time and patience, these strategies can be effectively learnt. However, they will never guarantee a win merely help to move the odds ever so slightly in your favour.
How to Rule Out Mistakes in Blackjack
As a player you can follow all the rules but there are still some easy avoidable mistakes commonly made. For example, as we mentioned before, it is very important to know the specific rules of the game you are playing and even more importantly, what the payout for that table or game is.
Normally Blackjack will pay out 3:2 but more and more they are paying out 6:5, a significantly reduced amount. Never play on a 6:5 game! This is a common beginner mistake; it is easy to read the exact requirements before playing. Also make sure to know what the minimum bet is as this can be highly detrimental to your end game. On Gambling Times, all this information is clearly laid out when reading through the rules on each game to avoid any errors of this kind.
Another rookie mistake to avoid is taking the insurance bet. For the vast majority of the time this is never worth taking. Insurance pays out at 2:1 so theoretically a player can cover his losers if the dealer wins however with 9:4 odds that the dealer has blackjack you’re better off, regardless of cards dealt, ignoring this option. Never stand on 12 when the dealer turns up a 2 or a 3. The best bet here is to hit. The reason for this is that the cards 2 to 6 are considered bad for the dealer.
Usually, if a dealer shows these cards, they will go bust later on in the round by going over 21. Similarly keeping 16 when the dealer shows an ace is a time when once again you should hit. It may seem a risk to do this as you will bust if the card is higher than a 5 but at this point the odds are stacked against you no matter what, so why not take the gamble!
Never hit a pair of 4’s if the dealer shows a 5 or a 6. This pair should, in fact, be split creating two hands and therefore the chance of doubling your winnings. The dealer holding a 5 or 6 means that the chances are high that he will bust, whereas having two lower hands gives you a much less likely chance of busting before the dealer does. Following on, splitting 10’s may seem like a good idea but it is not! Stand on them no matter what it is the dealer is showing.
Doubling down on 11 when the dealer holds an ace may also seem like the way to go but it’s not. Really to utilize doubling down efficiently the two cards must total 11 together as the likelihood of receiving a 10 the next time is very high. But even then there are times when this should also be avoided such as when the dealer holds an ace and hit instead. However, this can still be different depending on the rules of the game that you are playing. For the most part though, with 11 in hand, it is worth doubling down on any card the dealer may show that values below an ace.
Blackjack can be a fun game for anyone, be you a professional or just playing for the enjoyment of the game. At the end of the day it is a game of chance and therefore anyone has the ability to win big. With Gambling Times providing such a huge range of variants and styles of the game, there is an endless set of options to cater to everyone’s preferences.