How to play blackjack
Also known as twenty-one, blackjack is a game of both chance and skill popular at online casinos everywhere. The main aim of the game is to create a hand whose value is higher than the dealer’s hand, but without going over the total value of 21. If you go over 21, you go bust and lose.
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Table of Contents
- Basics of online blackjack
- Kicking off a game of blackjack
- When to hit and when to stand in blackjack
- When to break the rules of this strategy
There are many variations of this popular casino game, and each and every one of them has its own special rules. Nevertheless, the basic blackjack rules are common for all variations. Once you’ve grasped the basic rules, it will be much easier for you to learn the special rules for other blackjack games.
In a game of blackjack, cards between 2 and 10 are worth their face value, while all face cards’ value is 10. An ace is worth either 1 or 11, depending on the situation and which of the two would be most advantageous. A hand with an Ace counting as 11 is called a ‘soft’ hand, meaning that an ace and a 7 is called ‘soft 18’. A hand with an Ace counting as 1 is called a ‘hard’ hand.
To kick-start a game of blackjack, you must first place your bets to receive your two cards face up. The dealer, in turn, receives his two cards with one card face up. In some variations of the game, the dealer receives the second card face down (known as a ‘hole card’) while in others the dealer does not get his second card until much later in the game.
If your two cards total to 21, you have ‘blackjack’ and automatically win. If the dealer also has a blackjack, then it is called a tie (or push).
Playing your hand
Unless you have a blackjack, then there are a few options for which you must opt for. First, you must examine the two cards in your hand and the dealer’s face-up card before making one of the following decisions:
- Hit: Ask for another card. You can ask for a hit until you decide to stand or else bust
- Stand: Decide that you take no additional cards. The dealer can then play this hand
- Double Down: Double the amount of your bet + an extra card + stand
- Split: If you have two cards of the same value, you can split them into two separate hands. The bet is the same as the original bet so essentially doubling your bet
- Surrender: You may surrender half your bet if you think you are likely to lose the hand
- Insurance: If the dealer’s up card is an Ace, you can take insurance, which is a bet that is half the value of your original bet. You are essentially wagering on the dealer getting a blackjack.
The dealer’s hand
- The dealer automatically wins if you bust or surrender
- He also wins if his total hand value is closest to 21
- If the dealer has a total of 16 or less, he must hit
- If the dealer has a total of 18 or more, then he must stand
- If the dealer has a hard 17, he must stand
- If the dealer has a soft 17, the dealer must hit
The winner takes it all
After both you and the dealer have played your hand, the winner of the game is automatically determined and declared based on the following factors:
- If you have a blackjack and the dealer does not, you win
- If you bust by going over 21, you lose
- If you stand without going over 21, yet the dealer busts, you win
- If neither you nor the dealer busts, the hand closest to 21, wins
- If you and the dealer have the same card value, neither wins or loses
Although blackjack is considered as a game of chance, it is also one of strict decision making. Whether to hit or stand is a choice that can lead to either winning or losing the hand. Of all the decisions, you make while playing online blackjack, the most vital decision you make is the one based on whether to hit or stand on your current hand.
Hitting and standing: The basics
Knowing when to hit and to stand is one of the most fundamental skills a player must master to be successful at blackjack. Although managing your bankroll is also of critical importance, if you fail to make the right decision when it comes to hitting or standing, it can end up costing you eventually.
Basic blackjack strategy dictates that you need to understand fully when to hit and when to stand, but that’s just the start. To be successful, you also need to comprehend the dynamics of these two options.
- To hit your hand, it means that you are requesting an additional card from the dealer, then you can decide whether to hit again or to stand on your total.
- To stand on your hand means that you are happy and satisfied with the total and do not wish extra cards. Once you stand, you are not allowed to act further. Decisions are final.
Reasons for hitting
There is one reason to hit the table: To improve it. If you hit the hand for any other reason, you are going to lose. Don’t risk hitting if you think you might go over 21. Your main task in this game is making a hand that comes as close as possible to 21, without going over and by beating the dealer. To help you better understand this logic, you first need to understand a few blackjack principles.
To win in blackjack, you need an average winning hand of 18 or over. Therefore, your aim in this game is to try and get a total hand of 19 to be successful.
In many blackjack strategies, we always advise to stand on totals of 17 or more. The reason is that at 17, the odds are working in your favour. Taking a hit to improve your hand can result in going bust. There are too many cards that can push you over 21 if you take another hit.
Another tip would be, that you must always assume that the dealer has a 10 in the hole, since this way, we can begin to quantify the dealer’s hand and apply a strategy. Just to specify, the hole card is the other card that the dealer owns that is hidden from the player.
Since there are plenty of 10-value cards in the deck, the odds are that the hole card would be a 10. Therefore, every decision you make at the table must be established on the assumption that the dealer has a 10 in the hole.
Reasons for standing
When it comes to standing, there are namely two reasons why you should stand, namely:
- if you’re sure that your hand is going to beat the dealer’s and
- if you think the dealer will bust.
f you stand for another reason besides those two, then you’re bound to lose the round.
You must keep in mind, that blackjack is a mathematical game based on odds and probabilities. It applies a set of mathematical principles that cannot be twisted or tampered with. There are also specific rules pertaining to the dealer, such as the dealer must always hit on 16 or less, and stand at 17 or more.
Just like the dealer is following specific rules, so should you.
When to make the right call
To start with, you should carefully evaluate the information that is made available to you. First, observe your hand and then the dealer’s upcard. Make sure you have a specific count for yours and one for the dealer’s based on the probability of the facedown card. Then you must choose whether to hit or stand based on the information available.
You should rest assured that not everyone makes the right call every time, but with this strategy, you can minimise the chances of losing. One thing is for sure though. You should never base a decision on your gut feeling.
Make sure you follow this set of rules when hitting and standing.
Knowing the basic rules of blackjack is a given. However, there are a few times when you would have to break the rules when it comes to hitting or standing.
Here are a few examples when it’s okay to deviate away from this strategy:
- If the dealer shows a 10, then always hit if you have a total of 16.
- Always hit if you have a soft 17 (you have an Ace and a 6), as you can improve the hand without busting.
- Always hit a hard 12 to better your hand
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