Sometimes it's tough to know when to hit, stand, split, or even when to double down.
Or does it have to be?
Well, it turns out that blackjack is even simpler than you think.
There are tips, tricks, simple and advanced stategies to help increase your chances of winning.
There are three ways to win with blackjack.
First, the player wins if he hits a blackjack and the dealer doesn't. A blackjack is when your first two cards total 21 and it's also called a natural.
The second way way to win is by scoring higher than the dealer without going over 21. If you go over 21 you “bust” and automatically lose.
Lastly, if the dealer busts everyone who didn't bust automatically wins.
The point of the game is to get a higher total than the dealer without going over 21.
Chances are you've seen bits and pieces of how blackjack is played, even if you've never actually played yourself. Wherever you are on the spectrum of experience, it's never a bad idea to brush up on the basics:
The dealer gives everyone two cards, both face up, and two cards to themselves, one face-up and one face-down.
In turn, each player has the chance to stand, take more cards, or split a pair if both their cards are the same rank.
After all players have acted, the dealer turns over their downcard and either stands or hits according to a set of rules decided by the casino.
The dealer pays out any players who won the hand and collects the bets of those who lost.
Figuring out which hand wins is really easy. If a player gets 21 with his first two cards, it's an automatic win as long as the dealer doesn't get a blackjack too. Otherwise, the player wins if their hand adds up to more than the dealer while also not going over 21. Let's look at some examples.
As a player, you can make any decisions you want but how the dealer plays is governed by rules set by the casino. The specific rules depend on where you're playing but we'll cover the most common guidelines you'll find all around the world and on the internet at the best online casinos.
The dealer has a hard 17, so they have to stand.
This hand totals the same as the dealer. A tie in blackjack is a “push” and you neither win nor lose. Your bet is returned.
This hand exceeds 21 and so it loses automatically.
This hand is a blackjack and since the dealer doesn't have blackjack, it automatically wins. This is paid out 3:2.
This hand is higher than the dealer's total and so wins. This is paid out 2:1.
One reason blackjack is such a popular game is that even though the rules are simple, there's a lot of room to learn advanced strategy in order to turn the odds in your favor. Now that you know the basics, it's time to take it to the next level.
The ingredients that go into a great game of blackjack are simple:
Amazingly that short list, combined in the right way, created one of the most popular gambling games in history.
This is the space that the dealer's cards are dealt into.
This is where the cards are dealt from during each game.
This will be a square or a circle that your cards are dealt into (you can play multiple hands in some games). This is where your chips are placed at the start of the game.
This is where you'll decide what move to make, whether it be to hit, stand, fold, or anything else.
This is where you'll find your betting amount options.
You can click the chips to add them to your bet.
There are three main categories of cards: Aces, faces, and number cards.
Aces are special because they can count as either 1 or 11. Aces are also important since you need one to make a blackjack. Face cards refer to kinds, queens, and jacks - these are all worth 10. All the remaining cards are worth their numerical value.
An Ace can be counted as 1 or 11.
The number cards between Two and Ten show their values.
A face card is worth 10 points.
If you hang around a blackjack table you'll hear people talking about “hard” hands and “soft” hands. Here's what they mean:
These are the three main ways to win but if you want more, jump ahead to our Blackjack Strategy Tips section to learn the most effective strategies we could get our hands on.
Blackjack is deceptively simple. The rules are easy to learn and you can start playing right away. But don't be fooled into thinking that's all there is to it. It's really important to learn basic blackjack strategy or else the casino will get an even bigger edge than they're entitled to.
|Type of win||Payout|
|Blackjack||3 to 2 i|
|Win with no blackjack||1 to 1 i|
|Tie with Dealer||Push i|
Casino games always have a house edge, that's the casino's statistical advantage that's built right into the rules of the game. People love blackjack because it actually allows you to use strategy to lower the house edge or, in some cases, turn the odds in your own favor.
It's important to remember that the house edge can't tell you how much you'll win or lose in one session. The more you play, however, the closer your numbers will be to the statistical house edge. The important thing to remember is that how well you play has a direct effect on the house edge in blackjack. Let's look at an example to show you what we mean.
Lisa is an experienced blackjack player and is playing near-perfect strategy which gives the house an edge of 0.8%.
That means for every $100 Lisa bets, on average, she'll lose 80 cents.
There are all kinds of odds at work in blackjack. Check out these fast stats to dig deeper into this game's mechanics and mathematics.
Unlike other games like baccarat, or betting on red and black in roulette, blackjack doesn't have a fixed house edge. That's because, as a player, you have so many strategy decisions at your disposal. An experienced player who plays properly can get the house edge down to half a percent but a beginner who doesn't learn basic strategy will be giving the casino a way bigger edge. Don't make that mistake.
“Play within your bankroll, pick your games with care and learn everything you can about the game. The winning will come. It has to. It's in the cards.”Bryce Carlson, author of Blackjack for Blood
Tips for succeeding at blackjack can be broken down into two main types.
First, you have gameplay tips like how to play certain hands.
Second, there are larger-picture decisions like which casino and what stakes to play and how to manage your bankroll. We're going to give you the best of both worlds right here.
Advanced blackjack strategy takes years to master but there are lots of easy rules you can add to your game quickly that will make a big difference. Just remember that the better you play, the better your odds are.
The best way to lay out all the best way for you to play all the different hands and situations is by using blackjack charts. To use these charts just find your hand on the far-left column as well as the dealer's up-card in the row across the top.
Splitting pairs in blackjack is an important part of good strategy but it's not as simple as just remember whether you should split a certain pair or not. You also have to take into account the dealer's card that's showing. Use this chart to figure out exactly how to play every pair in every situation.
When you have an ace in your hand that's being counted as 11 it's called a “soft hand” because you still have the option of counting your ace as one point instead. This chart shows you when to hit, stand, or double down with every single soft hand and dealer card combo.
This chart breaks down when to stand, hit or double-down when you have a hand with no ace or one where the ace is being counted as one point. Again, make sure to take into account the dealer's upcard when making your decisions.
There aren't too many situations where it's correct to surrender but it's still important to know when it's the right move. This chart shows you the four hand combinations that call for surrender.
If you're playing online, keep these charts handy for reference when you get in spots where you don't know what to do. If you're playing live you can get small versions of the charts which are allowed at the table provided you don't slow down the pace of the game.
After you've learned how to play every situation (your hand + dealer up-card), you're ready to move on to advanced strategies like counting cards. Being able to use card-counting techniques is difficult and requires fast observation, good recall, basic math skills, and the acting skills to do it all without the dealer or pit boss spotting you.
As long as there have been casinos, there have been people trying to outsmart the house. Counting cards is one way they actually succeeded.
The idea is that when there are lots of 10-point cards in the deck, it favors the player. By keeping track of all the cards being dealt, players can identify times when there are more 10-point cards still to come and then pile on the bets while their chances are the best.
In theory, it's pretty straightforward. The challenge is keeping track of everything as it happens quickly in a real game and being able to do it without attracting the casino's attention. While it's not technically illegal, casinos will bar you from games if they catch you counting.
All the cards in the deck are assigned a value.
Keep track of all the cards being dealt by counting each of them as +1, 0, or -1 as they come out. This is called the “running count” and it tells you when there are more than an average number of 10-point cards left in the deck.
When the count gets above zero it means the odds are more favorable for the player. The higher the count gets, the more you should bet.
You must take the number of decks being used into account and convert the “running count” into what's known as the “true count”.
The more decks, the higher your running count will have to get before the odds become profitable. To give you an idea of how the true count equates to your odds, a true count of +8 works out to a roughly 3.5% edge for the player.
What does insurance mean in blackjack?
Insurance is a special side bet the dealer offers when they're showing an ace. Basically, it's a bet on them getting a blackjack and pays out 2 to 1 if you win. Since statistically, the dealer gets a blackjack less than half the time, it's pretty easy to see that this is a losing bet in the long run and should be avoided by beginner and intermediate players.
For advanced players who count cards, however, insurance is one of the most powerful bets. That's because when the count favors the player, it means there are more tens than usual in the deck. That means that when the dealer is showing an ace he's way more likely to make a blackjack.
Ready to put your new strategy to the test? Well, now's the time. Try your hand at your favourite strategy with our free play blackjack games.
Check out our comprehensive casino reviews to find a site that you love and practice playing blackjack for free before signing up for a real-money account.
Now that you've got the basics of the game, as well as some strategy tips, you can decide which blackjack variation you'd like to play. Here are a couple of the most popular options you'll find online:
It's a big and beautiful world of blackjack and there are tons of different variations and games to keep you coming back. Next time you're playing blackjack online or live blackjack, it's worth trying out a new variant to spice things up.
Long before the internet came along, people were playing different versions of blackjack in casinos and underground games all over the world. With the arrival of online casinos, the game was made available to hundreds of millions of people in the comfort of their own homes. Suffice to say, people were into it.
Mechanically the game is exactly the same whether you play live or online. The rules, odds and payouts are usually identical and if you love one, chances are you'll like the other. But even with all the similarities, there are a few important differences to be aware of.
Playing online gives you a virtually unlimited selection of games, stakes and rules all accessible 24/7 from your home or mobile device.
Online casinos are famous for big bonuses and rewards opportunities for regular players. Make sure to look into the rewards program when you sign up for an account.
Most casinos shuffle deck after every hand which makes card-counting impossible. If counting is a goal for you, stick to offline play.
Although live dealers are changing things, playing live in a real casino is more social and can be more exciting than playing online.
Depending on where you live, accessing a casino with a good selection of games can be a challenge. If brock and mortar casinos are out of reach consider signing up to play online.
If you learn how to execute card-counting techniques and are able to find games that use one or two decks, you can legitimately turn the odds in your favor.
Most blackjack players never have to choose between online and offline. The truth is, they're both great for different reasons and definitely both appropriate in different situations. Check out our comprehensive site reviews to find the online game that's perfect for you.
If you play blackjack in a real casino, you'll need to follow certain rules. It's worth knowing them to become a more considerate player:
Since there's so much money to be made, it shouldn't come as a surprise that people are constantly trying to cheat at blackjack. That brings us to an important distinction. Most serious gamblers don't consider strategies like card-counting to be cheating. That said, most of the biggest “blackjack cheats” in history were teams of counters like the MIT Blackjack Team.
The most common, and least successful, way of cheating is simply lying to the dealer and trying to force them to back down.
This is a sleight-of-hand scam that involves covering your chips in a certain way, meaning that you can manipulate the payout depending on the outcome of the game.
Las Vegas legend, Richard Marcus, would bet what looked like three $5 chips but was actually a brown $500 chip covered by two red $5 chips. If Marcus won, the dealer would discover the true size of the bet and pay out up to $1,500. If he lost, he'd quickly replace the stack with three red chips.
Card counting isn't considered cheating by gamblers but it's definitely not permitted by casinos.
To try to throw off pit bosses and security, counters form teams to disguise their activities. The math is simple but pulling off this kind of scheme involves high-stakes and high-pressure coordination.
The common thread in all these stories is that the cheaters were eventually busted and either faced prison time or permanent bans from the casinos they were cheating. Unless you're committed to a life of crime, stick to playing smart blackjack in order to win money.
Whether you're playing in a real casino or online, it's never a good idea to cheat. Morality aside, security technology is extremely advanced and when you do get caught, you face real-world repercussions.
Casinos make it their business to catch and prosecute cheaters and in many places, it can result in criminal charges.
If a casino catches you cheating, the very least they will do is ban you from all of their properties. If you come back they'll notify the police and file charges.
If you become known as a cheater the casinos will circulate your identity and other properties will ban you from playing at their casinos as well.
If you get busted cheating the casino out of money not only will they sue you for the money you won, they can also file criminal charges that can result in heavy fines and even jail time.
Save yourself a lot of time, money and headaches by playing within the casino's rules and limiting your strategy to math and optimal in-game decisions.
Cheating online can take many forms including banking fraud and trying to compromise the site's security or other player's accounts and the consequences can be just as severe as cheating in real casinos.
Just like brick and mortar casinos, casino websites can ban you immediately if they catch you cheating or breaking their terms and conditions.
If you get busted by the casino, you can bet they will bring a team of lawyers to get back their money.
Depending on the severity of the cheating, online casinos have the option of bringing law enforcement into the picture to help them resolve the situation.
Gambling online and live is supposed to be a fun and social activity that actually gives you the chance of leaving with more money than you came with. It's not surprising that people try to take advantage of it but it's a rare case that works out for cheaters in the long run.
The biggest myths in blackjack are the ones that target beginners and explain why “good” players' lost a hand.
They're pretty common and also pretty destructive because they make live blackjack more intimidating for new players. Chances are you've heard some of them before.
Here's an example.
People blame the final player for hitting but the scientific truth is that his decision is just as likely to cause a positive outcome as a negative one for the other players. The idea that he “caused” the outcome is flawed.
A lot of people think the point of blackjack is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. They're wrong. It's not like The Price is Right. The point of the game is to win and, as we outlined earlier, there are a few ways to do it:
This is a common myth that spans all gambling games: The idea that some progression or math-based betting system can overcome the house edge built into the game.
While it's true that betting systems can change the likelihood of a specific outcome (a small winning session or a large losing session, for example) they can never change the fundamental odds.
In blackjack, however, good strategy can and does change your odds of winning in the long term.
Education is key to winning and that includes debunking common myths that can actually hurt the game. Do your research and try to base your decisions on math, logic and reasoning.
Gamblers love the lingo and if you truly want to fit in at the tables, consider learning to talk the talk with our blackjack gambling glossary:
Find the best online casinos offering your favorite games by clicking below. Each page also offers a simple guide on how to play.
The aim of the game is to have your first two cards total 21, or for your first two cards to score higher than the dealer without going over 21. You must make your first bet prior to any cards being dealt. You may then opt to stand, hit, fold, double down, or split a pair. The dealer compares his hand to yours to determine the winner.
Usually 6-8 decks are used in blackjack, excluding jokers.
Insurance is a special side bet placed on whether you think the dealer holds Blackjack. This is available when their up card is a 10 or Ace.
An ace is a card that can be counted as 1 or 11.
A surrender is the option of surrendering half your bet after the dealer has looked at his down-card. You may take back the other half and your hand is over.
You may split when your first two cards are a pair.
Double down allows you to double your bet in exchange for one extra card. Players cannot hit again afterwards.
A push is a tie hand between the player and the dealer.
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