Remember when you were a kid, playing games of pontoon or 21 with your brothers or mates for matchsticks or bits of pasta?
East stuff, and great fun right?
But even then it felt slightly illicit, although you’d have had no idea back then that one day you’d be playing blackjack for real money in an online casino.
And it’s as easy playing for real money as it was for play all those years ago – blackjack is a truly unique and very simple casino table game that you’ll see played in virtually every casino. Bar none in fact.
So why the popularity?
The simplicity is one draw of course. It’s straightforward and you can’t go far wrong as long as you spend some time reading up on strategies.
But the true big benefit in blackjack is that it’s one of the games which does have a reasonably low house edge. It’s possible (with some good runs and by playing optimal strategy at all times) that you can walk away from a session with more cash than you started with. Or at least have had a good few hours entertainment with only a reasonable loss to contend with.
The same rule applies as with all casino games though – the edge is with the casino. That never changes, and it’s only luck that will keep your bankroll intact over a long period.
How To Play
There are a handful of card games in the casino where you can be logged in and playing within minutes, even as a beginner. Blackjack is one of them.
It’s you (and maybe some other players) all playing individually against the dealer. Basically you’ll be placing a bet before you’re dealt 2 cards, and the aim is to win by getting your hand closer to 21 than the dealers.
After your bet, two cards are dealt face up. The dealer turns over one card and leaves his other face down. You can then choose to have one or more cards extra dealt to you, in an attempt to get as close to 21 as possible without going over.
If your first two cards dealt are already 21 (for example a ten card and an ace), this is called blackjack. You already have 21, and you’re favourite to win. Of course you can’t ‘buy’ an extra card and now you wait to see what the dealer has. He’ll only beat you if he also has blackjack.
If you have two tens, for example, you’d almost certainly decide to ‘stick’ as it would be unlikely the next card is an ace and makes up your 21. You play your own hand with full control over whether to stand or hit, unless of course you have 21.
Once all players have taken their turn, then the dealer plays too, and to win you must have a better hand than the dealer.
The dealer must hit, or turn over another card on any hand where he has 16 or less, no matter what cards are showing for the players on the table. In online casinos the options for what to do next at any point are presented to you, so you’ll always know what your choices are.
If either you or the dealer go over 21 you (or they) are bust, and lose the game. Ace counts as 1 or 11, tens and picture cards count as 10. If you win the hand, you win the amount you’ve bet plus your stake back, effectively doubling your money.
With a blackjack hand (a picture and ace) you’ll get higher odds, sometimes 3/2 though in some casinos that’s now been shortened to 6/5. Clearly the best time to hit a blackjack hand straight off the deal is when you’ve had a big initial wager.
You can see that the basic rules are simple. But to make it more interesting there are a number of additional options. Depending on what two cards you have, these can become open to you.
In game options – those that are available after you’ve got your first two cards – include double down, splitting pairs, and surrendering. In addition to either standing (keeping the cards you have as they are) or hitting (asking for an extra card or cards).
The first way to get the chance to win extra money on a hand is known as doubling down.
If you’ve received a good hand starting hand and believe it could give you 21 (or any other total that would have a great chance of beating the dealer) by adding just one more card, you can choose to double your original bet to get that extra card. If you bust you’ll lose it all of course, but if you ultimately win you’ll have doubled your winnings.
This option is only open on the first two cards dealt, although is come casinos it’ll also be an option on the two hands made after a split (see below).
As an example of a good double down hand let’s take a starting hand of 11 (a ten and an ace but not blackjack of course).
If you suspect there may be a good number of tens in the pack (either the ten card or a picture) this will be a good hand to double down. Any extra ten will give you 21, while a 9 or an 8 will still give a decent chance of beating the dealer.
An option that’s open if you get a pair on the first two cards, here you can choose to split the pairs and get an extra card on each one effectively making two new separate hands.You’ll need to place a new bet equal to the original on your new extra hand.
A perfect example of a great splitting hand is of course two aces. You could split these into two new hands and have a reasonably high chance of landing a picture or a ten on top of one or both.
The surrender option is not always offered at all casinos, but can be valuable in some circumstances. If your first two cards look to be poor and likely losers for you – you can choose to fold and surrender the hand. This will mean losing half your original bet, but in some cases it’s better to lose half and try to win it back next hand than it is to lose it all on an obviously poor starting hand.
Well there you have it – Blackjack in a nutshell! Simple, fast, easy to learn, and offering some good chances to win. You’re unlikely to get rich and more likely to lose over a number of sessions, but choosing Blackjack in the casino will give you a good run for your money provided you follow optimal strategies.
What To Do Next
If our GamblersFever introduction to the game has whet your appetite, there are two more steps to consider before piling in and chancing your luck – choosing where to play and learning the strategies (and in reverse order!)
Strategies for Blackjack is the main focus of our advanced guide articles. You’ll find a whole section at the top of the page.
Finding places to play is easy – just follow the Fever guide to the best online casinos.