Blackjack is an enduring favourite at the casino, whether you are headed to the brick-and-mortar destination for a star-studded evening out, or whether you are playing online at Casino 888.
With simple rules and limited outcomes, it is one of the easiest card games to learn, but it does take a lot of practice and an understanding of strategy to master it. If you want to elevate your game, you will need to know more about the structure of the game, and you need to know when to hit, when to stand, and how to beat the dealer without going bust.
In this guide we will go through the game play basics of blackjack, how payouts work, and what some of the house rules are. We will also discuss some strategy ideas to help you have fun and protect your bank roll.
The game starts with all players being dealt two cards each, face up. The dealer also receives two cards, but one remains face down.
The bets are placed at this stage, and each player is invited to decide if they want to take another card (hit) or not (stand).
The decision on whether to hit or stand (or other gameplay options discussed below) depends on the value of the hand that the player has. The idea of the game is to beat the dealer with the cards, without going bust by getting a score of more than 21.
The number cards are the same value that are on the card. 10, Jack, Queen, and King are all worth 10, and the Ace can either be worth 1, or 11, depending on what else you have in your hand.
Once all the players have completed their hands, the dealer then reveals what they are holding, and decides whether they want to hit or stand.
A regular win, where you beat the dealer, pays out 1:1.
A blackjack (a score of 21) pays out 3:2.
Dealers are not allowed to stand at 16 or below, so they must hit if they don’t get 17.
You can double down on your bet if you have a good hand, but you will only be able to ‘hit’ once – and not all casinos allow you to double or have rules about when it is allowed to happen.
If you have two of the same cards in your hand, you can split it into two – this gives you two opportunities to beat the dealer and is recommended with some hands.
If the dealer has an ace showing, they might offer you insurance – this is to protect your stake from the possibility of a blackjack being on the dealer’s side.
A ‘soft’ hand is one that includes an Ace, and a ‘hard’ hand is one that does not.
With all this in mind, early strategy when you are learning to play should just be about getting a feel for the flow of the game and seeing what other players are choosing to do.
If you want to develop your game, you can find helpful tables and charts that show what the mathematical probability says about whether you should hit, double, split, or stand based on what your cards are and what the dealer is showing.
As an example, if your hand is between 2-4, it is best practice to hit no matter what the dealer is showing – and if you have 17-20, you should stand for the best chance of a win. Memorising these tables will help you make a balanced decision and ensure that you are not relying on emotion or instinct.
While you might want to split every matching pair of cards that you have, remember that a pair of 10s is still 20 – so it is not worth splitting.
Aces are a great place to make a split hand because they are the most versatile of all the cards in poker, and most players will want to split a pair of eights to avoid the dreaded 16 – that is not a great place to hit because of the likelihood of a bust, but you will want to get higher to beat the dealer.
Although you might feel like a daring high roller putting it all on the turn of a card, if it doesn’t come in, you’ll have ended your playing time before it has even started. It is better to stay small in your wagering so that you can play more.
Even if you are only playing for fun with some friends, you can improve your game with just a little bit of strategy, and the basics are relatively easy to memorise.
Strategies don’t always work – and this can be disconcerting if you are trusting something that doesn’t come in every time. However, they need to be relied upon to do their thing, which means that you need to hold your nerve so that you don’t rely on emotion or ‘instinct’ to decide what move to make next.