How to Play Blackjack – Blackjack Basics


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“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
‘Fast’ Eddie Felson (Paul Newman, “The Color of Money”)

Blackjack originated in France around 1700, and was then called ‘Vingt-et-Un’, which literally means ‘21’. The game gained popularity in Europe and reached casinos in America during the 1800’s and also became very popular there. Casinos, however, have developed a love-hate relationship with the game, since it is possible for an expert blackjack player to gain an edge over the casino in blackjack. Thus were invented a plethora of blackjack variations, rules and adaptations meant to increase the house edge. As a response, blackjack players have come up with equally creative blackjack strategies, techniques and counting systems to increase the player edge.


Online Blackjack

As the internet gained popularity, land-based casinos were transported online, and cyber versions of the popular casino games were created – slots, roulette, craps, video poker, and blackjack. Blackjack, the most popular online casino game, is in fact the most interactive online casino game – a player can hit, stand, double, split, and surrender, and also combine several decisions (like double after split or split twice). That is why a player has more control over the game outcome in blackjack than in any other casino game. Blackjack is a game that is subject to ‘conditional probabilities’, which means that as the game goes on the chance of winning hands differs while the hand is played. If cards are not shuffled after each round, every hand outcome actually affects the outcome of all subsequent hands.


Playing Online Blackjack

Blackjack online is usually played against a computerized dealer (the casino game server) and seldom against a human dealer (which is offered by BeTheDealer Casino). The blackjack player’s goal is to reach a combined card point-total of 21.

The cards in the deck (or decks – usually available decks can be 1, 2, 4, 6, or 8) are numbered at their face value, except the ‘royal family’ – Jack, Queen, King – which all equal 10 points. Aces can either be worth 11 points or 1 point (Aces can be worth 11 conditioned that the hand point total doesn’t pass 21). If the hand’s ‘hard’ point total passes 21 (‘hard’ means that Ace is worth 1. When an Ace is worth 11 the hand is ‘soft’) the hand ‘bust’ and its bet is lost.

These are the basic fundamentals of blackjack – it’s that simple.
After you receive your initial two cards you can choose to ‘hit’ and receive another card from the dealer, ‘double’ and receive only one more card from the dealer (and then the round ends), ‘split’ if you have two identical cards and you want to create two separate hands out of them, or ‘stand’ and then it’s the dealer’s turn to play. When the dealer plays the first thing he does is turn over his hidden card (also known as ‘hole card’). The dealer must then play according to the table rules, which means he must ‘hit’ his hand until he reaches at least 17 (either ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, depending on the table rules). If the dealer busts the player automatically wins. If the dealer doesn’t bust, the dealer’s and the player’s hand are compared and the hand with the highest point total wins. In case of a tie nobody wins and the initial bet is returned the player (that is called ‘push’ or ‘standoff’).

Here are a few blackjack game examples to give you a better understanding of the game:


Blackjack Game Example #1
Every blackjack round starts with the player placing an initial bet. In this example the player places a $5 initial bet (in European online casinos bets can also be in Euros € or GB Pounds £).
The dealer then deals 4 cards in this order: player, dealer, player, dealer (turned down – ‘hole card’). There are now four cards on the blackjack table, three visible and one (the dealer’s) hidden. The player then counts his hand’s point total and sees that the dealer’s upcard is a King (the dealer checks his hole card and sees that it’s not an Ace – therefore the dealer doesn’t have Blackjack). Let’s assume the player’s hand consists of 3 and 8 for a point total of 11. Since it’s far from 21 the player needs to ‘hit’ or ‘double’ to increase his hand value. In this case the player can’t bust by taking one card since he will not pass 21. The player hits and gets a 9, bringing his point total to 20. The player then decides to ‘stand’. The dealer turns over his hole card and reveals a 5. The dealer’s point total is now 15 and the dealer must ‘hit’ according to the game rules. The dealer takes another card which is an Ace. The dealer’s point total is now 16 so he must take another card. The dealer hits again and receives a 6, bringing his point total to 22 and busting his hand. The player wins the hand and receives back his initial bet of $5 along with his winnings of $5 ($10 in total). Most winnings in blackjack are paid at a 2-to-1 ratio (except a few cases such as natural Blackjack which pays at a ratio of 3-to-2).


Blackjack Game Example #2
Another blackjack game example – the player has a Queen (worth 10 points) and a 9. This hand is strong and its value is 19, which means the player should ‘stand’. The dealer‘s up card is a Jack (or Knave) worth 10 points and he turns his hole card to show another Jack, bringing the dealer’s point total to 20. The dealer stands since he has more than 17 (and beating the player’s 19) and takes the player’s bet, ending the round.


Blackjack Game Example #3
The most unique two-card combination in blackjack is a 10-valued card (’10’, ‘Jack’, ‘Queen’, ‘King’) and an Ace. This two-card combination at the beginning of the game is called ‘Blackjack’ and has a point total of 21. When a player gets a Blackjack he automatically wins the round (unless the dealer also has a blackjack and then it’s a tie, or unless the dealer shows an Ace and the player accepts ‘Even Money’ – a 2 to 1 payoff) and is paid at 3 to 2. This 3:2 payoff is one of the things that makes black jack so exciting, and gives a significant advantage to the player.


Blackjack Game Example #4
A player receives two cards of the same value like 2,2; 3,3; 4,4 etc. There are several actions the player can take depending on different factors. One of these actions is to ‘split’ the cards – when splitting cards the player creates a new hand from each card, and adds another bet to the new hand identical to his initial bet (important to remember that a split means increasing your total bet). In this example the player gets 7,7 and the dealer is showing a 6. The player splits, adds another initial bet to the new hand, and gets an additional card to each hand. Now each hand split hand is played normally and the player can hit, stand, split and double (depending on the table rules, in some cases it is not possible to double/split split hands). Once the split hands have been played, the dealer plays his turn. Every split hand is compared to the dealer’s hand individually and in every hand the player can win, lose, or tie.


Blackjack Game Summary

he examples above explain blackjack basics. The table rules differ from one casino to the next and it is important to know the blackjack table rules before starting to play. Several reliable online casinos that offer good odds are detailed in our casino bonuses and reviews section