Blackjack is one of the most popular casino table games out there, and there are many reasons why players opt to enjoy its gameplay. From a rich history to straightforward gameplay, and high theoretical return to player averages, there are plenty of reasons to try out blackjack for yourself, and with our ultimate blackjack players guide we have everything you need to get started.
*Terms and conditions apply.*
What is Blackjack?
Although its exact beginnings are still up for question, scholars generally believe that blackjack most likely started in French casinos about 1700. The name of the French cards was "Vingt-et-Un," which means "Twenty-one." These cards most likely originated from the popular card games known as Chemin de Fer during that era. History lessons aside, however, at its heart, the game of blackjack is incredibly simple.
The aim of the game is to get the value of your hand as close as possible to 21, without going over. In blackjack, you play directly against the dealer, and whoever gets the highest value hand will claim the winnings. While simple in theory, blackjack is one of the few casino games out there that, while still dictated by chance, can have mathematical odds applied to it in order to allow the player to make statistically more positive outcomes.
The Basic Rules of Blackjack
Two cards are dealt to you and the dealer at the beginning of the game, which employs a 52-card deck. In the designated betting spots on the table, place a wager. When it comes to dealing with the other cards, you will then have multiple choices. The dealer is dealt one card, face up, and you and any other participants are handed two cards apiece. A quick reminder that Blackjack is a game played directly against the dealer so even though other players may be at the table, you won’t be playing against their hands. Blackjack is when your first two cards—an Ace and a card worth 10—add up to 21. If they have a different total, choose whether to "stay" or "draw." You can keep drawing cards until you’re either happy with your total, or go bust.
Like the majority of casino games, blackjack has specialised vocabulary that you need to acquire in order to advance in the game. Should you enter the game without familiarity with the terminology, you will be decreasing your advantage and providing the dealer with the upper hand.
To help you brush up on your vocabulary before you hit the tables, we've compiled the most often-used terminology in our basic strategy guide for blackjack:
- Blackjack: Not only the name of the game but the ultimate goal of the game. If you are able to score a blackjack (an Ace plus 10 or any of the royals) with your two dealt cards you achieve a blackjack and instantly win the round.
- Bust: If you hit one too many times and your hand total goes over 21 then you are ‘bust’ and lose the round.
- Double Down: This allows you to place another wager alongside your original bet in exchange for one extra card. This option can only be taken when you’ve received your first two cards. After doing this you have to stand no matter the result and are not able to hit.
- Hard Hand: This is a blackjack hand without an ace. This means that all the number values displayed in your hand are fixed and are not subject to change.
- Hit: This is asking for another card to be dealt to you to increase the value of your hand.
- Insurance: If the dealer has a face-up ace, you may be able to use the insurance option. This is placing a side bet worth half of your original wager. If the dealer's hand reaches the value of 21 then you will be paid 2:1, but if the dealer achieves any other value you will lose the hand.
- Push: If you and the dealer have a matching hand you can use the push option. This is essentially recognising that the hands and tied and you get to keep your wager to use in the next round.
- Soft Hand: This is a hand which has an ace in and is therefore able to change in value. Aces can either be worth 1 or 10 depending on whether or not the higher value would make the player go bust.
- Split: If you have cards of the same value you may have the option to split your hand into two hands.
Blackjack Guide Charts
As we alluded to earlier Blackjack is one of the few casino games out there in which statistical odds can be quite strongly applied in order to form a metric or ‘strategy’ of sorts. Because of this, blackjack guide charts have been created which advise the player on the outcome to take when presented with each possible combination of cards. Each table will present its information using abbreviations which are as follows:
- H = Hit
- S = Stand
- D = Double down (if possible) if not Hit
- DAS = Double After Split
- Ds = Double down (if possible) if not Stand
- N: Don’t Split
- Y/N: Split online if ‘DAS’ is offered
- SUR: Surrender
Key Steps in Blackjack: Order of Play
Featured below is a step-by-step guide to the order of play for a round of blackjack:
- The player makes their wager
- The dealer deals a card to every active player as well as to themselves. These cards are dealt face up except for the dealers which is face down.
- The dealer then deals a second card to every active player as well as to themselves. All cards dealt including the dealers will be face up.
- In real-world blackjack, the player to the left of the dealer always starts gameplay, with the gameplay proceeding around the table in a clockwise fashion.
- When it's your turn you'll need to decide if you want to stand, hit, double down, or split (if you have the option). If you're playing at home you can refer to strategy guides or blackjack help tables like the one mentioned above in order to make your choice.
- Once you have made your decision and have eventually either chosen to stand or gone bust, play will move on to the next person. When all players have had their turn, attention moves to the dealer.
- The dealer will reveal their second card to reveal the total of their hand. If the total is 16 or under then the dealer will automatically hit, but if it is 17 or over they will automatically stand.
- If the dealer busts then all players with active hands will win. If the dealer achieves a blackjack then all players lose. If the dealer stands, then any player whose hand is worth more than the dealer's will be awarded a prize payout.
- Once all prizes have been paid, the next round of blackjack can begin.
Blackjack: Finding Your Path to Victory
As it is still a game of chance, though more mathematically predictable than some others, there is no surefire blackjack strategy that will allow you to win 100% of the time. Instead, there are some general rules of thumb which players may choose to follow in order to put the odds more firmly in your favour. Here are some tips and tricks to consider:
- Never split 10’s or 5’s due to their low chance of creating high-value hands when separated. After all, two 10s make a strong total of 20, and two fives give a low total of 10 - which is safe to hit on as it's impossible to go bust from this value.
- Always double down on a hard 11 because this is the highest-hand combination that you can have and be able to hit on with no chance of going bust.
- Always split 8’s and Aces as they offer better probabilities when separate.
- Always stand on a soft 20 as this is a very strong hand and if you hit your total will probably end up lower as the ace will become a 1 instead of a 10 to prevent you from going bust.
- Hit with a hard hand of 8 or below as you cannot go bust, and odds are a hand total this low will not be a winner if you stand.
Play Real Money Online Blackjack at Spin Genie!
Now you know the metaphorical blackjack ropes, why not put your newfound knowledge to the test and play one of our spectacular blackjack games here at Spin Genie? We have a selection of online and live dealer blackjack titles for you to test your mettle with. We hope you have lots of fun and best of luck, but most importantly, always remember to gamble responsibly.