Blackjack, 21, pontoon. Whatever you want to call it, it’s one of the most popular casino games in the world. But how do you play Blackjack?
In our Blackjack guide we run through the objectives of the game, the basic rules, the important terminology, and offer up some Blackjack tips so you can make the most of your betting experience.
History of Blackjack
It still isn’t 100% clear how Blackjack first started as its origins are still the subject of much debate. Most researchers agree that it likely originated in casinos in France around 1700. It was called “Vingt-et-Un” which translates to 21. There is a theory that it was played by the Romans in Britain, but it’s not clear whether this was actually the case.
But from the 1700s onwards, Blackjack has risen to prominence as one of the most popular casino games to play. Today, you can play Blackjack online and in casinos across the world, from Monte Carlo to Las Vegas and up and down the UK. You can even play Live Blackjack online with real-life dealers and real-life players.
Objective of Blackjack
It’s super simple. The game is all about getting as close to 21 and beating the dealer. But if you go over 21, you’ll be bust.
Remember with Blackjack, you’re playing against the dealer. There may be other people at the table, but your objective is to win against the dealer. Your bet will only come in if you do.
Blackjack Basic Rules
The basic rules of Blackjack really are exactly that. Basic. It makes it a great casino game for beginners to get to grips with, but still remains an exciting game for players of all abilities.
It works like this.
The dealer will deal each player two cards. They will also deal themselves two cards. Your cards are clear to see, whereas you can only see one of the dealer’s cards.
The combined value of your cards must be as close to 21 as possible. Once you have your two cards you can stick with what you have if you’re close already. If not, you can twist for another card. If this extra card takes you over 21, you’re bust. You can twist up to three times or until you go bust.
Once you decide to stick, the dealer reveals their cards to see who gets the closest to 21.
Blackjack Card Values
When you play Blackjack online or in a casino, the biggest thing you need to understand is the value of the cards. They are as follows:
- Cards from 2 to 10 are taken at face value
- Jack, Queen and King are worth 10
- Aces have either a value of 1 or 11
So, let’s talk about Aces.
An Ace will have a value of 11 unless it would give a player or the dealer a score over 21. If this is the case, the Ace has a value of 1. If you were to draw a Queen and an Ace, the Ace would be counted as 11 and this would be a natural two card 21-draw. If you drew a 3 and an Ace, the Ace would count as 11. Then if you twist and get another card, the Ace would revert to the value of 1 if the total of the three cards (with the Ace as 11) takes you over 21. Drawing an Ace in your first hand like this is referred to as a “slow hand”.
Blackjack Dealers’ Rules
The dealer is initially dealt two cards, but only turns one of them up.
The dealer also has a number of rules that they need to follow. Specifically, when they have served every player, giving them the option to stick or twist etc, the dealer’s second card is turned over. If the total of the two cards is 17 or more, the dealer must stand with what they have. If the total is 16 or under, the dealer must take a card and must continue to do so until the total is 17 or more. Once they get to this total, the dealer must stand.
If their total is greater than yours, the dealer wins but if they go over 21, they’re bust.
When you play Blackjack online or in a casino, there are a few terms you’ll need to get your head around. They include:
- Natural 21 or “Blackjack”: A hand where you get any card valued as 10 together with an Ace.
- Bust: When your hand goes over 21.
- Double down: This is a type of play you can make in Blackjack. You can choose to double your bet and get just one more card from the dealer. When you can do this will depend on the game you’re playing.
- Easy surrender: Surrendering your cards and losing the game before the dealer has checked their cards. You only lose 50% of your bet if you do this.
- Face cards: Picture cards such as the Jack, Queen and King – each worth 10 points.
- Hard hand: A hand that doesn’t contain an Ace. Or a hand that does include an Ace, but where the Ace must be counted as 1 to avoid going bust.
- Hole card: The dealer’s face-down card.
- Hit: Twisting and asking for another card.
- Insurance: Betting on whether you think the dealer has a Blackjack, played when the dealer’s up card is an Ace. It is half your original bet and acts as insurance in the case of the dealer winning.
- Late surrender: Surrendering your cards after the dealer has checked his hole card.
- Push: When the dealer and the player have the same total hand.
- Soft hand: A hand where an Ace can be counted as either 11 or 1 without the hand going bust.
- Soft double: To double down on a soft hand.
- Stand: Ending your hand without taking any additional cards.
- Stiff hand: A hand with a total between 12 and 16. It’s more likely to go bust when another card is drawn.
- Up card: The dealer’s card that is face up.
Winning and Losing a Hand at Blackjack
Remember, that when you play Blackjack, the aim of the game is to beat the dealer.
You’ll win against the dealer if:
- You draw a hand value that is higher than the dealer’s hand value, without going over 21.
- The dealer draws a hand that has a total value of over 21.
- By drawing a hand value of 21 on your first two cards. And the dealer doesn’t.
You’ll lose against the dealer if:
- The value of your hand exceeds 21.
- The dealer has a hand with a greater value than yours (21 or less) at the end of the round.
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