For many decades, card games have been a popular game activity. Even in the present day, casino players are more than happy to join a game of poker, baccarat and, not to forget, blackjack as well.
The advantage of blackjack is that the basic rules are much simpler than for instance, poker. This is why any card game enthusiast can join the (virtual) blackjack table and see what luck will bring him. Just like for other casino games, you do have to know what the rules are and what to pay attention to. Thankfully we are here to help you with that.
Blackjack is the official name of the casino game also known as twenty-one. Very little is known regarding the history of this card game. However, it is largely assumed that the game originated in Spain and France and conquered the rest of the world from there. This card game actually seems to first appear in the stories of the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547 – 1616).
In order to find the origins of the name blackjack, we have to cross the ocean towards America. In order to popularize the game, an extra bonus was added to the game whenever the ace of spades and the blackjack were on the table together. The bonus has by now disappeared from the game, the name however stuck.
What cards do you use to get to 21 points?
In blackjack, you are going up against the dealer of the casino, in this game referred to as the bank. You and the bank have a common goal: coming as close to the 21 points as possible. Do you end up above 21 points? Then you are bust and you automatically lose the game. In the event of a tie, you will get your bet back and you get to try again.
This game explanation will tell you in a nutshell what is expected of you. Still, there is more to blackjack than you might think.
In order to fully understand the game, we first look at the most important element of blackjack. This is obviously the playing cards. All cards have their own value. The numbered cards (2 to 10) count as their natural value.
Furthermore, there are a jack, queen and king in the game. These cards are worth 10 points each. The ace plays an important role in blackjack. Whenever it appears, 1 or 11 points are added to the cards on the table. The ace gets the value that is best for you. This means that its value can change during the game of blackjack.
Say, you start the game with a 6 and an ace. In that case, the ace can get you 11 points, making your point total 17. This is a total that might win you the game, although it might just as easily lead to a loss. It is worth the risk to draw an extra card. If this is, for instance, a 5 or higher, the value of the ace automatically changes to 1 point. Otherwise, you will be busted.
These are the basic rules of blackjack
A game of blackjack starts with the dealing of the cards. As a player, you will receive two cards face-up on the table. The dealer on the other hand deals himself two cards, one up and one down. ‘Up’ in this case means that anyone can see which cards are on the table. ‘Down’ means that the card is placed facing down. The card of the dealer will only become visible once you take the decision whether or not to keep playing. So you do not know exactly which cards the dealer has. This makes it a gamble for you whether or not to request that extra card in order to beat the casino.
Of course, each player hopes to get a 10 (or jack, queen or king) and an ace on the table in that first round. You have 21 points straight away and the profit will be yours, without a doubt. You will be paid out your bet times 1.5. However great this might sound, chances obviously are much greater than you do not instantly reach the ultimate number of 21 points. In that case, you have two options: ‘standing’ or ‘hitting’. If you stand, you gamble that the dealer has fewer points than you. This might be a wise decision when you have 18, 19 or 20 points. Do you think that your point total is too low to win? Then you continue the game and ‘hit’, by requesting an additional card.
The advantage for you, as the player, is that you determine whether you would like to draw extra cards. The dealer does not have this luxury. There are some strict rules about when to add a card and when not to. A point total of 16 or less means that the dealer draws an additional card for himself. Once his point total is 17 or higher, the dealer will cease playing. This fact can influence your decision about whether to draw an extra card or not. If the dealer has 16 points, chances are that he will exceed 21 points and bust. This is why you should think about each move through and not just consider your own cards before taking a decision.
Splitting, doubling and other blackjack terms
Each casino game has its own terminology. In blackjack, it is convenient to know what you are talking about as well. These are the most important terms you will come across:
Hitting and standing: hitting simply means requesting an extra card from the dealer. If you stand, you gamble that the point total is sufficient to win.
Double down: is the point total of the first two cards 9, 10 or 11? Then you get an opportunity to double down on your bet. Chances of a decent point total are good, however, there is a catch: you only get one more card from the dealer. Do you dare to take the risk?
Splitting: when the first two cards that are in front of you have the same value, you can opt to split. You will then get two separate hands of cards so that you also double your chances of winning (or losing, obviously).
Insurance: if the first card of the dealer is an ace, chances of blackjack are relatively big. You can insure yourself against this by adding half of your bet. Does the game end in blackjack? Then you get the double amount of the second bet back. You lose the original bet, however, the ‘insurance’ somewhat compensates for this loss.
For the advanced player: counting cards
Of course, it is purely a coincidence what cards you are dealt. But does this also mean that you can only win the game with a large dose of luck and hoping that you are doing well by requesting an extra card or deciding against doing so? There are blackjack players who can answer this with a straightforward ‘no’. They are trying to outsmart the casino by counting the cards.
There are various ways of counting the cards. One of the most popular strategies is the so-called Hi-Lo system. With this, each card gets a value of 1, 0 or -1. The value 1 is reserved for the numbered cards 2 to 6. The cards 7 to 9 get a 0 as value, and the tens, jack, queen, king and the ace are allocated -1. With this system, you can keep track of which cards, whether high or low, are in the game. The casino usually has an advantage when there are lower cards remaining, whereas you have better chances of blackjack when there are higher cards left in the game. Knowledge of the remaining cards helps you to decide when to hit, stand or double down.
When playing the very first couple of cards, it will be tricky to base your strategy on a counting system. After all, there are very few cards out of the game. The casino keeps on going on, round after round, with the same set of cards. This provides some opportunities. Unfortunately, there are more cards than the 52 that are in a deck. Casinos do work with multiple decks of cards simultaneously. This is why not everyone is convinced that counting cards in order to increase your odds of winning really pays off.
Playing blackjack in the live casino
Whether you count cards or whether you trust that you are making the right decision no matter what: blackjack is a game that undoubtedly brings you a ton of gambling fun. Virtual blackjack already gives you a chance of getting to know the game well and perhaps even bringing in nice amounts of money. Although you might miss the excitement of a real casino.
Luckily, blackjack is one of those games that you can play in a live casino as well. You will then take a seat at a real blackjack table via a video connection, and the dealer will deal the cards live. This way, you do not have to leave your home in order to get that special feeling associated with entering a casino.