What is Blackjack?
So, what is Blackjack? Blackjack is the most widely played casino game in the world.
Incredibly popular in the UK, Blackjack is one of the many variations of the game 21. It is a card game where the player plays directly against a casino dealer. The aim of the game is to make 21 with your cards.
At the start of each hand, players place their bets. If you score better than the dealer, you win. If the dealer has a superior hand, then you lose.
Winning bets are paid out at even money (1/1). Therefore, if a player wins the hand, they double their money. If they lose, their original bet goes to the casino.
If a player gets ‘Blackjack’, which is a hand made up of any card with a value of ten and an Ace, they will be paid out at odds of 6/4. In other words, if they place a £10 bet at the start of the hand and get ‘Blackjack’, they will earn a return of £25, £15 of which is profit. This is instead of the usual £20, £10 of which is profit.
How do you play Blackjack?
Before you play Blackjack, it’s important to understand the game’s rules. Knowing the basics and understanding how the game is played will leave you better positioned to play the game without making costly errors.
The game begins with the player (you) being dealt two cards. The dealer is also dealt two cards. You will then be offered a third card. You can choose to take the third card or deny the third card. If you deny the third card, your total will stay as it is. If you opt for another card, you will have a new total. However, if you take another card and your total amounts to more than 21, you’re out of the hand, and the dealer wins.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you are dealt a Five and a King. This gives you a total of 15. Why? In a typical deck of cards, any King equates to 10, so it’s a case of 5 + 10.
You choose another card and are dealt a Four. Now you have 19, which given the maximum of 21, gives you a strong hand.
After two cards, the dealer is showing 14. He must now take another card to try and beat you. It’s important to note that the dealer must try to beat the player if they are showing 16 or under. Therefore, in this situation, the dealer must take another card.
After showing 14 with their first two cards, let’s say the dealer is dealt a seven. This gives them 21. As a result, the dealer wins, and the player loses their bet.
Here’s another scenario:
You’re dealt a Six and an Eight. You take another card and get another Six. You’re showing 20. The dealer is showing 17 after two cards. In this instance, you win. Remember, if the dealer shows more than 16 with their first two cards, they don’t take another card.
The options after the deal
Once a player has been dealt their cards, they have certain options, as touched on above.
- The first option is to HIT. This means taking another card.
- The second option is to STAND, which means to stick with what you’ve got and reject another card.
- You can also DOUBLE DOWN. This is where you take another card but double bet to do so. This is the only legal way to put more money down and thus increase the size of your potential winnings once the hand has begun.
- Lastly, you can SPLIT. Here you can separate your cards into two different hands. You must add another bet of the same stake to the new hand. The two hands are then independent of each other and thus count as two single bets.
What makes Casino Blackjack so popular?
If you go into any casino, you will see several Blackjack tables in operation, and they are usually busy, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings.
One of the reasons why Blackjack is popular is that it is quite an exciting game, everything often hinges on the next card, and therefore, players won’t be bored.
The element of choice once the game begins is something that players tend to enjoy too. For example, once you’ve been dealt two cards, you can choose what to do next; this gives players an element of control that other casino games do not. Take roulette; once the wheel is spinning, the player can no longer have any input.
Something else that makes Blackjack popular is the low house edge. Typically, Blackjack has a house edge of around 1%, while many other casino games have a house edge of 3%.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Blackjack is so popular amongst casino visitors and online bettors is that it’s a very simple game to learn. Most people pick up the basics of the game very quickly.
Blackjack is also a game that suits strategy. Players can learn more about the game and adopt their own strategy in an attempt to increase their chances of winning in the long run. For lots of players, being able to use strategy when playing Blackjack is a big part of what makes the game so appealing.
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What is the house edge in online blackjack?
If you’ve spent any time in blackjack casinos, have played online, or have read anything about casino games, then you’ve probably come across the term ‘house edge’. What is the house edge? Well, in a nutshell, the house edge is how the casino ensures that it makes money.
I know what you’re thinking; it’s crazy, right? How can it be open knowledge that the casino has the edge over its players? Sure, that’s a reasonable reaction, but at the end of the day, the casino isn’t there for players to just have fun, and it’s certainly not there to lose money. When all is said and done, the casino exists to make money, and by applying a house edge to each game, the casino ensures that it has a mathematical advantage.
That’s what the house edge is. A small mathematical advantage that guarantees long-term profit. Typically the house edge is 3%, but for some games, it is as low as 1%. Blackjack is widely acknowledged as being one of the games with the lowest house edge. It is around 1%.
This means that if we take a large sample size of bets, over the long run, the casino will keep roughly 1% of the money players bet. Naturally, lots of gamblers rely heavily on emotions; they make rash decisions and generally keep gambling until they lose, so casino often makes a lot more than 1%. However, if a player plays steadily for a long period of time, the basic maths behind the game of blackjack suggests that in the long run, the casino has a 1% edge.
It is critical to understand that the house edge exists over a large period, after thousands and thousands of bets. You cannot expect to sit down at a blackjack table for 30 minutes and lose exactly 1%. If you were to play steadily for long enough, then you’re likely to lose around 1% of your money playing blackjack. What happens in the short term is largely down to luck and variance.
If you want to play blackjack, then it is important to understand the house edge and factor it into your betting. Doing so will give you the best chance of success.
Understanding the house edge leads nicely into strategy and the role that strategy plays in Blackjack.
Any successful gambler, whether it’s a sports bettor, a financial investor, or a card player, employs strategy. You can get lucky in the short term, but if you don’t have a strategy, then your luck will run out, probably sooner rather than later, and you’ll lose money.
To get the most out of Blackjack, you need to deploy a strategy. A Blackjack strategy starts with understanding everything about the game. Learn about the fundamentals, watch people play the game, know when you have a good hand, know when you have a bad hand, and learn how to make smart blackjack decisions.
Something that is vital to the Blackjack player is a sound understanding of the probabilities involved. Each hand has a probability attached to it, and if you know the probability of winning based on the hand you have, then you’ll make smarter decisions when it comes to hitting, standing, splitting and doubling down.
You’ll also want to know the probability of busting if you choose to take another card. For example, if you’re showing 21, the probability of you busting if you take another card is 100%.
Here is the full list of busting probabilities:
|Hand||Percentage chance of busting with another card|
|11 or less||0%|
Knowing the above probabilities will allow you to make more informed betting decisions when playing Blackjack.
For example, if you don’t know these, then you might decide to hit on an 18, thinking that getting lucky would give you a great hand, but if you know that there’s a 69% chance that you’ll go bust, you’re less likely to make such a choice.
One particular strategy that Blackjack players have been using for years is the card counting strategy. Now, there are different variations of the card counting strategy, but the basic and most used one is where as a player you assign a value to every card.
Using those values, you then keep a running count of the cards that have been dealt. You then use this information to inform your betting decisions.
Lots of people believe card counting to be a myth, or they believe that card counting doesn’t work. Both of those claims are false.
Card counting is a tried and tested method. It works. The problem is that it is difficult to pull off. Moreover, it’s boring, you have to be really focused, and it requires great attention to detail. Realistically, people don’t go to the casino or visit an online casino to work. They want to relax and have fun, which is why the vast majority of Blackjack players don’t employ a card-counting strategy.
Doubling down is a crucial part of Blackjack. Why? Because it is the only time, besides splitting, when you add more money to your bet.
If you don’t bother to double down or fail to double down at the right time, then you’re effectively increasing the house edge, thus making it more likely that you’ll lose in the long run.
To double down, you must buy your next card by doubling your bet, so if you’ve already bet £10 on the hand. Ahead of receiving your third card, you’ll double down and put another £10 onto the table.
There are several things that many Blackjack players do, especially those who are inexperienced, that are worth avoiding.
One of the biggest mistakes that bettors make is thinking that a win is coming closer. If a dealer wins several times in a row, a player will often increase the size of their bet dramatically because they believe there is now a great chance of success. This is a big mistake. Every hand begins with the same mathematical edge. You are no less or more likely to win at point at the beginning of a hand, even if the dealer has won 50 times in a row.
Another mistake that Blackjack players make is believing that they always have to stay in the hand in the hope that the dealer busts. This thinking often leads to standing on hands of 12 or 13, which in the long run will only result in losing.
Online Blackjack vs Real Casinos
In the past, if you wanted to play Blackjack, you had to visit a casino facility. Nowadays, thanks to the rise in online casinos in the UK, you can play Blackjack by simply visiting an online casino using either your desktop computer or mobile.
So, what is better? playing Blackjack online or playing Blackjack in a casino. There are pros and cons to both.
For example, visiting a casino can be a great way to spend an evening, as you have the social element. You can chat with friends, enjoy a few drinks and play some blackjack. You’ll also get the enjoyment of handling the chips and putting them down on the table, which for some casual players, is all part of the fun.
On the flip side, playing Blackjack online is more convenient. It does not require you to leave your home. In fact, if you download one of the many online casino apps, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your sofa.
Another benefit of playing Blackjack online via a casino website or mobile app is the speed of the gameplay. It’s faster, and there is less waiting between hands. You also have more choice in terms of minimum stake when playing online, which means that you can find a game suitable for you. If you visit a casino, you are bound by the table limits.
Finally, if you play Blackjack online, you’ll be able to benefit from welcome casino bonuses and other promotions, the likes of which you will not find in a physical casino.
Online Blackjack FAQ
Is card counting legal?
Card counting is not illegal. It is, however, frowned upon by casinos. Despite what some films may have you believe, you probably won’t have your fingers broken in a small room for card counting, but you may be asked to stop playing or even leave the casino if the casino believes you are counting cards.
Most casinos, especially the large ones, employ people to monitor bettors' behaviour, so you may be asked to stop counting cards. Realistically, it depends on the casino and their policy. Some casinos may not even detect that you’re card counting. Alternatively, they might not care.
What is the house edge in Blackjack?
The house edge is a bit like the bookmaker’s margin. It is how the casino ensures that it makes money. Each casino game has a house edge, which, as it suggests, gives the house an edge. For example, if a game has a house edge of 3%, then the casino is expected to make 3% of the bettor's money in the long run.
How many cards can the dealer take in Blackjack?
The dealer must continue to draw cards, or hit, until they reach a total of 17 or go bust. If they achieve a total of 17 with their first two cards, then they must stand.