Blackjack, sometimes called Twenty-One, is a game of unknown origin, but which was first made reference to in Rinconete y Cortadillo by Miguel de Cervantes, the author who penned Don Quixote. It has since been the subject of many books and films, including the 1988 classic, Rain Man.
The game relies on both strategy and luck and, similar to poker, has many different variations of play. Most online casinos offer the standard “classic” blackjack, as it is the simplest and more popular version of the game.
In this article we outline how the game is played and what strategies you can use to improve your odds of winning.
How To Play Classic Blackjack
Online casinos use anywhere from one to eight decks of cards for a game of classic blackjack. At the start of the game, each player, including the dealer, is dealt two cards. While players’ cards are dealt face up, the dealer only reveals one of his cards.
The aim of the game is to end up with a hand that is equal to or closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand. Aces may count as either one or 11, while royal cards (jacks, queens, and kings) count as ten. All other cards are counted at their face value.
After the cards are dealt, players have four options: hit, stand, double, and split (depending on your hand).
- Hitting will prompt the dealer to serve another card.
- Standing will leave you with the cards you have already been dealt.
- Doubling will double your bet and deal one more card.
- Splitting can only occur when you have a pair of matching cards. You can split them and hit them as you would a standard hand.
If you opt to hit and the third card takes your total over 21, your hand has busted and you will lose, no matter what the dealer’s cards are. The dealer has the same options, and may also bust if his total exceeds 21. If both you and the dealer have a total of 21, the game results in a push and the dealer will return your money to you. If only you have a 21, the dealer must hit until he gets 21 or busts.
Depending on casino rules, you may be able to surrender after your initial deal and forfeit the game but keep half your wager. An online casino may offer several variations on the classic blackjack game, and each has a slightly different set of rules, but these are the most basic and common rules of the game. Sounds easy, right?
Blackjack is a deceptively simple game. Although it is easy to learn, there are various strategies that take a lot of hands-on experience to master.
Classic Blackjack Strategies
There is a general strategy that most players use. It is backed up by the hard work of many blackjack experts and will all but guarantee consistent wins. Keep in mind that a strategy is defined by whether your hand is hard or soft.
A soft hand is one that has an ace that can count as either a one or a ten. A hard hand is one that does not have an ace, or one where the ace is forced to count as a one, lest you bust. With that in mind, here is the general strategy:
|Your Hand||Dealer 2 to 6||Dealer 7 to A|
|4 to 8||Hit||Hit|
|10 to 11||Double||Double|
|12 to 16||Stand||Hit|
|17 to 21||Stand||Stand|
|13 to 15||Hit||Hit|
|16 to 18||Double||Hit|
|19 to 21||Stand||Stand|
|2s, 3s, 6s, 7s, 9s||Split||Don’t Split|
|4s, 5s, 10s||Don’t Split||Don’t Split|
Classic Blackjack Tips
Make the Dealer Go Bust
Instead of hitting until you reach 21, you could force the dealer to keep hitting until he goes bust. This works best when the dealer has a four, five or six and you have a soft hand. The dealer could be forced to take a risk and end up exceeding 21.
Stand On Anything Above 17
With a hand of 17 or higher, there is a good chance you will go bust if you hit. However, this may force the dealer to take another card to beat your total. He could go bust or, at the very worst, match your total.
Always Split Aces
An ace can count as either one or 11, so there is no risk that you’ll go bust if you are dealt another card. You can use this to your advantage by splitting your hand and increasing your bet. That way, you have two chances of reaching 21.
Never Split Tens
Although it might seem like a smart idea, splitting tens usually doesn’t end well. With two tens you need at least two of your next cards to be favorable.
Keep these tips and strategies in mind the next time you play Blackjack at an online casino and you’ll see what a difference it makes to your game.