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When it comes to the most popular casino games, online blackjack always tops the charts. It is simple enough that complete beginners can win on their first hand, but complex enough that experienced players can develop tactics that significantly increase their chances of winning.
Also known as Twenty One, Pontoon, and Vingt-et-Un, many people play a version of this game as children and quickly understand the concepts involved. However, if you want to play blackjack in a casino, there are a few things you need to know about the game:
Understand the game
The object of blackjack is simple: to have a hand with cards that add up to twenty-one, or as close as possible to twenty-one without going over. Aces can be high or low and all picture cards are worth ten. The game can be played with a single deck, but in casinos it is usually played with more, often between six and eight.
Even when you play blackjack online, the random number generators used to simulate the cards being played are programmed to use multiple decks too, in order to maintain their authenticity. Each player is dealt two cards, both face up and the dealer also has two, the first face-up and the second face down, known as the ‘hole card’.
The ideal hand to be dealt is an ace and either a ten or a picture card as these add up to twenty-one and can’t be beaten. Players with cards that add up to less than twenty-one may choose to be dealt another card, face-up, usually referred to as a ‘hit’.
Players can carry on hitting until they choose to ‘stand’, they reach twenty-one, or they go ‘bust’ with more than twenty-one. Once all the players have opted to stand or busted out, the dealer reveals their hole card and plays their own hand.
Know your opponent
Unlike other casino card games, blackjack players are only competing against the dealer, not each other. This means that players do not have to try and guess each other’s hands by trying to spot their tells or read the expressions on their faces, and there is no bluffing involved.
In online blackjack, you play against the dealer and any players with a hand better than the dealer’s at the end of the round wins. If the dealer goes ‘bust’ then any player that remains in the game wins.
One of the main benefits of this is that the dealer will always behave in a predictable fashion and you can use this to your advantage when playing, if you know how. For example, a dealer with a seventeen or more will always stand, and they will hit on sixteen or less.
While the basic rules of online blackjack are simple, players may be able to make the most of the additional rules to give themselves an advantage:
Splitting pairs – if you are dealt a pair of matching cards, you can ‘split’ them and treat each pair as two separate hands, playing them individually and placing bets on each hand independently. If the original pair are aces, the player will only be dealt a single card on each.
Doubling down – if a player’s hand totals nine, ten, or eleven, they may get the option to ‘double down’. This means they place a bet equal to their initial wager and receive a single card, face down, which is only turned up once all other bets are settled.
Insurance – if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, players may be offered ‘insurance’ against the dealer getting blackjack and beating everyone at the table. If the dealer’s hole card is a ten, then payouts are made to any players with insurance even if their main bet is lost.
Surrender – some games allow players to forfeit their hand by ‘surrendering’ and receiving half their initial stake back. This is relatively uncommon and where it is an option it can only be chosen before any additional cards are dealt.
Dealers are not able to double down or split their hands, but they do have the advantage of going last, so even if the dealer busts, any player that had already busted still loses their stake.
Players can often make a side bet on some of the things that might happen in the game, such as:
Lucky lucky – the player’s hand and the dealer’s face-up card total nineteen, twenty, or twenty-one
Perfect pairs – a bet that your opening hand will be a pair
Royal match – a king and queen of the same suit
Lucky ladies – the player’s opening hand totals twenty
In bet – the value of the dealer’s up-card is between the player’s two cards
Match the dealer – one of the player’s cards matches one of the dealer’s
Blackjack is a fun and exciting game and players can master the statistics with a little research and practice to give them a better chance of winning.