Blackjack, also known as 21, is one of the most popular casino card games in the United States. It requires a combination of luck and skill, which is what makes it such a hit among online casino players. The aim of blackjack? Beat the dealer to 21 without going bust – it’s as simple as that! The simplicity of blackjack rules makes it the perfect card game for beginners, but you’ll still need to play your cards right to beat the dealer.
As blackjack is a game with an element of strategy, understanding how to play and maximize your chances of winning will certainly set you in good stead. That’s where we come in! Check out our guide on how to play blackjack online.
How Does Blackjack Work?
There’s a huge variety of blackjack variations online, each with slightly different rules. However, the aim of the game is always the same: beat the dealer’s hand by getting to 21 first. Of course, you need to do this without going bust – that means exceeding 21. If neither yours nor the dealer’s hand totals 21, the closest hand wins.
How to Play Blackjack
- Join a blackjack game, and place your bet
Select an online blackjack table. Set your stake to get things started. Each player receives two cards, both face up. In most variations, the dealer also gets two cards, with one face up and the other face down (the hole card).
- Check your hand
If you’ve been dealt an ace and a 10 or a picture card, this is called blackjack, or a natural. It means an instant payout of 1.5 times your bet, assuming the dealer doesn’t get one too. Depending on the variation, the dealer may only check for blackjack if their face-up card is a 10, face card or ace. If the dealer also has blackjack, your bet is returned. This is known as a push.
- Make your move
If you don’t get a natural, it’s time to make your next move. Depending on your hand, you must decide whether to split, double down, take another card or stick with what you have. In a classic game of blackjack, you can usually hit (ie, take another card) up to three times before you stand, but remember that you’ll go bust if you go over 21. When all players are ready, the dealer reveals their hole card and make their play.
- The winning hand is revealed
If your final hand total is closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, or if the dealer goes bust, you win. If the dealer’s hand is closer to the magic number than yours, or you go bust, the dealer wins instead. It’s that simple.
- Collect your winnings
If you get lucky, your winnings are credited to your online casino balance immediately. You can carry on playing at the same table, head to another or try another online casino game entirely.
Get to Grips with the Rules of Blackjack
Ready to learn a little more about blackjack rules? From basic and advanced rules of blackjack, right through to the prominent side bets available, we’ve got you covered.
Basic Blackjack Rules
It’s always wise to check the house rules before joining a particular table, but anyone learning how to play online blackjack will need to remember these basic moves.
To stand is to stick with the hand you have. You can stand on your first two cards or after you’ve hit and taken an extra card one or more times. You won’t receive any additional cards once you stand.
Too far from 21? Try your luck with the next card in the deck. This is the way to proceed for players dealt two low-value cards in their first hand. As you know, you can usually take up to three additional cards, but you’ll need to be careful not to go bust.
- Double down
After seeing your initial hand, you can double down. This means that you will double your initial bet and commit to standing after receiving another card, no matter what that card might be.
If you receive two of the same value cards in your initial hand, you can split them into two hands and receive an extra card for each hand from the dealer. If you split, you must place an additional bet on your second hand equal to the value of your original bet.
- 16 and below
The 16 and below rule only applies to the dealer. The rule demands that dealers hit on any hand with a value of 16 or below.
Advanced blackjack rules
Understanding basic blackjack rules will help you get started, but if you’re ready to take your game to the next level, there are some more elements you need to know about too. Let’s look a closer at advanced blackjack rules, including prominent side bets.
Unhappy with your hand? Available in select variations, you end the game early and forfeit only half your bet. There are two types of surrender: early surrender (before the dealer checks for blackjack) and late surrender (after the dealer has checked their hand).
- Soft 17
A soft hand refers to any blackjack hand that has an ace in it. It’s called a soft hand because it has two potential values, due to the fact that an ace can be worth either one or 11. Some blackjack variations require the dealer to hit or stand on a soft 17.
- Even money
It’s always great news if you hit blackjack on your first hand, but if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, there’s a decent chance they’ll have one too. If you don’t want to risk a push, some casinos allow you to take the even money option. This means an immediate payout of double your stake and the end of the round. This is a better result than a push, but some players will prefer to decline the even money option in the hope of a bigger return if the dealer turns out not to have a blackjack.
If the dealer’s up-card is an ace, an insurance wager may be offered. It’s similar to the even money option we mentioned above, except this is offered when you don’t have a natural blackjack. And, instead of accepting an instant payout that finishes the round, you’re placing a new side bet wager at 2:1 that the dealer’s initial hand is a natural. If it isn’t, you lose the side bet but the round continues as normal.
This blackjack side bet pays out if your first two cards and the dealer’s up-card combine to form one of five three-card poker hands: a flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, straight flush or suited three-of-a-kind. Your payout depends on which of the five hands you get.
- Perfect pairs
This is a side bet where you put money on your first hand being a pair. Payouts depend on whether you get a mixed pair (same number/face card values, different colors and suits), a colored pair (where only the suits differ) or a perfect pair, which are identical.
- Bet behind
This is a bet on another player’s hand commonly offered to players waiting for a seat at the table of live blackjack games. Standard payout ratios apply.
- Royal Match
The Royal Match bet is one of blackjack’s oldest side bets. This bet offers odds of 5:2 for a suited pair and a premium payout of 25:1 if you land a king and queen from the same suit.
Blackjack Card Values
Blackjack card values are pretty self-explanatory. Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, while face cards (jack, queen and king) are each worth 10. Aces are worth either 1 or 11, depending on which gives you the best hand.
Using an Ace as an 11 is known as a “soft hand”
Standard blackjack games pay out 3:2 for blackjack, which means you’ll receive 1.5 times your bet if you hit 21. If you don’t make 21, but still beat the dealer, the payout is 1:1. Some games, such as Blackjack Switch, have rule variations that are beneficial to the player, and this advantage is often evened out by a reduced payout for natural blackjack wins.
The chances of winning at blackjack vary depending on the blackjack game you’re playing. Factors such as the number of decks of cards in play, if surrender is allowed, and when the dealer must stand all impact the blackjack house edge.
Blackjack has a pretty low house edge, which is part of what makes it so appealing. The house edge for regular blackjack is less than 0.5% when you play according to basic blackjack strategy, so take time to clue up before you start playing.
Blackjack Game Variations
Now that you have a good idea about blackjack rules and card values, you may be itching to put that knowledge to the test and play blackjack online. But hold on – there are some diverse gameplay options to keep in mind. Here are some popular blackjack variations available at top US casinos right now.
This is the most widely played form of the game. For this reason, it’s often referred to as classic blackjack. American blackjack games follow the basic blackjack rules and are available almost universally at online casinos.
The European game comes with some subtle differences in the rules. For example, the dealer doesn’t get their hole card until all players play their hands. That means the dealer won’t know if they have blackjack until after the players have made their moves. Additionally, players can only double down on hands with values between nine and 11, and they can split 10s or face cards only.
Vegas Strip Blackjack
Taking its name from the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known for its glittering casinos, Vegas Strip Blackjack is a popular pick for players of the classic card game. This variation is practically the same as the general American version, except that it’s always played with four decks and the dealer can only take a peek at their initial hand if the up-card is an ace.
Atlantic City Blackjack
This is yet another variation on the American game, with the main distinguishing factor for Atlantic City Blackjack being the fact that it’s played with eight decks instead of the four used in the Vegas Strip version. Players may also opt for a late surrender.
Imagine having two blackjack hands and being able to swap the cards between them to make two better hands. Sound good? That’s exactly what Blackjack Switch is all about. In this variation, you play two hands and can switch the second card of each. Another important rule to remember is that the dealer can get 22 and only go bust if a player hits blackjack without using a split or switch.
Live Dealer Blackjack
The rules for live dealer blackjack are the same as when you play animated blackjack games. The main difference is that there will be a professional dealer playing your cards and you can communicate with this dealer. Live dealer casino games also tend to play out a little slower than RNG games, as you’ll have a real dealer controlling the game and dealing cards, rather than a computer that does it automatically.
Make the Most of Your Hand with Basic Blackjack Strategy
There are sets of time-honored rules that determine the best moves to make in blackjack, based on the numbers of decks in play and your particular hand. Let’s look at some of the most common blackjack strategies you can use to help you win a payout.
- Don’t split 10s or face cards
A common mistake by rookie players is to split two 10s or face cards. Contrary to the belief that this can double your profits, you’re actually playing with fire by giving up a highly formidable 20 hand in the hope of getting dealt favorable cards.
- Double down on hard 11
Basic blackjack strategy deems a hard 11 as one of the most powerful hands in the game. A hard 11 is simply a combination of two number cards that add up to 11. Doubling down on any dealer up-card (other than an ace if the dealer must stand on soft 17) will put you in a better position than if you simply take another card.
- Always splits aces and eights
By splitting a pair of eights, you swap a disappointing hand value of 16 for the chance to improve both hands with a face card. Similarly, a pair of aces will give you a disappointing hand value of 2 or 12, so it’s far better to split the hand in two and hope for a new high-value card for each hand.
- Double down on 10 if the dealer’s up-card is nine or less
If you get a 10 with your initial hand, you should double down if the dealer’s up-card is nine or less. You are the favorite in this situation and should always try to capitalize on your advantage.
Make Informed Bets with these Online Blackjack Tips
While blackjack tips won’t tell you how to win, they can stand you in good stead when you sit down at the virtual blackjack table. Here are some to keep in mind as you pursue that fabled number of 21.
- Make sure you understand exactly how your chosen blackjack game works and how to play using basic strategy. Don’t worry about having to memorize this, as there are strategy charts freely available online to help you out.
- New players should try free play blackjack first. This will help you get some practice in before you play real money games. If you decide to play more unusual or niche blackjack variations, it’s particularly important to try the demo games first so you understand how the games work before risking your cash.
- Some online casinos deviate from standard payouts and offer odds of 6:5 instead of 3:2. The house edge is bigger in games with 6:5 odds, paying out $12 on a $10 wager rather than the $15 you’d get for an untied wager on blackjack that pays 3:2. For this reason, it’s best to stick to games with standard odds.
- Always stick to the budget you set yourself and never bet more on online blackjack than you can afford to lose. Licensed online casinos must give you the option to set deposit limits, and it can be a good idea to take up the offer.
- Know when to quit. There’s always another day and another game. Gambling responsibly is one of the best things you can do when you play any real money casino game online.
Ready to Play?
Now that you understand the basics of how to play blackjack, you’re ready to give it a go for yourself. Looking for the best casino sites for blackjack players? Compare.bet US has found the top blackjack sites for you to choose from. All you need to do is compare and pick out a favorite to get started.
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This varies widely from game to game. You can get stuck into single deck games, or play variations with four, six or eight decks each. Rookies may prefer to home in on single deck blackjack as the house edge is lowest here.
Absolutely. Many online casinos have huge game libraries to keep you entertained. In addition to blackjack, you can play table games like roulette and poker, progressive jackpot slots and Slingo. Some sites even feature live casino game shows like Monopoly Live.