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Casinoble's Blackjack Guide

Blackjack is certainly one of the most popular casino games around. It has been since the modern version of the game came into existence. Players love this simple card game versus the house because it’s easy to play and offers the closest thing to a break-even gamble that a casino operator is prepared to accept.

If you’re a bit new to the world of online casinos and would love to get started playing blackjack, you’re in the right place. Casinoble has produced this extensive game guide to give you the lowdown on all aspects of one of the casino industry’s most enduring games.

In the following exploration of blackjack, you’ll learn:

  • Differences between online and real-world blackjack.
  • The importance of responsible gambling.
  • How free play blackjack can help make you a better player.
  • Blackjack’s rules.
  • How to learn to play optimally.
  • Information about counting cards.
  • The different variations of blackjack that are available these days.  

Clearly, there’s loads to get through if you’re to fully understand everything there is to know about blackjack. Let’s get started.

Real-World Blackjack

Like almost every other casino game, blackjack started out in a live setting. Prior to computers and the internet allowing for near-instant communication across great distances, people needed to gather round a table with one or more decks of cards to bet on this classic of the casino floor.

Although many different card games have come and gone over the years, blackjack has remained popular. Its simplicity and potentially low house edge make it an enduring favourite, enjoyed by the millions who drift through the planet’s brick-and-mortar casinos every day.

Online Blackjack

With the invention of the internet and subsequent advances in web payments and development, online casinos burst onto the gambling scene in the mid-1990s. One of the first games adapted for the new digital form of the pastime was blackjack.

Since first transitioning over to the online world, blackjack has remained one of the most popular table games around. It has also managed this with very few variations to the basic rule set played for many years now.

Some online gambling venues do offer unique versions of this classic game. Most, however, are only slight variations on the now well-established theme.

In terms of gameplay, object, and rules, online blackjack is identical to live blackjack. Apart from obvious physical differences between the two games, the only other distinguishing factor is how much faster it is to play online. Players needn’t wait for everyone else to finish trying their luck against the dealer, they can get right to their own next hand immediately.

Live Dealer Blackjack

More recently, online casino operators have been keen to restore some of the charm of playing blackjack in the casino to the online experience. Live casino games feature live streams of a real-world table along with a human dealer. Players make bets from their computer or cell phone and follow the action via a webcam feed.

Naturally, being one of the first and most popular games at the online casino, live casino developers were quick to offer blackjack as soon as the format became available. Even today, with much larger selections of casino games on offer at live casinos, you’re very unlikely to find an operator not hosting at least one or two games of live blackjack.

Real Money Blackjack

For many folks, a lot or all of the fun of playing blackjack and other casino games is the chance to win money. Of course, with the chance to win there is also the chance to lose. With gambling being a potentially addictive pastime, it’s important to ensure that you partake responsibly.

The following guidance should help players understand when it’s time to walk away. Doing so will ensure that a good time doesn’t turn into a serious problem:

  •       Make sure you allocate a budget before you start playing. No matter how quickly you run out of funds, you should quit when you planned to. Continuing playing risks compounding losses as your ability to make good decisions becomes further clouded.
  •       Don’t get drunk! Drinking can make people act in a way that they wouldn’t normally. This can result in massive gambling losses.
  •       Walk away if you start to get angry. No one likes losing, and repeatedly losing when you were the mathematical favourite to win can make even the most measured gamblers lose their cool. If the quality of your decisions starts to decline, you should take a break until you’ve calmed down.

·       Don’t play when it’s no longer fun. It sounds obvious but if you aren’t enjoying yourself at an online casino, you shouldn’t continue playing. Take a break. Do something else until your focus returns and you feel ready to give the game your full attention again.

The advent of the internet allowed for all kinds of innovations in gambling. One of them that is often overlooked is the free play casino game.

Before the internet, to play blackjack would involve a trip to the casino. If you didn’t know the rules, you could learn them from a published guide to the game or by trial and error. This latter option would likely be expensive, particularly when you still have barely the first idea how to play.

The idea of a real-world casino setting up a free blackjack table for players to learn how to play on simply isn’t feasible. Dealers don’t work for free and free tables don’t generate any money for the casino.

With the arrival of the internet, the cost to host a casino game suddenly dropped massively. Since software serves the role of dealer and equipment, operators can allow players to try out their games without committing any of their own money.

Free to play casino games are popular for the following reasons.

  • Players can gain experience without risking their own money.
  • They can learn the rules of a game or try a variation that’s new to them.
  • In blackjack, players can practice perfect strategy – more on this later.
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Blackjack History

As one of the oldest games of chance still found in casinos, the actual history of blackjack is somewhat hazy. However, historians generally agree that the game has its roots in the casinos of France during the eighteenth century. A game called Vingt-et-Un (Twenty-One) began to grow in popularity in the European country. It had several similarities with the modern version of the game of blackjack.

According to some sources, there were a number of other card games that influenced the creation of Vingt-et-Un. The Spanish game of Trente-Un and the Italian Sette e Mezzo predate the French game, with historians reasoning that these games likely directly influenced those early French gamblers.

As the game found its way to the Americas later in the century, it started to mutate into the game we now know as blackjack. By the early twentieth century, the Nevada Gaming Commission had formalised the rules of blackjack and with this came its official rebrand. The rules determined at the time are still very much similar to those played around the world and online today.

How to play Blackjack

As mentioned, blackjack is one of the easiest casino games to understand and play. This likely has a lot to do with its enduring popularity. In the following section of this definitive blackjack guide, Casinoble will explain exactly how to play blackjack. You should find it useful whether you want to play online or at a real-world casino.

Blackjack Basics

Players play against the house in blackjack. This makes it quite a bit different from games like poker where players play against one another.

Despite being a game in which the player plays against the house, there are more decisions for players to make when playing blackjack than there are in the likes of roulette or craps. Each new card drawn changes the odds and influences what is the best decision available to a player at any one time.

Both the dealer and player have the same objective. They must draw cards to make a hand as close to the number 21 in value as possible without exceeding it. Hands over 21 are “bust”. If the dealer busts, any players still with a valid hand win. If the player busts, the dealer wins the bets associated with any bust hands.

To receive a hand in blackjack, a player must first make a bet. The size of the bet is up to the player but most tables will have both a maximum and minimum bet. There are a few opportunities to increase the bet throughout the hand and the dealer will always match any increases with an equal one of their own.

All players making an initial bet will receive two face up cards. Meanwhile, the dealer will receive one face up and one face down. Players complete their hands first and then the dealer gets to play. On each turn, the player can hit or stand. Hit means they receive another card. Stand indicates that they are happy with the value of their hand and believe it to represent the best chance to beat whatever the dealer has. A player who stands will receive no more cards.

After all players have taken their turn, the dealer turns over their other card and proceeds to hit until they reach at least 17. Most rules of blackjack force the dealer to hit on any hand worth 16 or less. They must continue to hit until their hand not only exceeds 17 but also beats that of the player. If they go over 21, the dealer is “bust” and all player hands not exceeding 21 are declared winners.

If the player wins, they take back their own bets and those of the dealer. If the dealer has the stronger blackjack hand, they take down the money on the table.

Blackjack cards and their value

Blackjack uses at least one standard deck of cards without Jokers. Since suits are entirely irrelevant to the game, multiple decks are most commonly used. This allows more hands to play out before the dealer needs to shuffle the deck and makes it much more difficult for would be card counters.

Each number card in the standard deck represents the value pictured on it. Aces can be either high or low (1 or 11), depending on which creates the more favourable blackjack hand. Finally, all face cards are worth ten.

Blackjack Hands

Unlike in other card games, there aren’t really “hands” in blackjack. Whereas poker has different hand rankings – pair, trips, full house, quads, etc., blackjack only has the hand that the game itself takes its name from.

The hand itself comprises any combination of a 10 (or face card) and an Ace. Blackjack beats all other hands except another blackjack. It even beats hands of 21 that comprise more than two cards.

Players making blackjack usually also receive an additional payment from the dealer. Whereas a player victory would typically mean they receive back double what they initially wagered, when winning with blackjack (A, 10), they will receive payment at 3 to 2. Put simply, if they bet $5 originally, they would receive their original $5 back plus $7.50 from the dealer.

All other hands in blackjack go without names. The numerically higher of two competing hands always wins, providing it is 21 or less.

Blackjack Advanced Rules

As you can see, blackjack is a very basic game. However, there are a few additional rules that make it a lot more exciting. Many of these rules directly increase the player’s likelihood of beating the dealer, if they know how to use them to their advantage.

  • Double down – after seeing their cards and that of the dealer but before drawing any cards, players can choose to double their initial starting bet. They usually only receive a single additional card if they decide to “double down”.
  • Split – Players can split any two cards of the same value. If they decide to split, each of their two starting cards will form the start of a new hand. They add an additional bet (equal to their starting one) and play out each hand as they would any other. They can take one or more cards and even double their first bet or split again. Most rules state that players splitting Aces will only receive one additional card per hand.  
  • Insurance – If the dealer shows an Ace, the player can often insure themselves against the dealer having blackjack. They add a side bet that will pay at 2 to 1 in the event that the dealer does indeed have blackjack.

Blackjack Odds

Since there are a lot of variables and decisions for the player to make, the odds in blackjack are not fixed as they would be in roulette, for example. A player making the best decision mathematically at every opportunity will stand a far better chance of winning than if they were to split a pair of tens versus an Ace or some other equally ridiculous play.

The rules themselves actually influence the odds that a player can hope for too. Whereas some versions of the game will allow players to bet against the dealer with a less than 0.5 percent disadvantage, others can be much less lucrative. For example, Casinoble has actually seen versions of blackjack that consider the house the winner when both player and dealer hit the same total. This seemingly small change to the rules has a massive impact on the actual odds the player receives.

It’s important to pay attention to such rule changes, particularly when playing blackjack in the real world. Casinos on cruise ships, for example, are ruthless for playing slightly different variations of classic games that result in big increases to their own bottom line.

Blackjack Strategy

Since there is so much known information in a game of blackjack, there is always a mathematically optimum strategy to play in every possible situation. A very basic example would be that it is clearly the best decision to stand on 18 versus the dealer showing 6. The probability of you going bust by drawing another card far outweighs the probability of the dealer drawing to a 19, 20, or 21.

Obviously, when the hands get a lot closer in values, deciding on the best course of action on the fly becomes less intuitive. Some decisions are so marginal that they give up fractions of a percentage to the dealer. These soon add up and make the house’s expected value greater.

Fortunately, you don’t need to do the hard work yourself with regards to perfect strategy for blackjack. You can save getting out the calculator for now! To easily familiarise yourself with the optimum way to play blackjack, just search Google for a blackjack perfect strategy chart.

Card Counting in Blackjack

One of the most intriguing elements of the entire game of blackjack is the idea of counting cards. People love an opportunity to beat a casino and this technique has been proven successful at doing just that. Given that there is so much information available it’s possible to glean an edge against the casino by paying close attention to which cards have already been dealt.

Counting cards is a system by which players monitor the deck or decks of cards being used. They keep track of which cards have been out already, giving them an idea of which cards are likely to be where in the deck. Since dealers don’t shuffle the cards between every hand, an astute and skilled player can work out if the remaining cards are more likely to be high or low.

High cards are more valuable to players than low ones since two of them together form high value hands capable of winning regularly in blackjack. When card counters identify a potentially profitable deck loaded with high cards, they will increase their bet. This allows them to profit big when the deck is favourable.

If blackjack was only ever played using a single deck, card counting would be ruthlessly efficient. A good counter would very quickly understand exactly which cards were still in the deck at any given time. They could vary their bets accordingly and take the casino to the cleaners.

This is why casinos use many decks for their blackjack games. It’s much more difficult to determine how profitable the spot you’re in is likely to be when trying to keep track of eight decks or more.

Whilst card counting isn’t illegal, casinos don’t like it. Despite players only using information that is readily available to everyone at the table to glean their edge, casinos consider it in the same light as overtly cheating. For this reason, they will employ various strategies to fight back against card counters. These include random shuffles of the deck and even evicting those they suspect of gaining an advantage against the house.

It’s important to note that card counting is not only frowned upon by casinos, it’s also incredibly difficult. You need incredible focus and a brain for numbers. It’s also only possible in a live casino setting. Since digital versions of the game use a random number generator to create randomness, there are no cards to actually count at all!

Do Betting Strategies Work?

Although some people champion various systems for all kinds of casino games, the truth of the matter is that none can actually give you an edge over the casino. If there was some easily applicable strategy that would consistently generate profits for the player, the casinos would be out of business incredibly quickly.

Casinoble has seen other articles talk about progressive betting systems and other such strategies. Varying the size of your bet in accordance with previous results has no bearing on future results whatsoever. Players might enjoy using one of these systems for whatever reason. However, they will not help them win versus the casino since the rules of the game itself ensure that all the player bets slightly favour the venue in terms of expected value.

Blackjack Bonuses for Profit

There is one way to gain an advantage over the house mathematically – use its own money. Bonuses can make playing blackjack legitimately and consistently profitable. However, casinos are onto this tactic too.

There was a time at the beginning of the online gambling revolution of this century that casinos would allow players to use their welcome bonuses to play blackjack. Just by playing through the bonus at low stakes using perfect strategy, a player would actually have a mathematically positive expected value (since half of the money they used was not their own).

These days, however, casinos enforce incredibly strict wagering requirements for their welcome bonuses. Any game that has a close to break even return-to-player rating will not contribute fully towards the play through requirements. It’s common to see blackjack and high RTP slots contribute just one percent or nothing at all to bonus wagering these days. That said, every so often bonuses do crop up that don’t exclude blackjack in such a way. This can be highly lucrative indeed.

Blackjack Variations

As well as the traditional form of blackjack described above, there are numerous other variations of the game. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Progressive blackjack – players also stand a chance to win a progressive jackpot alongside a game of classic blackjack.
  • European blackjack – European blackjack introduces additional options for the dealer.
  • Spanish 21 – This version removes all cards with a value of 10 from the deck. This gives the dealer a considerably larger house edge.
  • Blackjack Switch – Players receive two hands and can swap either of the four cards between them.

Blackjack FAQ

Is it easy to learn card counting?

In a world, no. The most high-profile card counting ring ever comprised mathematics students from one of America’s most prestigious universities.

Is it legal to count cards?

Counting cards is perfectly legal. However, since casinos are private members clubs, they can evict you on whatever grounds they like. If they suspect you are counting cards, you can usually consider your membership revoked.

Does Card Counting Actually Work?

Yes. If players can keep good enough track of the deck, they can indeed create an edge against the casino. It’s not easy but it is possible.

What types of blackjack are available?

See the section above on blackjack variations. This is not a definitive list and either an online or land-based casino could come up with a new one at any moment.

Is it good to play more than one seat in blackjack?

If tables are quiet or you’re playing online, you can usually “sit” at more than one seat. This allows you to play more than one hand against that of the dealer. Playing a series of five $1 hands will be lower variance than playing the same number of single $5 hands.

The casino I play at pays ‘Even Money' when I hit Blackjack. Why?

Blackjack (A,10) typically pays at 3 to 2. Any other player victory versus the dealer will pay at even money. If the casino only offers even money for blackjack, the house edge is greater than it would be elsewhere. We recommend finding a different version of blackjack!

What's insurance in blackjack?

Insurance is a side bet. If the dealer shows an Ace, the player will be offered insurance. If they accept, they bet an additional chip. If the dealer has blackjack, the main bet loses but the insurance bet will pay at even money, meaning the player’s losses are lower.

What are blackjack side bets?

Side bets are any bets that blackjack players make, independent of their actual hand. Different casinos will offer side bets on all kinds of outcomes but they usually only serve to extend the house’s own edge.

What is blackjack “perfect strategy”?

Blackjack perfect strategy refers to the optimum way to play a game. It provides players with the best decision possible in any scenario. Blackjack perfect strategy charts are great for getting to grips with using perfect strategy – just don’t get one out in the casino itself!

What's the best strategy for an 8-Deck, live blackjack game?

Play perfect strategy, preferably with a bonus of some description.

Does the number of decks change the house edge in blackjack?

Technically, no. It does make it a hell of a lot easier for card counters though. With a single deck game of blackjack, anyone could quickly learn how to take an edge from the casino by monitoring which cards had already been out.

Is it better to play at an empty table or full one?

That depends, do you like socialising or not? In terms of mathematically expected value, it makes no difference.

How do I place a bet in live blackjack?

Find a table with an empty seat and click it to take it. Place a chip to make a bet. To place a chip, just click on the area of the board that says “place bets”. The dealer will deal you in on the next hand. If there are no seats, find a table with empty places.  

How much is the minimum bet in blackjack?

Different casinos enforce different minimum bets. Online, you’ll likely find blackjack tables for as little as $1 per hand. At real-world casinos, around $5 is usually the minimum.

How do I win when playing live blackjack?

You get a hand that is higher than the dealer’s and doesn’t exceed 21. Do this more often than you don’t and you’ll walk away a winner.

Why should I play blackjack online?

Blackjack is one of the most mathematically fair games you can play in the casino. Playing online allows you to play from wherever you like, enjoy fantastic bonuses, and play many more hands than would ever be possible at a real-world casino.

Is playing live blackjack safe?

If you only play at reputable casinos, you will enjoy a fair game of blackjack. In terms of safety, you will have to remain aware that gambling can be addictive. See our section on gambling for real money above.

Is there much difference between live blackjack and blackjack played in an actual casino?

You can enjoy live blackjack from wherever you like, providing you have a suitable device and internet access. For real-world blackjack, you have to show up to an actual casino. In terms of gameplay differences, there should be none.

Is there much difference between live blackjack and RNG blackjack?

The main difference between live and RNG blackjack is the speed of the game. Being completely virtual, you can get through about 20 hands per minute playing RNG blackjack. With live blackjack, you might be lucky to get one hand per minute.

All you need to know about online blackjack!

Is Blackjack the best game to play with the best odds?

Yes, this game does have the best odds. It all depends on the player's skill and the game rules. If the player uses a good strategy then, they can have a 0.1% advantage in a simple deck game if the rules are Las Vegas Strip.

What do “Las Vegas rules” mean?

This means that one blackjack game is being compared to another game and is used as a standard. In Las Vegas rules, double after splitting in the game is not allowed, and the re-splitting of aces is also not accepted in the game.

What basic strategy for blackjack is acceptable?

Like every game, the player should follow all the rules. Different casinos have different rules, so it is up to the player to understand those rules. Another issue that can affect the strategy of the game is the number of decks.

Is a long-term expectation affected by other players?

No, they are not affected. The players should not focus on the other players or how they play. Each player is responsible for their own selves and if that player loses or another player loses then there is no one to blame but the player who lost. Not the other players.

When is it advised to take money or insurance in the game?

The best advice is to never take the insurance. This bet is only good when a card counter knows. If the insurance and the money is turned down then the odds are up three to two for winning the hand played as is then if the chance is taken.

In Blackjack, what is known as the worst play?

If a player doesn’t pay attention to cards totaling 19 and 20 can be the worst play that can happen. Also, splitting two 8 cards will almost always cost the player. If the cards are two 7s then the player may stand a chance. The best thing is just to stick to the basics.

Are the multi-deck games better than single-deck blackjack games?

It can vary. There is a .5 to .6% disadvantage on the multideck versus the single deck. The removal of cards is what effects this. The conditions and rules are good. They are just both better than shoe games.

Why not become a millionaire instead of writing on the subject of Blackjack if the game is winnable?

No one can get rich at this game as there are losers as well. The only good investors have the skill, knowledge, risk, and bankroll. If these are not met before the player bets then the chances are good that loss is inevitable. This would be financial suicide.

If the cards are counted how much money can I win?

The odds are good that the player will lose. Once again the skill, knowledge, risk, and bankroll must be put as the number one priority. Otherwise, the loss is inevitable. It is an advantage over other players and can gain only 1% if they win.

Is it against the rules to count cards?

No, it is not against any rules however it is not advised because some casinos discourage this and could be more trouble than what it is worth in the long run. There are players that have been kicked out due to counting cards and are not able to return to the game.

What card counting system in Blackjack works the best?

Unless a person is a robot or a computer there is no best possible card counting system to use. It takes keeping track of every single card. The best suggestion is keeping the basics to the game simple and not using the system so the player can for sure stay in the game.

For card counters, what are the top plays that pay the most?

It is best to know when to accept the insurance and not to hit on 16 when a dealer has 10. Once again most casinos discourage this act and if the player is caught they may be asked to leave and be barred from returning.

Why does Blackjack exist in Casinos if the game can be beaten?

Bad card players and bad card counters keep the casino earning profits. Not everyone is good at Blackjack and it is a game that keeps tourist and regulars coming back to the tables for more games. It can be fun when the player wins and not fun when the player loses.

Is there another way to win at Blackjack other than card counting?

Of course, there is another way. Blackjack is a game of skill and knowledge and if the player has been playing for years then the chances are very good they know just how to win just by the basic rules of the game. Then luck can also be on the player’s side.

If a player is studying a game what are the factors to pay most attention to?

The factors to pay most attention to is: One, look for the best penetration with fast games. Two is to look for single decks with the best options and rules. Three, look for the least number of players at the table.

What are some of the best Blackjack books available?

These are some of the best, “Beat the Dealer,” “A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One,” “The Theory of Blackjack: The Compleat Card,” and “Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21.”

What is the first thing I should do if I want to win at Blackjack?

Read the books in the previous question. Have a strategy and perfect it. Always bet small if you are practicing the game. Do not go where there are money mangagement systems and progressive betting. Subscribe to newsletters and patience is a key factor.

Are card counters banned at casinos, or are they allowed?

Yes, they are banned and not allowed to return. Casinos still discourage this practice and it is not worth it.