Blackjack, alongside poker, is among some of the most frequently-played card games and casino games in general. It’s a game you easily understand, as it has simple rules and goals. Regarding the majority of rules, they are universal, irrespective of you playing online blackjack or it’s land-based counterpart.
Most of the rules are pretty straightforward. However, when you’re a newcomer to it, it’s only normal you have many questions, especially if you intend to play blackjack for real money. Here, we’ll provide an answer to some questions players commonly ask.
Why Is Blackjack so Popular?
Similarly to poker, to win at blackjack, you need a mix of chance and skill. Since there’s no way for you to influence what cards will go to the participants of the game, there’s an element of luck involved, which adds to the excitement and suspense of the game.
However, blackjack is far from just being a game of chance. Only bad players rely on a hunch. Once you’re dealt your hand, you’re in charge. It’s solely your decision what will happen next. And whether you make a good decision or not will determine the outcome of the round. And of course, it takes skill to make the right choice. And to be skillful, you need practice and experience.
All in all, it’s a simple game that’s easy to get familiar with, and simultaneously, it’s an interesting, addictive one in which you’re the reason behind whether you’ll win or lose. On top of that, it offers one of the lowest house edges out there, which just adds to its popularity.
What Is the Game’s Objective?
Blackjack players don’t play against each other but against the dealer. Your aim is to have your cards’ values amount to 21. Alternatively, you want to be closer to that number than the dealer, but you need to avoid going over (known as busting).
Numbered cards assume the value equal to their symbol (a three is worth three points, a five is worth five, and so on), while face cards (J, Q, K) are worth ten points. An ace can serve both as 1 and 11, depending on the other cards in your hand. As you’d expect, this flexibility provides room for various strategies.
What Is Blackjack House Edge?
House edge (or house advantage), in general, is a metric which signifies how much money that the casino keeps in the long run. Since this is measured over millions of rounds, it doesn’t really influence single playing sessions, but it’s an indicator of how generous a game is.
Among all casino games (not just table ones), blackjack comes with one of the most favorable house edges, sitting at 1,5%. Basically, every time you wager $100, the casino statistically keeps $1,5. But as you improve and successfully implement strategies, you can bring this number down. For example, if you properly utilize strategy charts, you’ll be playing against a house edge as low as 0,5%.
What Moves Can I Make?
The four basic options for you are: hit, stand, split, and double down. Hit means that you ask of the dealer to pass you another card, which increases your point total. Alternately, standing is a move you make when you’re happy with what you’ve got, and you let the dealer begin playing their own hand.
Doubling down is a move in which you increase your starting bet by twofold and add one card to your hand. That one card is mandatory, and you can’t ask for more. Finally, when you receive two of the same cards, you can make the call named split, effectively playing with two separate, independent hands.
Should I Play a Multi-Deck or a Single-Deck Game?
Blackjack games which use only one deck have lower house edges, as it’s more likely to get a blackjack hand (an ace and any other card which has a ten-point value — 10, J, Q, K). It’s also less complicated for card counters to follow the cards in play. But the number of decks also influences payouts. Usually, single-deck games only pay 1:1 (even money), or even worse, like 6:5, for blackjack hands, whereas the general practice is for casinos to pay out in a 3:2 ratio.
What Are Strategy Charts?
Strategy charts are tables which tell you what your best move is, if you consult the math behind the game. A computer program simulated millions of rounds and came up with what your best statistical move is for all possible permutations of the three cards at your eyes’ disposal — the two you’re holding and the dealer’s one which faces up. For example, should your hand be worth 13 or 14, according to strategy charts, you should stand if the dealer’s up card is from 2 to 6. With 7 and higher, you should hit.
These charts will remove some common mistakes from your game (for instance, never split tens, and always split eights). If you succeed in properly incorporating strategy charts in your routine, you’ll significantly lower the game’s house advantage.
What Is Card Counting and Is It Legal?
Card counting is an advanced strategy which consists of players watching which cards have gone through. It’s significantly easier to implement it in single-deck games. Also, you need the dealer to play with all cards from the deck before shuffling for this to work, which makes it useless with online blackjack and those tables which have CMS — continuous shuffling machines.
When you count cards, you add value to the deck according to which cards have already gone through. Starting at 0, whenever a card between 2 and 6 turns up, you add 1. You subtract 1 when an ace or a ten show up. Sevens, eights, and nines don’t affect the deck’s value. You use this value to predict the odds of what your next card might be. For instance, if you value the deck at +4 (that means that there were four more low-value cards), it’s likelier you’ll get a ten-point card.
This method doesn’t increase the number of winning rounds. However, it gives you the possibility to anticipate when you’ll win and when you won’t. Consequently, you should adjust your betting accordingly, so bet big when you feel a win’s coming, and bet small when you expect differently. This will maximize your profits.
Card counting as a method isn’t illegal per se; however, there are casinos which will ask players they suspect of utilizing this system to leave their establishment.
What Are Side Bets?
To try and improve their profits in blackjack, which already comes with a favorable house edge, casinos have added side bets. Side bets represent additional bets you can make which don’t affect the base game. For example, one common side bet is 21+3, where you bet your two cards and the dealer’s one up card will form a three of a kind, a flush, or a straight.
Side bets are entirely reliant on luck, and as such, they have higher house advantages. There’s no viable strategy for this, as players basically take an uneducated guess.
When Should I Place an Insurance Bet?
When the dealer’s card that you can see is an ace, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to place an insurance bet. With this bet, you’re placing money on the dealer holding a natural blackjack hand (essentially, you’re betting that their other card is worth ten). You usually place half the amount of the original bet, and the payout comes at a 2:1 ratio. Since this is also purely a guess, you can approach it as if you would do any side bet.
Insurance bets only make sense when you’re card counting. When your count of the deck is positive, there are greater odds that the dealer’s holding a blackjack, which makes an insurance bet more probable.
Can You Tie in Blackjack?
Yes. When it happens that the dealer’s number of points (after they’ve decided to stand) matches the player’s, they tie, or, as we say in blackjack, there’s a push. In that case, you get your initial bet returned as if the round never happened.
Are There Different Variants?
Yes. As is the case with all other games, you can play several variants of blackjack. This is particularly true for online casinos, as they don’t have any physical constraints of playing at as many blackjack tables as they want. Some of the most frequent variants are European Blackjack, Double Blackjack, Spanish 21, Atlantic City Blackjack, and 6:5 Blackjack.
For example, in Spanish 21, four of the ten-point cards have been removed from the playing deck. But when you hold a hand worth 21, you win regardless of what the dealer’s holding, even if they have the same number of points. 6:5 Blackjack, on the other hand, uses regular rules and decks, but the only difference is that there’s a 6:5 payout for blackjack hands.
Does It Matter How Many Players There Are at the Table?
No. The thing is, blackjack is an individual game — you play only against the dealer, and your game is independent of other players. In fact, when you’re just starting your blackjack-playing career, you’d be wise to sit down at a packed table. More players translate into slower rounds, and you won’t have to dip into your bankroll as often.
However, the problem with a crowded table appears when you try to count cards, as there are more cards on show that you need to follow and do math with, as well as that the dealer goes through the deck more quickly.