Blackjack is one of the most played casino games, both online and in real life, and is attractive due to its relative simplicity. The most basic thing to know is that your final score needs to get as close to 21 as possible without ‘busting’ (going over 21). Of course, getting to 21 can be broken down into a number of strategies which are detailed below. The good news about blackjack is that, unlike many other forms of gambling, it’s a game which a player can improve on with practice and knowledge, making it potentially very lucrative.
A lot has been published about blackjack theory, one of the most well-known being Edward Thorp’s Beat the Dealer. Although card-counting is frowned upon these days and modern dealing strategies are working to prevent it from happening in modern casinos, it’s a strategy that people will always be enamoured with.
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Even though the origins of blackjack aren’t exactly known, we do know that Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, was playing it back in the late 1500s, so it has come a long way from being played with a casual single deck across Europe. Originally known as ‘twenty one,’ the name blackjack began to be used due to the nickname for a hand which contained both the ace of spades and a black jack, which at that time earned the player a ten-to-one payout. Nowadays, a blackjack is a hand which consists of an ace alongside a ten or face card (regardless of suits or colors). There are also some variations such as Spanish 21 or Pontoon and it’s possible to find a few different kinds of blackjack to try out at the same casino.
Playing for Money
When deciding to invest in playing blackjack with real money, it’s important to choose a reputable casino, even if you plan to play online. Legitimate online casinos will have been tested by an independent testing agency, such as the eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA) or Technical Systems Testing (TST). It’s also easy enough to search for blacklisted online casinos in order to avoid them. Although bricks-and-mortar casinos don’t generally offer bonuses, they do usually have a possibility of enrolling in a loyalty card program which could be advantageous to the player.
With online casinos that offer table games, although it’s easy enough to get started and there are lots of sign-up bonuses and other free cash offers, it’s important to check the terms and conditions before agreeing to give out any payment information. Some online casinos have limits on how and when you can withdraw winnings from bonuses. It could be an advantage to try out a machine on a demo mode for free before deciding to place a stake of real money. Once you are confident in your blackjack strategy, bets of real money are easily made via PayPal or credit card. Most online casinos offer blackjack hands of only 1 coin, giving even the most tentative player a chance to earn real money.
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Full Guide to Playing Blackjack
There’s obviously a thrill and a certain nostalgia that comes with playing blackjack in a real, land-based casino. First of all though, you have to know the code, as the ‘eyes in the sky’ (cameras) are always watching for discrepancies and to identify both dealer mistakes and possible blackjack card counting. Simply tap the blackjack table to ‘hit’, that is, ask for another card, wave your hand horizontally if you want to say ‘no more cards for me this round’, and in some cases you can put your fingers into a v shape to split the bet (this requires placing a second bet, though). Video blackjack is also typically available at bricks and mortar casinos, and although these games are generally more favourable to the house, they give the shyer player a chance to have a go without sitting with other players. Actual blackjack tables also incorporate a ‘house edge’ (which is typical for nearly all casino games), but any player who knows what they’re doing still has a fairly high chance of earning a good payout.
Playing online blackjack free gives you the option to play in the comfort of your own home, avoiding the smoke-filled darkened rooms and letting you put your feet up and relax in the comfort of your own home. Whether you’re playing online or in real life, the table is laid out the same way, so even if you’re making the switch from one to the other, gameplay won’t be dramatically different. Instead of hand gestures you’ll just be using buttons with the same functions. Just make sure: is your internet fast enough? You wouldn’t want to lose a bet simply based on a poor connection, and of course it’s also important to read the fine print of online casino websites when signing up. That being said, blackjack online free also gives you the option to play blackjack for free, allowing you the chance to hone your strategies and get used to the gameplay, if you’re a newcomer to cards. If you want to play blackjack, then you can play it for free or real money at one of our recommended casinos below.
Blackjack Rules and Bets
Despite a number of deviations between variations of the game and of course the house rules that take place at each individual casino, blackjack is known as a fairly uncomplicated game. At a casino blackjack table, a dealer will deal cards from anywhere between one and eight decks to players in a semi-circle. Blackjack rules hold that cards are dealt from the dealer’s left, and the cards come from a ‘shoe’ (often automatically shuffled), and they often use as many as six decks of cards to try to thwart advantage players who are trying to count cards. The dealer will then ask each player in order whether they want to have more cards (hit) or to stick with the cards they currently have (stay). When the dealer’s final hand is dealt, then all the players compare their score to the dealer’s hand and the winners are any players who have managed to beat the dealer. Ties are possible, and the rules for dealing with them vary from casino to casino.
Table limits vary widely in land-based casinos, but usually the minimum bet is $5 if playing in the USA. Blackjack online gives you a much bigger control over your stakes. Most online casinos offer minimum bets of 1 and usually go up to 100, so these are a much more budget-friendly option, since table maximums at land-based casinos can range from 50 to up to 50,000 at high-stakes tables. As far as payouts, a winning hand will receive a 1:1 payout, but a perfect score of blackjack 21 will usually earn you a 2:1 payout. Some casinos can implement different rules for when a dealer draws an ace; it’s important to familiarize yourself with the house rules any time you start playing in a new location or website.
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The rankings of blackjack cards is extremely straightforward with the exception of aces. Cards numbered from one to ten will always be valued at the number which appears on the card. Face cards, which are the king, queen and jack, are worth ten points. Because there are four of the face cards, plus the number ten card, getting a ten on a hit is more likely than drawing any other value from the deck, which is something to keep in mind. The Ace is the one to watch out for as its value can change depending on what you already have in your hand.
If you draw an Ace and you already have a card at 9 or below, the Ace is worth 11 points. This is known as a soft hand. When a player already has a soft hand and they decide to take another card, then the rules become a bit more complex. If the extra card combined with the non-ace card comes to 11 or more, the Ace will be reduced to one point. Most players who have a soft hand will take the extra card if they have 16 or less, as the chances of going over 21 are slimmer in this case.
What About Strategy?
In terms of blackjack tips, players using even basic strategy with average luck lose less than 1% of the total amount they have wagered, which is much better than you can hope for in many other casino games. Usually, a dealer is required to stand once they have reached 17 points or more. That means that your strategy will mostly stem from the cards you have in your hand in corellation to the ‘up’ card showing in the dealer’s hand. It’s also worth knowing when to request a blackjack split. For example, the vast majority of players will split a pair of aces and create a second bet as those are two potentially winning hands, thus improving their blackjack odds.
A double down, which allows a player to double their wager after the initial bet, allows you to get one more card, and will double your cash upon winning, but if you don’t manage to surpass the dealer’s hand, then you could also lose twice your bet. Basically, you always need to consider the number of decks in play, as well as statistical probability based on the cards you already have. There are a number of strategy charts online which are worth taking a look at, as they give you a good idea of when you should hit and when you should stand based on the values of the cards currently in play.
Obviously the concept of ‘card counting’ is something seen a lot in films and while it sounds like a sure-fire way to rake in the chips, it may not actually be a great strategy for a number of reasons. First of all, casinos are quick to ban players caught counting cards, and secondly, many casinos employ the use of shuffling machines and multiple decks which make it impossible to keep track of unused cards. This also becomes less useful for online blackjack, as the virtual cards will be dealt from a new shoes every time. Yet another quite advanced move is the option of buying blackjack insurance, which gives you the choice of not losing any money on a bet when presented with an Ace. From one perspective, it’s a way to protect a strong hand, but on the other hand, it can result in the loss of both wagers, and most professional players choose not to do it, which is something to consider when a dealer offers you insurance.
Knowledge is Key
If you’re new to blackjack, the endless mathematical probabilities can seem daunting. However, it’s worth knowing that blackjack is one of games that, with a basic knowledge of strategy, can give a player a strong advantage over the house. Skills can be learned with blackjack practice and repetition, although luck will always be involved as well. With all the opportunities to practice blackjack free, either on a laptop or on your mobile, you can quickly build your confidence as a player and perfect your game. Plenty of online casinos feature enticing offers for new players, and there are a number of reputable online casinos which allow betting with real money. The most important thing to remember is that blackjack is a game, and therefore should be fun, whether it’s high stakes or played for free.