In the pantheon of popular casino table games, blackjack has a prominent place. The game dates back to the 17th century and a French game known as vingt-et-un, or 21. That version of the game paid out to players who held an Ace and a Jack of Spades – hence the name ‘black Jack’.
Vingt-et-un arrived in the US not long after the French Revolution and was reinvented and refined, going on to become the globally popular phenomenon that we see today, and featuring in numerous TV shows and movies. Blackjack’s enduring popularity lies in its essential simplicity, the low house edge and the fact that strategy can play a significant role, unlike a game such as roulette, which is more obviously a game of pure chance.
So, whether you are planning on playing online blackjack at your favorite casino or in a real-world casino, perhaps the Bellagio in Vegas or Skycity in New Zealand, here is a quick guide to blackjack basics.
As we will discuss below, there are many variations of blackjack available to the modern casino gamer, but all of them are built around the same basic idea. Essentially, this is a game played between a player and a dealer. Even if there are several players at a blackjack table, they are not competing with one another but with the dealer, who works for the house.
Each player in a hand is dealt two cards, both face up. The dealer gets one card that is face up and another face down. Each card in a regular deck has a value. Number cards are calculated at their face value, while royal cards are worth 10 and an Ace can be worth one or 11. The aim of the game is to end up with a hand that is closer to a total of 21 points than the dealer, without ‘going bust’ or going over 21.
When you have received your two cards, you have several options:
- Hit – Get another card.
- Stand – Take no further cards and the hand ends.
- Insurance – Make a side bet against the dealer holding 21.
- Split – Split cards that are identical into separate hands with separate bets.
- Double Down – Double the original bet and get one more card.
- Surrender – Give up your hand at the cost of half the bet.
Once your turn is over, the dealer will then play their turn and the hand will be concluded with either you or the dealer winning and claiming the money wagered.
As we mentioned above, there are a number of blackjack variations, and the full list would be too long to include here, but these are four of the most common:
Sometimes known as Classic blackjack, this is one of the most common forms of this game. The main difference between this version and European blackjack is that with this game, the dealer receives their face-down card (known as the ‘hole’ card) before the player takes their turn. There are also some minor differences in the way that splitting and doubling down operates.
One of the differences between the two is the stage of the game at which the dealer takes his hole card. In American blackjack, the dealer gets their hole card (the one that remains face down) before the player makes any decisions regarding their own hand.
In European blackjack, the dealer won’t receive their second, face-down card until the player has finished their hand. Beyond this, European blackjack usually allows for fewer different ways of playing a hand, with reduced options when it comes to doubling down, splitting and insurance.
The main difference with Blackjack Switch is that in this game, players are able to play two separate hands at the same time. They have the choice of switching or swapping the second card that they get on each hand, bringing a new element of strategy to the game.
Blackjack Perfect Pairs
Perfect Pairs is actually a side bet that is offered in some versions of the game, but it has become so popular that is effectively a new take on blackjack. With this variety, you are given the choice of betting on whether your first two cards will be of the same value, and if they are, you win your bet.
There are many advice and tip resources for blackjack players but before you get into playing the game, it is important to remember these basic principles, whether playing online or in person:
- Never play blackjack with money you can’t afford to lose.
- Make sure you understand all the rules before you start.
- Remember to have fun!