We’ve seen multiple card games being adapted and transformed throughout history, with a number of them still very much prominent in this time and age, including the popular game of Blackjack. Although it's a game which can easily be played at home with family and friends, Blackjack is now a standard game in every brick-and-mortar and online casino. Gone are the days when you had to meet in the same physical space to play a game of Blackjack. Although some players might still prefer the social interaction of real-life casinos, others find online casinos more convenient.
In this article we’ll address:
- Why is Blackjack so popular?
- Basic Blackjack rules
- How Blackjack works
- Blackjack variations
- Blackjack etiquette rules
Considered the most popular casino game (along with Poker), this simple, yet intriguing game attracts many players looking for straightforward gameplay. However, despite its speed and the easy rules which define it, Blackjack isn’t just a game based on luck. There are elements of skill and strategy which can help you keep losses to a minimum and enjoy some possible wins.
Let’s go over the history of Blackjack first. This game could have originated in Spain around the 15th or the 16th century as we have references of a game called 'Ventiuna' (Spanish for twenty-one) from that era, and subsequent French references of 'Vingt-et-un'. In the 1800s, it found its way to America - where its current name was developed. American casinos started offering a 10 to 1 payout to players having a jack of clubs/spades and an ace of spades in their hand - thus the name 'Blackjack'. With each new adaptation, different rules were devised and cultivated, introducing more exciting variations for players to enjoy.
Why is Blackjack so popular?
Play strategically, harness the right skills, and you'll enjoy more favourable odds when playing Blackjack. If you hit and stand when it's recommended, you can minimise the risk of busting and play with a less advantageous house edge. Card counting isn't the road leading to success. You must familiarise yourself with basic strategy charts, get hold of rewarding bonuses and select the right table to enjoy some possible wins. The more you play, the more proficient you may become at Blackjack!
Although only one of the dealer's cards is face-up, there are specific Blackjack rules which are in the player’s favour. You can double your bet, split pairs, stand on a hand value of 16 or lower and enjoy a 3 to 2 payout on a classic Blackjack.
The most basic rule which defines Blackjack and which can be described as the main objective of the game is to beat the dealer's hand without going over 21 - also referred to as busting. Having a hand equal to 21 is the best scenario you can find yourself in, as this signifies an instant win. Referred to as a classic Blackjack or a natural win, this ideal hand would consist of an ace and a ten-value card.
In Blackjack, you only need to outscore the dealer, so you can win by either building a higher-value hand, being dealt a hand valued 21 from the very start of the game, or by remaining in play when the dealer goes bust. Sounds simple enough? Maybe, but remaining in play isn't so easy. When you're still somewhat distant from the value of 21, you might be tempted to draw more than one card in the hope of achieving a better value. But you can quickly go bust each time you draw another card. Otherwise, you may stand too early, putting the dealer at a higher advantage.
Blackjack Card Values
Knowing the blackjack card values is fundamental if you want to play Blackjack. Cards 2 to 10 have the same value as their number, face cards (jack, queen and king) are ten-value cards and the ace can either be worth 1 or 11. It's up to you to determine what value you want to give it. Generally speaking, the ace is considered an 11-value card up until your hand's value goes over 21, at which point its value becomes 1.
Hard vs Soft Hand
Blackjack enables you to either build a hard or a soft hand. A hard hand will consist of an ace counting as a one or no ace, while a soft hand will have an ace with either of its values. The hand you have will determine the strategy you adopt. Let's say you have a hard 16 - drawing more cards is too risky so you'll most likely stand. However, if you have a soft 16, you can freely draw more cards as the ace's value can become 1.
How Blackjack works
Blackjack makes use of up to six or eight packs of cards with no jokers. Tables using a single deck of cards aren't so common, the main reason being that one deck of cards facilitates card counting and puts players at an advantage. Cards are shuffled, and the dealer chooses one of the players to cut the cards with a blank plastic card (if you're playing at a land-based casino). This same card is re-inserted towards the back of the decks and will indicate when cards need to be reshuffled. The shuffled cards are then placed in 'shoes' which hinder players from trying to see the dealer's cards while they're dealt.
At this point, the game can get started with players placing their bets. How does this work? The player buys chips at the table or at a separate cash desk, depending on the casino. You stack your chips in front of you based on their value and then place your preferred bets by placing chips in your designated betting section. If you're playing online Blackjack, you just need to make a deposit and place virtual chips. Players may choose to play more than one hand at a time if there are empty seats.
The colour-coded chips will generally have the following values: white - €1, red - €5, green - €25, black - €100, purple - €500 and orange - €1000.
Once the players place their bets, the dealer deals two face-up cards to each player and one face-up and one face-down card (also known as the hole card) for himself. At this point, you must choose which action to take, having taken into consideration the value of your two cards and the dealer's card value. Let's go over all the possible options:
Blackjack Actions & Rules
You can make a variety of possible actions when the dealer deals your cards during a game of Blackjack, and you need to take into account both your hand and that of the dealer to play strategically and take advantage of the theory of probability. However, each action is regulated by a set of rules which may vary from one Blackjack variation to another. Here's a quick overview of what each action is and the rules associated with each.
- Hit - You draw more cards when your hand value is too low. There's no limit to how many additional cards you draw, but the more you keep hitting, the riskier it will become. However, basic strategies recommend players to hit whenever their hand value is ten short of 21 and when you have a pair (which can be split) or an ace (which can either be 1 or 11). Moreover, you should only hit a hand value between 12 and 16 when the dealer has a seven-value card or more.
- Stand - You can choose not to draw extra cards if your hand's value is already high. Basic strategy charts recommend standing whenever your hand value is over 16, and whenever you have a hand between 13 and 16 if the dealer has a low-value card.
- Double Down - You can double your bet if you have an excellent hand value. You can only take this action as soon as your first two cards are dealt; players cannot double down after they draw further cards. However, there is one exception - you cannot double your bet if you have a classic Blackjack. You should be aware that you cannot draw more than one card after doubling down, so there's a risk of losing double your original bet if your third card has a low value. Basic strategies advise players to only double down on hand values worth nine, 10 or 11, except in certain circumstances. You should double down on 11 if the dealer doesn't have an ace, on ten if the dealer doesn't have a ten-value card and on nine if the dealer's hand value is between three and six. You can also double your bet on a hand valued between 18 and 20 unless the dealer has an ace.
- Split - You may divide your hand if you have an identical pair of cards in your hand. To split your hand, you must place another bet equal to the first one on your second hand. Basic strategies recommend splitting a pair of aces or eights, but never to split a pair of tens, nines, fours or fives.
- Insurance - You can take insurance when the dealer has a face-up ace, and you want to bet on the possibility that a ten-value card is face down. Taking insurance won't affect the round's outcome; it's solely a side bet aimed at adding an extra element of fun to the game. Most strategies advise against taking insurance, as the probability of the face-down card actually being a ten-value card is low.
- Surrender - You may decide to withdraw from the game if you think you have a high probability of losing with your current hand. You're only allowed to surrender as soon as the dealer deals your first two cards, and if the table permits this action. In most cases, you'll receive half your bet back. However, surrendering is not even taken into consideration by most basic strategy charts; the reason being you can still hit and improve your hand's value considerably despite being low at first.
Blackjack Hand Signals
Whereas players need only click on the respective action buttons when playing online Blackjack, playing at a land-based casino requires players to learn some necessary hand signals. The dealer points to each player starting from the one on the left, who's then required to signal his action to the dealer. Any player who goes bust at this point is out of the game. Here are the signals you must familiarise yourself with:
- Hit - Point at the cards or tap on the table.
- Stand - Wave your hand across your cards.
- Double down/split - Add your second bet in the designated betting section and raise one finger to double and two fingers to split. Don't touch the cards yourself.
- Surrender - Draw your index finger behind your card. Saying 'surrender' is also accepted.
Once all players have finalised their hand, the dealer's turn is up. The actions he takes are determined by set casino rules which are devised to secure the house advantage. The dealer is trained to abide by these rules dictating when he should hit and stand (he cannot split or double down). The most common rules dictate dealers to hit whenever their hand value is 16 or lower, even if they've already outscored the player, and to always stand on 17. Whether or not they stand on a soft 17 depends on the casino's rules.
The payouts you can enjoy at Blackjack are set by defined rules, which may vary from one casino to another. A standard table would pay 3 to 2 for a classic Blackjack, 1 to 1 for a higher hand value and 2 to 1 for insurance win. A tie may either mean a win, loss or a return of your bet. Moreover, if you surrender, half your bet is returned.
Blackjack Rule Variations
As we've already mentioned, Blackjack rules will vary from one table to another, so you must familiarise yourself with them before you start placing your bets at a given table. Check out the maximum and minimum betting limits, the outcome of a tie, payouts, and the availability of the surrender option. These rules should be clearly defined on the table if you're playing at a land-based casino. Otherwise, if you're playing online Blackjack, simply click on the information button. The number of decks used isn't generally stated, but you can easily ask the dealer for such information.
Some variations from the traditional Blackjack rules include:
Bear in mind that these are not traditional Blackjack rules, and you need to check the table's terms and conditions to check whether they're applicable.
- The Reno rule - You can only double down on a hard 9, 10, or 11.
- No-hole-card Blackjack - The dealer only deals one face-up card for himself. He deals his second card when the players have completed their actions, giving players an extra chance to draw an ace.
- 6:5 payout: Instead of paying 3 to 2 for a classic Blackjack, some casinos offer a 6 to 5 payout which is less advantageous to the player.
- Five Card Charlie - If a player builds a hand of five cards without going bust, he's paid even money.
- Late Surrender - Players may be allowed to surrender after drawing another card.
- Face-down cards - In some tables, the cards may be dealt face down, requiring players to touch the cards.
Popular Blackjack variants you might encounter at land-based and online casinos may be played with different rules:
- Single Deck - This variant uses only one deck of cards. Although you might think this puts the players at an advantage, keep in mind that the game will have other rules which will offset this advantage.
- Double Exposure - A variant where both the dealer's cards are face up. In this case, since the players are in a position where they can make more informed actions, a natural win may pay even money, rather than 3 to 2.
- Switch - In this variant, players are dealt two hands, whereby you can switch the top cards between the two hands.
- Caribbean 21: A variant where aces always count as one. The best hand you can achieve will consist of two 10-value cards and an ace - referred to as a Caribbean 21.
Blackjack Side Bets
Side bets may or may not be offered by casinos. They're optional bets adding an extra element of fun without affecting the rest of the game. Since they'll generally have a higher house edge, they're not recommended if you want to try and increase your chances of winning. Some side bets Blackjack tables may offer include:
- 21+3 - This is the most common side bet - whereby the player can win if the dealer and the player's original hands add up to a straight flush, three of a kind, straight or flush - same as 3 Card Poker.
- Perfect Pairs - You win if you're dealt a pair.
- Lucky Ladies - If your first two cards add up to a value of 20, you win, the best hand being two queens.
- Suit 'em up - You win if your first two cards are the same suit.
Favourable Blackjack Rules
Thus, choosing a Blackjack table requires some thought. Some tables have a higher house edge than others, so you need to be very careful which one you should be risking your money on. Here are some factors you must take into consideration:
- The number of decks used - 6 to 8 decks is the standard but the smaller the number of decks, the higher your chances of applying the theory of probability.
- Payouts - 3 to 2 payouts are much better than 6 to 5 payouts.
- Game rules - Are you allowed to surrender? Double your bet after a split?
- Table limits - Opt for a table with a low minimum limit.
- Side bets - Do you like having extra chances of winning? Then opt for tables which offer side bets.
- Dealer rules - Does the dealer stand on a soft 17? This action would prove advantageous to the players.
- Blackjack variants - Bear in mind that favourable rules will generally have counteracting regulations (such as high minimum limits) to offset their advantage.
Blackjack Etiquette Rule
Playing at an online casino is quite straightforward. You choose your game, select a table, place your bets and enjoy the game of Blackjack. However, if you're playing at a land-based casino, you must respect specific etiquette rules. Make sure you remember these rules:
- Always keep your hands visible above the table.
- Never hand money directly to the dealer. Place the money on the area outside the designated betting section.
- Don't place any objects on the Blackjack table. Use the designated drink holders.
- Don't shout out the actions to the dealer. Use the necessary hand signals.
- Ask other players for permission before joining a table.
- Wait for a new round before joining a table.
- Don't touch your bets after the dealer starts dealing the cards.
- Refrain from telling players how they should play.
- Be respectful to the dealer.
Now that you're familiar with all the Blackjack rules there are to know, it's time to start enjoying the game of Blackjack. Check out the free DEMO versions and play with virtual currency to build up confidence and gain valuable experience before you start playing for real money. Bear in mind that in some regions access to demo games is only given once the player verifies his age. Do you prefer playing online Blackjack? Then check out EnergyCasino's range of exciting Blackjack tables and enjoy the convenience of playing from home. At EnergyCasino, you can benefit from a great Welcome Bonus (depending on your jurisdiction), low minimum table limits, and Live Blackjack tables which bring the excitement of a real-life casino to your home. Just remember - always check out the table rules before you start placing any bets, and play responsibly!
⭐ What are Blackjack rules?
Blackjack has specific rules dictating how the game is played, when players can hit, stand, double down or split, and what the dealers can do during their turn. These rules will vary from one table to another depending on the Blackjack variation you're playing, so make sure you go through the rules before you start playing.
⭐ Does the Blackjack dealer hit on 17?
Generally, casino rules obligate Blackjack dealers to stand on 17 and hit whenever their hand value is 16 or lower. Whether or not they hit on a soft 17 depends on the casino's rules.
⭐ When should you hit or stand in Blackjack?
You should hit when your hand value is very low, when you have a pair or an ace and in situations where your hand value is between 12 and 16 and the dealer has a seven-value card or more. On the other hand, you should stand when your hand value is over 16 and if you have a hand between 13 and 16 (if the dealer has a low-value card).
⭐ How do you play Blackjack?
In Blackjack, the dealer deals two face-up cards to the players and one face-down and face-up card for himself. The player's task is to beat the dealer's hand by getting as close to the value of 21 as possible without going bust. You decide whether to hit or stand depending on the dealer's and your hand's value.
⭐ What are free bets in Blackjack?
Free Bet Blackjack is a variant where the player doesn't need to place a second bet to double down or split. Moreover, if the dealer obtains a hand value of 22, the players' hands are pushed.
⭐ What does push mean in Blackjack?
A tie generally leads to a 'push'. This means the original bet is returned to the player. However, casinos may have varying rules related to the outcome of a tie - which might be otherwise acknowledged as a win or a loss.
⭐ What does double down mean in Blackjack?
The Double Down action means you can choose to double your bet as soon as your hand is dealt. However, bear in mind that you cannot draw more than one card after doubling down.