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What is Blackjack?

 

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in the world and has been played for centuries. Today, there are lots of different ways to play, including Blackjack online.

 

However, no matter what variant you choose, the basics are pretty much the same. Played with standard decks of 52 cards, the aim is to beat the dealer in a head-to-head showdown. To do that, the total value of your combined cards needs to be higher than the dealer’s cards without going over the magical 21 number.

 

If you’re looking for a real online casino experience, simply take a seat at a table and watch the cards fly on the virtual felt as you take on the dealer.

 

How to play Blackjack

  • Place a bet.
  • Get two face-up cards.
  • The dealer also gets two cards, one face-up and one face-down.
  • Analyze your hand & decide whether to hit or stand.
  • For example, you might want to hit if you have 13. If you have 18, you might want to stand.
  • The dealer will reveal their face-down card.
  • You win if the total number of your hand is higher than the dealer’s without going over 21.
  • You’ll be paid out at 1:1 for any hand other than ‘Blackjack’. ‘Blackjack’ (hitting 21 with an Ace or a ten/picture card) pays 3:2.

 

What are the rules of Blackjack?

 

All you have to do is hit 21, right? Blackjack might seem that simple on the surface, but the reality is different because there are more ways to win than being dealt an Ace and a ten. For example, you can hit Blackjack, create a hand with a higher value than the dealer, or the dealer can bust.

 

You can make 21 with as many cards as you like, but remember: the more cards you use, the higher your chance of busting. If you and the dealer both hit 21, your hand is ‘pushed’, and your stake returned.

 

To add to the excitement, there are Blackjack rules that can help you make the most of your hands. You can split your hand and play two separate hands when you’re dealt a pair. Or you can double down and match your opening bet, typically when your hand totals 11 or less.

 

Card values & basic strategy

 

In Blackjack, card values are as you would normally understand them. For example, cards 2-10 are equal to two-ten. A Jack, Queen or King are valued ten and an Ace is valued at one or eleven.

 

Hard hand

 

A hard hand is any two-card total that does not include an Ace, and it’s defined like this because the total of both cards includes the risk of a bust. So, whereas technically a two and three (equalling five) is a hard hand by definition, during the game it is soft because there is no risk of a bust regardless of what card you hit next.

 

Soft hand

 

A soft hand is any two-card total involving an Ace. A soft hand means there is no risk of a bust regardless of what card you hit next. The highest soft hand is a nine and an Ace (equalling 10 or 20).

 

Blackjack probability

 

Blackjack probability is a topic that has been discussed in online gaming arguably since its inception. The probability of a specific outcome is dependable on so many variants, which is what makes Blackjack so popular. It’s the unpredictable nature of the game that draws in millions of fans to casinos and online casinos every day.

 

Determining the odds of any outcome or hand of a game of Blackjack is not something the majority of people can calculate mentally during a game. However, there are simpler calculations you can logically make. For instance, the probability of your first card being an Ace is 4/52, with the probability of your second card being valued ten 16/51. If you wanted to complicate the equation, the probability of getting Blackjack with an Ace first would be (4/52)*(16/51) = 64/2652 = 0.024 = 1 in 41.6.

 

Blackjack odds and probability equations run into the millions. The more decks you play with, the more complex the probabilities are.

 

What types of Blackjack games are available?

 

The evolution of Blackjack means the game has taken many forms over the years. With different Blackjack variations from America and Europe dominating the main variants we now know today, the differences can be as simple as the number of decks used in the game. Other differences include betting types, allowances on splits and dealer limitations.

 

What are the card variations in Blackjack?

 

Below are some of the different card variations you can place a side bet on when playing some variants of Blackjack.

 

Perfect Pair

 

When you bet on whether your hole cards will be a pair of the same rank and suit (e.g. Queen of spades & Queen of spades).

 

Colored Pair

 

A pair of the same color but different suits. For example, both red or both black.

 

Mixed Pair

 

A pair that includes one red and one black card.

 

Flush

 

Three cards of the same suit.

 

Straight

 

Three cards that follow on from each other numerically. For example, two of hearts, three of diamonds and four of clubs.

 

Three of a Kind

 

Three cards of the same number.

 

Straight Flush

 

Three cards that follow on from each other numerically and are the same suit.

 

Suited Three of a Kind

 

Three cards of the same number and suit.

 

History of Blackjack

 

Take a closer look at the game of Blackjack and the history of Blackjack throughout the years. From the pioneers of the game to the strategic nuances, it’s all here.

 

The earliest version of the game of Blackjack contained the following elements: deck of cards, player versus dealer and winners determined by numerical value of cards. It was a Spanish game called Trente-un (31) and Miguel de Cervantes, best known for Don Quixote, wrote about it in the book Rinconete and Cortadillo, published as one of his twelve Exemplary Novels in 1613. A gambling game named Trente-un appears in written works as old as 1440 (though there are several unrelated games by this name).

 

A variation of this game was called Bone Ace in England during the 17th century. In Cervantes' story, and in Bone Ace as described by Charles Cotton in The Complete Gamester (1674), an Ace can count as one or eleven. A French predecessor of Blackjack called Quinze (15) first appeared in the 16th century and was popular in casinos of France into the 19th century. An Italian card game called Sette e Mezzo (7 & 1/2) was played beginning in the 17th century. Sette Mezzo featured a 40-card deck (removing eights, nines, and tens). The remaining cards corresponded with their numerical value and picture cards counted as one half.

 

Another French game, Trente-et-quarante (30 & 40) was played at the Spa Casino in Belgium in 1780. Trente-et-quarante, unlike most of these earlier games, was house banked, meaning the casino played against the players, taking or paying off bets by players. This game was also the first version offering an insurance bet.

 

The rules of modern Blackjack came together in the French game Vingt-un (or Vingt-et-un ‘21’) in the middle of the 18th century. Enthusiasts promoting the game in France in the late 1700s and early 1800s included Madame Du Barry and Napoleon Bonaparte.

 

In 19th century America, casinos eventually adopted two rules making the game more favourable to players: allowing the players to see one of the dealer's cards and requiring the dealer to hit hands of 16 and below and stand on 17 and above. In the early 20th century, the game became better known as Blackjack due to a promotion (briefly tried and long discarded) that paid a bonus if the player made 21 from the Ace of spades and a black jack (Jack of clubs or spades).

 

Following the popular academic research by Dr. Thorp and subsequent players and analysts, Blackjack became the most popular table game in casinos. Although casinos benefited from the development of basic Blackjack strategy, they have generally discouraged the practice. Although numerous court decisions have established that counting cards is not a form of cheating, casinos in most jurisdictions have the right to bar players for any reason. Individual casinos also modify Blackjack rules (sometimes from table to table): different numbers of decks, different deck penetration, house hitting vs. standing on soft 17, limits on splitting and doubling, and offering or not offering surrender.

 

Books like Ken Uston's The Big Player (1977) and Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House (2002) described the fortunes made (and sometimes lost) by teams of Blackjack card counters. Mezrich's book became the popular film 21.