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Blackjack – Play Blackjack Online

Blackjack is one of the most recognizable card games in the world. Also known as twenty-one (21), the game has spawned many variations but remains a favorite in its most basic form.

The goal for the player is to beat the dealer by reaching a score of 21 – or as close as possible without going over – to beat the dealer’s hand. It can be played with one deck of 52 cards or more decks, and with one player and dealer or numerous players.

The name of the game refers to the ideal hand, which is an ace (worth 11) and a ten or a face card (which are also each worth ten). That is blackjack and a win, though it could be a tie if the dealer also shows blackjack.

Historical Perspective

The game of twenty-one dates back to Spain in the early 1600s, as the game was detailed in one of Miguel de Cerventes’ novels. However, there were forms of the game found in ancient Roman ruins, as well as in France where it was referred to as vingt-et-un.

The game was popular in Europe long before it made its way to the United States, well-liked among gamblers of all socio-economic backgrounds. Eventually, the French were believed to have brought it to America, where it quickly caught on in gambling circles where poker was also a favorite.

When Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, twenty-one was a casino favorite as the odds were in favor of the casino winning. Casinos also began to add special bets for winning with a suited black ace and jack combination, which was referred to as blackjack. The name stayed and is now preferred by casinos around the world.

Game Basics

The standard blackjack table can use from one deck (single-deck variation) to eight decks of cards. The number of players allowed depends upon the number of decks and casino preferences. Cards are always dealt clockwise.

Betting: Players decide on individual bets.

The dealer gives each player two cards facing up. (Single-deck games typically deal the cards facing down.) The dealer’s first card is facing up, and the second facing down. The dealer then peeks at the hand and asks if players want insurance. This is offered when the dealer’s face-up card is an ace.

Betting: Players can buy insurance to save their bet against a dealer’s possible blackjack.

If the dealer shows blackjack, the hand is over. Players with blackjack tie and win/lose nothing, while other players lose their bets. If a player is dealt blackjack but the dealer is not, the player is immediately paid 3:2.

If the dealer does not have blackjack, players are give the option to stand (keeping their two cards), hit (add one or more cards to the other two), double down (double the wager for a single card), or split (separating two cards of the same value and doubling the bet to create two hands). The goal is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over and beating the dealer’s hand total. Exceeding 21 is a bust,

tying the dealer’s total is a push (not a win or a loss), and winning is paid in an amount equal to the player’s wager.

Beyond Basics

Most experienced players decline the insurance bet. If the dealer shows an ace, there is approximately a 30% chance the other card will be a ten or face card. The odds are against the insurance bet paying off in the long run.

There is a basic strategy to which most players adhere when there are at least four decks in place, a dealer must hit a soft 17 (six and ace, the ace worth either 11 or one), and doubling is allowed after a split. The strategy depends on the face-up dealer card and the player’s two cards.

Some rules always apply for players. For example:

  • Always split a pair of aces or eights.
  • Always double down with 11.
  • Always stand with two tens or soft 20 (ace and nine).
  • Always hit with 5, 6, 7, or 8.
  • Double on a 10 unless the dealer shows a ten or ace.
  • Stay on soft 19 (ace and eight) unless the dealer shows a six.
  • Split nines unless the dealer shows a seven, ten, or ace.

There is a chart that most players use until them memorize the basic rules. The charts are allowed at casino tables, too. A dealer will often help with basic strategy as well, telling the player what the standard play is but not advising him or her to do it.

Card counting, sometimes called advantage play, is a legal strategy, though casinos have the right to eject a player thought to be counting cards. Players use this to make larger bets when they feel they have an advantage or vice versa. The system involves assigning a scoring system that ranks each card, i.e. one point for 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 values, zero for 7, 8, or 9, and negative one point for aces, tens, or face cards. A player starts with zero when the decks are newly shuffled, and the count then determines betting decisions going forward.

Strategy Considerations

There are more advanced considerations for experienced players. Certain game rules can influence the house edge and then change the recommended actions of the players.

Most often, the dealer must hit a soft 17. If the dealer stands on a soft 17, the house edge decreases by 0.2% and changes the player’s strategy to take advantage of that edge.

The house edge also decreases with fewer decks in play. However, single-deck games are then changed to increase that edge in casinos by not allowing doubling or splitting in certain situations. Players may also be paid 6:5 instead of 3:2 for blackjack. It is important to pay attention to those details when choosing a casino table.