Blackjack: How to Play + Best Casinos (2021)
Blackjack (also known as 21) has been around since the 18th century and has gained a lot of popularity among casino players since it is the only one casino game which can be theoretically profitable for players. This fact definitely thrills many people, and Blackjack has reflected in mass culture in a big way.
Blackjack does not have sophisticated gambling mechanics, and it is pretty much simple in terms of equipment as well. To play blackjack you will need:
A deck of 52 cards. 6 decks are most commonly used forming one big deck of 312 cards in total.
A table. Its layout is very simple, and basically the only one thing it does, it separates players and a dealer (the image of a typical blackjack table is used in the title of this article).
A dealer is an individual who is in charge of shuffling cards, dealing them and paying winnings.
Blackjack is a card casino game. However, Blackjack does not use cards in a hierarchical way unlike the majority of card games do. Instead, in Blackjack, each card is assigned with some numerical value. Exactly those numerical values we are going to use in Blackjack’s gameplay. Let us learn about them:
Numerical cards (from 2 to 10) have their own values. For example, 5 will be assigned with a value of 5 and so on.
Jacks, Queens, Kings have a value of 10.
Ace has a value of 11 except for when player’s hand (sum of all cards) exceed 21, then Ace is valued at 1. A hand where Ace is valued as 11 is called a “soft” hand, and a hand where Ace is valued as 1 is called a “hard” hand.
The suit of the card does not play any role in Blackjack.
The goal of Blackjack is to collect more points than a dealer without exceeding 21 which will cause an immediate loss for a player (the game’s round stops right away and a player’s bet is lost).
The ultimate goal of Blackjack is to collect 21 points. And, given that a dealer does not have 21 points, you will hit the maximum possible winning in Blackjack (1,5 to 1). In case a dealer also has blackjack then a player neither wins nor loses the bet.
Blackjack’s gambling process
To make it more simple, we will talk about rules as if only one player were playing. However, there can be up to 10 players on the table which does not change anything in the slightest since each of them is competing against a dealer separately.
The gaming process of Blackjack is not complicated, and it comes down to these five stages:
Stage 1. A player places a bet.
Stage 2. A dealer deals cards. A player gets two cards both faced-up so that everybody can see their values. A dealer gets two cards as well, but one of them is faced-up and another is faced-down.
Here is how dealt cards look like on Blackjack table.
Stage 3. A player decides how to play a hand. After this, a player’s hand is considered to be finished so that there is only one round of the game. There are numerous options about which we are going to talk in details further in the article.
Stage 4. A dealer decides how to play a hand. Often the rules regarding dealer’s options are fixed beforehand, and we will discuss them later as well. A dealer always finishes a round of Blackjack.
Stage 5. Winners and losers are determined.
A player always acts first in Blackjack and he/she has these options:
Surrender must be the first and the only action of the player if he/she wishes to do so. A player can basically end the round paying half of initial bet to the house. Such a move makes sense when a player is dealt with a poor hand in terms of chances to win.
Insurance. If dealer’s face-up card equals to 10 (any T, J, Q, K) or Ace, then a player is offered with insurance option. In this case, the player has to pay half of the initial bet. Basically it is a side bet on outcome whether a dealer already has 21 or not, and this side bet is paid at 2:1 ratio. A player wins if a dealer has blackjack (21).
Hit. A player chooses to get one more card (only one card each time and an unlimited number of times). He/she can do so until 21 is exceeded. If a player exceeds 21, then player’s bet is considered to be lost no matter what a dealer has, and the game proceeds to its next round and so on.
Stand. A player prefers not to have more cards, and the game proceeds to a dealer’s turn to act. Such a maneuver would make sense if a player already has a decent hand, and he/she does not want to risk exceeding 21 having high chances to beat a dealer’s hand at the same time.
Split. Whenever a player has a starting hand with two cards of the same rank (for instance, two Queens), he/she will be offered to split the hand. In such a case, each splitted card forms its own hand, and a dealer deals two more cards to make hands complete. Each hand is played separately, and outcomes do not affect each other. A player has usual options (hit, stand etc.).
Double Down. A player can double the initial bet after two cards have been dealt. In this scenario, a player gets only one additional card unlike normal gameplay when a number of following cards is unlimited. Such a strategy might make sense only when a player has the initial hand 9,10 or 11, and the goal is to hit blackjack with the next card.
After a player has finished (chose to stand) and has not exceeded 21, the turn comes to a dealer. A dealer discloses faced-down card and acts according to fixed rules. Thus, a dealer does not have any freedom how to play the hand and must stick to a predetermined protocol.
The rules how a dealer must play a hand are publicly available and often printed on the felt of the table.
In the majority of both online casinos and land-based casinos, a dealer must hit (get more cards) until the hand equals to 17.
Normally Blackjack pays 1:1. So each player’s bet gets doubled in case she/he has beaten a dealer.
Push. A player and a dealer have hands of the same value (for example, both have 18). Such bets are considered to be nill (a player does not lose or win).
Natural. If a player has blackjack (collected 21) and a dealer has not, then a player gets paid at 1,5:1 ratio. For example, 1,000 euro bet becomes 2,500 euro total winning.
Insurance. In case an insurance bet is successful (a dealer has blackjack or 21), then a player gets paid at 2:1 ratio. For instance, 500 euro bet becomes 1,500 euro total winning. However, the insurance bet is only side bet and main bet (1,000 euro in this case since insurance must be half of the initial bet) is deemed to be lost (since a dealer has a blackjack). But the good thing is that the winning from the insurance bet covers the losses from the main bet.
What about RTP and House Edge
Blackjack does not have fixed RTP or House Edge level, and it fluctuates depending on the player’s strategy.
It can be:
profitable for land-based casino players (cards counting)
RTP 99,5% and House Edge 0,5% in both land-based and online casinos providing a player uses basic strategy
Somewhere around: RTP 99% and House Edge 1%, without a basic strategy in place
Learn more about Blackjack:
Best Blackjack online casinos in United States (2021)
(players from United States are welcome)