Blackjack is an iconic casino game which history remains shrouded in mystery. Researchers are still not sure where the game originated from. Undoubtedly, it has a long and rich history, having been around for decades. There is something special about blackjack as it stood the test of time to become one of the most popular games nowadays.
What is more, the game made its way to the movie industry due to its charm that is hidden in simplicity. When you watch a gambling movie in which blackjack is the superstar, it is not hard to grasp who is winning or losing as you simply need to observe who holds the hand with a total value higher than the dealer’s, without going over 21.
Blackjack appeals to the interest of many people all over the world as skills play an important role in the game. Even though it has simple rules, certain fundamental strategies will help you to tip the balance in your favour. Our blackjack guide aims at providing UK players with important information about the game to facilitate their gambling experience.
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Why Play Blackjack Online?
The casino industry keeps on developing, but some games will always remain at the heart of each casino, be it land-based or online. Blackjack is touted to be the staple of table games and many casinos offer different variations of blackjack. The game is among the players’ favourites as it tests people’s concentration, awareness, and knowledge.
What is more, blackjack players do not play against each other. They need to pit their wits only against the casino dealers. The main reason to play this game is because you enjoy it. However, some factors add up to its appeal. In the lines below, we will discuss why playing blackjack is a fascinating endeavour.
Low House EdgeThe size of the house edge differs depending on the blackjack variation you play and the game’s specific rules. However, the house edge in blackjack is lower than the house edge in other casino games, and more precisely around 0.5% provided that you use basic strategy.
Versatile Table LimitsRegardless of the casino you select to play blackjack, one thing is sure - there will be set table limits. Blackjack table limits can vary greatly, making the game accessible for casino enthusiasts of all budget sizes. Provided that your budget is tight, look for a blackjack table with low bet limits. If you are ready to spend a fat wad of cash, you can go for a table with high bet limits.
Broad Spectrum of VariationsAvid blackjack enthusiasts sometimes get bored when playing their favourite game. Even though blackjack is a traditional game, it comes with a lot of small aspects that can be changed to spice up the gameplay. Regardless of the blackjack variation you decide to play, the main objective of the game remains the same.Blackjack variants mainly rely on changing the number of decks and how the different gaming options can be used. Some of the most popular variations include European Blackjack, Atlantic City Blackjack, Spanish 21, Vegas Strip Blackjack, and others.
Availability of Live Dealer TablesBlackjack is among the most widely played casino games in the world. All solid land-based casinos offer at least one blackjack table that usually attracts a great deal of attention by the players.As for the online casinos, the situation is quite similar. However, there are 2 major types of blackjack tables offered at interactive casinos - virtual and live dealer tables. Nowadays, it is extremely easy to find an online casino that offers a plethora of live dealer blackjack variations powered by reputable software providers.
Blackjack’s Rules at a Glance
Blackjack follows simple and easy-to-remember rules. The game is often referred to as a casino banking game. This means that the players compete against the house instead of the other players. The main objective of the game is to get a hand with a total value closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand without going over 21. At the beginning of the game, the players and the dealer receive 2 cards. The players’ first 2 cards are faced up, while 1 of the dealer’s cards is faced down and it is tucked under the face-up card.
A standard deck of 52 playing cards is used, but most casinos use several decks. The most popular blackjack variations are played with 6 decks, but some blackjack variants use up to 8 decks. The cards are usually placed in a special gaming device that is called a dealing shoe.
The Ranking of the CardsThe strongest hand in blackjack is the combination of an Ace and a 10-value card. It usually pays out 3:2, but some casinos decided to change the payout ratio to 6:5 which results in a higher house edge. The total value of the hand is 21 and it is also called a "blackjack" or a "natural".The other two types of blackjack hands are “soft” and “hard”. In blackjack, the Ace can be counted as 1 or 11, depending on the other card in the hand. If the Ace is counted as 11, the hand is referred to as “soft”. For example, an Ace and a 6 is a “soft 17”. A hand with an Ace counted as 1 is referred to as “hard”. For example, the combination of an Ace, a 7, and a 9 makes a “hard 17”. Understanding the concept of “soft” and “hard” hands is essential for your strategy and the rules of the dealer’s play.As for the card values, the 2 through 10 cards are worth their face values. The Jack, the King, and the Queen are counted as 10, while the Ace can be either 11 or 1. It is important to note that if your hand and the dealer’s hand are of the same value, the hand is considered a push/tie, meaning that you do not win or lose anything from the hand.
Hole-Card vs. No-Hole-Card GamesThe dealer’s face-down card is also referred to as a “hole” card. In most US casinos, the dealer is allowed to peek at the hole card, provided that the face-up card is an Ace. If the face-down card has a value of 10, then the dealer has a natural blackjack and the players lose (unless someone also has a blackjack). If you split or double down during the game, you lose only one of the wagers and get back the other one.In non-US casinos, the dealer does not receive a face-down card until all the players have completed their hands. Typically, the dealer would look at the hole card just before it is his/her turn to act. Assuming that you play a no-hole card game and the dealer happens to hit a blackjack, players will lose both wagers if they split or double down during the game. Mathematically, this increases the house edge of the game by approximately 0.11%. In other words, the no-hole rule gives a slight advantage to the house.
The Player’s Decisions
When the cards are dealt, players need to decide what further actions to take in the game depending on the cards they receive. Provided that you play live dealer blackjack
, you should know that the player who sits from the left side of the dealer is the first to play his/her hand.If you do not have a blackjack and neither does the dealer, you will need to make a decision. Provided that you play virtual blackjack
, you can do so by hitting the relevant button. But if you play live dealer blackjack, you need to use the appropriate hand signal. In the lines below, we will discuss the options you have:
- Stand - if you go for this option, it means that you do not want another card to be dealt to your hand and you stick to the current hand value of your cards. Prior to taking such a decision, blackjack players should take into account not only their cards but also the dealer’s up-card. If you win, you will be paid out 1:1. Players are recommended to stand on all totals of 17, 18, 19, or 20.
- Hit - this option means that you want another card to be dealt to your initial hand in order to improve its total value. The payout ratio associated with this option is 1:1. When you have a total of 8, your best option is to hit regardless of the dealer’s cards.
- Double Down - if you double down, you will receive only 1 more card and your bet will be doubled. This move is quite risky and players are advised to double down on 11 if the dealer’s upcard is not an Ace. You can also double down on 10 provided that the dealer does not hold a card with a face value of 10.
- Split - provided that the 2 initial cards you are dealt are of the same denomination, you can split them and play them as separate hands. Players should keep in mind that their initial wager will be duplicated for the second hand. Blackjack enthusiasts should always split Aces and 8s, but they are not advised to split 10s or 5s.
- Surrender - if you are sure that your hand will lose, you can fold it. This will cost you half of your original bet, but you can keep the other half. You are recommended to surrender on hard 15 against a 10, or a hard 16 against a 10 or an Ace. This option is not offered at many casinos as it is quite favourable to players.It is interesting to mention that there are 2 types of surrender, and more precisely early surrender (it allows players to fold their hands before the dealer checks for blackjack), and late surrender (it allows players to surrender their hands after the dealer checks his/her hand for blackjack).
- Insurance - is a special type of bet that is available only if the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace. Generally speaking, players bet on the dealer’s hand to result in blackjack. Provided that you want to take the insurance, you will need to place a separate bet that is equal to half of your initial wager. If the dealer has a blackjack, you will enjoy a payout of 2:1, but you will lose your original bet in the game (unless you and the dealer both have a blackjack).
The Dealer’s RulesUnless you did not surrender or the total value of your hand did not exceed 21, then the dealer plays his/her hand. Provided that the dealer holds a hand total of 16 or lower, then he/she will hit. In the case of a soft 17, dealers are allowed to either hit or stand, depending on the rules established by the casino. If they hit, the Ace is counted as 1 and the casino has better chances to win. Assuming that the casino states that the dealers must stand on all 17s, the Ace is counted as 11 and the hand cannot be improved.Assuming that you wish to try your luck on blackjack, you should know that the dealer cannot double down, split, or surrender. The croupier plays his/her hand the same way every time in accordance with the rules set by the casino.
The Insurance BetWe already explained above what is the insurance bet. However, we would like to inform our readers that the insurance bet is not the best decision one could make. As you already know, the insurance bet is offered to players only when the dealer’s upcard is an Ace. This means that the dealer needs to draw a card valued at 10 to make a blackjack.The odds against the dealer hitting a natural blackjack with an Ace for an up card are 9:4. Unless you did not hone your card counting skill, we would advise you to avoid the insurance bet. Rookie blackjack players should not be misled by the name of the bet, which in other cases has a positive connotation.
The House Edge in BlackjackEvery savvy casino enthusiast will tell you what a house edge means. For the uninitiated readers, the house edge measures the statistical advantage the casino has over the player. Blackjack has always been touted to be one of the casino games with the lowest house edge. Interestingly enough, the dealer gains an advantage over the players by acting last. It is worth mentioning that certain factors such as using a basic strategy can significantly reduce the house edge.The size of the house edge in blackjack depends also on other factors such as the number of decks, playing conditions, and some special rules. As a matter of fact, blackjack variations with less decks come with a lower house edge compared to blackjack variations with 6 or 8 decks.While some casinos offer doubling down only on 10 and 11, others allow players to double down on any 2 cards which is the better option. Other rule variations that are favourable for the players include a payout ratio of 3:2 in the case of a natural blackjack, the ability to resplit Aces, the option to surrender, and the dealer standing on all 17s.Of course, no casino offers blackjack variations that feature only player-friendly rules. What is more, blackjack fans should keep in mind that the house edge also varies between the different software suppliers and the casinos.
Gaming Interface and Common Features
The modern playing interface makes a certain game even more appealing. Nowadays, software companies and game designers are focused on creating gaming products that feature a user-friendly interface. This facilitates the players’ performance, allowing them to easily place bets and enjoy the game even more. In addition to that, the developers of casino games include extra features that spice up the game.
It provides players with the chance to play up to 5 blackjack hands separately at the same time. This feature is suitable for experienced blackjack players as it requires multi-tasking and good knowledge about the game.
Rebet & Deal
Many variations of blackjack offer the Rebet & Deal feature that allows players to place the same bet as in the previous round. There is also a “Rebetx2” option that doubles the bet placed in the previous round. It is important to mention that these buttons are active only if the player has sufficient funds to replace or double the bet.
Side Bets Support
The side bet support provides players with information regarding the available side bets and their payouts. The feature is extremely useful for rookie players who are still mastering their skills.
Players have the opportunity to customise the games’ settings such as the volume of the sound, the resolution, the table colour, the dealer’s voice (whether it is a male or female voice), the soundtrack, etc. Players should keep in mind that the customisation features vary between the different software providers.
This feature accelerates the process of settling the players’ bets to also speed up the game.
This feature speeds up the game flow to provide blackjack enthusiasts with an action-packed gambling experience. Needless to say, it hides the risk of substantial losses in a short period.