Blackjack is easily one of the most popular games within any casino. The main reason behind this is because of its relative simplicity to sit down and play the game. The concept of the game is basically to make 21 or as close to as possible without going over. But we will discuss more about how the game works later in this article.
There’s a little confusion as to where the game originated from, but it’s widely believed to have been a game that first heralded in France. These days the game takes many forms and rules will vary from casino to casino, but the overall concept has remained throughout. The main difference between the varieties of games is often down to the number of decks used by the ‘house’. These can range from anywhere between one and eight and as a result the pay-outs vary slightly for each.
Within each variation brings a change in houses edge for that format. In reality, the Average Joe punter will see little difference between the two in a casual game, but a casino, whose turnover of hands is massive, will see a huge effect on takings as a result of the format of which is adopted.
How to Play Blackjack
As we mentioned, the concept of blackjack is to get to as close to 21 as possible without going over. But this is actually a pretty major misconception. You aren’t actually solely playing to get 21, but in fact trying to get a higher score than the dealer. This is a massively important point to remember and whilst indeed your hand is important, it’s equally important to take note of the dealer’s up-turned card which should in turn affect how you play your hand.
The first thing you need to do when playing blackjack is to familiarise yourself with the number values of each card. It’s pretty simple but there are a couple of curve balls in there just to test you. Cards number from 2-10 are worth that exact amount. Any picture card is also worth 10 finally leaving the Ace which is worth either 1 or 11, of which you can choose to help the outcome of your hand.
The table will usually include seats for up to 5 or 6 six players, but most casinos will allow one player to play multiple seats as long as there aren’t any players waiting. The dealer will start by giving two cards face up to each player whilst also dealing two cards to themselves with just one card face up and the other face down. The dealer’s face card is massively important as to how you should proceed with the rest of your hand.
Once the cards have been dealt the dealer will work around the table in a clockwise direction where you can make a number of decisions including;
- Hitting – Hitting is when you take another card from the pile for free in an attempt to get nearer your magic number of 21. This card will be added to your total. You can hit on any number and go as many times as you like until you bust (go over 21).
- Stand – To stand on your current cards means you are finished with hand and will allow the play to go the next player. Again, you can stand on any number you choose.
- Double Down – A double down is similar to hitting, but instead of getting your next card for free, you actually buy the card. This means that you are adding additional money to your original wager, but note that you can’t double down for more than you are already in for. Also be aware that to double down means you can only get a maximum of one additional card.
- Splitting – You are able to split your hand when you receive two cards of equal value. This means that in theory you can play two hands but you must put the same amount as your original bet for each hand.
- Insurance – Insurance is offered to the players when the dealers face card in an Ace. At this point players will be asked if they would like to take insurance on their hand which essentially means they half their original bet. The dealer will then check for blackjack paying out 2:1 if they have it and taking your money if they don’t.
Blackjack Tips and Strategy
The reason why blackjack has become such a popular game – especially for the professional bettors – is that it’s not a 100% luck game. As a player you can affect the outcome of a hand or at least play in a manner which is mathematically proven to be +EV.
As a starting point we would highly recommend using and memorising a simple blackjack playing card. This will give you an idea of which decisions to make whilst holding certain cards versus the dealers face card. These things aren’t gospel, but for beginners it should at least set you on the right lines rather than just simply ‘going with your gut’.
Card counting is the first thing players tend to assume when thinking of a blackjack strategy. And whilst if you can do it, then you will definitely have an edge, in reality executing this correctly and successfully is very hard. But, there is obviously a merit to this and whilst casinos don’t like players doing it, if you are subtle then it can be hard to track. We aren’t going to go through the ins and outs of card counting as this could be a huge article on its own, but applying this strategy correctly will definitely yield improved results in the long run.
We spoke briefly earlier in the article about the pay-outs at the table with the standard being around 3:2. But it’s becoming increasingly popular for casinos to alter these to as much as 7:5 in their favour. Short term most players won’t see any massive difference, but long term this gives the casino a much higher edge than they would normally. So make sure you take note of the pay-out at each casino and if you think it looks short, then don’t sit.
One thing blackjack players do – a lot – is make bad decisions. People obviously play the game for different reasons, but essentially we all play to try and win money. By eliminating these small mistakes could have a big effect on how well you do long term. Some of the more common are people trying to mimic the dealers play (strategy) by following the house rules for the dealer. Others include never busting, so basically never taking a card on a hard 12 meaning it’s impossible for your hand to go bust. Whilst this will give you a chance in every hand theoretically, mathematically this will not be successful long term.