Blackjack is a simple game to learn – and one of the most popular games at US casinos & casinos worldwide. In this guide we explain the rules and strategies for this popular casino table-game.
Step 1: Buy chips
To play blackjack at a casino (or via an online blackjack app), you will need to purchase chips to bet with.
In a physical casino, you can buy chips at the cage or directly at the blackjack table by placing cash on the table and asking the dealer to exchange it for chips. When you are finished playing, you can exchange your remaining chips for cash at the cage.
At an online casino, you can deposit money into your account and start playing blackjack immediately. When you are finished playing, any remaining funds will be automatically returned to your account. You do not need to exchange virtual chips for cash.
Step 2: The Cards Are Dealt
The first Two Cards
In a game of blackjack, each player is dealt two cards. The first card is placed face up on the table for all players to see, and the second card is placed face down. The dealer also receives two cards, with the first card dealt face up and the second card dealt face down.
If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, they may offer “insurance” to the players. This allows players to bet half their original wager that the dealer has a blackjack (a hand value of 21), in which case the player would break even on their original bet. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, the player loses their insurance bet.
If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, face card, or ten, they will check their face-down card to see if they have a blackjack. If they do, the game ends immediately and players with blackjack win their bets, while all other players lose. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, the game continues and players can choose to “hit” (casino lingo for taking another card ) or stand based on the value of their hands.
Any Third Card: Stand, Hit or Split and Surrender.
After the initial deal in blackjack, players have several options on their turn. The two most common options are to stand (not take any more cards) or hit (take an additional card). Players can choose to stand or hit as many times as they like, as long as their hand total does not exceed 21. If a player’s hand exceeds 21, they are bust and lose their bet.
Other options that may be available to players include splitting (if they have two cards of the same value), doubling down (doubling their bet and taking one more card), and surrendering (giving up half their bet to end the game early). The availability and exact rules for these options vary depending on the casino and the specific game.
The Dealer’s Round
Once all players at the blackjack table have finished making their decisions, the dealer will reveal their second card if it was previously face down. This will determine the dealer’s starting hand and allow the game to continue. The dealer will then play their hand according to a set of rules, which typically involves hitting if their hand total is less than 17 and standing if it is 17 or higher.
The outcome of the game is determined by comparing the dealer’s and players’ hands, with the player winning if their hand is closer to 21 without exceeding it.
Step 3: Determine The Winner
In blackjack, the objective is to beat the dealer by having a hand with a higher value without exceeding 21. Players win in the following cases:
- If they have blackjack (an ace and a ten or face card) with their first two cards
- If they have a higher hand value than the dealer without exceeding 21
- If the dealer’s hand exceeds 21
Players lose in the following cases:
- If their hand value is lower than the dealer’s without exceeding 21
- If their hand value exceeds 21 (they are bust)
If the player and dealer have the same hand value, the result is a tie (also known as a push or standoff) and the player neither wins nor loses their bet.
Blackjack Game Variants & Side Bets
- Multihand Blackjack Surrender: Multihand Blackjack Surrender is a variant of blackjack where players have the option to play multiple hands simultaneously. It follows the basic rules of traditional blackjack but incorporates the surrender option. Surrender allows players to forfeit their hand and reclaim half of their original bet if they believe they have a weak hand and are likely to lose. This game has a RTP of 99.67% with optimal play.
- Blackjack Xchange: Blackjack Xchange is an innovative variant of blackjack that offers players the ability to buy and sell cards in their hand. After receiving their initial two cards, players have the option to exchange one or both of their cards for new ones from a communal card pool. The price of exchanging cards varies depending on the strength of the cards. This variant adds an extra layer of strategy and decision-making to the game. Optimal play at this game format has a RTP of 99.68%.
- Blackjack by IGT (International Game Technology): Blackjack by IGT refers to the blackjack variant developed by International Game Technology, a renowned gaming software provider. The specific features and rules of IGT’s blackjack variant may vary, but it generally follows the standard rules of traditional blackjack. IGT is known for creating visually appealing and immersive gaming experiences, so their blackjack variant may offer enhanced graphics and user-friendly gameplay.
- Multi-Bet Blackjack: Multi-Bet Blackjack is a variant that allows players to place multiple bets on a single hand of blackjack. Instead of playing one hand at a time, players can wager on multiple positions on the table and receive separate hands for each bet. This variant provides players with more opportunities to win or lose, as they have multiple outcomes to consider. It adds an element of excitement and variety to the traditional game of blackjack.
- Stadium Blackjack: Found only in land-based casinos, this Stadium blackjack is a highly social variation of the casino card game Blackjack which enables up to 44 players to compete in each hand with one of two live dealers, in stadium-style seating via electronic terminals.
Specific rules and game-play mechanics may vary slightly between different casinos or online casino software providers if playing online. It’s always a +EV move to familiarize yourself with the specific rules of the variant you intend to play before engaging in any blackjack game.
“Bet the Set 21” is a blackjack side bet which offers players the opportunity to win additional payouts based on their initial two cards and the dealer’s up-card.
Here are the rules typically associated with the “Bet the Set 21” side bet:
- Placing the Side Bet: Before the blackjack hand is dealt, players have the option to place a separate side bet called “Bet the Set 21.” This side bet is independent of the main blackjack bet.
- Winning Conditions: To win the “Bet the Set 21” side bet, certain conditions must be met based on the initial three cards (player’s two cards and the dealer’s upcard). The most common winning conditions are:a. Three-of-a-Kind: If the initial three cards form a three-of-a-kind, such as three Queens or three Fives, the player wins the side bet.b. Suited Three-of-a-Kind: Some versions of “Bet the Set 21” offer higher payouts for a suited three-of-a-kind, where all three cards are of the same suit.The specific winning conditions and corresponding payouts may vary depending on the casino or game variation – always check the rules before you play.
- Main Blackjack Game Outcome: It’s important to note that the “Bet the Set 21” side bet is separate from the main blackjack game. The outcome of the side bet does not affect the outcome of the main blackjack hand. The side bet is resolved independently.
- House Edge: Like any side bet, “Bet the Set 21” typically carries a higher house edge compared to the main blackjack game. The exact house edge will vary depending on the specific rules and payouts offered by the casino.
Side bets in blackjack are optional and should be approached with caution. While they can add excitement and potential extra winnings, they often have higher house edges, which means they are generally riskier bets.
Blackjack House Edge
The house edge in blackjack refers to the mathematical advantage that the casino holds over players in the long run. It represents the percentage of each wager that the casino can expect to win on average over time.
Blackjack is known for having one of the lowest house edges among casino games, typically ranging from around 0.5% to 2%.
The house edge in blackjack is influenced by several factors, including the specific rules of the game and the player’s strategy.
- Basic Rules: The basic rules of blackjack impact the house edge. For example, the payout for a natural blackjack (an Ace and a 10-value card) is typically 3:2, which favors the player. However, some games may offer a lower payout of 6:5 or even money, increasing the house edge. Other rules, such as the dealer’s hitting or standing on a soft 17, also affect the house edge.
- Number of Decks: The number of decks used in a blackjack game affects the house edge. Generally, the fewer decks in play, the lower the house edge. Single-deck blackjack games tend to have a lower house edge compared to those played with multiple decks.
- Player Decisions: The decisions made by players during the game, such as when to hit, stand, double down, or split, influence the house edge. Using optimal basic strategy, which is a mathematically calculated strategy that minimizes the house edge, can significantly reduce the casino’s advantage.
- Player Skill: Skilled players who use optimal strategy to make perfect decisions can further reduce the house edge and increase their chances of winning. However, it’s important to note that even with optimal strategy, the house still maintains a slight edge.
- Side Bets: Some blackjack games offer optional side bets that provide additional betting opportunities. These side bets usually have higher house edges compared to the main blackjack game. It’s important for players to be aware of the house edge associated with side bets and consider them separately from the main game.
Some advantage players use techniques like card counting to beat the casinos at blackjack – however this is frowned upon, and casinos have counter-measures to mitigate the risks to the house. If you are caught card-counting in a casino blackjack game, expect to be asked to leave, as well as banned from the premises.
Blackjack Casino Rewards
Online blackjack players can often rewards through online casino site blackjack / casino leader-board promotions and / or VIP Programs / Rewards which offers offer players weekly cashback on their net losses & opportunities to win large cash prizes.
Live Dealer Blackjack Online
Live dealer blackjack online is a popular form of online blackjack that aims to recreate the authentic feel of a land-based casino by offering a live-streamed game with a real, professional human dealer from a casino or TV-studio casino.
In live dealer blackjack, the game is streamed in real-time from a professional studio or a land-based casino. Players can join the game from their computer or mobile device and interact with the dealer and other players through a chat feature. This creates a more immersive and social atmosphere compared to traditional online blackjack games. Games are hosted by trained and professional dealers who manage the game and deal the cards. These dealers are usually highly skilled and knowledgeable in blackjack, ensuring a fair and authentic gaming experience.
Unlike digital blackjack games that use random number generators (RNGs), live dealer blackjack employs physical cards and real equipment, such as card shoes and blackjack tables. This adds to the realism and transparency of the game.
Live dealer blackjack offers a variety of game variations similar to those found in brick-and-mortar casinos. Players can usually find classic variants like standard blackjack, as well as other popular variations such as Spanish 21, Blackjack Switch, and Double Exposure Blackjack. The availability of specific variants may vary depending on the online casino.
Live dealer blackjack provides a range of betting options to accommodate different player preferences and bankrolls. Players can choose from various table limits, including low stakes tables for casual players and high stakes tables for more experienced or high-stakes, high-roller players.
Many online live dealer blackjack games incorporate additional features to enhance the game play experience. These can include side bets, pre-decision options, and statistics on previous hands. Some providers also offer multi-camera angles, allowing players to switch between different views of the table. Live dealer blackjack sites are generally well optimized for mobile play, allowing players to enjoy the game on their smartphones or tablets without disconnections or lag.
Is online Blackjack legal in the US?
Yes - several US states have legalized online casinos which offer basic blackjack as well as many variants of the game, as well as optional side-bets like 'Bet the Set 21'