Ever since casinos began offering real money games to players, Blackjack has been one of the most popular games. The appeal of the game is that it's simple to learn affording anybody the chance to win and do well. With that being said, the game is very difficult to master, as built in rules give the house an edge that is nearly insurmountable for players unless they have the ability to count cards. The game has a long history and many ins-and-outs, most of which are unknown to the common player. In this article we are going to give you some basic blackjack knowledge while also going technical, explaining some of the various rule changes and how you can adapt to play the best way.
Blackjack is a game where players try to get as close to the number 21 as possible without going over. When a game is started, players are dealt two cards, and the dealer also gets two cards, with one card being visible to the players. Card values are based on the number of the card, while face cards have a value of 10 and an Ace has a value of 1 or 11, whichever is best for your hand.
After viewing your two cards and the dealer's up card, you make a decision to hit (get another card), stand (end your turn), double down (double your bet), split (if you have two cards of the same value, you can split the cards into two hands, doubling the bet), or surrender (give up the hand and lose half of your bet amount. This is not always present on all tables). After your turn and the turns of all other players is completed, the dealer will then play out his or her hand. If your hand is 21 or closer to 21 than the dealer's hand, you win!
Pretty simple, eh?
Not so fast. There are a number of nuances that make blackjack a deep, yet enjoyable experience for players. These include the bust rules that make you automatically lose your hand should you go over 21, which provides some of the greatest challenges in the game. Other rules out there give the house a bit of an advantage, and some work to help you out too. These rules include a general table rule that stipulates "Dealers hit to 17", which means the dealer has no option but to hit if their hand is less than 17.
These rules are very easy to learn, but difficult to master. In general, a player can learn some basic strategy to lower the slim house edge that is present in this game, and if you're serious about it, you can learn to count cards to gain a small advantage over the house, as you know whether or not favorable cards remain in the shoe.
When you've decided you want to take things to the next level, players generally start learning basic blackjack strategy, as it allows players to know what to do in each potential situation. The best part about strategy is that it is very easy for players to learn, and can be applied to any of the variations of the games that you will see in a land casino. Of course, different rules lead to different strategy sheets, but an excellent jumping off point is the Simple Strategy chart that is available on the Wizard of Odds website.
Moving on from here, players will want to take a look at selecting different tables to play at, and how their rules can affect you. For instance, a table with 8 decks will make it much harder for you to count cards, so you will want to try to avoid a table like that if possible. If you've got the ability to maintain a count on cards your best bet is to keep to single deck games, although tables with 2, 3, or 4 decks can also have counts done.
What are counts, you ask? Well counts is related to the ability to count cards in order to generate a small advantage against the casino. Generally speaking, counting cards has you watching to see what cards in the shoe has been dealt out, and adjusting your bets accordingly. You want to have as many high value cards in the shoe as possible when playing, while seeing more of the lower digit cards knocked out.
Starting out, the Ace-Five Count may be the easiest to pick up for casual players, as it only considers ace and five cards. This system works on the fact that aces are the best cards in the deck, while fives are the worst. You would start with the number 0 and add a number each time a five card is dealt. As an example if one five card is dealt in the first game, your count would be +1; if an ace is dealt the count would be -1; and if both an ace and a five are dealt in the same game the count would be 0. You would want to maintain the count until you get to a +2 count, wherein you could then double your bet. If you hit a +3, you'd double that double bet with the odds stacked slightly in your favor under most circumstances. Of course, there are other systems out there that offer bigger advantages, but these are harder to control and require much more study.
If you're thinking about counting cards, you should be aware that the activity is frowned upon at casinos. While it's not illegal, card counting is a surefire way to get you on the casino's radar, and if caught you will certainly be made to stop playing and potentially blacklisted.
Online blackjack has really come into its own over the past decade, with games offering players many of the same variations that can be played at land casinos without loud, ignorant players, smoke, or pit bosses keeping a strict eye on you. Online games present you with an over the table look, and you can select your bet size and control all of the blackjack games from your computer, smartphone, or tablet. Players online will notice that the game moves much faster than at a casino, as there is no interaction with the dealer of any sort. With that being said, the conveniences of online games make online play a great option should you not want to step out of your house.
If you want to play at home but like dealer interaction, then Live Dealer Blackjack is likely right up your alley that many online casinos now provide. The game mixes land and online blackjack, giving players the chance to interact with a real dealer, who is webcasted right to your screen. The game works much like an online version of the game, where you place your wagers during a break in the action. Once the round is ready to start, the dealer gives the no more bets signal and begins pulling cards from the shoe. These cards are then scanned and sent to your screen, where you play out the hand. If you win your balance is digitally credited, and if you lose it is subtracted.
Both styles of games are good in their own ways, and you can implement basic strategy and/or counts, jotting down notes as you go. If this is your thought process, you should be aware that the non-live dealer games usually sees hands shuffled after each round, making it impossible to keep a count.
Looking online there are dozens of choices when it comes to selecting online games for blackjack, but some are definitely better than others. Because of this, you want to make sure that you read the rules for each game before you play in order to determine which will be best to your pocketbook.
In my experience I generally recommend the following games for players looking to play blackjack online:
Single Deck Blackjack by Net Ent - This is a simple game that allows you to only play one hand at a time, but its low 1 Euro limit allows you to hone in on your blackjack strategy. Paying blackjack at 3:2 and featuring a sharp theme, this is an excellent starting point for those wanting to play online.
Blackjack Surrender by RTG- RTG is a US friendly company that puts out casino games, and their Blackjack Surrender game is great, as it allows you to surrender your hand if you are dealt a bad one in order to retain half of your wager. The game also allows for up to five hands to be played simultaneously, and can pay out nicely if you follow proper strategy.
Vegas Strip Blackjack by Microgaming - Microgaming is the oldest online betting software developer out there, and they are among the world's best as well. The company has several blackjack games in their arsenal, but their Vegas Strip Blackjack game is right at the top as being the best. The game makes you feel like you're in Sin City, as the rules of the table are the same as what is popular in the world's second-largest gambling destination, including dealer standing on all 17s, offering, insurance, and offering splits and double down.
All in all, blackjack is a simple game to learn but difficult to master. The high variance and amount of skill make it one of the most popular casino games in the world, and there are a lot of technicalities that make it deep. We hope you enjoyed learning about the ins and outs of the game and wish you the best of luck at the tables!