How to play online blackjack.

Blackjack is a very simple game to play at an online casino.  It’s one that you can consistently win at, if you follow some simple strategies and don’t play loose.

You have probably seen numerous films featuring blackjack, or 21 as it is also known.   You may also have heard people bandy about the terms ‘doubling down’ or ‘splitting a hand’ as much as the more common terms ‘hit’ and ‘stand’.  Here at explain what each of these terms means so that when you play online blackjack at a casino you will know your #r*e from your elbow!!

pile of gambling chips

The basic premise

Blackjack is played with one or more decks of cards – each deck consisting of 52 cards.  Todays online blackjack will usually feature between 4 and 8 decks.  The aim of the game is to get as close to the number 21 (without going over 21)  with your cards as possible.  In the deck, the cards 1-10 are worth what they say they are worth – a 3 of clubs is worth 3, a 7 of hearts is worth 7 etc. The Aces (of which there are 4 in a deck) are worth either 1 or 11, depending on which number suits your hand best.  The face cards – which are the kings, queens and jacks, are worth 10.  The player doesn’t compete against any other players on the table, they only compete against the dealer.  If the player gets closer to 21 (without going over 21)  than the dealer, then they win the hand.  If the dealer gets closer to 21 than the player, then they win, and the player looses the hand.

The ideal hand is an ace combined with a card valuing 10 – this is ‘blackjack’, and when you win against the dealer (i.e.: when they don’t have a blackjack) you get the best payout that the game has to offer – which is 3-2.  Ie: you place a bet of €10.. you will get €15 plus your original stake of €10 back.

How the game is played

First players must place their bet.  There will be a minimum bet and a maximum bet for the table you are playing at – so make sure you adhere to it.

Once all players have placed their bet, the dealer will deal the cards from the ‘shoe’, where the shuffled cards are stored.  They will deal one card to each player, including themselves and then another card to each player, including themselves.

For the most part, in ‘shoe games’ of blackjack, all cards are dealt face up, except one of the dealers cards and the players mustn’t touch their hand.  The players then go around the table in a clockwise direction deciding how they want to proceed.  Depending on the sum total of their cards they can choose from one of the following options of course of action…

  • Hit – a player can opt to ‘hit’.  In a traditional game in a land-based casino this is inferred by tapping the table once with the finger – requesting an additional card be dealt.  This is where the expression ‘hit me’ comes from.  In an online game, you simply click on the ‘hit’ button.  After being dealt another card, if the player now exceeds 21, they have ‘bust’, so their bet if forfeited.  They can then choose to ‘hit’ again and again until they reach 21 – but obviously, that is dangerous, as you are more likely to exceed 21 with the more cards you take.
  • If you then decide you don’t want any more cards, you can ‘stand’.  You will then be hoping that the total of your cards beats the dealers total – which you will find out once all players have gone it gets to the dealer turn.  In a casino, you’d signal this desire to ‘stand’ by holding your hand palm down to the felt and waving your hand from side to side, intimating  ‘no more’.
  • If you choose to ‘split’ your hand, and make two separate hands out of your initial two cards, you can do this only if your cards are of the same value / denomination (i.e.; 2x 8’s or 2x kings).  In this instance, you must match your initial bet for the now split hand.  You then essentially play those two separate hands as you would with any single hand.   Playing the first hand first, then onto the second hand.
  • Now, if you do decide that you  want one more card, you may want to ‘double down’.  What this means is that you double up on your initial bet and in return will receive one more card.  Some online casinos will insist on you only being able to double down when you first two cards total 10 or 11, but other will allow you to double down on any two initial cards.  In some games you are allowed to ‘double down’ after a ‘split’.  This gives you very good odds of winning, so is advised if permitted by the casino.
  • Some casinos will also offer insurance, should the dealers first card be an ace.  You take insurance to half the value of your original bet.  What this means, is that if the dealers gets a 10 on his second card, hitting a ‘blackjack’ (which is the value of 21 with 2 cards which have to consist of an ace and a card of the value of 10), then your insurance pays out at a value of 2-1.  So whilst you loose your original bet, by betting half again, you will get half of that original bet back.  If the player has a blackjack, and the dealer has an ace, it is often advised to take out insurance, because, if the dealer does get 21, then then insurance payout is at a rate of 2-1.  Obviously, if you both draw with blackjacks, the original bet is tied so no money changes hands.  However, statistically, the cost of the insurance is more than it’s actually worth, with regards to the statistical likelihood of the dealer completing a blackjack hand, so statistically, it is said that it’s not worth taking out insurance.
  • Early / late surrender, where offered, means the same as loosing a hand once you have taken out insurance, at the end of the day: you come out with the same losses…Some casinos offer early surrender, whereby you can forfeit half of your bet when the dealer has drawn an ace on their first card, before they peek at the second card.

So, those are your options.  The dealer has fewer options.

Blackjack winning hand

The dealer must have a minimum of 17 before they can, are obliged to stand.  If the dealer draws 14 on th

e first two hands, for example, they must then draw another card…if they then draw a 2, they must draw again, as their total will now be 16.  Once they pass 17, they have to stand, or ‘stick’.  Obviously, if they draw over 21, they are bust and the players hands win, whatever their total may be.

There are a few variations to the game and some areas where you might not have as good edge if you don’t read the small print.

  • blackjack payout – ensure that when you play blackjack online, you are playing at an online casino where the payout is 3-2 rather than 6-5… some bricks and mortar casinos will make this alteration to the payouts on blackjacks, which means that they increase the house edge significantly.  A payout of 3-2 for example, pays out €15 on a €10 bet, whereas and payout of 6-5 pays out only, €12 on a €10 bet.
  • Some casinos won’t allow you to double down on your two first cards unless you have a total of 10 or 11 – which will reduce your odds of winning.