Basic Online Blackjack Rules
The basic rules of blackjack are very straightforward and easy to learn. They are easily applied to online as well as casino blackjack.
Each card has a numerical value that corresponds to the number displayed on the card. For example, a two is worth two, an eight is worth eight etc. Along with tens being worth ten, face cards also share this value. Aces are a special case, and can be worth either one or eleven. It is up to you to decide the value of the card, and you can do this at any point during the hand. For example, if you are dealt an ace after having an initial hand of 14, you can choose to have the value of the ace be one in order to not bust. A hand containing an ace is called a soft hand, and a hand with no aces is called a hard hand. A hard hand can only be counted one way, since all cards other than aces have a set value.
Each player lays down a bet to begin the game. The dealer then deals each player two cards, one at a time, starting with the player at his left and continuing clockwise. In single and double-deck blackjack games, the cards are dealt face down. In all online casinos’ blackjack games, as well as physical casinos’ blackjack games that use a shoe (four or more decks), the cards are dealt face up. The dealer also deals himself two cards, one face up and one face down, no matter what the number of decks are being used. (The face-down card is also called the hole card).
Each player must add the value of his or her cards to determine what the hand is worth. For example, if you have a five and a seven, your hand is worth twelve. If you have a nine and a jack, your hand is worth nineteen. If you have an ace and six, you have a total of seventeen or seven. If you have a queen and an ace, you have twenty-one (you would never want to count the ace as one in this situation). That total is called a blackjack. If you are initially dealt a blackjack, this is called a natural.
Each player plays against the dealer and not each other. No matter how many players are sitting at your blackjack table, your object is to beat the dealer, so don’t worry about the other players’ hands. You can beat the dealer in two ways. If your cards total twenty-one or lower and that total is higher than the total of the dealer’s hand, you win. If the dealer goes over twenty-one, then you win. Any value over twenty-one is called a busted hand. The same applies to you: if your hand total is over twenty-one, then you’ve busted and automatically lose.
Before proceeding to learn about the more complex aspects of the game, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the Blackjack Table Layout.
The dealer always plays his hand last. That means his face-down card remains unknown to the players until he turns it over to play his hand. It would be no challenge to the players if both the dealer’s cards were turned face up at the beginning. In turn, it would also be unfair to the players if both the dealer’s cards were face down. The players need to judge how to play their hands based on the dealer’s face-up card and the total of their hand.
The reason the dealer deals the cards to the players face down when using one or two decks is that the use of only 52 or 104 cards makes it easier for the players to keep track of the cards that have been played. By dealing the cards face down, the dealer makes it tougher for players to count cards. By using three or more decks, which makes it more difficult to count cards, the house increases its advantage, so it allows the players to see each other’s hand to compensate for the greater house advantage. The house only gains anywhere from .30 percent to .60 percent, depending on the number of decks being used.
The game begins when the dealer deals every player and himself two cards each. When the cards are dealt face down, you may only use one hand to pick up your cards; this rule is to prevent cheating. When the cards are dealt face up, you are not allowed to touch the cards at all. Play begins with the first player to the dealer’s left (called first base). Each player in turn decides whether to take a hit (get another card) or to stand (stick with his or her two cards). You are allowed to hit your hand as many times as you like, until you decide to stand or you bust. The dealer will ask each player, usually with a hand signal, if he or she wants another card. As a player, you must respond with a hand signal. At an online casino, the game will usually prompt you to decide to hit or stand by illuminating the buttons (or by some other attention-grabbing method) at the appropriate time.
The signals differ according to the number of decks in use, that is, depending on whether the players are holding their cards (in one hand only) or the cards are lying on the table. In single or double-deck games, if you want to take a hit, you scrape your cards toward you on the table, as if flicking crumbs. If you want to stand, then you tuck the cards under your chips, using just one hand. In games using more than two decks, since you can’t touch the cards, you use your fingers to signal. To signal a hit, you scrape the table in a pulling motion towards you. To stand, you wave your hand over your cards. This is much simpler at an online casino – all you do is move the mouse cursor over the buttons, and click.
Hand signals are very important and must be used when playing blackjack. The reason for the hand signals is to prevent cheating by the dealer and/or the players. The casino security personnel use cameras in the ceiling for surveillance of the games. Since the security cameras used in casinos don’t have sound, personnel would be unable to monitor spoken questions and answers. By making the players use hand signals, the security personnel can make sure dealers and players aren’t cheating.
After receiving your two cards, you may have four choices to make before proceeding to play your hand: split pairs, double down, surrender, and take insurance. Click on one of the links to learn more, or just click next below.
Objective of the game
In this game of cards you are only competing against the dealer. Your objective is to draw cards until your hand adds up to 21 or beat the dealer’s hand by getting as close to 21 as possible, without going bust (exceeding 21). If you bust, you lose, whatever the dealer’s hand totals.
How to Play
The game is over 300 years old and over time strategies for getting the best out of the game have been developed. These strategies are based on the following rules of the game which you should keep focused on at all times:
The dealer must continue to take cards until they reach 17 or more.
Once the dealer gets to 17 or more they must stop, irrespective of the hand that the player has.
Blackjack is achieved with an ace and a ten-value card (this includes the Jack, Queen and King).
Whilst other winning hands pay “even money” (i.e. you win whatever your stake was), Blackjack pays 3 to 2 (i.e. you win three chips for every two you have staked).
Aces are worth either 1 or 11.
Ten-value cards are the most common (remember all picture cards are worth 10).
You may double your stake if your first two cards total 9, 10 or 11 (called “double down”). This can be worthwhile if you believe you are likely to be dealt a 10 next (and thus getting to 19, 20 or 21) but keep an eye on the dealer’s card too! If your hand includes an ace you cannot double. Note also that if you choose to double, you will only receive one card.
If you are dealt two cards of the same value (although picture cards must match), you can choose to split them. This in effect doubles your stake and thus your opportunity to win, but again keep an eye on the dealer’s card before splitting.
If the dealer’s first card is an ace, you will be given the option of placing a side bet. This is called Insurance. When the dealer has an ace, he is considered to have a good chance of getting Blackjack. If the dealer does get Blackjack, this Insurance pays 2 to 1. If you do buy Insurance and the dealer fails to get Blackjack you lose your Insurance. Insurance bets are always half the value of your initial stake.
Want to know whether to “hit’ or “stand”? Experts from the gaming world have developed a basic strategy to help increase your chances of winning. This strategy can act as a guide when deciding on whether to ask for an additional card or not. The value of your hand is in the left hand column, the dealer’s is on the top row. You can print this chart out and keep alongside as you play. The chart below is purely a guide to making decisions playing Blackjack. Whilst we hope you find it useful, many Blackjack players have their own strategies and systems.
|Your Hand||Dealers Card|
|HIT||Take a further card|
|S||Press STAND (do not take a further card)|
|SPL||Press SPLIT (separate your two cards and play a hand on each)|
|DD||Press DOUBLE (double your stake)|
Insurance in Online Blackjack
When the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, he offers the players a chance to take insurance. This means that you’re allowed to insure your hand against the possibility of the dealer having a natural twenty-one with his two cards. To take insurance, you must place a bet on the insurance line equal to half of your wager. This is a side bet. You’re betting that the dealer has a blackjack. If the dealer makes the natural, your bet pays off at two to one.
In actuality, this is a very bad bet and should generally be avoided. When the dealer has an ace, he has a very good chance of getting a pat hand, that is, 17, 18, 19, 20 or 21. (It’s called a pat hand because the dealer stands pat). So if the dealer has a good hand but not a blackjack, you lose your insurance bet and probably your initial wager as well. This is bad.
The only time you should make this bet is if you’re counting cards and are almost sure the dealer has a ten-value card underneath his ace. If you make an insurance bet and the dealer has a natural, then you win twice the amount of your insurance bet but lose your initial wager. Therefore, you’d push on this hand. (A push is when you don’t win or lose money on a hand).
Double Down in Online Blackjack
Before you decide to hit or stand, you may double down if you believe that your hand has a much better chance of beating the dealer’s hand.
Some casinos allow you to double down only if your first two cards total 9, 10, or 11. Other casinos will allow you to double down on any total for your first two cards. The best way to find out the casino’s rule is to ask the dealer (or read the online casinos’ game rules section). Doubling down is adding to your initial wager. You may double the amount of your wager or you may “double down for less.” The dealer then deals you a third card. You cannot stand on the two and you cannot take another hit. For example, let’s say that you wager $25, you get an eight and a two (a total of ten), and the dealer has a six showing, so you decide to double down. You put a $25 chip next to your initial wager (doubling down) and you receive one card. By deciding to double down, you feel your hand has enough chance to beat the dealer’s hand that you want to increase your potential winnings. By letting you double your bet, the house gives you only one single additional card, not the usual unlimited hits or the option to stand on two cards. Doubling down can be a very powerful tool for the players when used at the appropriate times and used according to basic strategy, doubling down will increase your profits in the long run.
Take a quick look back at the basic strategy charts. There are two things to note about double down decisions. First of all, we double on our strong hands of 10 and 11 because if we get a 10, we’ll have a very powerful hand. In that way, we capitalize on our strength. But we’re also focused on taking advantage of the dealer’s weakness. We often double down against the dealer’s weak cards-particularly the creampuff 5 and 6. We can’t be timid about putting more money out on the table in a favorable situation. The right doubles are crucial to increasing your overall profit expectations.
It’s important to note that some casinos restrict doubling down to hands of 10 and 11. This is an unfavorable rule, but it still leaves us with the bulk of doubling down opportunities. If you ever come across a game where you can’t double at all, make sure you walk away on the double.
Interestingly, in terms of percentage, you often lose more when you double down than when you simply hit. Lose more? Didn’t we just assure you that proper doubling down will increase your profits? Well, both statements are true. Let’s say you make a $100 bet. You receive a 10 and the dealer gets a 7 up. If you simply hit (the wrong move), you’d have a 29% percent advantage, which means you’d expect to make a $29 profit on average. If you double down, you would only have a 23.5% advantage on your bet. Why the decrease? Because you’re restricting yourself to only one card. In the case where you hit, you’d have the option to draw more cards if need be. However, the 23.5% double down advantage is on twice your bet. That means an average profit of $47($200 x 23.5%).
A smaller edge on more money means more money in your pocket, which is what we count up (not percentage points) at the end of the session.
Let’s look at a few hands that may make you do a double take:
11 vs. 10: This is a costly way to wimp out. Yes, the dealer has a big card, but so do you. Sure you’ll make $11.70 per $100 when you hit, but you’ll turn that into $17.80 when you double down.
11 vs. 6: If you’re afraid to put more money on the table for this hand, it’s time to find another game. Just hitting will profit you $34. Doubling makes a mockery of that decision: it earns you $68 per $100 on average.