Blackjack is a deceptively simple game on the face of it. Hit, stay, get as close to 21 as possible and then… profit? Well, as self proclaimed connoisseurs of the casino, we’re here to tell you that you’re wrong about blackjack and should under no circumstances go in and play if you believe any of the above. However, have no fear. We’ve written a very basic beginner’s guide to blackjack, so if you were thinking of giving it a go, then we’ll have you ready to play in no time at all.
So take a look through our guide to blackjack, where you can learn the basics of the game, some specialist moves and some helpful hints so that you can bet smart and start winning some money from the dealer as early as possible.
The Basics of Blackjack
The aim of blackjack is simple: the player and the dealer are both trying to get a hand of cards that adds up as close to 21 as possible, without going over it. At the start of the hand, the player and dealer are dealt two cards. Both of the player’s cards are revealed, while only one of the dealer’s cards is revealed. The player has a few options that we’ll go into further later on, but for now your two main options are hit or stay. The player’s choices here are simply based on what two cards he has and what he can tell from the dealer’s single upturned card.
By hitting, the player will receive yet another card to add to their total hand. The player is aiming to get as close to 21 as possible. The value of a card is simple to remember:
- Cards of numerical value, such as 3 of hearts, are worth the numerical value that they list e.g 3, in this example
- Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are worth 10
- Aces are worth either 1 or 11, depending on which options are possible at the time
Players can continue hitting up until they go over 21, at which point their hand goes dead and they lose the game, with the dealer winning immediately. Alternatively, a player can choose to stay. At this point he secures his hand of cards and isn’t allowed to affect them any further. The dealer’s turn then begins. Once the player has stayed, the dealer’s second card is flipped over and then the dealer will start to accumulate further cards. The dealer has very simple rules. The dealer must continue hitting until it reaches over 16. Only when the dealer’s hand total reaches over 16, will it stay.
Once the dealer stays, the hand totals are compared. Whoever is closer to 21 without going over wins the round. If the player goes over on their turn then the dealer wins immediately. If the dealer goes over on their turn, then the player wins immediately. Either the player or deal can automatically win by landing a natural blackjack.
A natural blackjack means that if either the dealer or the player gets a hand worth 21 on the first two cards they’re dealt, they win. A draw of any kind will usually end in the game being pushed and no money being won or lost, the hand simply resets.
It is arguable, that the real strategy of blackjack is not to concentrate on the score of 21, but instead to only pay attention to the dealer’s potential hand. Knowing that the dealer is limited to certain rules gives the player a slight advantage, since they can stop hitting whenever they want. The dealer on the other hand must continue hitting until they go over 16.
In the next segment we’ll learn about the additional moves a player is able to make that the dealer cannot. As a basic rule, remember for now to watch your pot. It should always be a concern for players to watch how much money they’re spending, but blackjack is a unique game in that playing certain moves in the game requires you to pay more money to do so. Keep an eye on your budget, because it can seriously affect how strategical you can be.
Basic Rules To Remember
- A natural blackjack of 21 will immediately win the game
- The dealer has to stand once they reach over 16
- Because of this, any player hand under 16 is reason to hit as the dealer will always have to go higher than that
- You’re not aiming for 21, you’re aiming to beat the dealer. Only pay attention to its hand
- Watch the pot. It’s important for strategy options like doubling down, splitting and insurance bets
Doubling down is a special move a player can make to double their wager if they feel they have a strong hand. This comes at the cost of only being able to draw one additional card. Once you double down, you double your wager, draw one card and then stay.
Blackjack isn’t a game like poker, where you can raise your bet as the game progresses. You only get one single chance at the start of the hand to place a bet without knowing your chances of success beforehand. That’s why we recommend always keeping an eye on what your blackjack pot looks like. If you want to have the opportunity to double down on a strong hand, you need to have the funds available to do so. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a chance to win back a big load of cash, before finding that it’s not possible. But even if you have the money, when should you double down?
Whether you double down or not, will rely heavily on your own cards and the upturned card of the dealers. A very basic rule is to double down if the dealer has a particularly weak opening card, such as a 2 or a low card like that. A low card means their chances of hitting an amount near 16 very accurately is slightly skewed. It’s not completely reliable and it’s always best to double down based on your own cards, rather than the dealers, since you have so little information before they take their turn. But doubling on a bad dealer hand is one way to judge it if you’re on the fence.
Primarily, you should double down based what you can see in your own hand. A good rule of thumb is to double down when you have a starting hand of 10 or 11. With a hand that high, you can be sure that your starting hand is about as high as it can go, while remaining safe to hit for another card. If you get a face card, which carries a probability of 12/52 or just under a quarter chance, then you’ll end with either a 20 or a blackjack. Even if your final card is lower than a 10, you can still get exceptionally close to 20 and well over the 16 minimum card limit that you should be aiming for.
Basic Rules To Remember
- Doubling down requires a healthy pot
- Double down when you have a hand of 10 or 11
- Doubling down when the dealer’s hand is weak is also a good strategy
- An ace makes a big difference to when you can double down
Splitting is only allowed to be done on the first two cards the player is dealt. When a player splits, they literally split their hand into two individual hands. They’ll then receive a new second card for each of their hands and add an additional wager of the same value as their first for their new hand.
In a sense, the player is doubling down, but they also get to play an additional hand. Unlike doubling down, there are no restrictions placed on either of these hands. Players can continue to hit or stay whenever they want with their new hands, as if they were regular starting hands. If players want to get extra risky, they can even double down on their new hands, and in some variants of the game, split again on individual hands.
Splitting is yet another example of why players need to keep their eye on the pot during play. Splitting is a great way to make the best of an average hand, but it will require you to double your bet to do so. Since splitting can lead to so many other expensive strategies, you’ll need all the revenue you can get to pull off anything fancy from there.
So yet again, when should you split? Well splitting is much cleaner when it comes to when and when not to do it. There’s only a few basic rules to follow:
- Always split with a pair of ace or 8s
- Never split pairs of 4s, 5s and 10s
These are rules to be followed every time, but thankfully, the reasoning behind them is pretty simple and clear. Pairs of aces and 8s should always be split because they will always add up to a poor total sum. A hand of double 8 adds up to 16, which leaves the total too low to have a shot at beating the dealer’s hand, while being too high for you to risk hitting again.
A pair of aces will total 12 if they’re together, since two aces at a value of 11 each would go over 21, so one ace must be restricted to its value of 1. If split however, those aces can flourish into two 11s, which are amazing starting cards and it’s impossible to lose on them by hitting. Aces are always weak together and should be split up whenever possible.
On the other hand, pairs of 4s, 5s and 10s are terrible cards to split, but all for different reasons. A pair of 10s is a really strong hand, since it gives you 20 in total, which is so close to 21 that you should leave it well alone. A pair of 5s should be treated as a 10 together, which by itself is a strong starting hand and worth leaving alone also.
A pair of 4s should never be split simply because 4 is a terrible starting card for a blackjack hand. By splitting 4s, you’re simply infecting further hands with bad cards and just paying more, to possibly lose double your money. They should be quarantined into a single hand if possible.
Basic Rules To Remember
- Pay attention to your pot
- Always split with an ace or 8
- Never split pairs of 4s, 5s and 10s
The Insurance bet is possibly one of the least important aspects of the game, and in fact you may find it missing from many online versions of blackjack that you’ll play. But nonetheless, it is an official part of the game, so we’ll cover it here just in case you run into it.
Effectively, the insurance bet is an additional wager players can place on whether or not the dealer will draw a natural blackjack for themselves when the cards are first dealt. Insurance is a misleading term since the bet itself won’t prevent your original bet from still being lost, even if you lose the round. It’s simply an additional bet on the dealer getting a blackjack. Your outcome with the insurance bet will turn out in one of three ways:
- The dealer gets a natural blackjack – You lose your original wager, but win back a 1:1 payout on your insurance bet
- The dealer doesn’t get a natural blackjack and you win – You win on your original bet and win back a 1:1 payout on your insurance bet
- The dealer doesn’t get a natural blackjack and beats you – You lose your original bet and also lose your insurance bet
Remember, you cannot select what you’ll bet as your insurance. Your insurance bet will always be the lowest available bet that the version of blackjack you’re playing on has to offer. You can’t take a risk on a big bet to play, you’ll always be losing a small wager, with very little significant payout if it’s successful.
There’s much debate about whether the insurance bet is even worth it, as at the heart of it, it just costs you more money. Since a dealer getting a natural blackjack is always an immediate loss for the player, it’s nice to have an option to leave with some money. But since the dealer getting a natural blackjack is quite unlikely, the rest of the time you’ll just be throwing away more money, since you won’t win back anything on the insurance bet, until a natural blackjack from the dealer turns up.
Basic Rules To Remember
- Save your money and don’t go for the insurance bet unless you fancy taking an extra risk
The Beginner’s Guide To Blackjack
You should now be slightly more comfortable with the options on offer whilst playing blackjack. New players can be overwhelmed by the game, but learning the systems and rules of blackjack will help you go a long way to becoming a blackjack master in no time.
If you fancy giving it a shot, you can head over and play our very own Fortune Frenzy hosted version of the game, which features everything from insurance betting, doubling down and splitting. You can get the full blackjack experience and get to grips with the game in an easy to understand format, before you head off and play in the big leagues. Remember to check in with us later as we expand our blackjack guide and give you even more strategies to take on the blackjack dealer.