Blackjack Rules – How to Play
The rules for Blackjack are very easy. Blackjack is all about getting dealt a hand with a total combined card value exceeding that of the dealer, without going over the 21. A round of starts when you choose how much to wager occurs first and this first bet is called the “ante”. It’s good to know that the minimum and maximum bet amounts differ from table to table. Typically, the minimum is between $1 and $5, while the maximum is between $100 and $200. After you’ve decided how much you want to bet, you will be dealt two cards by the dealer. Then the dealer will also take two cards, and face the second card up for everyone to see. You then need to calculate both you cards combined value by adding them up. Aces can be either 1 or 11 and face cards are valued at 10 (same as the ten card).
The combination of a card with the value of 10 plus an ace has a special status of being a “blackjack” and an automatic winner — unless you and the dealer both get blackjack in the same round, in which case the round is considered a “push” or “standoff” and no money is lost or won. It is the same story if your total card value matches the dealers. The round continues beyond the first two cards if nobody gets blackjack.
Six Basic Moves You Can Make
You have six different play options to choose after the first deal to beat the dealer and win the hand.
- Hit: You will receive a card. You can get as many cards as you want, but remember that if your total card value exceeds 21, you are busted!
- Stand: You decide to not get any more cards. Then it’s the dealer’s turn.
- Double: You decide to double your bet and can get just one card more.
- Split: You divide your two cards into two separate “hands” and add cards to each hand independently, with a distinct total for each hand. To split your hand you have to place a bet equivalent to the value of your initial bet.
- Insurance: If the dealer shows an ace, some casinos give you the option to buy insurance for half the value of your ante. If the dealer gets blackjack and you are insured, you get your ante back.
- Fold / Retire / Surrender: Some casinos allows you to give up your dealt hand, for half the value of your ante, if you think your chances of winning are bad.
The Dealer’s Turn
After you have completed your hand, made your moves and hopefully haven’t busted your hand yet, it is the dealer’s turn to draw. The dealer must draw cards until their combined value is at least 17. When the dealer has 17 or more, no more cards can be drawn. If your combined total is more than that of the casino, you win the value of your ante, essentially doubling what you wagered. If you have a blackjack, and the dealer does not, you will receive your ante back plus one and a half times (150%) its value. As noted, equal values result in the house winning.
Online Blackjack Variants
When visiting one of our approved casinos, you will find that an abundance of variations on the classic game of Online Blackjack. The disparities are usually relatively small and easy to learn, but you do need to study up on the subtle differences so you will have a better chance to beat the odds. Here you will find some exciting alternatives which many players enjoy!
Online Pontoon Blackjack
Pontoon blackjack is a slight variation on the traditional rules of what is quite possibly the world’s most popular casino game: blackjack. It’s arguably simpler than the traditional game and offers an extremely attractive house edge of only 0.38%!
If you’re familiar with traditional blackjack (even if you’ve only seen the movie 21
) then you’re already over halfway there. There are a few variations of pontoon as well,
so let’s take a quick look at the everything.
Pontoon Blackjack Basics and Rules
As with traditional blackjack, you’ll normally play with 2-8 decks of cards: aces are 1 or 11, face cards are 10 and the other cards all hold their printed value. The best hand is Pontoon, which is made by an ace plus any 10-value card: note that unlike “blackjack”, this hand can be formed after the deal, by splitting your cards. The second best hand is a 5-card trick, which is any 5-card hand under 22. It is only beaten by a Pontoon. You (and the other players) are dealt two cards face up, the dealer two face down. They will check their hand and, if they have Pontoon, the game ends immediately. You bet on your hand, then stick and twist just like blackjack. Hands must exceed 14, unless it’s a 5-card trick. The dealer stops drawing cards themselves after reaching a hand of 17 or better. That’s it. If no one has a special hand, then the highest numerical hand wins – if it’s a draw between you and the dealer, they win. Payout is 1:1 unless you win with a special hand, in which case it’s 2:1.
In Australia there’s a slight variation called Federal Pontoon, which allows players to split into 3 separate hands during play. Jupiters 21, another Australian variant, has the following unique rules:
- 4 decks dealt from a continuous shuffling machine (CSM)
- No re-splits are allowed
As you can tell, these are very slight changes, but they do alter your strategy and approach to playing. Unless otherwise stated, online casinos will be running the “normal” rules we described above.
Strategy and Winning at Pontoon
How to Win
When it comes to strategy for Pontoon, everything comes down to statistics. Given your hand (value and the number of cards), you have to decide what the best move is to optimise your chances of staying under 22 and beating the dealer. Thankfully you won’t need a maths degree to work this stuff out: instead, you can follow charts which tell you exactly what to do for each hand! Check out these Pontoon Basic Strategy charts for an example. Because there’s no element of bluffing or influencing the outcome, players should always follow these mathematical suggestions, because they offer the most likely routes to success. That’s all there is to it. Follow a chart like this and you’ll be doubling, splitting, standing and hitting with the best of them.
For Blackjack Pontoon games supplied by Real Time Gaming, Playtech, Galewind Software and Cryptologic(aka the vast majority of all available games) the house edge is a lowly 0.38%. For Microgaming, where the dealer stands on a soft 17 and split aces get one card each, the edge climbs slightly to 0.39%. This means that Pontoon blackjack offers you better odds than the vast majority of online casino games. Follow the rules we talked about for strategy and there’s a very good chance you’ll make yourself a tidy profit!
Online Blackjack Surrender
Even if you’ve never entered a casino before or visited one online, you’ve heard of blackjack. In fact, you probably even have a pretty good idea of how it works and what you have to do to win! Blackjack Surrender changes up the rules a little, allowing you to reduce the house edge and, over a prolonged period of play, give yourself the chance to make a higher profit.
Rules Strategy and Winning at Surrender
If you aren’t familiar with traditional blackjack, then it might be worth reading those rules first so that things here make a bit more sense. The idea of the game is the same: get a score as close to 21 as possible and beat the dealer’s hand. You cannot exceed 21 or you lose. In normal blackjack, you place your bets blind, aka before the deal takes place. Thereafter, you have to play that hand: you’ll win or lose depending on the cards you draw and the dealer’s hand. In surrender, however, you have another weapon in your arsenal. First of all, your two cards are dealt face up, while one of the dealer’s cards is dealt face down. Surrendering basically means cancelling your bet, or withdrawing from the round. You will receive half your bet back. The reason one might surrender is because, based on the value of the dealer’s visible card, your hand is unlikely to beat that of the dealer. If you’re mathematically unlikely to win, it’s better to save half your stake than lose the whole thing. That’s the theory, anyway, and it’s been shown to improve the house edge by as much as 0.08-0.09%; a small amount, for sure, but better than nothing.
Blackjack Surrender Strategy
As with all card games, statistics is hugely important. In fact, for all forms of blackjack, statistics is the only thing which matters at all. Basically what you want to do is wait for the hands to be dealt, examine your two cards as well as the dealer’s face-up card, and then make your decision on whether to stick, hit or surrender. When it comes to surrender, there are two different forms: early and late surrender. Early surrender is very rarely found in casinos, but can improve the house edge when played. If this option is available, it means you can surrender your hand before the dealer checks for blackjack. Late surrender is much more common, and allows the player to surrender only after the dealer has checked for blackjack.
Is there a difference?
Absolutely. During gameplay, you’ll want to have their “grid” open and be making every decision based off of that; after all, it’s a game of statistics and that will give you the best possible chance of winning.
Online Blackjack Switch
While you’re undoubtedly familiar with blackjack, you might not be aware of its near-countless variations which have been created over the years. Many of them involve local rules and aren’t played at proper casinos; Blackjack Switch, however, is an exception. Switch is played all over the world. While it is fundamentally a blackjack game, it has several rule twists which make quite different to the traditional game, namely that you can swap cards between hands to get better odds of winning. Of all the blackjack variations, Switch is probably the most popular. The alternative rules turn the traditional game on its head, and that encourages a lot of players to try it out.
Rules, Strategy and Winning at Switch
The basic premise with switch, and how it differs from regular blackjack, is that you are dealt two hands rather than one, and you can choose to swap (or switch) the second card dealt to each hand, to better your odds of winning. However, since this gives you an advantage, the dealer landing on 22 causes a push to all non-bust and non-blackjack hands. This means your stake is returned and you neither win nor lose. As a result, the basic strategy must be a little different to blackjack. You win the same you way do in regular blackjack: get a better hand than the dealer.
Blackjack Switch Strategy
Switch is generally an 8-deck game, and the way to win is to always play the statistically superior option every single time. This gives you the best odds of winning. Even better, since you’re playing online, you can take the time to consult a blackjack switch betting table so you have confidence in every deal. If playing with a 6-card deck, you should double 9 against a 5. Once you know the strategy, you’ll understand what that means! There are more advanced strategies which rank hands in terms of “points” (known as the Cindy Lui Advanced Switching Strategy), but many players consider Arnold Snyder’s book The Big Book of Blackjack to hold a superior method. If you want to learn what that is, and how to become a serious switch player, then buy the book! With live dealer games you’re always on a timer, but if you play on an RNG game you’ll have all the time you need to receive a deal, read the strategy, slowly implement it and then complete the round. Over time you’ll get much, much faster too.
Online Blackjack Bonus
As you start playing at a new online casino, you should definitely take advantage of the welcome bonus that most operators offer for the game. However, while all online casinos have welcome bonuses, not all of them allow you to use it on every type of game, so read terms and conditions carefully. In addition, many casinos have a play-through requirement, which mandates that the welcome bonus must be played on slots or other chance games rather than of games that are affected by player strategy. While it won’t be worth trying to run after your wins on these bonuses, they do provide excellent real-life practice on real money playing, especially with Live Dealer games, which almost never let you play for free. On the other hand, some casinos will have special bonuses for table games – it can be in the form of welcome bonuses, but more often than not, the most exciting deals are the promos offered for returning players. Other than the usual bonuses, there might be extra prize-winning options added to a game, where players can win prizes even if they don’t win that particular game.
Blackjack Schedule – Learn to Calculate Your Probabilities
Before you begin to play for real stakes, it’s a great idea to study up on the statistics concerning the best way to play your hand. You quickly can become an expert at calculating the odds for various hands and therefore what are the optimal moves at any given moment.
New players typically have questions about the nuances of blackjack play. Here are some of the questions most frequently asked, and some answers which we hope will be helpful:
How many cards are there in blackjack?
An ordinary game of blackjack is played with one or more set of 52-card card games. There are thus no jokers. At casinos, up to 8 card decks are used to make life more difficult for players who are adept at counting cards. Much has been written about card-counting, and the practice has often been depicted by Hollywood. Suffice it to say that the practice is discouraged by casinos because it improves the player’s odd, but it is not always easy to detect counting!
How do I win blackjack?
Experienced players know that blackjack is much more than just pure dumb luck. There are many tips to help you get more out of your game and improve your chances of winning:
- Never split two 5s If you are dealt double 5’s, you have a total of 10 at hand. It’s almost always the smartest move to “Double Down” and hope for a 10 or face card next.
- Always split two 8’s Whichever card the dealer has face up, it’s a good idea to always split two 8’s. A hand with the total value 16 is about the worst one can be dealt. It is very likely that the dealer will have or draw something higher. At best, you may draw a card worth 10 or an ace worth 11 for each of your 8’s and thus improve your chances considerably. Or you might lose one hand and win the other and break even for a hand. It could be worse!
- Never split two 10’s The second-best hand you can get is 20. While it may be tempting to split two face cards in hopes of doubling your winnings or even getting one or more blackjack, the odds say you’re more likely to lose both hands and thus lose twice as much. The old saying about a bird in hand being worth two in the bush comes to mind!
- Rules for the “hard” hand If your dealt hand has a value of 12 or more, here are some “rules of thumb” to follow: – Stand if you have 17 or above – Stand with total values between 12 and 16 if the dealer has 2 to 6 as his open card – Take a card if you have a hand is valued between 12 and 16 and the dealer show a 7 or higher.
- The “soft” hand (Ace + another card) If you have been dealt an ace and your cards would total at least 18 if you value the ace at 11 rather than 1, you should only take an extra card if the dealer’s open card is 8, 9 or 10. The best way to maximize your winnings in this situation is, according to most experts, to double down. Always take a card when you have with a soft hand with a value of 17 or less.
What are your chances of winning blackjack?
Blackjack is not just luck, playing smart is the key here. In fact, blackjack is the casino game that gives the least benefit to the house. Consider how the game stacks up against other casino alternatives:
Might that explain why casinos typically promote pokies so heavily?
How do you count cards in blackjack?
The saying goes that the card counting is simple to learn, but takes a lifetime to master. You must be very good, have an exceptional memory and plenty of practice to make it work. If you possess those three talents, however, there is a big advantage to the players in counting cards, and therefore no love lost among casino operators for gifted card-counters. The art of counting cards consists of four simple steps:
- Give each card a value.
- Keep track of the number of each card with a given value that leaves the deck.
- Leverage this information to calculate the chances of a given card appearing next.
- The higher your confidence of knowing the next card, the higher you should bet
The question, naturally, is whether you can use this technique in online casino. After all, while real-world casinos are invariably equipped with high tech cameras monitored by hawk-eyed spotters of card-counters, no such supervision exists in the privacy of your own home (at least we hope not!). Certainly you can try counting cards to the best of your ability, but take into account that most online games electronically “shuffle” the cards after each round, which makes it practically impossible to gain any practical benefit from counting cards. It is possible to find blackjack games which use an eight deck rotation without intermittent shuffling like their real-world counterparts have. You can use software that counts cards for you, although its usefulness online is dubious for the reasons mentioned. However, its a good idea to keep your eyes open and not miss anything that may give you a higher winning potential to beat the house.
What is insurance and should I get it?
The odds are calculated in advance to be in insurance companies and casinos favor. In blackjack, for half the value of your ante, you can buy “insurance” if the dealer’s open card is an ace. The dealer then checks for a blackjack and if so, you must have been dealt a blackjack of your own to win. Otherwise, you will only win 2: 1 on your insurance and you will get no other winnings or losses. Insurance improves the house’s edge to 7.4%, so the odds says that taking what amounts to a side bet is usually not worth it, unless you are like Hollywood’s “Rain Man” and absolutely certain that the dealer’s hole card is a 10!