Although it is a game played by millions in homes across the globe, blackjack (sometimes called ‘21’) is also one of the world’s most enjoyable, popular and profitable casino games. That said, the casino version of the game, whether played in the real world or online, does differ from the simple game that many parents played at home with their children. In this article, we’ll look at the basic rules of the game from a beginners perspective with the aim of getting them ready to enjoy a session of blackjack in one of their chosen online casinos.
The aim of the game
Contrary to popular belief, the aim of the game is not to get as near to 21 as possible without going over in each hand, but to beat the hand that the dealer has. Unlike friendly games at home where you may play against each other and the person with the highest hand wins, in the casino all players at the table are playing one person only; the dealer. Therefore, you must adopt a different mentality; beat the dealer. It doesn’t matter if you only have 14 in your hand, if you are still in and the dealer busts, then you win.
Before the player receives their cards, they must place money into the pot. How much this is depends upon the table you are playing and the lowest bet accepted at tables online can vary from a few cents, up to $5, $10 or even $20 per hand. Ensure you are playing at a table where you are happy with the amount bet for each hand before you even start playing as if you are not playing with a lot of cash available, playing for a lot of money each hand can lead to a very short and often expensive session!
Once a player has ante’d up, in a traditional face up game of poker, the dealer will deal one card to each player (including the dealer themselves) face up and then another card to each player face down. There are variations on this but for the purposes of this article, we will assume that the first card is face up, the second face down. After consulting their cards, the player has a choice 4 or sometimes 5 options of what to do next.
A players options
After receiving their two cards a player can do one of the following:
Surrender – Some (but by no means all) casino’s offer players the chance to surrender their hands at a cost of half of what they have staked. This means that a player throws their cards face up back to the dealer and quits the hand, but can reclaim half their stake back. The player then sits out the rest of the hand until it is completed before placing a new stake down for the next hand. Not all casinos offer this feature however so it may not be an option in the blackjack game you play.
Hit – A hit is when a player asks for the dealer to give them another card. The dealer does this by passing another card to the player face up. This card then becomes part of the players hand. If the total they have does not exceed 21, then they can decide what they want to do next (hit again or stand). If the total now exceeds 21, then the player has bust and must give their hand back immediately to the dealer, who will also take their stake from the table.
Double Down – Double down is when a player feels they have a strong hand but still wants another card and so what they do is add the same amount of money as they originally staked, to their stake. So if they originally staked $5, they would add another $5 to their stake to make a total of $10. The dealer now deals the player their extra card face down and the player adds it to their hand. The player can then choose to hit or stand if their hand is under 21, or if it is now above 21, they must declare they are bust as explained above, thus losing double their original stake.
Split - If you are dealt a pair of the same value, such as two 2’s or two Aces, then you can choose to split the cards. This means you split the pair and are dealt another card to each, so you now have two hands to play. You must also place another stake into your pot to cover the additional hand (so if you had bet $5 initially, you would have to put another $5 in). You now play both hands against the dealer as you would any other hand, and both hands can win, both can lose, or you can win with one hand and lose with another.
Stand – If you are happy with the cards you have been dealt, or have received when splitting, hitting, doubling down, then you call stand. This means that you do not want any further cards and are declaring a score which the dealer will now have to beat in order to beat you.
What happens when I win?
After all the players have received any extra cards they want, the dealer then reveals their hand and the dealer has no choice in how they must play the hand. Most casinos state that the dealer must stick on 17 or above, so the dealer will play the cards they have been dealt until they either get a score of 17 or above, when they automatically stick, or they bust, in which case all hands remaining in the pot automatically win.
If the dealer does not bust and declares a hand, you must beat that hand total in order to win. So for example, if a dealer is dealt a 5 and 4, but then hits and gets a 10, they will declare a total of 19, meaning players who achieved scores of 20 or over beat the dealer and win. Those who scored 18 or lower lose, and if you scored 19, you push. This term means your money remains on the table and goes towards the next hand (though you still have to put in another stake to join the next hand, increasing the value of the bet).
When you win, the dealer will give you your winnings depending on how much you staked. Usually it is double your stake, though there are occasions when the payout is slightly less than this.
What happens when I lose?
If you lose, you reveal your cards and the dealer will collect them and your chips. You’ll then have to ante up to take part in the next hand to try and win them back!