Blackjack

Your No-Nonsense Guide to Playing Real Money Blackjack Games Online

Blackjack may be a casino classic, but when playing online a little knowledge and skill will go a long way to maximising your winnings.
Our expert guide tells you when to hit, when to stand and how to discover the best online casino blackjack experience there is.

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Blackjack Basics

Blackjack, also known as twenty-one, is a card game played between player and dealer, rather than between two players. The dealer and player are each drawn two cards, which are added together to give an initial score. The aim of the game is to be as close to 21 as possible, without going over (going ‘bust’).

The closest score wins, so the player needs to be closer than the dealer. Players can ask for more cards (or ‘hit’) to get closer to the target, or they can ‘stand’ and hope that their current total is sufficient. The difficulty of the game lies in knowing which risk to take.

Blackjack can be played at many online casinos, but some do carry different styles, depending on the provider of the software. This will also affect the number of variations of the game. Scroll to the top of this page to see our recommended online casinos for blackjack in your location.

How to Play Blackjack Like an Expert

Stick to these 4 simple principles and you will be playing blackjack like a pro in no time:

When to Hit or Stand

The trick of blackjack is knowing whether to stand or hit, simple as that. This is the single decision the player makes in the game and it decides everything. This all rests on taking a risk; is your current score close enough to 21 to beat the dealer’s score? The dealer might pull a great card on his next hit. But, the closer you get to 21, the higher the risk that drawing another card will take you over the limit.

When your starting total is low, especially if it’s 11 or lower, then you have nothing to lose by hitting. Even the highest card of 10 will only take you to 21. Remember that you don’t actually have to hit 21 to win, you just need to end up closest to it- or wait and see if the dealer goes bust before you do. Many players will not hit on a hard total of 17, as the likelihood of going bust is getting too high at that point.

The Value of Aces

The best position to be in is to have an Ace. This is where the term ‘hard’ makes more sense; a ‘hard’ hand does not have an ace, but a ‘soft’ hand does. The reason for this is that the Ace can be 1 or 11. Should you have a 5, 7 and an Ace, then you simultaneously have a total of 13 and 23. You’re only able to keep playing because the Ace’s value isn’t set in stone. Because you can turn the 11 to a 1 in case of emergency, it’s possible to take more risk with a soft hand.

When to Double

Another advanced option is to ‘double’. Players are given the option to increase their original bet, in exchange for taking one more card, then standing regardless of the outcome. Naturally, this can be lucrative but involves more risk. This is best done with an Ace and a low card, or on an 11, especially if the dealer has less than 10.

Effective Splitting

A ‘split’ involves separating your hand into two. This is possible if your first two cards are the same value, plus you must make another bet on the second hand. The two hands are then treated distinctly, with separate wagers. This is very handy if you have two strong starting cards, such as two Aces, meaning that you now have two strong hands.

Win at Blackjack – Our Top Tips

“Don’t just race for 21, remember that you can win by letting the dealer bust.”

“If you have an Ace, you have a lot more leeway to hit.”

“Don’t be afraid to stand on a good score, around 12-16, if the dealer is on a low score like 2-6.”

Blackjack Strategy

Use our handy chart below to help you decide what to do in each scenario. Simply match up the dealers card (top) with your hand (left) to reveal your next move.

blackjack basic strategy chart

  • S=Stand
  • H=Hit
  • DD=Double Down
  • P=Split
  • H/P=Split if allowed to double afterwards, otherwise hit
  • H/R=Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit

How to Improve Your Chances of Winning

The ultimate key to blackjack is knowing when to stand or hit. There’s a reason why the dealer is not made to hit after reaching 17; at this point, the next card out needs to be 4 or less to not go bust, but of course it could be 1-10 or a face card. The odds of success are rapidly diminishing.

Watching the dealer’s card will help you to make this choice, knowing that you’re trying to beat the dealer or make them go bust, not necessarily trying to hit 21. You can also make decisions based on the composition of your hand. The individual cards in play do have an effect on probability. For example, if you have a 10 in your hand then the odds of drawing another 10 are naturally lowered, ever so slightly. This process can help a little, but mainly in a single-deck game.

Blackjack Rules

The Using a standard 52 card deck, the dealer will draw two random cards for both themselves and the player (only one of the dealer’s cards are shown). The numerical values are added together, so a 5 of Club and a 6 of Diamonds makes a starting score of 11. All face cards (King, Queen, Jack) are counted as 10, while an Ace can be 1 or 11. The objective is to have a score as close to 21 as possible, but not over.

The trick of blackjack is the choice that comes next; if nobody has already hit 21 from their opening cards (called a ‘natural’ or simply ‘blackjack’) then the player has the option of asking for a ‘hit’ and getting another card. The new card is drawn and added to the current total. If the new total goes over 21, the player has ‘gone bust’ and loses. Each player at the table is given this option in turn. The dealer must keep hitting until they have 17 or higher, or go bust. The player is hoping to ‘stand’ and stop accepting more cards, as close as they dare to 21.

The finer rules of blackjack will vary from casino to casino. Some casinos allow ‘back betting’ which means that several players can put a bet on the ‘betting box’ of a position at the table. This means that others are betting on the outcome of one player’s game, even if they are not playing themselves. Some casinos will not allow doubling or splitting except in specific circumstances. Many will allow splitting but not always re-splitting, where a new split deck draws cards of the same value again. Doubling may not be allowed after a split, as disallowing this increases the house edge.

A dealer typically has to keep hitting until their score is 17, but this can change in the case of a soft 17 where an Ace is involved. Casinos may or may not require the dealer to hit on a soft 17. Games where the dealer stands on a soft 17 benefits the player, reducing the house edge by about 0.2%. Casinos are also at liberty to choose how many decks they use, with more decks increasing the house edge slightly each time.

Some games also offer the option to ‘surrender’ and forfeit a hand immediately, if the player feels they have a poor chance to win. This is often directly after the dealer checks for a starting blackjack, a ‘late surrender’, but some casinos give players the chance before this, which is much more favourable.

History of Blackjack

The game of blackjack grew from another called twenty-one, which itself has an unknown origin. The earliest known reference to the game is in a word by the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes. In the tale “Rinconete y Cortadillo”, a pair of gamblers are referenced as cheating at ‘ventiuna’ or twenty-one. The rules of an ace being worth 1 or 11 and the limit of hitting 21 are both referenced.
When this game hit the US, casinos offered bonuses to gather interest. One such bonus was a ten-to-one pay out if the player’s hand contained the ace of spaces and a black jack, referring to the jack of clubs or spades. This hand was called a ‘blackjack’ and that name seemed to stick.

Types of Blackjack

Double Exposure Blackjack is a common version where the dealer’s first two cards are face up. Blackjacks pay even money and players lose on ties. Players cannot surrender their hand.
Spanish 21 is a version with a liberal approach to the rules, letting players double down any number of cards and surrender, having player blackjacks and 21s always win and also pay out bonuses. On the downside, there are no 10s other than the face cards.
21st Century Blackjack or Vegas Style means that players may not automatically lose when bust, but can still push if the dealer busts also.
Double Attack Blackjack generously lets the player up their bet after seeing the dealer’s card, the opposite of a surrender.
Blackjack Switch is an advanced game played over two hands, with the player able to interchange the second cards. Natural blackjacks are paid 1:1 instead of the standard 3:2, and a dealer 22 is a push.
Super Fun 21 allows for up to four splits and if this results in six cards totalling 20, the player gets an automatic win. Wins are paid 1:1.
Multiple Action Blackjack lets players place 2 or 3 bets on a single hand. The dealer gets a hand for each bet. This essentially allows multiple games to play at once. This is easier with online blackjack which allows for better space management.

The game of blackjack grew from another called twenty-one, which itself has an unknown origin. The earliest known reference to the game is in a word by the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes. In the tale “Rinconete y Cortadillo”, a pair of gamblers are referenced as cheating at ‘ventiuna’ or twenty-one. The rules of an ace being worth 1 or 11 and the limit of hitting 21 are both referenced.

When this game hit the US, casinos offered bonuses to gather interest. One such bonus was a ten-to-one pay out if the player’s hand contained the ace of spaces and a black jack, referring to the jack of clubs or spades. This hand was called a ‘blackjack’ and that name seemed to stick.

Advanced Tips

Double on an Ace and 6, because this is an ideal time to take a risk- you have both 7 and 17 at once.
Split two Aces, as the flexible nature of Aces is wasted somewhat in one hand- better to have two soft hands.
Split on two 8s, because an 8 is a very good starting number. You’re nice and high without being at risk of busting on the next hit.
Hit when the dealer’s up card is high (7 or more) as there’s a good chance their total is high.

Blackjack Glossary

Glossary
These are just a few terms that will come up while playing Blackjack:
A ‘natural’ blackjack is getting a total of 21 from the first two cards, a perfect win which may result in a bonus.
Read more about Blackjack.
Asking for another card from the dealer, to add to your total. Hitting is riskier as you get closer to 21.
Read more about Hit.
Take no more cards, also known as ‘sticking’ or ‘staying’. The player ends the game with the current total.
Read more about Stand.
When the player has two matching values, they may split them into two hands which are treated distinctly.
Read more about Split.
A hand or a total with an Ace in it. For example, an Ace and a 7 makes a ‘soft 8’ or indeed a ‘soft 18’ because the value is flexible.
Read more about Soft Hand.
A hand without an Ace in it; any normal combination of cards which cannot be changed.
Read more about Hard Way Bet.
A version of blackjack where two hands are used but the second cards can be interchanged.
Read more about Blackjack Switch.
The cards with pictures; King, Queen and Jack. In blackjack these are all worth 10.
Read more about Face Cards.
The Ace card in blackjack is worth either 1 or 11, at the choice of the player, assuming no variant rules are in place.
Read more about Ace.
A player is ‘standing pat’ when they choose to stand and are happy with their hand. The hand in question is called a ‘pat hand’.
Read more about Pat.
The process of mentally keeping track of how much of a deck has been used, to gauge by probability what the next cards will be. Not illegal, but casinos do discourage it.
Read more about Card Counting.
A single set of 52 cards. Blackjack tables may use several decks.
Read more about Deck.
When a player or dealer’s card value total goes over 21 by hitting too many times. Can be ‘going bust’ or ‘busting’.
Read more about Bust.
Blackjack dealers typically only show one card at a time, this is the up card because it is face-up.
Read more about Up Card.
When a blackjack dealer has once card face-up, the other face-down card is the ‘hole’ card, hidden to make the player’s decision more difficult. The is the origin of the term ‘ace in the hole’.
Read more about Hole Card.
The division of cards into hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades, which are not a part of Blackjack.
Read more about Suit.
Another name for blackjack and the total which players are aspiring to hit.
Read more about Twenty-one (21).
The player doubles their bet, but can only draw one more card. They are taking a bigger risk for a bigger reward.
Read more about Double.
Any money bet or risked on gambling.
Read more about Wager.
In this blackjack variant, both the dealer’s cards are shown face-up.
Read more about Double Exposure Blackjack.