One of the most popular table games at any casino, blackjack is deceptively simple and enticing. The premise is straightforward: from your initial two cards dealt, you decide how many additional cards (if any) to accept (known as taking a “hit”) and when to leave your cards as they are (known as “standing” or “staying”). Your goal is to have the total sum of your cards get as close to 21 points as possible, without going over.
Numbered cards are worth their own value, face-cards are all worth 10 points, and aces can be either worth 1 point or 11 points.
One of the many advantages of playing the blackjack games at Bitcasino is the fact that the game calculates your total for you as soon as your cards are dealt, allowing you to focus on making the strategic decisions, rather than double-checking your arithmetic.
Unlike some of the other card games available on our site, in blackjack your opponent isn’t any of the other players at the table – rather, you are playing against the casino itself. The dealer is also trying to get the total sum of their cards to 21 without going over – and if the dealer busts, then players can win big. Dealers also have some unique restrictions on them, depending on the game. For instance, in our Classic Blackjack Gold game, dealers have to stand when their total score is greater than or equal to 17.
Like all Bitcasino games, blackjack involves luck, but it is also a game that requires a considerable amount of skill and judgment from the player. Depending on the cards you are dealt, it can be a tricky decision as to whether you take another hit, bringing your total closer to the magic 21 points needed, or risk overshooting and busting out of the hand.
What makes blackjack particularly challenging is the fact that tying with the dealer isn’t a win, and also the multiple secondary decisions that players have to make, such as whether to split a pair that has been dealt to them, whether to hit on a “soft” hand, when to “surrender” their hand and only lose half their bet, and what to do when they are facing a dealer with an ace showing.
In this article, we are going to take a look at what a Bitcasino blackjack player needs to consider when facing the dealer’s ace.
The dealer’s ace
“Facing the ace” refers to when the first card that the dealer is showing on the table is an ace. Their other card remains hidden while the player must decide how to proceed.
Aces are unique in blackjack in that their value can change depending on the circumstances. When it is better for the owner of the ace to have it be valued at 11, that is the value, and when it is better that the value drops down to 1, it automatically drops.
An ace showing means that the dealer has two advantages: their next card may very well be a ten-value card, bringing them to the perfect 21, and the ace allows them more flexibility when deciding whether to hit.
If the dealer doesn’t have an automatic 21 from their first two cards, then they can, and usually will, decide to take an additional card. If on the following cards, the dealer goes over 21, then the value of their ace will automatically drop back down to 1, bringing them within the playable range again.
Statistically, when the dealer is showing an ace, it means that they have a roughly 9/10 chance of reaching a total sum for their cards between 17-21, and only roughly a 1/10 chance of busting.
Right out of the gate, the player has some important decisions to make.
In many blackjack games, such as our Blackjack Classic Satoshi, if the dealer is showing an ace, then the player has the option of buying “insurance”. This is an additional, independent “side-bet” as to whether the dealer will score 21 points when they reveal their second card. If in addition to their ace showing, the dealer’s non-showing card has a value of ten, then the dealer has hit 21 and can automatically win the hand.
If the player agrees, they can buy insurance for a set amount (generally half their original bet), which will pay out winnings at some ratio, often 2-1, in the event that the dealer has 21. This would mean that if the player bought insurance and still lost their original bet because the dealer had 21 from their first two cards, the player would still break even for that hand. In essence, buying insurance is an additional bet as to whether the dealer has 21 from the outset, and if they do, it can recoup your original bet.
However, if the dealer does not have 21 from their first two cards, then the insurance bet is simply lost to the player.
Insurance can be a great way to recoup a lost hand. Instead of simply losing to the dealer’s 21, players can salvage their original bet. However, if the dealer does not have 21 right out of the gate, which is more likely than the alternative based on the numbers of cards with a value of 10 compared to other values, then the insurance will not pay out. Additionally, if the player buys insurance and the dealer does not have 21 from their first two cards, then the player can still lose their bet in the same hand, meaning that the loss overall is greater.
If your first two cards also have an ace within them, then you have what is known as a “soft” hand. It’s soft in the sense that the exact value of your hand is not fixed, given how the ace can be either an 11 or a 1. Having a soft hand gives the player more versatility, and changes how they will approach the dealer’s hand.
For soft hands, it’s a good idea to take a hit if your other card is anything lower than an 8. If the ace is paired with a 2-7, there are good reasons to try to bump your total higher by taking on more cards. If you bust on the following cards, the soft ace becomes a hard 1, allowing you more room in which to operate.
If the ace is paired with an 8 or a 9 from the outset, it is often better to stand, as a score of 19 or 20 will be a high bar for the dealer to cross, and too risky to take a hit on.
For hard hands, which is when your two cards don’t include an ace, the standard rule is that players should hit on any total that is equal to or less than 15, request a surrender on 16 (explained below), and stay on totals that are 17-21.
Certain blackjack games will allow the player to “surrender” their hand to the dealer. This means that the player loses that hand, but because they surrendered, they are entitled to keep half of their original bet, rather than lose all of it.
Blackjack can be a very intuitive game to play – it’s about knowing the risks of hitting on certain totals, knowing when to stand with your score, and watching what the dealer has showing.
At Bitcasino, we have dozens of different types of blackjack games to fit your needs and interests. If you’re new to blackjack, you are welcome to sign up for a free account today and play in our “fun mode”, in which you can learn in a no-pressure, no-commitment environment, before you feel ready to test out your skills in a live game.
Words: Sean McNulty
Images: Shutterstock and Bitcasino