Blackjack is an incredibly simple game with a complex strategy that underpins it.
The essential, simplified rules of the game are that you are dealt cards and then attempt to get closer to 21 than the dealer. That’s not an in-depth description, though, and it certainly won’t help you when you make the step into a live casino. It doesn’t even really give you a totally accurate description of what to do. How do you play blackjack?
Essentially, you need to beat the dealer. How do you do this? Well, there are three ways. The first way is to draw a hand of cards that is higher than the dealer’s hand at the end of the round, without going over 21. The second way is by getting a hand that is worth exactly 21, a blackjack, without the dealer doing the same. The third way is by having a hand that is 21 or less and the dealer going over 21. It’s worth mentioning that if you and the dealer both get a blackjack, a hand worth 21, then you don’t win but you do get your stake back – it’s essentially a drawn game.
Those are the ways that you can win, but how can you lose? Well, that is pretty simple. If the dealer gets a higher score than you at the end of the round, then you lose. If you get a hand worth over 21, then you instantly lose. It doesn’t really matter what the other players at the table do – you’re all competing against the dealer, not each other. If you get a 20, the dealer gets 19, and the player next to you gets 21, then you still win.
It’s all very well saying that you have to get a hand worth 21, but without knowing what each card is worth, that’s not much help. Fortunately, it is pretty simple. Most people can work it out, but just in case, here’s a quick reminder. The number cards are all worth whatever number is on there, so a 6 of hearts is worth 6, and a 9 of clubs is worth 9. Easy, right? Next up, the face cards or royal cards – whatever you call them. The Jack, Queen and King cards are all worth 10 each.
There is one card that does throw up an issue though. The ace card. The ace card is worth 1, even though the number 1 isn’t on there. Also, the ace card is worth 11. That might sound annoying, but essentially this makes an ace a highly versatile card. It can be worth whatever you want it to be. If you have a score of 10 and draw an ace, then you can say it is worth 11 and you have a blackjack. If you have a score of 20 and draw an ace, then you can say it is worth 1 and you have a blackjack.How do I start?
Once you’ve chosen a seat, you need to make a wager. All this requires is to ensure that you have funds in your account and then choose how much you would like to wager. It’s that simple. Once everyone has made their wager, the live dealer will begin dealing cards. First, they will deal one card to each player, and then one to themselves. The cards dealt to the players will be face up, and the card dealt to themselves will be face down. Then, another card will be dealt to each player, once again face up, and the dealer will deal themselves one more card, but this time it will be face up. Once everyone has been dealt their hand, the game can begin.
The dealer starts with the player on their left, which will be on your right when you’re looking at the screen. They ask what the player would like to do. From here, there are five different choices that you can make. Here's an image from our very own Classic Blackjack, showing how the table is dealt clockwise from the dealer's left.
The first choice that you can make is to stand. This is the simplest choice possible. It means that you just take your hand as it is. If you are dealt a hand that is worth 20, then most people will decide to stand on that hand because it’s a good score.
The second choice that is possible is to hit. Hit means to get another card. If you have a score of 5, then you’re going to want to hit because not many people have ever won a game of blackjack with a 5. You can hit as many times as you want – the number of cards you take only stops when you go over 21. As long as you don’t go bust, you can keep asking the dealer to hit you.
The next choice you have is to double down. Doubling down is a more advanced tactic that some players use. If you have a reasonably good hand, then you can choose to double your bet on the proviso that once you have done this, you will take one more card and no more. The dealer will then deal you one more card and you have to stand after this. Some casinos also allow you to double for less, which is where you don’t actually double your bet but just add some extra to it. This isn’t always available though, so be aware that if you double down, some casinos will automatically class it as an extra 100% of your bet.
The next choice is another more advanced tactic: split. If you are dealt a pair, and in blackjack all face cards are considered the same as each other, then you are allowed to split them into two hands. It is similar to doubling down in that you will need to place an additional wager equal to your original stake down, but you then have two hands with which to play. Once you have done this, the dealer will give you an extra card for each hand and then you play as normal on each hand. Depending on the rules of the casino, you may be allowed to split more than once if you are dealt another pair – some allow splitting up to three times and some allow it only once.
The final choice that you have is to surrender. If you’re dealt a hand that you’re not particularly keen on, then you can choose to surrender the hand. When this occurs, the dealer takes back the cards and gives you back half of your wager. While it may seem like a non-starter of a choice, if you feel like you’re not going to be able to do anything with the hand that you’re dealt, then it makes sense to get half of your stake back rather than lose all of it. Always check the table rules for each game before you play to check whether or not it's possible for you to surrender.
When should I use these options?
When it comes to the first option, if you have a hand that you feel confident can win, then it makes sense to stand. This will allow you to avoid the possibility of going bust from adding extra cards to your hand.
If you have a hand that is relatively low, then it makes sense to hit. Adding extra cards to your hand allows you to get closer to 21. If you are given a hand that is worth 3, then you have almost no chance of winning and it makes sense to hit.
Doubling down is a slightly different proposition. It all depends on the personal feeling that you have about the hand that you’ve been dealt. If you’re supremely confident, then by all means double down, but if you have any elements of doubt, then it is most likely best to not do it.
Splitting is only available if you have been dealt a pair. Again, it depends on how you feel personally. Splitting a pair of face cards gives you two hands with a 10, but you’re also giving up a score of 20. Personal tactics dictate whether you think it is worth splitting or not. Some games allow for the opportunity to double down after a split – this can be very rewarding if you drop lucky.
Surrendering your hand should be carried out if you’re really not happy with what you’ve been dealt. It makes a lot more sense to get back half of your stake than to lose it all if you’re not confident with the cards that you received.
While the options available may seem intimidating at first, blackjack is certainly one of the most straightforward and rewarding games to pick up and play, and can give big paydays to skilled players. The best way to improve is simply to play, so try your hand at it today by signing up to Bitcasino and taking advantage of the huge selection of games on offer.
Words: Sean Mcnulty