Blackjack

On the whole, blackjack is a fairly simple game. Players count on a mix of luck and skill in order to win – luck to receive the ideal cards and skill to know what to do with them.

A common misconception of blackjack is that you have to score as close to 21 as possible. While this does help, your goal is actually to have a higher score than the dealer without going over 21.

A Casino Classic

  • Blackjack's popularity comes from its simplicity
  • Blackjack's origin stems from a French game vingt-et-un
  • Many variations of blackjack have appeared in online casinos
  • A strategy guide can increase likelihood of winning
Blackjack Table Hands at a blackjack table

Beating Blackjack

In order to have the best chances doing this consistently, there are few things to take into consideration. There's the set up of the game, different variations which include side bets and even progressive jackpots, and of course blackjack strategy which can improve your chances of winning.

Taking all these things into consideration can give blackjack one of lowest house edges of all casino games. To see this for yourself, we recommend reading the strategy section below and particularly the charts that can be found there.

Things to Remember to increase your odds of winning

  • The object of blackjack is to get a higher score than the dealer without going over 21.
  • The house edge of blackjack standard blackjack varies from 0.13% up to 0.6%.
  • Side bets and other variations are available but tend to increase the game's house edge, so stick to standard game.
  • You can only use basic blackjack strategy online but following it can reduce house edge.
  • Basic blackjack strategy demands self control. It may sound simple, but it's easier said than done.
  • Single deck blackjack games invariably offer the best odds in the players' favour.

Where to Play the Best Single Deck Blackjack

It's somewhat of a myth that all single deck blackjack games offer the player better odds. A number of single deck variations payout 6 to 5 to counter the players' advantage, especially at bricks and mortar casinos. However, we're pleased to reveal that the single deck game at Intercasino, Bet365 and Ladbrokes casino pay 3 to 2 on a natural and although the dealer hits on soft 17 they still represent the best deal for players.

Single Deck Blackjack at Intercasino Single deck blackjack at Intercasino - Simple and offers the best odds to the player

Blackjack's a Better Bet Online

When the first online casinos began to emerge in the mid to late 1990s, blackjack was amongst the first batch of casino games that was offered. Even in mobile casinos, which have only recently emerged and consist of a limited number of games, blackjack has become omnipresent.

The transition of blackjack from the casino floor to the internet has opened up the game to a whole new generation and market, further solidifying its reputation as one of the world's most popular gambling games. Why? Here's why...

  • Online you can play blackjack at your own speed. If you like a fast game you can call the cards much faster than on the casino floor.
  • Equally, if you like a more leisurely game there's no obligation to hurry your decisions as there are no other players (unless you are playing multiplayer, a tournament or both).
  • There are so many more variations online. UK land based casinos rarely have any blackjack sidebets but online there are all sorts and even progressive jackpots.
  • Live dealer, multi-hand and multiplayer versions of the game provide players with the option of a more social, near-land-based experience
  • Basic blackjack strategy can be easily implemented without having to memorise the table yourself.
  • With a strategy, you can reduce house edge to around 0.04% compared to around 0.14% in land based casinos.

From Vingt-et-un to Vegas

Example blackjack games Just a small example of the different blackjack variations you can find at online casinos

General consensus is that blackjack is an adaptation of a French card game named vingt-et-un. This game is still played in places today and is extremely similar to blackjack with the exception of the fact that players around the table take turns to act as the dealer.

The first records of vingt-et-un being played hail from the 17th century but it wasn't until the early 1800s that it appeared in casinos outside of France – even then it wasn't very popular.

In a bid to get more people playing vingt-et-un in America, a bonus was added for when players received an ace of spades and a jack of clubs or a jack of spades. The payout for receiving these cards was a generous 10:1 and it was named a blackjack. Unfortunately this huge payout hasn't been used for some time but the name has remained.

Over the years, we have seen the creation of more and more variations of blackjack. Games developers have continually risen to the challenge of adding more entertainment to a game that's pretty basic in its original form – mostly by means of adding one or more side bets.

Games such as Perfect Pairs Blackjack, High Streak Blackjack, Hi Lo 13 Blackjack and Bonus Blackjack are just some of the many blackjack variations that can be found in online casinos. So rest assured that if you do somehow manage to get bored of regular blackjack, there are plenty more options available. A word of warning though, side bets that include large payouts will usually increase the overall house edge of the game.

How to Play Blackjack

Even if you've played blackjack before it's always helpful to remind yourself of what to expect when playing this popular game.

It shouldn't take long as blackjack can be a fairly simple game, especially when you're playing it in an online casino without the distractions of a busy casino floor.

Blackjack basics to know

  • Online blackjack allows you to get to grips with the game at your own pace
  • It's an easy game once you know the basics
  • Take time out to learn basic blackjack strategy; it works and makes the game much more enjoyable.
  • The differences between blackjack versions are mainly the amount of decks, the payout on a natural blackjack and when the dealer has to draw and side bets
  • As the game includes a relatively large amount of skill, there's simply no better feeling than coming out of a blackjack session up on the house

Blackjack Game Play Narrative

Once you've found your casino, loaded your account and got a bonus, you're ready to go. Below is a brief guide that takes you through every step of playing a blackjack hand online.

  1. Select the amount that you want to bet by clicking on the chips or appropriate buttons.
  2. Click deal and watch as your two cards are dealt as well as the dealer's first card face up and second card face down.
  3. You will then be given the option to hit or stand and, where applicable, split or double. At this point consult the basic blackjack strategy table.
  4. Repeat this process until you stand, bust or win blackjack or the dealer gets blackjack or busts.
  5. Watch as the dealer reveals their second card and continues to draw cards (depending on the version you're playing) to 16 or stand on [soft] 17 etc.

Selecting a Blackjack Game

Example Blackjack versions Example of the different versions of blackjack you might come across at an online casino - believe us, this is just a small sample!

As it's so simple, actually playing the game can be the easy part. The fact that there's such a great variety of games available in online casinos is without doubt a good thing. However, it can create confusion when it comes to selecting which game you want to play.

Just to confuse things even more, online casinos can have different names for what are essentially the same blackjack games. Simply finding a game of straightforward blackjack can be tricky.

For casinos that don't have a game under that name then Classic Blackjack, European Blackjack and Las Vegas Blackjack are likely to be the most familiar options and in our opinion the best.

To help find the ideal blackjack game for you, we've compiled a short list of different versions of the game, where to find them, rules for those games and blackjack variations to stay away from.

Blackjack games we recommend you play

  • Single Deck
    • Even though the Intercasino version of this game the dealer draws to soft 17s and stands on hard 17s and has a hole card (second card dealt face down), it still represents one of the best value blackjack games out there.
  • Vegas Strip Blackjack
    • Played on four decks, dealer stands on soft 17, has a hole card but allows resplitting up to three times.
    • Excellent version with a small house edge.
    • The Microgaming version can be found at 32Red and Ladbrokes casino.
  • Atlantic City Blackjack
    • Played on eight decks the dealer stands on a soft 17
    • Player doubles on any first two cards and like Vegas Strip, resplitting up to a maximum of three hands is allowed.
    • This game can be found at 32 Red and Ladbrokes casino.
  • European Blackjack
    • Another classic from Microgaming.
    • European blackjack is played over two decks
    • The dealer standing on soft 17s the fact that you can't resplit and only double on 9, 10 and 11
    • Still gives this game a house edge of just 0.39%.
  • Blackjack Switch
    • Players can switch their top two cards on each hand, double on any hand, resplit up to four times, but the dealer hits soft 17.
    • The payout on a natural is a meagre 1 to 1.
    • However, the extremely low house edge of 0.16% makes this game a ‘must play'.
    • Play this game at Bet365.

Blackjack games and rules to steer clear from

  • Double Exposure Blackjack
    • Double Exposure doubles the house edge...well nearly.
    • The dealer draws on a soft 17 and you can resplit up to four hands and doubling after splitting is allowed.
    • However, this good news is tempered by the evens payout on all wins including a natural.
  • 6 to 5
    • Any version that pays 6 to 5 isn't worth looking at.
    • This contemptible payout pushes up the house edge to 1.39%! Take a hike.
  • Dealer Hit on Soft 17
    • Unless it's tempered by something in the players' favour stay away from any blackjack variation where the dealer hits on a soft 17.
  • Only Double on 10 and 11
    • Any blackjack variation that has this rule isn't worth its salt. Stay away.

There's no doubt that the games listed in our play category will help your pocket compared to other less ‘player-friendly' games. That said, we recommend you also consider game speed, live blackjack, 3D, HD, table layout, colour and multi player variations. Of course gambling is about winning, but there's also a lot to be said for just enjoying yourself and if you lose what you can afford to lose (not what you can't) and have fun, we're sure blackjack will become one of your favourite casino games.

Blackjack Rules

As blackjack is such a popular game it's very likely that you already know the basic rules and how to play it.

However, in this section we're going to help you brush up on your knowledge of this extremely exciting casino game.

While the basic aim of the game is simple, there are more betting options and rule variants than most players realise. At one point or another, players will have the option to surrender, take insurance, split and double down.

By making sure that you know all of the rules, you're providing yourself with the best chance of winning in the short to medium term.

Simple Blackjack Points

  • The aim of blackjack is to beat the dealer's hand without going over 21
  • Players either hit (ask for another card) or stand (don't ask for another card)
  • Wins offer a payout of 1:1, or 3:2 in the case of a blackjack
  • In some games, the dealer must stand on 17; it is useful to know when this rule applies
  • Aces can be either one or eleven, while face cards carry a value of ten

Blackjack Basics

The aim of the game is to beat the dealer. You do this by gaining a blackjack score that is closer to 21 than the dealer's, without going over. If your cards do exceed 21 then you're bust and you lose your bet. A winning score will result in a win of 1:1 unless you get a natural blackjack (an ace and a picture card) in which case you win at odds of 3:2.

We highly recommend that you check out the rules of the online blackjack game that you're about to play before you do so. The reason for this is that rules can vary with regards to when the dealer must take a card. Some blackjack rules dictate that the dealer must stand when he has a score of 17 or higher, while a small number of games allow the dealer to hit on 17.

To create a blackjack score, you add the values of the cards that have been dealt together. The blackjack card values are listed below:

  • 2-10 = face value
  • Picture cards = 10
  • Ace = 1 or 11

An ace can be 1 or 11 depending on which value provides you with a better score. In general an ace will count as 11 unless that would render your hand bust, in which case it will carry a value of 1.

Player Options

Hit or stand Hit or Stand? The eternal blackjack dilemma

Once you've been dealt your cards, there are various options available to you. The most common of these are below:

  • Hit – when you ask for another card
  • Stand – when you don't require any more cards

However, depending on what cards you were dealt, you may also get the option to split, double, get insurance or surrender.

Whilst you can get along by just using these terms, to fully understand what's going on and to give yourself the best chance of winning, we highly recommend that you have a look through the blackjack phrases and terms listed below.

Push
When the dealer and player have the same score and the hand is a tie. Your bet is returned to you.
Blackjack
The best possible hand available in blackjack. It consists of an ace and any picture card. It usually pays out at 3:2 but in rare instances this can vary.
Double
A player has the option to double their original bet if they feel that one more card will be enough to beat the dealer's hand. See our blackjack strategy guide for more information.
Some online casinos allow you to double when you have any two cards while others limit doubling hands to when you have values of 9, 10 and 11.
Split
When a player's first two cards are the same, they are given the option to split them into two separate hands. In online casinos, the original bet you placed before the split is added to your second hand.
The two hands are then played separately, with the usual blackjack rules applying. In some online blackjack variations, players are even allowed to re-split as well as double after they've split.
Surrender
The least common option in blackjack. In fact, very few casinos offer this. Surrendering allows a player to give up their hand and get half their bet back if they aren't happy with their first two cards.
Insurance
By far, insurance is the least player-friendly bet in blackjack. Insurance is offered when the dealer's first card is an ace and gives the player the chance to take insurance on the dealer drawing a blackjack. The insurance ‘premium' is half your original bet. If the dealer does get blackjack then insurance is paid at 2:1 (unless it's a push).

Rule Variations

Blackjack table showing rules of the game The rules of a blackjack game are usually displayed clearly on the table

The way that the dealer acts is governed by some very strict rules that affect your chances of winning.

Of these rules, most are the same across all blackjack games but there are a few that can be changed. The most significant of these to a player is what total the dealer can stand on. Here there are two main variations.

  1. Dealer will hit on all numbers up to and including soft 17s (a soft 17 is when the hand involves no ace or the ace has a value of 1).
  2. Dealer hits on all numbers up to and including 16 but stands on all 17s.

Of these two variations, the latter benefits the player more with the house edge being reduced by about 0.2%.

The number of decks is also an issue that changes things. However, when playing online blackjack the impact of this difference is reduced greatly as the cards are automatically shuffled after every hand. Even so, it's still slightly preferable to play a blackjack game with fewer decks – but perhaps that's just our old habits.

Some blackjack games can even change the payout received for blackjack, reducing it from 3:2 to 6:5. We consider this pretty stingy so would recommend you steer well clear of any blackjack variation that pays 6:5 on blackjack.

Blackjack Strategy

If you've seen films such as Rain Man and 21, you may think that card counting is the way to go when it comes to online blackjack.

Unfortunately, that's not true. In 99% of the online blackjack games, the dealer shuffles the cards after each hand, making it impossible to count cards.

Blackjack Top Tips

  • Don't under any circumstances play when the blackjack payout is less than 3/2.
  • Use a basic blackjack strategy when playing online – it can reduce the casino's edge on the game
  • Side bets often look great but they usually increase the overall house edge of the game – for the best chance of winning, avoid them.
  • Double down on 11 and always split aces and eights.
  • To reduce house edge further follow our doubling, splitting and surrendering tips in this guide.
  • Single deck blackjack invariably offers the best odds in the player's favour.
  • Strategies such as ‘never bust' and ‘copy the dealer' should never be used
  • Forget advanced blackjack strategy when playing online blackjack. It's impossible

Basic Blackjack Strategy

We are, of course, talking about basic blackjack strategy. The method is all about the maths of the game and when to make the right decisions to improve your chances of winning. It's not cheating; it's just following a set of predefined rules based on your cards and the dealer's up card.

The easiest way to use this basic blackjack strategy chart is to have it to hand when you're actually playing the game. But if you're keen on your revision then you may prefer to take it all in now so you're ready to hit the tables safe in the knowledge that you're making all the right decisions.

The left hand column refers the value of your cards while the top column is the dealer's up card.

You have: The Dealer is showing a:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
Key: H = HIT | D = DOUBLE | S = STAND | SP = SPLIT
5 to 8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
11 D D D D D D D D D H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 or 14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 or 16 S S S S S H H H H H
17 to 21 S S S S S S S S S S
13 or 14 (soft) H H H D D H H H H H
15 or 16 (soft) H H D D D H H H H H
17 (soft) H D D D D H H H H H
18 (soft) S D D D D S S H H H
19 or 20 (soft) S S S S S S S S S S
A, A or A, A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
2,2 or 3,3 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
4,4 H H H SP SP H H H H H
5,5 D D D D D D D D H H
6,6 SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
7,7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
8,8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
9,9 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP S S
10,10 S S S S S S S S S S

Good Blackjack Strategies and Tips

For those that think following a strict basic blackjack strategy table can be a lot of effort and take some of the spontaneity out of the game, we've compiled a simple set of rules you can follow which are easier to remember. These are as follows:

  • Hitting/Standing
    • Never stand on soft 17 unless the dealer's up card is a 3, 4, 5 or 6.
    • Never stand on 11 or less.
    • Stand on 17 (as long as it isn't soft).
  • Doubling Down
    • Always double down on 11.
    • Double down on 10 unless the dealer holds a 10 or a face card.
    • Be more inclined to double when dealer's card is 4-6.
  • Splitting
    • Always split aces and 8s.
    • As much as you think it's a good idea, never split 10s.
    • Never split 4s and 5s.
  • Surrendering
    • When dealer stands on soft 17, only surrender on 15 or 16 when the dealer's card is 10.
    • When dealer hits on soft 17, surrender on 15 when the dealer's card is 10 or a face card.
    • When dealer hits on soft 17, surrender on 16 when the dealer's card is 9, 10 or a face card.

Bad Blackjack Strategies

Never Bust

As the name suggests, this strategy consists of ensuring that you don't go over 21 or even anywhere near it by ensuring that a player never hits a hard 12 or more. It's a nice theory considering the ‘you've got to be in it to win it' phrase but unfortunately following this strategy means you're relying on the dealer busting and reducing your chances of beating the dealer's hand.

Copy the Dealer

This is even worse than the previous strategy and works on the theory that you should play exactly as the dealer does. This means if the dealer has to stand on soft 17 then so do you and that you don't split or double when the opportunity arises. This is certainly a blackjack strategy to be avoided.

Avoid Side Bets

While not technically a strategy, we would also recommend avoiding the more expansive blackjack side bets that can be found in numerous variations of the game. If a casino is prepared to pay out a large sum for a side bet win, the chances are that they're recouping those losses elsewhere in the game and most likely on the bet itself. Because of this it's not uncommon for blackjack games with side bets to have a larger overall house edge than the more standard versions of the game. That said, blackjack games with a progressive jackpot you need to place the side bet so we'll leave that decision to you. Just remember the odds aren't in your favour.

Amaya Blackjack Strategy

You have: The Dealer is showing a:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
Key: H = HIT | D = DOUBLE | S = STAND | SP = SPLIT
5 to 8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
11 D D D D D D D D D H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 or 14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 (not 8s) S S S S S H H H H H
17 to 21 S S S S S S S S S S
A, 2 or A, 3 H H H D D H H H H H
A,4 or A,5 H H D D D H H H H H
A,6 H D D D D H H H H H
A,7 S D D D D S S H H H
A,8 or A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
2,2 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
3,3 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
4,4 H H H SP SP H H H H H
5,5 D D D D D D D D H H
6,6 SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
7,7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
8,8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
9,9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
T,T S S S S S S S S S S
A,A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP H H

Microgaming Blackjack Strategy

You have: The Dealer is showing a:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
Key: H = HIT | D = DOUBLE | S = STAND | SP = SPLIT
5 to 8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 D D D D D H H H H H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
11 D D D D D D D D H H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 or 14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 (not 8s) S S S S S H H H H H
17 to 21 S S S S S S S S S S
A, 2 or A, 3 H H H H H H H H H H
A,4 or A,5 H H H H H H H H H H
A,6 H H H H H H H H H H
A,7 S S S S S S S H H S
A,8 or A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
2,2 H SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
3,3 H H SP SP SP SP H H H H
4,4 H H H H H H H H H H
5,5 D D D D D D D D H H
6,6 SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
7,7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H S H
8,8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP H H
9,9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
T,T S S S S S S S S S S
A,A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP

Playtech Blackjack Strategy

You have: The Dealer is showing a:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
Key: H = HIT | D = DOUBLE | S = STAND | SP = SPLIT
5 to 8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
11 D D D D D D D D D H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 or 14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 (not 8s) S S S S S H H H H H
17 to 21 S S S S S S S S S S
A, 2 or A, 3 H H H D D H H H H H
A,4 or A,5 H H D D D H H H H H
A,6 H D D D D H H H H H
A,7 S D D D D S S H H H
A,8 or A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
2,2 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
3,3 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
4,4 H H H SP SP H H H H H
5,5 D D D D D D D D H H
6,6 SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
7,7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
8,8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP H H
9,9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
T,T S S S S S S S S S S
A,A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP H H

Blackjack Tournaments

Online blackjack isn't often associated with tournament play; however offline blackjack tournaments in your local casino (if you have one) are second only to slots in popularity.

Normal game rules apply but instead of your cash positive or cash negative position at the end of the game going in (or out of) your pocket, it's reflected in a score and compared to other players. The player with the biggest score at the end of the tournament walks away with the top prize.

Blackjack Tournament feed An example of upcoming blackjack tournaments you may find at most online casinos

Things to know about blackjack tournaments

  • Blackjack tournaments are fairly common in online casinos
  • The objective is to win more chips than other players before the time limit expires
  • Blackjack tournaments may either be scheduled or sit and go
  • Scheduled tournaments generally have bigger prizes

Players pay an entry fee (or buy in as it's called), enter into a tournament and play non-stop for a predetermined amount of time. The same applies online as it does offline. However, online you may be playing at a single seat blackjack table instead of a multiplayer table. Given the choice, always opt for the single seat table.

The nice thing about blackjack tournaments is that you're competing against other players and not the dealer. Because of this, casinos use tournaments to provide a multiplayer feel to the game and have been known to draw in significant numbers of players. This isn't hard to believe when you consider the prize pools can be as big as £20,000 with buy ins as low as just £2.

The two main styles of tournament are scheduled and sit and go. There are pros and cons of each but the below table will help you pick the right one for you.

Scheduled Tournaments
Pre-determined start time
Large prize pools
Take place over extended periods of time
Not likely to exceed one per day
Sit and Go Tournaments
Begin as soon as there are enough people to play
Smaller prize pools
Last no longer than 1 hour
Many take place every day