Understanding Blackjack


In the world of casino games, Blackjack holds a significant place due to its unique blend of skill, strategy, and luck. This game, which is based on a similar card game called ’21’, is played globally, and it has seen an increase in popularity since the advent of online casinos.

The allure of Blackjack lies in its simplicity, yet it requires a keen understanding of probability and strategy to master. In our guide, we will break down the game of Blackjack so that you can confidently step onto the casino floor or log into your favourite online casino.

Blackjack is a game that blends chance and strategy in an alluring way. It is a game that can be quickly understood but takes time to master. Remember, while strategies can help, gambling should always be done responsibly. So, whether you’re keen on trying your hand at a physical casino or prefer the comfort of online gaming, remember to enjoy the game and make the most out of the experience. And as always – never bet money you can´t afford to lose.

History of Blackjack

The origins of Blackjack can be traced back to the 16th century in Spain, where a similar game called ‘Ventiuna’ was played. The name means twenty-one. Over the centuries, the game evolved and was influenced by various cultures.

A version of 21 was renamed ‘Blackjack’ in gambling halls in the United States, where a special payout was given for a hand containing the Ace of Spades and a blackjack. Back then, many gambling establishments were experimenting with special payouts to make their games more exciting and enticing, and you there were for instance tables where you would get a special payout for the 21-point hand 7-7-7 as well.

Since then, the rule about the Black Jack has been modified and most 21st century casinos will give you a special payout if you win with a hand consiting of any ace + any ten-point card, a combination which is today considered a blackjack.

Understanding the Blackjack Basics

The objective of Blackjack is straightforward; the aim is to have a better hand than the dealer. You are playing against the dealer, not against the other players at the table.

The best hand is one that is worth 21 points. If a hand “goes over”, i.e. is worth 22 points or more, it is automatically a losing hand.

If a hand is worth 21 points because it consists of 1 ace + 1 ten-point card, it is a blackjack and it will outrank any other hand worth 21 points that is not a blackjack.

Point system

  • In Blackjack, the cards from 2 to 10 are worth their face value in points. A deuce is worth 2 points, a seven is worth 7 points, and so on.
  • The face cards (King, Queen, Jack) are valued at 10 points each.
  • Aces can be counted as either 1 point or 11 points, depending on what is best for the hand at any given moment.

Playing a round of blackjack

Each game begins with each player placing their bet.

Each player will receive two cards; both face up. Depending on the table rules, the dealer will give herself one card face up, or two cards where one is face up and the other is face down.

Players now decide their next move. A player can ‘hit’ (request another card), ‘stand’ (keep their current hand), or ‘double down’ (double their bet and receive only one more card). If the hand consists of two cards of the same value, the player can place an additional bet and split them into two hands.

As long as a player´s hand does not reach 21 points, the player can continue to ask for more cards. If it reaches 22 points or more, it has “gone over” and will be removed from the game, together with the bet. I key feature of blackjack is therefore to know when to stop asking for more cards. It is tempting to ask for another card, hoping to get closer to 21 points, but it is also risky if your hand is already worth 12 points or more since you risk going over.

When all players have completed their decisions, it is time for the dealer to play her hand. The dealer will not make decisions; she will give herself cards based on strict rules. Typically, these rules are written at the table, e.g. “Dealer will hit on 16 and stand on soft 17”. (This means that if the dealer´s hand is 16 points or less, she must give herself another card. If the hand is 17 points or more, she must stop. Soft denotes a hand that includes an Ace worth 11 points.)

Strategies to Win

While chance plays a significant role, employing a well-planned strategy can significantly increase your odds of being a profitable Blackjack player, especially over time. The most well-known strategy is the ‘Basic Strategy’. This strategy involves making the best decision based on your hand and the dealer’s up card. Using this strategy, each possible hand is accounted for, and the corresponding move is calculated to yield the highest potential return.

Card counting is another prevalent strategy in Blackjack. It typically involves keeping track of the ratio of low to high-value cards remaining in the deck. A deck is rich in high-value cards favours the player, while low-value cards favour the dealer. But remember, while card counting isn’t illegal, casinos frown upon it, and you may be asked to leave if you’re caught.

Note: Today, many casinos use automatic shuffle machines and will put the cards back into the machine after each round, which makes it pointless to count cards.

Tips to Remember

1. A basic technique is to always assume the dealer’s second card will be a 10-point card. Statistically, there are many cards worth 10 in the deck, since tens, jacks, queens, and kings are all worth 10 points each.

2. Do not take the ‘insurance bet’. If the dealer´s first card is an Ace, the dealer will offer you to purchase insurance. This is essentially a side bet that pays out if the dealer gets a blackjack. Statistically, it is not a good bet for the player.

3. Practice makes perfect. Many online casinos offer free games where you play using play-money instead of real money. They are perfect for honing strategies and understanding the nuances of the game.