Blackjack is without question the most popular table game in modern land-based casino gaming. And it’s really popular with online gamers, too. Blackjack is widely regarded as the best and “safest” casino game to play in terms of theoretical return to player. In other words, the house edge in Blackjack is low enough that many players feel more comfortable risking their money at the blackjack tables than in other games of chance.
Here is a free online blackjack game you can play. Use it to practice your blackjack skills and to get a feel for what it is like to play blackjack at an online casino. There are, of course, two kinds of online table games. One is automated like this game. But some casinos also offer “live” tables where a real dealer runs the game for you via video. We do recommend that if you play a “live” table game that you respect the dealer on the other side of the video feed. Some players behave really badly toward the dealers. They are there to help you enjoy the game, not to be the subjects of verbal abuse.
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How To Play Blackjack for Beginners
While millions of people around the world love this game, there is always someone who is just starting out. Don’t feel bad. It won’t take you long to master the basics.
In a game of Blackjack you are only playing against the dealer no matter how many other people are in the game. The number of players at a table can affect the probabilities of the card draws but that is not a competitive element in the game, like in Poker.
Your goal is to collect enough cards in your hand to beat the dealer’s hand, or to match the dealer’s hand, without going above a score of 21.
The face cards (King, Queen, and Jack) all count ten points each. The number cards all have the same point value as their numbers.
The Ace is a special card in blackjack. Its value will be either one or eleven points depending on what else you hold in your hand.
To begin play the dealer passes out cards to each player at the table and himself, one card per person. Hence, there are two rounds of card deals before play begins.
When you are dealt an Ace and any 10-point card you have “a blackjack”. You need no other cards. Either you beat the dealer or you and the dealer have the same value hand. The dealer cannot draw any more cards against you. The dealer will pay you if you beat his hand or return your bet if you both have 21.
Game play may continue between the dealer and other players at the table.
If the dealer draws a “21” and your first two cards have a value less than 21 you lose. The dealer takes your bet and you have to wait for the next hand.
The dealer plays against each hand on the table in turn. You are asked if you want to “hit” (receive another card) or “stand” (stop receiving cards for that hand). Once you are finished playing your hands the dealer moves on to the next player.
When the last player’s hand has been completed the dealer then either stands with 17 or higher or draws cards until he wins, pushes, or busts. To “bust” in Blackjack means you drew 1 too many cards and your point value went over 21.
You lose when you bust whether you are a dealer or a player.
Although most people play blackjack with a single 52-card deck at home, casinos usually put several decks of cards into a “shoe” at each table. 6-deck and 8-deck shoes are common.
Dealers Play by Their Own Set of Rulers
Unlike other card games where everyone plays by the same rules, blackjack dealers are required to stop drawing cards when their hands equal 17 or more. They are also not allowed to split their hands if they draw two cards of the same point value.
Players can split hands when they are dealt two of a kind (although the casinos may limit this kind of play with per-table rules). Players can also take more cards when they reach 17 points.
Why don’t casinos let their dealers play by the same rules as the players? The casinos use conservative rules to limit the playing styles of their dealers. This makes the game more fair and predictable for the players. Also, drawing more cards is risky and could cost the casinos money. Hence, their dealers are not their to show off their blackjack skills, they are just there to run the games.
Should You Play Like a Dealer?
Many new players learn how to play blackjack by watching the dealer and asking the dealer questions. This is good insofar as it goes. But even though there is more risk in taking “hits” (receiving more cards), your chances of winning against the dealer improve when you do NOT play by the same rules as the dealer.
Your goal is not to match the dealer’s hand but to beat it. If the dealer draws 17 and you draw 17 then all you can hope for if you don’t take another card is to get your bet back (the “push”). If you want to win against a dealer 17 you have to take a chance and draw another card.
What Is Splitting in Blackjack?
When you are dealt two cards of the same point value, the casino’s table rules may allow you to split the cards into two new hands. This means you can lay down another bet and draw cards against both hands. The dealer will give you one new card for each of your hands.
You must play out one hand before you can finish the other. You cannot move back and forth between the two hands.
Players use different strategies in Blackjack. If you don’t know much about the game and you want to try splitting, here are some popular guidelines more experienced players suggest to new players.
Always Split Aces Even if you are dealt more Aces, keep splitting them. Aces are the best and safest cards to have in Blackjack.
Always Split Eights Eight-point cards are considered to be good mid-range cards.
Never Split Fours, Fives, or Tens The reasons behind this advice come down to the basic probabilities. There are only so many cards in the shoe and your chances of busting are better when you split these kinds of pairs.
What Is Doubling Down in Blackjack?
Sometimes players will “double down”. This means they want to double their bets. They agree to accept only one more card when they double down.
If you are holding 12 points and you decide to double down, you could draw an Ace. That means you stand on 13 and have to hope the dealer busts.
What is Card Counting in Blackjack?
Because blackjack is based on probabilities, some people try to count cards. They want to guess when the shoe has a lot of high value cards left and when the shoe has a lot of low-value cards left.
Although there is no law against card counting the casinos do not like card counters because they can win a lot of money over days, weeks, or months if they go unchecked.
Card counters often reveal themselves by making more aggressive or more timid bets as the card count in the shoes approaches zero. If a casino thinks you are counting cards it may change out the shoe or reshuffle the cards more frequently to frustrate you.
If the casino believes you are successfully counting cards despite their counter measures they may ask you to leave. In the worst-case scenario you will be placed on a blacklist an not allowed to game at that casino again.
What Kinds of Strategies Do Players Use in Blackjack?
There are many strategies both in terms of playing the cards and making wagers. Wagering strategies are more about managing money. Remember that if you increase and lower your bets in an abnormal way the casinos may think you are counting cards.
You can learn more about strategies for how to play the cards in blackjack by studying this Blackjack strategy chart. Don’t worry if it seems overwhelming at first. You can take your time and test some of the ideas you find in it through our free-play game above.