Blackjack Beginner´s Guide
If you know anything about casino games, you must have heard of blackjack before, as it is the number one most-played casino game in the world. As a result, we can find many forms of online blackjack nowadays, which all require differences in strategies and risk-taking behaviour.
At Casino Mango, our expert reviewers give advice on the best places to play the most enjoyable variants of online blackjack for real money. For people that are unfamiliar to the game, we have written an easy-to-read guide on the rules, history, and strategies for blackjack.
A Brief History
Although there is some disagreement among experts about the roots of the game of Blackjack, most signs though point too early 18th century French casinos, where it was known as Vingt-et-Un, which is French for twenty-one. During the centuries the game has advanced into one of the most popular casino games in existence, together with roulette and baccarat.
There are three ways to win in blackjack:
- The player has 21 points on the first two cards while the dealer does not
- The dealer draws to a total point value higher than 21 while the player does not
- The player has a total point value closer to 21 (without exceeding it) than the dealer
If both the player and the dealer have the same final score, the hand is considered a ‘push’, and the player will get his bet back in full. With few exceptions, these are always the main objectives in blackjack.
One of the most interesting things about blackjack is that, when played perfectly, the house edge is very low compared to other casino games like roulette or baccarat. Whereas the usual ‘vig’ in roulette is around 5%, the edge in blackjack can be as low as 0,28% when played flawlessly in the best variant.
Although the game can get very advanced from a strategic point of view, even when playing a very basic strategy the house edge will not exceed 1%. Therefore, it is a very interesting option for anybody who wants to keep the disadvantage of playing against the casino as low as possible.
In general, all face cards are worth 10 points, an ace is worth either 1 or 11 points, and all other cards are counted as the numeric value of that card. Since the ace has 2 different values, a hand can have a ‘hard’ and a ‘soft’ value. A ‘soft’ hand is any hand that includes an ace and cannot exceed 21 by taking one additional card. In general, a ‘hard’ hand is any hand that can exceed 21 points by one card.
A hand of blackjack will start with the dealing of the two cards to the player and the dealer. Only one card of the dealer will be ‘face up’, meaning the player will not know the exact value of the dealer’s card. After that, the player generally has 4 options:
- Hit: the player will be dealt another card that adds to his point total
- Stand: the player will stick with the total points of your first two cards
- Double Down: the player will double their bet and take exactly one more card
- Split: this option is only possible when the player received two cards of identical point value. The two cards will be separated and will be played as two separate, independent hands.
Additionally, some variants will allow a fifth action: surrender. When the dealer has a much better-looking hand than the player does, he will be able to give up his hand in return for half of his bet. A player is usually allowed to hit as many times as they like until they hit a ‘hard’ 20.
Most variations of blackjack offer the player the option to take insurance when the dealer has an Ace as the face-up card. Taking insurance is treated as independent of the main bet, and pays twice the amount of the price of taking the insurance.
Although taking insurance on itself is a negative value bet, this side bet enables the player to reduce the volatility of the hand. This is because the outcomes of the two bets being strongly negatively correlated. In simple terms, it means that when a player loses the main bet, the chances of winning the insurance bet is very high, and vice versa.
The most important rule variation in blackjack is whether the dealer must stand or hit on a soft 17. For the player, it is better for the dealer to hit on a soft 17 because the house edge is slightly lower (approximately 0.2%) compared to the dealer standing on a soft 17. As such, we would recommend our players to always play online blackjack at a casino that offers a ‘dealer hits on a soft 17’ variant.
The second most important rule variation is the number of card decks that are used. Both in a brick-and-mortar casino as well as online casinos, the general range is anywhere between one and eight decks in use. This number is important, because the more decks are used, the higher the house edge becomes.
To complete the top three, a player should always check the pay-out for hitting blackjack before choosing a game. Generally, hitting blackjack pays 3 to 1, but often casinos change the pay-out in their favour to either 6 to 5 or 1 to 1. Since this has a considerable effect on the house edge, we strongly recommend our players to pick an online blackjack game that pays 3 to 2.
Late and Early Surrender
When a casino offers players the option to surrender, it is usually not allowed to do so when the dealer has blackjack. This means the dealer will have to check their hole card whenever their open card is an ace or a ten. This is referred to as a ‘late surrender’.
The ‘early surrender’ is simply the option to surrender before the dealer checks for blackjack. In general, we would recommend playing games that offer this variant, as it is more favourable to the player. The correct strategy in either variant is to surrender most medium-card hands when the dealer’s open card is an ace.
In addition to these main rule differences, there are a lot of other small variants of the game. Some casinos allow their players to ‘double’ after splitting, while others do not. Additionally, re-splitting aces is sometimes allowed, whereas it is not permitted in other places. Luckily, all the variations are usually clearly displayed on the (virtual) felt.
Why To Play Online Blackjack
Blackjack is the game of choice for any gambler that likes to keep the casino edge as low as possible. Although the game can get very complex from a strategic standpoint, learning a basic strategy will ensure a much higher Return-To-Player percentage than other table games such as Roulette or Crabs.