Blackjack, also known as 21, is a card game played against a real dealer in land-based casinos or software in online casinos, using 1 to 8 standard 52-card decks without jokers. Blackjack game is commonly referred to as a game of chance, though good analytical skills and card counting may give an edge to the player and maximize his winning potential. Blackjack in its traditional and online versions has lots of rule variations that affect the player’s decisions but its basic principles are easy to understand and put into practice. To play blackjack online, visit one of the casinos featured on this website and pick the blackjack variant you feel most comfortable with. All the gambling sites presented here accept users of New Zealand.
Easy guide on how to play blackjack
When you open any online blackjack game, you will see a set of chips of different values, a semi-circular table, a virtual card shoe and some other details that mimic a real-life game. Bet limits for that particular game are normally visible on the table or in any other part of the screen.
After the player has placed a wager, the computer deals two cards each to the player and dealer (one of dealer’s cards is put face down). The objective of blackjack is to get a total score higher than the dealer’s hand without exceeding 21 points. If the player’s hand scores higher, it wins. Conversely, if the dealer’s hand totals higher, it wins. In case of a tie (both hands are of the same value), the bet you have placed is returned.
On seeing your initial two cards, you must make a decision on what to do next based on their total value. The numerical cards are worth their face value; Jacks, Queens and Kings count as 10, and; Aces are valued at 1 or 11, whichever produces the best hand to the player. The optional decisions are represented on the screen buttons when the action is available. These are:
- Hit. Take one more card. The player can “hit” several times until he is satisfied with the hand’s total or the score exceeds 21, in which case the player loses the bet.
- Stand. Keep the current hand unchanged.
- Double down. The classic online blackjack allows doubling down if the starting cards on the player’s hand have the total score of 9, 10 or 11. Choosing to double down means that the player doubles his original bet, gets dealt one more card and has no right to hit in the current game.
- Split. If the player receives two cards of the same face and suit (8S, 8S), he can choose to split the hand. In this case, the player gets two more cards and begins playing two hands at a time. The amount equivalent to the original bet is automatically deducted from the bankroll for the newly created hand. In classic blackjack rules, the player can split only once but some blackjack variants permit splitting up to 4 times. If the player gets 21 after the split (Ace plus any 10-value card) and the dealer’s hand is blackjack, the dealer’s 21 score will prevail.
The above are the main decisions attributed to the player but some games such as Blackjack Surrender by Playtech feature a Late Surrender option. It works simple; the computer checks the dealer’s face-down card if it is 10 or Ace. If the sum of the two cards produces a natural 21 (blackjack), the player loses unless he has a blackjack, too. But if the dealer’s cards do not complete blackjack, the player is offered to “surrender”. This means that the player chooses to give up 50% of his bet without playing out the hand. The surrender options can give advantage to the player if used correctly.
Whereas the player has more than one choice of how to act in any given stage of the game, dealer’s decisions are strictly determined by the rules that vary widely across blackjack variants. After the player exercised all his options (stand, hit, etc.) and did not exceed 21, the computer reveals the face-down card in the dealer’s hand and elects whether to stand or hit. As a general rule, the dealer hits one or more times until reaching soft or hard 17. If the dealer’s hand goes bust, the player becomes winner and gets paid 1:1. In case of a tie (equal scoring), the player retrieves the initial bet and neither loses nor gains.
Blackjack rule variations
The classic rules specified above have many variations that lower down or increase the house advantage and affect the way the player should act in specific card situations. In online blackjack games, the following rule variations may apply:
- dealer hits on soft 17 (H17) or stands on any 17 (S17). A soft 17 is the hand where an Ace counts as 11 without going bust. The H17 rule raises the house advantage by around 0.2%
- player is allowed to split the same-ranked (K+K) or the same-valued (K+10) cards 1 to 4 times. After the split, the computer automatically takes money from the player’s balance and places a bet on the post-split hand. The new player’s hands are played out independently from each other
- the number of card decks involved in the game may range between 1 and 8, and the more decks are in play, the less profitable the game becomes for the player
- player may double down on 10/11, or 9/10/11, or on any two initial cards
- player may or may not double down after splitting the hand
- no Ace splits
- resplitting of Aces is permitted.
To streamline the play and increase the profit potential, you should carefully read the rules attached to each blackjack game and analyze how the rule variations would affect your decisions. It is certainly impossible to overcome the house edge, otherwise all online casinos would have gone bankrupt, but maintaining your return at 98–99.5% and even greater is well within reach.
Payouts in blackjack
The player’s winning hand pays 1:1. If, for example, you have wagered $10 and your hand scores better than the dealer, you get back the original bet of $10 plus $10 as a winning. In most games, having a blackjack returns 3:2 but some games have a reduced payout for blackjack at 6:5, so that on a bet of $10 the player would receive $22, a $10 bet back plus $12 in winning.
Blackjack basic strategy
To unleash the potential of the player’s edge, which is established for every blackjack game, the player should stick to a set of rules known as basic strategy. Failure to do this leads to deterioration of your winning chances. As every blackjack variant features a specific combination of applicable rules, a basic strategy needs to be adjusted to take into account these subtle changes. Adhering to a basic strategy enables the player to lose the least money to the online casino over the long run, which is particularly important for real-money gambling.