Blackjack

How to Play Blackjack Online

Blackjack is one of the most played card games in the world. Along with poker and roulette, it forms the "classic trio" of casino games offered in most land-based casinos, gaming houses and in online casinos. Blackjack is generally played against the casino rather than other players, the object is to acquire cards with a total number of points that are higher than those cards in the dealer's hand without going "bust", which is when you accumulate more than 21 points. Scoring 21 wins the game instantaneously. Read this article to learn how to play blackjack online, for free and real money.

Classic Blackjack Rules

Today, Blackjack is a popular game offered in practically all casinos, however in each establishment there may be differences in the minimum and maximum betting limits at any given table and some variations to the conventional rules. As well as the generally recognised rules of play, some casinos provide their own modifications or additions to the rules to make gameplay more dynamic and attractive to players, providing players with more ways to places bets, more winning combinations and flexibility in gameplay. There are also independent variations of Blackjack, with their own names, somewhat different from the classic game, with decks that are comprised of more or less cards than a traditional pack, prizes of varying sizes and the possibility of creating additional winning combinations.

Whatever the case, Blackjack when played against the casino is held at a table marked with betting areas sometimes referred to as squares or boxes, and there are traditionally 7-12 betting areas. Therefore, one or more players may participate in the game and each player can bet on as many betting areas available as they like, meaning they can play with several hands at once. All cards are dealt face up. At the beginning, the dealer deals two cards per betting area with a bet and another card for the dealer. Then, in order, the cards are placed by their respective betting areas and the dealer places his or her own cards. Players do not compete against each other at all, the objective of the game is for each player to win the bets placed in their betting areas as opposed to the dealer's. However, there are games of blackjack in which players do, in some sense, compete against each other as well as the casino, see the Blackjack Tournaments section, below.

Card Values in Classic Blackjack

Classic Blackjack is played against the casino with a deck of 312 cards (six standard decks with 52 cards in each deck). The player tries to accumulate the maximum number of points possible, without passing 21, if a player has 22 points or more they will go bust and lose the bet. The casino banks the bet previously placed, regardless of whether the dealer has also gone bust with over 21 points or not. As mentioned above, in classic blackjack the cards' suits are no longer of any importance whatsoever.

Cards with a numerical value of between 2 and 9 score an equal number of points as those on the cards (the two gives 2 points, the three gives 3 and so on), whilst tens, Jacks, Queens and Kings give 10 points each. Aces are a special case, and may provide either 1 or 11 points, whichever favours that particular hand. For example, when adding the points of hands with an Ace, the player chooses the highest score, without exceeding 21. When the ace can be counted as 1 or 11 without going bust in either case (that is, over 21), the hand is said to be "soft", whereas a "hard" hand is one in which the ace can only be counted as 1 point because to do otherwise would result in the player going bust.

What is the "Blackjack"?

Whenever the first two cards include an ace and any other card with a value of 10 points, this combination is called "blackjack" and is the highest possible hand in the game, being the first such combination dealt and appearing at the outset of the game.

A hand with blackjack is greater than any other hand, even if an alternative hand equals 21 points. If the dealer's first card is neither an ace nor a ten (in other words, the dealer cannot possibly produce a blackjack), then all bets with the blackjack combination are paid 3 for 2 (1.5 for 1). In all other cases, payment is made according to the results of the dealer's cards.

Insurance and "Push"

When the dealer draws an ace with their first card, the players are asked if they wish to pay an insurance against the possibility of the dealer drawing a second card with a value of ten which together with the ace would form an unbeatable blackjack, unbeatable given that getting the blackjack is the highest value hand available in the blackjack. Before playing with the cards in their respective betting areas, the player can make a bet in a special field that is half of their initial bet. This separate bet is called "insurance" and is paid 2 for 1 if the dealer acquires a blackjack, or the player's insurance is lost if after the ace a ten is not drawn.

The player does not have the possibility to insure his own blackjack. When the dealer's first card is an ace and the player already gets the blackjack before starting, the dealer must ask the player to immediately draw or pay the blackjack 1 to 1. If he rejects the "push", the player can keep his money in the case of the dealer getting a blackjack or receive a payment of 3 to 2 if the dealer does not draw a blackjack.

The Dealer's Order of Play

After players place their cards on their respective betting areas, the dealer draws his own according to very strict rules, there is often an inscription on the table itself which reads: "The dealer must stop drawing cards at 19 points or less, or at 17 points or more." Once he has drawn his own cards, the dealer will see the result in each of the players' hands and will either take the losing bets, or pay them 1 to 1. When the dealer and the player have identical combinations, a draw or "push" is produced, that is, the bet is not paid nor is it lost. The dealer may also go bust by accumulating more than 21 points, in this case all remaining bets are paid. 

Splitting Pairs in Blackjack

When a player is dealt their first two cards which turn out to be "a pair", for example two 5s or two 6s or any pair of cards of equal value in the same hand, then the dealer offers the player the chance of "doubling down", which is essentially adding an equal bet to the initial bet (doubling it) and splitting the original two card hand into two separate independent hands, drawing one additional card for each of the new hands so that once again all hands begin with two cards.

If after splitting the pairs the player receives yet another card creating another pair then they are offered a further opportunity to split that pair. Some casinos might limit the number of consecutive splits from the same hand, for example, to no more than three or four splits.

The possibility of making a split exists for any pair of cards of identical value, however in the case of aces the split differs in that the player can only make a single split and may only draw one card per ace.

If the player divides pairs of tens or pairs of aces and thus gets hands with an ace and a ten, each combination of these gives 21 points but not a "blackjack", which is only possible when the first two cards produce this combination.

Doubling the first two Cards Bet – Doubling Down

The player has the right to double his bet on the first two cards, thus receiving a single card for the hand in question. In most casinos, doubling is only possible if the first two cards have a value of 9, 10 or 11 points, including soft hands with aces, apart from aces with tens, which then involve a blackjack or 21 points in the event of a split.

Surrender

Some casinos allow surrender, a strategy open to players who consider they have a weak hand against the casino. The player announces their surrender and only lose half of their bet. Usually the dealer will offer the opportunity to surrender to the players when they hold a ten. If the dealer's first card is an ace, the player does not have the option of surrendering, he will only be able to insure his bets against the possibility of the dealer getting a blackjack.

Classic Blackjack, Variants and Bonuses

With the aim of attracting more players, casinos often make slight variations in some rules of play, which usually gives players greater flexibility and even increases players' mathematical odds against the casino.

The best known variants of the classical blackjack are as follows:

  • Doubling any pair – the possibility of doubling the bet on the first two cards is not limited to combinations that add up to 9, 10 or 11 points
  • Triple – After doubling their bet the player may once again add a bet equivalent to their starting bet and thus get one more card per hand
  • The dealer continues to draw cards with 17 points on a soft hand – in cases where the dealer holds an ace, by accumulating 17 points he stops exclusively with the "hard" hand
  • Additional insurance and insurance limits – when the dealer has an ace, the maximum insured bet is decided separately and is not limited to half the player's wager. In this situation, some casinos allow you to bet on the blackjack of any player in the game room, even if they themselves have not made any bets on the deal in question at that particular blackjack table
  • Two aces beat a blackjack – is when a pair of aces are the first two cards drawn, in this version of blackjack, they are considered the maximum combination, beating even the blackjack itself
  • Triple seven – forming a hand to produce 21 points with three sevens, in many casinos the player receives an additional bonus, for example, a bottle of champagne or some other prize
  • Blackjack of a single suit - if an ace and a card with a value of ten points turn out to be of the same suit, the payment ratio is 2 to 1, provided that this has been previously agreed
  • 7-card Charlie – in case the player has accumulated seven cards without exceeding 21 points, this hand beats any other hand, including the dealer's blackjack. Further variations on this theme include 5-card Charlie and 6-card Charlie in which the player having received 5 or 6 cards, respectively, and having not exceeded 21 points, beats all other possible hands

If in doubt as to which rules are being used in a particular establishment, it is always advisable to ask a member of staff. If you are playing blackjack in Live Casino or online casino for real money, do not hesistate to contact casino support team.

Side Bets in Blackjack

Side bets are an exciting way of placing bets during a game in progress and may even be made independently of the main hands. Examples of some of Gambl's favourite side bets in blackjack are:

  • Perfect Pair - a bet is placed on the possibility of a player getting two identical cards
  • Aces Jackpot — bets that with four cards the player and the dealer will get two or more aces. The maximum jackpot is obtained with 4 aces of the same colour and suit
  • Hi/Low 13 — bets that the sum of the value of the first two cards is higher, less than or equal to 13 points
  • Suit Bonus— a bet is made that the first two cards of the player are of the same suit

When playing a variation of classic blackjack, it is always advisable to consult the rules of the establishment concerned to ensure that players are placing bets, or not, in accordance to the rules of the casino in question and not the classic or some other version with which players may be more familiar.

Distinct Independent Varieties of Classic Blackjack

Blackjack is a hugely popular game played across the globe and has been played by people from different cultures and from all walks of life, which has lead to a number of variations with sometimes quite different rules. However, games that share this one uniting principle of the accumulation of 21 points as a maximum in the game are generally considered Blackjack. The most played varieties are listed below:

European Blackjack

In European Blackjack, the only difference to the classic version is that a deck of 104 cards (two standard decks of 52 cards) is used. The dealer counts and takes the cards according to the same rules and the player also has the option to split pairs, double their bets (double down), surrender and to pay insurance whenever the dealer has an ace.

Vegas Blackjack

Vegas Blackjack, as its name implies, is a variety of blackjack originally from North America and is usually played in the Nevada casinos. It is played with a 104 cards. In American varieties of the game the dealer usually takes two cards at the beginning and keeps one of them face down until the end of the round. The rest of the rules do not vary from the classic game of blackjack, except in the case in which the dealer's card which is face up turns out to be a 10 or an ace, in which case the dealer looks at their second card and, if it forms a blackjack, all other hands that do not form a blackjack lose their bets.

Atlantic City Blackjack

This version of blackjack is played with 416 cards (8 standard decks of 52 cards) and is popular in North America, particularly in Atlantic City casinos. As in Las Vegas blackjack, when the dealer has a 10 or an ace, then the dealer checks to see if they have a blackjack, if the dealer does have a blackjack, then all hands without the blackjack lose their bets.

Blackjack Switch

Blackjack Switch is often available in online casinos and is carried out with six standard decks at a time and there are two betting areas, in the form of squares on the table. The player can play two hands simultaneously and may 'switch' the top cards of each hand from one hand to the other after they have been dealt. Confused? Well, our blackjackers here at NeonSlots were too. So, perhaps an example might clear the water somewhat, so, before the switch, imagine a player has two original hands which might be formed in the way shown below.

  • First Hand: Top card 10, Bottom card 6
  • Second Hand: Top card 5, Bottom card 10

Following the switch of the Top cards, in this case the 10 in the first hand, and 5 in the second hand, the switched hands now look like this:                                                                      

  • First Hand: Top card 5, Bottom card 6
  • Second Hand: Top card 10, Bottom card 10

Thanks to the option to switch these top cards, it is then easier to produce a blackjack in this version of the game, and here the blackjack is paid at 1 to 1. The dealer stops taking cards when he has a soft hand with 17 points. There is also an additional bet called the "Super Match" which may be accepted before players receive cards and provides the chance to bet on whether certain combinations will be produced during the game, with payments varying from one casino to the next.

The Perfect Pair

This version of Blackjack is played with five standard decks (with a total 260 cards) and offers the additional bonus bet "Perfect pair". If the player's first two cards are of the same value and suit, then the bonus bet is won and paid 25 to 1.

Pontoon

Pontoon is the English version of 21 with rules similar to Blackjack and is especially popular in Australia, some countries in Asia and, of course, Great Britain. The best combination in pontoon is a 7-7-7 and can be paid up to a maximum of 5 to 1, while the combination which gives the game its name "Pontoon", being an Ace and a ten, is paid at 2 to 1 and the 5-card trick (five cards without going bust), is paid 3 to 2. In addition, pontoon is played without cards with a face value of ten, although Jacks, Queens and Kings are counted at 10 points each.

Spanish Blackjack

This version of blackjack, differs to the classic game more than any other commonly played version, particularly in respect to the mathematical odds as between players and the casino. 8 decks of traditional Spanish playing cards called "Barajas" are used, which have 58 cards each rather than 52 and so the odds swing more favorably in favour of the casino when compared to the classic game.

The rest of the rules in respect to classic blackjack do not differ greatly, with the exception that in this game the player can split the first cards three times, ie, play with 4 hands at a time. The suits may also be relevant in deciding certain additional winning combinations, for example:

  • 21 points with 5 cards – paid at 3:2
  • 21 points with 6 cards – paid at 2:1
  • 21 points with 7 and more cards – paid at 3:1
  • Combinations 6-7-8 and 7-7-7 of different suits – paid at 3:2
  • Combinations 6-7-8 and 7-7-7 of the same suit-is paid at 2:1
  • Combinations 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of spades – paid at 3:1
  • 7-7-7 combinations of the same suit, when the dealer has a 7 face-up – paid at 50:1

Payouts may differ from one establishment to another.

Blackjack Tournaments

Both conventional land-based and online casinos organize Blackjack tournaments which greatly diversifies game play and adds a tremendous amount of excitement to the game. According to the original rules of Blackjack, the player has the right to compete exclusively with the dealer, which is to say that the players play against the dealer, not against each other. However, Blackjack Tournaments give players the chance to play blackjack by competing with each other by means of a scorings system, while each player also plays against the dealer.

At the start of the tournament, each participant makes an initial bet and receives a number of chips from the game tournament in return. The game can then be developed in a number of rounds, eliminating players who have been less financially successful than other players or those who have exhausted some time limitation placed on game play. The player or players who have made greater financial gains, perhaps passing some arbitrary financial threshold or simply gained more than their fellow players will be declared the winner, or winners, given that there is often more than one winner in such tournaments.

Blackjack tournaments require the simultaneous availability of many blackjack tables and not all conventional casinos can regularly afford to host such events, particularly for larger numbers of players. However, online casinos can easily handle regular and large tournaments for masses of players without any such difficulties. Online blackjack competitions have long been one of the most played games of chance currently enjoyed by millions of people across the world.

The Appearance and Evolution of Blackjack

There were a number of games called twenty-one or thirty-one (generally referring to the points needed to win the game) which may have been the predecessors of what is now recognised as the modern game of Blackjack and, although they were already popular in different countries all around Europe long before the founding of the United States and the opening of the Nevada casino, it was precisely from the American continent that Blackjack was made famous, leading to its present day popularity worldwide. Different variants of this game appeared on the American continent following the arrival of the first European settlers.

In France in the 17th century, and in all walks of life, from the simple peasants to the royal family, the game "vingt-et-Un", or "twenty-one", was very commonly played. Precisely this version of the game is considered to be the closest ancestor to blackjack, although the 21-point French game was preceded by card games such as "Chemin de Fer" and "French Ferme", with largely similar rules, which had already been popular throughout France for over a hundred years. The Italian literature of the early fifteenth century also mentions and describes a card game called "Trentuno", or "thirty-one", with generally the same structure and rules as those of 21, but with the slight difference that the player begins with three cards, instead of two, and the maximum number of points being 31. There are also Spanish written documents dating back to the 15th century which speak avidly of popular games with similar names and rules and, in the 17th century, Cervantes, the famous Spanish writer of the world renowned Don Quixote, mentioned the game "twenty-one" in his writings. Among card games in which the goal is to accumulate points and is somewhat similar to blackjack, is the noteworthy Italian game "Sette e Mezzo" or "Seven and a Half", which is still played today although it has its origins well within the 17th century and whose name corresponds to the maximum number of points which may be accumulated from a deck of 40 cards, of which those with symbols contribute half a point and the King of Clubs is featured as the Joker.

In this way, the exact details of the precise origin and time period from which blackjack arose are somewhat lost in the mists of time but are almost certainly traceable to medieval Europe. That said, what is known is the place and the moment from where the the current game was popularized, was in the United States of America in the nineteenth century, at a time when a variant of "21" was already being played, with rules designed in favour of the player and therefore against the establishment. To increase the game's popularity, the casino owners decided that combinations arising from the first two cards would be paid separately and with higher prizes than simply 1 to 1. A Jack and an Ace of Spades formed the highest combination of cards, or hand, which received the name "Black Jack".

In a later version of the game, which is now considered the classic version, the hand with the highest value continued to be called "Black Jack" and is payable 3 to 2, that is, one and a half times better odds. Currently, the role played by a Jack with an ace can also be played with any ten and any previous distinction that may have been made historically between the four suits of the cards themselves, has completely lost its relevance in the game today.

Learn more at NeonSlots on how to play for real money blackjack and other casino games in fully licensed online casinos.

Glossary of Blackjack Terms

Wherever you play blackjack in the world, you will most likely hear blackjack terms being used in English, largely due to the fact that the game was predominantly popularized in recent time to the levels it enjoys today in the English speaking world. You will most likely notice inscriptions on the gaming table in English, too. Below, our enthusiastic team of Blackjack players here at NeonSlots who live, breath and dream about blackjack, have provided an extensive glossary of what might just be the most useful list of the most frequently used and most useful terms relevant to the game in the entire world, maybe.

  • Bankroll – the player's balance
  • Bankroll Management – a special list of rules and principles of spending the balance
  • Blackjack – the highest winning combination in the game (paid to 3:2) and the game's namesake
  • Box – the betting area, sometimes referred to as the betting field, box or square, on the casino's game tables, often rectangular in shape. The player has the right to make bets in any of the seven betting areas and, in the betting area or areas in which bets have been placed, play with a separate hand
  • Blackjack Tournament – a different type of competition between blackjack players (each player against the casino) with balance and time constraints placed on players who compete against each other in terms of time and winnings. The player or those players who make the best financial gains in the course of the tournament will win the prize offered by the tournament
  • Burn cards – after the dealer has shuffled the cards and the player has cut them, they "burn" (withdraw from the game) the top cards of the deck, either the first or the first three cards which is/are then placed face down. This is an additional safety measure and, depending on the rules of the casino, a top card from the bottom half of the deck may also be burned (the deck having been divided into two piles) when the table changes dealer
  • Bust – the player loses having attained more than 21 points, losing the bet relating to that particular hand and betting area regardless of whether the dealer has exceeded 21 points or not
  • Cash chips – chips with a numerically-set value that are used in casinos for games such as blackjack instead of cash
  • Cut the Deck – (1) the player divides the playing cards from a shuffled deck into two parts and these are also rearranged from one position to another, providing the player with an additional guarantee that the order of the cards has not been interfered with and that the game is truly a game of chance (2) In conventional casinos without card shuffling machines, the dealer is obliged to perform this procedure
  • Cutting Card – a special plastic card that does not participate in the game, but serves to assist the player in shuffling the deck and also for the dealer to mark the last deal in games played without the aid of the shuffling machine for conventional casinos
  • Dealer or croupier – is an employee representing the establishment and moderating the game at the table
  • Deck (standard deck of cards) – standard deck of 52 cards. Occasionally, Blackjack per deck may be taken to mean the total set of all playing cards, made up of 6 (in some variants 2, 5 or 8) standard decks
  • Discard Tray – a special device (usually to the dealer's right) to store and remove cards. It is not used on tables that have a shuffling machine
  • Double Deck Blackjack – a variety of blackjack with a deck of 104 cards (two standard decks)
  • Double Down – the player may double the bet in the betting area with the first two cards. If the player doubles down then another card is added into the area in question
  • Double Exposure – a variety of blackjack in which the dealer's two cards are face-up
  • Draw, Hit, Card on – a request from the player to the dealer to add one more card in the box
  • Eight Deck Blackjack – a variety of blackjack with a deck of 416 cards (8 standard decks)
  • Even Money – the player may receive a 1-to-1 payout for the betting area with the blackjack combination before taking out the cards. It is offered if the dealer has an ace. If the player rejects this possibility, he receives a 3-2 payout when the dealer does not have the blackjack and a push (a tie / draw - a "push") is produced if the dealer's second card turns out to be a ten
  • Face Card – Jacks, Queens and Kings. In Blackjack, each of the above cards has a value of ten points
  • Face down game - a variety of blackjack where the first card of the player is placed face up, and the second-face down
  • Face up game – variety of Blackjack where all the cards are placed face up
  • Five card Charlie – a betting area with five consecutive cards without excess, such as 2-4-5-6-7
  • Floorman (inspector) – Employee of legal, licensed casino who does not moderate the game but is responsible for the fulfillment of its rules and the accuracy of the payments
  • Hard Ace – the ace in the hand can only be equivalent to 1 point (otherwise excess points are produced)
  • Hard hand – hand with a hard ace
  • Hole Card – a card that is face-down. Insurance (insurance against blackjack) - bet on the additional insurance field that is offered to the player if the ace is face up and, correspondingly, the possibility that the dealer has blackjack is high. It is offered and accepted before you accept additional cards. Only the maximum of half of the sum of the player's bets in all the betting areas can be secured. If the player accepts the insurance and the dealer has the blackjack it is paid at 2 to 1. Late Surrender - the player leaves the game after the dealer checks the card face down and says he does not have blackjack
  • Multiple decks – when Blackjack consisting of two or more standard decks
  • No double after split - doubling down is impossible after splitting pairs
  • Pat Hand – a hand with 17-21 points
  • Multiple decks - decks used in Blackjack consist of two or more standard decks of cards
  • Perfect Pairs – a bet on which the player's first two cards have the same value
  • Pit Boss – a lower ranking manager who controls the dealers in the casino's gaming room and the games at the tables
  • Push, Stand Off, Tie – it is considered a tie or "push" whenever the dealer and player have the same number of points. With the push the bet is neither lost nor paid
  • Resplit – the hand is split again after a previous split
  • Round (game round) – a part of the cycle of gameplay that is repeated which begins with the acceptance of bets and the dealing of cards and ends with the payout of the prizes
  • Session – the total time taken to play a full game without including breaks
  • Shoe– a special box which holds the shuffled decks of cards that the dealer then deals in Blackjack
  • Shuffle – random mixing of cards before playing
  • Single Deck Blackjack – the blackjack game with a standard deck of 52 cards
  • Six Deck Blackjack – the classic and the most played version of blackjack with a deck of 312 cards (6 standard decks)
  • Soft Hand – a hand with an ace that equals 1 or 11 points
  • Soft Double – doubles the bet for a betting area with a soft hand
  • Split – the player separates the first two cards of identical value into two squares by increasing the bet
  • Stand – the player rejects the additional card
  • Stand-Off (tie or "push") – whenever the player's hand and that of the dealer's hand have the same value, the initial bet is returned
  • Stiff Card – the dealer's face-up card has a value of 2 to 6 points
  • Stiff Hand – the player's hand is between 12 to 16 points
  • Surrender - the player refuses to draw cards for the betting area refuses to continue playing in it. It is only allowed with the first two cards and it is usually not possible if the dealer's face-up card is an ace. In case of Surrender, half of the initial bet is returned to the player and the other half is taken by the bank
  • Table Limits – the minimum and maximum bets that can be made in each gaming area of the table in question

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