Blackjack, also known as 21, is a card game that requires both luck and a measure of skill. The game’s objective is to make up a hand which has a value that is higher than that of the Dealer’s, without exceeding the total of 21. Going over this amount is known as going Bust, and the hand which does that loses automatically. There are a number of variations of the game available at online and mobile casinos, and each of these will be governed by its own special set of rules. However, there are rules that govern all the games, and, once you have committed these to memory, learning the distinctive variants applied to each different version will be very easy.
In Blackjack, cards from 2 through to 10 are worth their face value, and face-cards are worth 10 points each. An Ace can be valued at either 1 or 11, whichever is the more advantageous total for the player or Dealer. A hand made up of an Ace that has been valued at 11 is called a Soft Hand: thus, an Ace and a 6 is known as a Soft 17. A hand with an Ace counted as 1 point is called a Hard Hand.
In order to start a Blackjack game, you will be required to make a bet, and will then receive two cards, both facing up. The Dealer receives one card facing up. In some Blackjack variations, the Dealer will receive a second card, facing down, and this card is known as the Hole Cards. In other variations, the Dealer does not receive a second card until later on in the game. If your two cards add up to 21, you have managed to receive Blackjack, and will automatically win unless the Dealer has managed to gain one also. If you both have a Blackjack, the hands are tied, which is called a Push. Otherwise, a winning Blackjack will pay out 3 to 2. All other winning hands pay out at a ratio of 1 to 1.
If you did not manage to receive Blackjack, then, after viewing your cards and the Dealer’s, you will play the hand by means of one of the following moves:
You will not take any more cards, and the Dealer will play his or her hand.
You will take another card, and can continue to do so until you either Bust or opt to Stand.
You will double the amount of money you have bet, take an additional card, and then Stand.
If you are dealt two identical cards, you may be able to split them into two separate hands. A wager equal to the one you originally laid will be placed in order to cover the additional hand, doubling your bet, and your split hand will then receive an additional card. You will then play each hand independently, and can Stand, Hit, etc.
If you think that your hand is likely to lose, you may be able to Surrender half of your bet and end the game.
If the Dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, you can take out Insurance, which is a bet equal in value to half of the one you originally made. This is, in effect, betting that the Dealer will receive Blackjack. If he or she goes on to do so, you will take a 2 to 1 payout on your Insurance wager. If the Dealer does not, however, get a Blackjack, you will lose the Insurance bet and proceed to play out your hand.
A quick look at the basic strategy guides available online will allow you to spot general patterns regarding when to Hit and when to Stand. For example, you should always Hit, and occasionally Double Down, when your Hand is valued at less than 11, since you cannot Bust. You should always Stand on totals of 17 or more, unless your hand is a Soft Hand. The best way to learn basic Blackjack strategy is not to try to commit all of the possible hands to memory, but rather to focus on the borderline hands. For example, learn what to do when the Dealer has a total of 7 as opposed to what to do when he or she has a hand totalling 6.
The probability of an overall win in a Blackjack game is 42.22%, that of gaining a tie is 8.28%, and a loss is 49.10%. The probability of a win, given a bet which is resolved, is 46.36%. As Blackjack is a game of skill where you can increase the odds and lower the house edge by using strategy, and the odds can shrink to as low as 1%.
Most Blackjack variations will follow the rules outlined here, with minor differences apparent only in the details. Some variations, for example, will be played with only one deck of cards, others with two, four, or even eight. In some variations the Dealer will have to Stand on a Soft 17, in others he or she will Hit.