Blackjack rules: How to play
But, before you start dreaming about becoming a millionaire and buying a new yacht, it is imperative that you learn the rules of the game. After all, blackjack is a casino game that requires a lot of skill and knowledge. In other words, luck is not the only factor at play here. So, the basic premise of blackjack is that the player needs to get as close to the number 21 as possible in order to beat the dealer. And, there are several ways in which this can be done. In short, the target is the number 21, but if the player’s card count goes over this limit – he or she is ‘bust’. The ‘bust’ is a synonym for failing or losing, and that is why 21 serves as an invisible line that you should never cross. Since there are many variations of blackjack, we cannot go into details related to the rules here. But, we will get to it in the upcoming chapters. For now, let’s just say that a hand of blackjack can be played with several decks of cards, up to 8 of them at once. The dealer draws the cards from the so-called shoe and gives two cards to each player. Also, the dealer takes two cards for himself, placing one of them face down and the other one face up. After that, the real action can begin. But, it is also important to know the value of each hand in blackjack. That is why we will explain this element in the following chapter.
Hand rankings in blackjack and the potential payouts
Once again, we need to emphasize that the different variations of blackjack have different rules. Consequently, they offer different payouts. Even so, the classic blackjack is the foundation for every other form so we will base this guide on the ‘standard’ type. So, when it comes to the hand rankings, the Ace is the most important card in blackjack. A skillful player can do wonders with this card because the Ace can be counted as 1 or as 11. The value of the Ace depends on the other cards in your hand.
- Depending on the presence of the Ace, we can distinguish two types of hands: the soft and the hardTypically, the soft hand is advantageous to the player since the ace is counted as 11 or as 1. Yet, the exception is the occurrence of the so-called ‘naturals, i.e. the combination of an Ace with a 10-value card (Kings, Queens, Jacks, or 10s). Of course, the naturals are valuable since they add up to 21, the ultimate goal of the game. The hand without an Ace is called a hard hand. For instance, a combination of 7 and 9, Q and 6, and so on. On top of that, some hands can have a large potential of leading to a bust so they are called ‘stiff’ hands. For example, numbers 15 or 16 are a nightmare for a blackjack player. To sum up, the hands in blackjack can come in various forms. As a result, this can lead to different payouts. But, the ‘natural’ blackjack pays out at a 3:2 ratio. In other words, if your bet size is $10, the payout will be $25. In all other cases, the payout ratio is 1:1, which means that your bet of $20 will reward you with a total of $40 if you win the hand. In recent years, some casinos have introduced a payout ratio of 6:5. In short, this system provides the casino with a significant increase in house edge. Thus, players should avoid this payment ratio as much as possible. (We need graphics for this, showing had values, either a table or talk with Gi)
Decisions you can make when playing blackjack
Unlike the majority of other casino games, blackjack is a game that lets you minimize the house edge by applying the right strategy. We already said that luck is not the only factor that determines the outcome of a hand. And, that is what makes blackjack so appealing to players worldwide. Yet, not all decisions in blackjack are the same. Some of them can lead you to profit while the others can result in quick losses of your cash. For that reason, it is imperative that you play the game with a clear head and a lot of patience. Once the dealer provides each player with two cards, there are several directions in which a player can take the game. In other words, here are the decisions you can make while playing blackjack in the US online casinos.
Hit or stand
One of the basic choices you will need to make when you receive your two cards is whether to HIT or to STAND. What does that mean? Well, if you decide to ‘hit’, you will ask the dealer for one more card. Basically, this move signals that you are not even close to 21 and that you need more cards to reach this holy grail of blackjack. As a result of this decision, the player receives an extra card. On the other hand, if your two cards take you close to the 21 (but not produce a blackjack immediately), you can decide to ‘stand’. What this means is that you will not receive any more cards and that you are happy with the total of the hand. Since you are not taking further action, the game moves on without you.
In case your opening cards reward you with a favorable hand, you may decide to ‘double down’ on the current wager. As a result, you will place a second wager, increasing the total of what you could win at the end of the hand. Typically, players choose to double down when they have a total of 9,10 or 11 in their opening hand. Also, you will receive an extra card if you choose to double down when playing blackjack.
At the start of the game, players can also opt for Insurance. What this means is that they can add 50% of their bet in order to protect their wager. In case the dealer has a blackjack, the player loses the wager, but he or she receives back the insurance paid out through the 1:1 ratio. In other words, you will not lose anything and that is why insurance is also called even money. For example, if your wager is $100 and you add $50 of insurance, if the dealer has blackjack – you will lose the bet ($100). But, you will get back the insurance in a 1:1 ratio, which translates to $100. To make the long story short, you will be back to square one. But, many blackjack experts are against the usage of insurance. They claim that this system is not favorable for the player and should be avoided as much as possible.
In case your opening hand gives you two matching cards, you can choose to split them. As a result, you will now have two separate hands. You will receive new cards for each of those hands, independently. At the same time, a new wager will be placed on each of the split hands. In general, up to 4 split hands are available in the majority of the modern New Jersey casinos. Then again, not all pairs should be split. As a rule of thumb, you should always split the aces and the eights. If you split the aces and receive a 10-value card, this does not count as a natural blackjack (not paid as 3:2 but as 1:1). Likewise, two eights have a total of 16, which is considered as the worst possible count in blackjack. By splitting the eights into two hands, you create a favorable position to cut your losses or even win the hand.
Last but not least, the option to give up the hand if you see that you stand no chance of winning. By choosing to ‘surrender’, the player can take back half of the wager. Yet, not all casinos are offering this option. In fact, ‘surrender’ used to come in two options – the Early and the Late surrender. The Early surrender is rare nowadays and it allows you to finish the hand before the dealer checks for blackjack. On the other hand, the Late surrender can happen after the dealer declares that the house did not receive a blackjack in the opening hand.
Side bets in blackjack
Even though blackjack is an exciting game on its own, there is a way to make it even more entertaining and enjoyable. This method is called a side bet, and there are several types of side bets in blackjack. When placing a side bet, the player will put the wager on a specific spot to the side of the table. Therefore, the name of this betting element comes from the position of the chips in a land-based casino version of the game.
💵 Pair (6:1)
The goal of the side bet is to predict how the first two cards in a hand are going to look like. So, the so-called Mixed pair is the easiest bet to cash in. If the first two cards have the same face value – you win. The cards do not have to be the same in terms of suit and color. For instance, a Mixed pair is a combination of red/black cards. In other words, the first two cards could be a nine of diamonds and a nine of hearts.
💵 Suit pair (12:1)
The next side bet is a bit more demanding, which results in better payouts. Also, the suited pair is often called the Colored pair. The reason for this comes from the fact that the first two cards in a hand need to be of the same color and face value. Needless to say, the odds of landing this particular side bet when playing online blackjack are pretty slim. For example, the first two cards would need to be an Ace of spades and an Ace of clubs.
💵 Perfect pair (25:1)
However, the most challenging bet when it comes to two-card side bets in blackjack would have to be the famous Perfect pair. It goes without saying that this bet brings enormous rewards to the lucky winners. So, you could give it a shot from time to time at some of the best online casinos in the United States. To land the Perfect pair, you would have to accurately guess that the first two cards will be of the same suit, color, and face value. In translation, the first two cards would have to be two Kings of diamonds or two sevens of hearts, and so on. Of course, that is also the reason why Perfect pair side bet is not possible on the single-deck blackjack.
In case you thought that landing a Perfect pair was difficult enough, how about adding one more card into the mix? In other words, do you think it would be possible to predict the dealer’s face card as well, together with those first two in a hand? Well, the 21+3 blackjack requires you to do exactly this – to guess those first three cards. In essence, 21+3 is a combination of blackjack and the three card poker. As one of the latest additions to the game of blackjack, 21+3 is attracting players worldwide. Even so, not all casinos provide this side bet so make sure to check the casino before starting your playing session.
💵 Suit/ Flush (5:1)
The suit or the flush side bet is one of the five possible variations of the 21+3. Even though this is the ‘easiest’ of those bets, a fair amount of luck will need to be on your side to land the suit/flush. The goal here is to land three picture cards of the same suit. That is where the name of the game comes from, obviously. Also, the Ace is included in this scheme, as long as it comes from the corresponding suit. For instance, a combination of Jacks, King, and an Ace of hearts is a winning combo for a suit side bet in blackjack.
💵 Straight (10:1)
Likewise, three cards with adjacent values will reward you as well. The so-called straight happens when a row of three cards comes out of the shoe. For instance, the cards can be a six of hearts, seven of diamonds, and an eight of clubs. Even though this combo is rare, it is not impossible to land the straight in blackjack and boost your winnings.
💵 Straight flush (40:1)
As the name says, a straight flush is a unique combination of a straight and a flush. In other words, you need to land three picture cars with adjacent face values and the same suit. So, if the dealer draws a King of diamonds as the first card, the following two cards need to be the Queen and the Jacks of diamonds as well. Of course, this side bet also offers big payments because the odds of winning are largely in favor of the casino.
💵 Three of a kind (30:1)
When a game of blackjack is played with 6 or even 8 decks of cards, the chances of having three same cards next to each other are remarkably small. That is why the payouts for the so-called Three of a kind are generous and lucrative. For instance, Three of a kind happens when Queens of diamonds, clubs, and hearts come out as the first three cards in a hand of blackjack.
💵 Three of a kind suited (100:1)
The most improbable of all blackjack side bets is called Three of a kind suited. This one is super-hard to land, but the payouts are astronomical if you manage to predict the outcome. Three of a kind suited means that the first three cards will have the same face value, suit, and color. In other words, you need to guess that three Kings of hearts will come out of the shoe, for example. Obviously, the chances of such a scenario are small, but this side bet type can also boost the excitement of a blackjack game.