Mastering Blackjack: A Comprehensive Guide to the Popular Card Game with Tips and Strategies for Winning at Online and Live Tables
You’ve probably heard of Blackjack, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for something extra. In this article we’re going to go into the popularity and history of blackjack and round things off with a how-to guide and some basic strategy.
Why is Blackjack so popular?
Casino games come and go, but Blackjack has stood the test of time. It’s certainly true that Blackjack is very popular, let’s examine a few possibilities for why that might be:
- Blackjack is simple – Blackjack is very easy to learn, and you can pick up the basics quickly.
- Blackjack is quick – a round of blackjack can be played in just a few minutes.
Quick AND simple! So let’s get into the weeds. Just what IS Blackjack and how do you play it?
What is Blackjack?
Blackjack is a card game. The aim is to get as close to 21 as you can by counting the face value of your cards. That’s not all! You must also beat the dealer. So, if your hand total is 18 and the dealer’s is 19, you lose!
The Basic rules of Blackjack
During a round of Blackjack, the dealer deals 2 cards to each player followed by one face-up and one face-down card to themselves (the face-down card is called a hole card). Players then assemble a hand by calling for additional cards on their turn. If the total face value of their cards exceeds 21, they’re out. This is called going bust.
If you haven’t gone bust, you are free to keep asking for more cards until you reach 21 or you don’t feel like you could go further without going bust.
When all players around the table are happy with their hands, the dealer flips over their face-down card and begins to deal themselves extra cards until they hit 21 or go bust. At the end of the round, if your hand value is greater than the dealer’s then you have won.
At its core, that’s all there is to Blackjack. It’s a very simple game – that’s one of the reasons it’s so popular – even though we skipped over how to bet, how the process of asking for extra cards works, and what happens if you or the dealer get a natural 21 with your first two cards.
But don’t worry! We’ll get there.
The Origins of Blackjack
Playing cards came to Europe around 1340, so it’s safe to say there was no Blackjack before the 14th century. The first mention of the game was in the novella Rinconete y Cortadillo by Miguel Cervantes, in which two itinerant scoundrels make a living cheating at cards in Seville. In the novella, Cervantes referenced Blackjack using the name Veintiuna, which is Spanish for 21, and it’s under that name that Blackjack became popular in Europe – as Vingt-Un in Britain and France – until it crossed the pond to the Americas in the 18th century.
A step-by-step guide to playing Blackjack
The basic process for playing Blackjack is always the same and consists of the following five steps:
- You place a wager.
- The dealer deals cards to each player.
- Each player decides how to play their hand.
- The dealer players their own hand.
- End of the round.
Step One: Placing a wager
If you’re playing at a land-based casino, there’s an extra step before this one, which consists of acquiring chips to play. If you’re playing at an online casino, you just must first log in and choose a Blackjack game from the list of table games or live casino. When you’ve done that, decide how much you want to bet and place your wager.
Step Two: The dealer deals cards
After bets have been placed, the dealer then goes clockwise around the table dealing 1 face-up card to each player followed by a face-down card for themself. Then they will deal an additional face-up card to each player, and one face-up card for themself.
Step Three: Playing your hand
Let’s pause the action here for a bit, because there are a few things that can happen now that everyone has their cards. First, check your hand value, if you’ve been dealt an Ace (which can have a value of 11 or 1) and a 10 (face cards have a value of ten), congratulations! This called a natural, or a blackjack, and means you’ve won unless the dealer also has a blackjack. If the dealer also has a blackjack, you don’t win anything, but you don’t lose your bet either. This is called a push.
Assuming neither you nor the dealer has a blackjack, play progresses clockwise around the table. At this stage you have five options available to you:
choosing to Stand means that you are happy with your cards and don’t wish anymore.
when you choose Hit the dealer will deal you more cards, one at a time, until you choose to stand or go bust.
you double your initial wager and call for exactly one more card. You will not be allowed any extra cards, so you should only choose to double down when you’re sure that your extra card will give you a good hand.
if you’re dealt two cards with the same value you can split your hand into two hands and play them separately. You will need to put a wager equal to your first on your new hand, but from then on it is played independently of the other.
if you’re not happy with your hand you can opt to surrender and get half of your initial stake back. When playing online blackjack, surrendering your hand might not be an option, so make sure to check the game rules on the site.
Let’s say you’re dealt a 6 and a 4, making a hand total of 10. You know the dealer is going to stand on a 17 or higher, so you hit, and get a 10, for a total of 20. As close to 21 as you’re going to get unless the next card is an Ace. Time to Stand.
Hard vs. Soft hands
because Aces can be counted as a 1 or an 11 if one of your two cards is an Ace, your hand is ‘soft’. If you were dealt a 13 consisting of a 10 and a 3, that’s a Hard 13. If you were dealt an Ace and a 2, that’s a Soft 13.
Step Four: The dealer plays
If you’re still in the game – that is, you haven’t gone bust, and you haven’t surrendered – it’s time to see how your hand compares to the dealer’s. The dealer reveals their hole card and tots up their hand value. Dealers don’t have the same options available to them:
- If their hand is 17 or higher, they must stand.
- If their hand is 16 or lower, they must hit.
The only exception is if the dealer has a Soft 17 made up from an Ace and a 6 because the dealer can count it as a 7, giving them more chances to get a better hand.
if the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace they will sometimes ask if you want insurance. This entails betting half again your initial wager, effectively betting on whether they have a blackjack. Most basic strategy guides heavily suggest you should never take insurance.
Step Five: The end of the round
The round’s almost over and there’s just one thing left to do – figure out who won!
There are two things that can happen here.
The dealer went bust
everyone around the table gets 1x their wager (so if you had bet $0.50, you will get $1 back – your winnings plus your stake).
The dealer made a hand
if you’re still in play, you compare hands. If the dealer’s is higher, you lose your wager – better luck next time!
If your hand is higher, you win 1x your wager, the same as if the dealer went bust.
If your hands have the same value, that’s a push – which is to say you get your stake back but don’t win anything.
There you go, your first round of blackjack. How was it? Exciting, we hope! All that’s left is to clean away the cards, figure out your next stake, and wait for the dealer to go again.
Which is the ideal opportunity to talk about some basic strategy…
Overview of Blackjack strategies
With a game as old and as popular as Blackjack, there are as many ways to beat the system as there are ways to shut them down. Let’s consider some of the most popular ways:
if you look up Basic Blackjack Strategy online you will find pages and pages of simple tables comparing your hand with the dealer’s, with suggestions as to what to do next – Stand, Hit, Double, etc. This is less of a technique, and more of a mathematically advantageous way of playing your hand. There are no guaranteed ways to win at games of chance, but using a basic strategy table you can minimise your losses a little by knowing when to stop when you might otherwise have doubled down.
this is just a fancy way of saying ‘remember all the cards that have been dealt so far and figure out which ones will come up next’. This works best with single deck games in land-based casinos, since online table games will use randomly generated cards, and online live casino tables use several decks at once.
is another name for the collection of techniques – including card counting, hole carding (figuring out the dealer’s hole card), shuffle tracking (remembering the card sequence across multiple decks in a shoe). It requires excellent powers of observation and years of training to pull off, but if you do manage, you’ll be welcomed into the Blackjack Hall of Fame!
The average player doesn’t have the time or energy to develop the memory and skills to really beat the game, but if you’re playing online, you should use a basic strategy table to help you develop your game.
Playing Blackjack at Vera&John
There are loads of ways to play Blackjack at Vera&John. The first thing you should do is register and sign up for our awesome Welcome Bonus. Once you’ve made your first deposit, you’ll be free to hit the tables and find your new favourite game!
If you want to start off with some single player blackjack until you’re comfortable enough with the game to hit the Live Casino tables, there are loads of variations of the game available at Vera&John, just tap the menu and choose table games, and scroll down until you find a version of blackjack that looks right for you. These include VJ Blackjack, Original Blackjack, and even Multi-hand Blackjack, if you fancy playing several hands at the same time.
Live Casino tables
When you feel ready to dip your toe into Live Casino, you’ll find a warm atmosphere and entertaining live dealers waiting to welcome you to the table. You can reach the Live Casino by tapping Live Casino on the top or side menus and then picking one of the games on offer, like Infinite Blackjack or Live Lightning Blackjack.
At Vera&John we also boast several live casino lobbies, including Live Blackjack Paris and our own dedicated Japanese language tables, Live Casino Sancho-Me, where you can play with Japanese live dealers.
When choosing a table to play it, it’s important to consider your budget and the minimum buy in at the table. All our Live Casino games list the minimum bet up front, so take note and pick a table that best suits your wallet!