Across all casino platforms: physical, computerized table game or live blackjack – this table format is pretty much the same. The dealer stands behind the chips tray, and draws cards from the shoe. In the middle there is the dealer’s hand – which should be the player’s primary focus because it is this hand you have to beat. Players sit or are virtually positioned, round the semi-circle. There is a position for each player to sit, and where to play bets and cards. Most tables can fit between five to six players at a go.
Originating from 1760s France when it was called ‘Vingt-et-Un’, i.e. ‘Twenty-One’, blackjack has pretty much retained its popularity. Beloved all round the globe, most players tend to confuse the aim of the game when it comes to facing off with the dealer.
Contrary to the dictionary-like explanation, the point of blackjack is not to get as close to the number 21 as you can. The point is to beat the dealer, or the casino if you’re playing blackjack online. As long as you manage to best the opponent, then the money is yours any how. No need to be overly risky.
You ‘beat’ the dealer/casino in one of three main ways:
- Don’t go bust (in other words, don’t go over 21)
- Get a higher score than the dealer/casino
- Wait it out until the dealer goes bust
In reality, you should see the score of ’21’ as a sort of line in the sand. You should really really try hard not to go over it.
No matter if you’re playing online or at a physical casino, the basis of how blackjack is played remains the same. The casino will typically shuffle together several card decks, usually six, so that there’s around 312 cards in the game. The 6-deck version of blackjack tends to be the most common.
The blackjack table is semi-circular in shape at both online blackjack (played at live casinos), table blackjack, and the blackjack played at physical casinos. Once you’re seated, the process is easy.
- Player buys into the game using account credit/chips
- Player makes their wager
- Dealer or computer will deal out cards to the players
- Player plays their hand (more on that down below)
- Dealer plays their hand
- Cash-outs ensue for one of the parties!
Every time the dealer gives out a draw, it will be two cards at a time. The minimum and maximum bets are usually set to general limits. These limits are somewhere between $2 and $500.
How is the blackjack table organized?
Take a look down below to get bearings on how a blackjack table is organized:
The ‘rules’ of blackjack come down to two main things:
The value of the cards themselves
You can check down below what value cards have in blackjack game. The value for most cards is set, and remains the same from game to game no matter where you play them. That goes for online and land casinos.
However, there is one particular type of card – the Ace– the value of which is decided according to the cards you draw. An Ace can be either worth 1 point or 11 points. The difference between the Ace values determines the difference between a hard hand and a soft hand.
A hard hand is either a hand that has no Ace card at all, or a hand where the Ace is worth 1 point. On the contrary, any hand that contains an Ace worth 11 points is known as a soft hand. The value of either 1 point or 11 points fluctuates according to the benefit of the player.
For example, if you draw 5-Ace-10-3, this would be a hard 19 because the Ace here is worth 1 point. Otherwise, if it were worth 11 points, the player would go bust just from the first draw.
If the player draws a combination of 6-Ace, then this is considered a soft 17 where the Ace is worth 11 points. The player can then draw another card.
It is extremely important to remember and instinctively understand the difference between the two hands. Not because
The type of play you’ll be making
In blackjack, there aren’t really types of ‘bets’ as in craps, roulette or sic bo. This is because the latter two table games are played by placing chips on a specific bet-section of a table, and then hoping for the best odd-payout.
Instead of types of ‘bets’ there are types of hands. You can check out all of the different types of hands down below too. The game is decided based on the type of hand the player and the dealer make.
Question is – how do you know when you should play a certain type of hand over another?
|ACES||1 point or 11 points|
|2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9||According to pip/face value (i.e. a ‘7’ card is worth 7 points)|
|10 AND FACE CARDS (J, Q, K)||10 points|
|STAND||When you ‘Stand’, it means you’re satisfied with the first two cards drawn by the dealer. You’re telling the dealer that he/she can move onto the next player, because you require no further cards. |
Movement (Land Casino): Lay your hand flat down on the table, or wave your hand to indicate not proceeding.
|HIT||Hit me baby one more time! The direct opposite of ‘Stand’, ‘Hit’ means that you’d like more cards. Probably because you want to have a higher total than what you’re currently holding. You can keep going until you go bust, or until you choose to stand. |
There is no limit to how many times you want to get Hit.
Movement (Land Casino): With either one or two fingers, tap the table once or twice.
|DOUBLE DOWN||Say you like your current hand, but you’d like to risk a slight improvement. You don’t want the dealer to give you two cards because you’re likely to go bust with two. You only want one card. If so, you have the option to ‘Double Down’. |
When you Double Down, you have to match your initial wager so that it’s worth double the amount. By doing so, the dealer will then only give you one more card instead of two.
Movement (Land Casino): Stack up your chips next to the original wager, and the dealer/croupier will automatically hand you just the one card.
|SPLIT||If you’re dealt with two cards which have equal value, you are allowed to ‘Split’ them into two new hands. Of course, as you can observe from above, this does not only apply to number cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) but also to face cards like Queen, Jack, King (which are all worth 10 points) and then pairs of the face cards with 10. |
The catch is that you can only ‘Split’ cards by putting down a second wager. After all, having two hands not one means double the chances of winning and also provides a safety net.
Movement (Land Casino): First thing you should do is put down a second stack of chips for your second wager. Then, making a sort of peace sign, put two fingers on the table facing downwards.
|SURRENDER||Let’s say you’re given a hand, but you’re not really feeling it or liking the looks of it. Not all hope is lost. You can choose to ‘Surrender’ your hand to the dealer but you’ll only get half your wager back, instead of the full amount. Still, it can prove the wiser choice when you have a really weak hand and you’re sure to lose. |
Movement (Land Casino): Using your index finger, draw a line just underneath where both your hand and bet are. Since the movement is somewhat similar to a Hit, it’s sometimes necessary to verbalize the request. Just say ‘Surrender’ out loud if that’s the case.
When playing blackjack, there is what is known as ‘Basic Strategy’. This isn’t strategy reserved for professionals, or for rich people who want to get richer. This is the most fundamental gameplay structure that any blackjack player should know before entering a game.
Basic strategy is based off of two limits beyond the player’s control:
- The player’s hand
- The dealer’s hand
Although these dealing of these cards is indeed beyond control – players can still manipulate the situation using the above types of plays. Basic strategy is about figuring out the most mathematically sound way of turning a hand to your advantage.
|Player’s Hand||Dealer’s Hand|
|2 to 6||7 to Ace|
|4 to 8||Hit||Hit|
|10/11||Double Down when your hand is higher than the dealer’s|
|12 to 16||Stand||Hit|
|17 to 21||Stand||Stand|
|Player’s Hand||Dealer’s Hand|
|2 to 6||7 to Ace|
|13 to 15||Hit||Hit|
|16 to 18||Double Down||Hit|
|19 to 21||Stand||Stand|
|Player’s Hand||Dealer’s Hand|
|2 to 6||7 to Ace|
|2|2, 3|3, 6|6, 7|7, 9|9||Split||Don’t Split|
|4|4, 5|5, 10|10||Don’t Split||Don’t Split|
There are a few exceptions to this, mostly you should never take insurance and to surrender when it’s 16 versus 10.
Does blackjack strategy work?
Blackjack strategy is incredibly effective, mostly because it is based on cold hard maths and not individual theories and ideas. As stated above, you definitely should never go into a blackjack game without having studied and learned basic strategy.
Basically, if you just follow the set strategy, you’ll also take out an element of the ‘gamble’ from playing blackjack. There are books written about how effective the strategy is. One of them includes the text ‘Gambling 102: The Best Strategies for All Casino Games‘, written by the wizard of odds himself, Michael Shackleford.
You can even get the Cliffs Notes version by taking a look at Basic Blackjack Strategy charts. They’re like chemistry charts, but with blackjack combinations instead of chemical elements. They’re both scientific in nature. Follow the blackjack rules and blackjack strategy, and you’ll definitely be playing smarter and winning more often.
How can I play online blackjack?
Playing blackjack online is much easier than playing at a land casino. For one, you don’t have to be wearing a tux or an expensive dress to sit at a table. For another, you don’t have to drive anywhere.
All you have to do is sign up to a reputable online casino, deposit some money into your account, and then choose a blackjack table. If you scroll up you’ll find our recommended list of blackjack casinos. Further down, you have a few new online casino options that offer blackjack for Canadian players.
Each of these online casinos has been hand-selected by Playcasinos.ca thanks to their wide range of blackjack variations, as well as excellent customer service and banking options.
There are two types of blackjack that you can play online, depending on what you’re looking for. These are table blackjack and live blackjack.
Table blackjack is a computerized online blackjack game between just you, the player, and a computer dealer. There are many gaming providers that have created table blackjack games, like Microgaming, Play’n GO and NetEnt. For Canadian players, Microgaming is your best bet when it comes to table blackjack gaming.
Even with table blackjack, players can access different selections like Blackjack Gold and Exclusive Blackjack.
Live online blackjack is filmed in a live studio, with a real dealer and a real table, only the players join the session virtually. Providers like Evolution Gaming and Ezgui provide some of the highest quality and fastest connections.
With live online blackjack also comes considerable variation. For instance, Evolution not only streams live blackjack. It also streams live blackjack Paris and live blackjack party. Just choose the session with an open chair, and wait until your screen loads up!
Can I play online blackjack free?
Yes, most casinos offer the option to play games in demo mode for free. However, if you want to play at a live table, you will have to wager real money to play online blackjack.
How to win at online blackjack
Winning online blackjack follows the same formula as winning blackjack at a land casino. Meaning, you should make full use of the basic blackjack strategy.
Although different platforms are being used, as well as different planes of reality, the rules of online blackjack remain exactly the same. As do the types of hands and play. So make sure to study up on those charts and those player hand-dealer hand combinations. They could truly be the difference between a winning streak and a massive fail!
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Down below we’re covering the top 5 most notorious blackjack players of all time. These guys put the cool in school and the money in blackjack.
1. Edward Thorp
Considered the ‘godfather of card counting‘, Edward Thorp was the first person to both write a book and also put his theory into practice. Thorp’s book, Beat the Dealer, mathematically proved that you can systematically and consistently beat the dealer at blackjack. In order to make sure his strategies were fool-proof, he utilized them himself when playing at casinos. Given that his strategies were created using computer programs (Thorp was also the first to do this), they worked like a charm.
Thorp put together an elite team of mathematicians from MIT and, under his guidance, they proceeded to win a lot of money. See the movie 21, and you’ll know what we’re talking about.
2. Ken Uston
While Thorp was one of the pioneers of putting together genius teams to win blackjack, Ken Uston made it a thing. During the 1970s, he put together a number of counting teams and as a result popularized the concept for ages to come.
He won millions from these teams, but he is also known for winning a very important lawsuit against Atlantic City casinos. A few casinos had banned him and his teams, and he argued that they had no right to do so as they were just using their skills to optimize odds – not ‘cheating’ per se. The court ruled in Uston’s favor, and to this day it is not considered illegal to count cards in Atlantic City.
3. Tommy Hyland
Tommy Hyland was never a lone wolf. He made a career out of playing in teams across a wide range of casinos. His card counters have been together since 1979 and consist of around 15 players (round about).
Legend has it that, initially, Hyland was part of a four-member team who each put $4,000 into the pot. Within a couple of months, their collective balance went up to around $50,000 or $60,000. Now that’s what you call a profitable turnover. But nobody really knows how much money the team has made since then. We’re guessing millions.
4. Don Johnson
Johnson is more of a recent story. When Atlantic City casinos were going through a rough patch during the recession. Allegedly, they invited well-known pro blackjack players Don Johnson to their VIP blackjack tables. He arranged a 20% cash-back deal to his massive advantage, which any blackjack player is almost unheard of. So whenever Johnson lost $500,000 – he’d get a cool $100,000 of that back.
Johnson ended up winning $15 million from three different casinos in just the span of five months. What’s even more impressive is that Johnson supposedly doesn’t count cards – he has more tricks up his sleeve than that.
5. Stanford Wong
In 1963, Stanford Wong (real name John Ferguson) read Thorp’s Beat the Dealer book and low and behold, got inspired to start playing blackjack. At just 21, he headed to Reno and tried his hand at professional blackjack. The venture proved fruitful, and he continued playing from there on out. He even developed his own technique called ‘wonging’ – super risky, but can really reel in the big bucks.
Eventually, Wong followed in the footsteps of godfather Thorp, and started writing his own books. He’s even the owner of publishing company Pi Yee Press.