A Game Guide to Blackjack including Blackjack RulesBlackjack is one of the most popular casino games available both at real-life casinos and online. The game has a long history and has changed dramatically over the years but continues to be played at most casinos.
If you’re new to the game, it can be frighteningly overwhelming, so it’s important to take a look at the rules before even thinking about tackling the game, though players do learn quickly.
Blackjack dates back around 250 years when it was known as “vingt-et-Un” by the French, which translates to the word for 21. French Canadian fur trappers and other immigrants who travelled to the US brought the game with them, causing a surge in popularity.
Around this time, the US decided to change the game’s name and its rules in order to make the odds a bit more favourable to players. One of the changes was the introduction of a ten-to-one bonus payout if the player draws the jack of spades with the ace of spades.
The changes led to a belief that the game can be beaten, prompting an increase in popularity and blackjack is still played to this day. In fact, it’s so popular that it inspired variations such as Spanish 21 and pontoon.
Blackjack Rules: How To Play
Essentially, blackjack is a comparing card game played between several players and a dealer. It’s played with one or more decks of 52 cards and sees players taking it in turns to compete against the dealer, but NOT each other.
Each card in the deck is assigned a point value and it’s important you remember what they are. For example, cards two to 10 are worth their face value but kings, queens and jacks are all worth 10.
The ace, meanwhile, can be worth either one or 11 depending on the game being played, offering players a chance to mix rules up.
To win the game and beat the dealer players are tasked with reaching the value of 21 without going over it. There are various ways of achieving this, including:
- Getting 21 points on the player’s first two cards, which is referred to as a “blackjack” or “natural”.
- Reaching a final score higher than that of the dealer without going over 21.
- Let the dealer draw additional cards until their hand goes over 21.
An online game of blackjack begins with players selecting how much money they want to bet on a hand. The number of money players can bet depends entirely on which casino they’re playing at, but generally includes bets of £1, £5, £25 or £100. After selecting the bet amount, players click the ‘Deal’ button to get the game started.
After clicking that button, the player and dealer will be dealt the first two cards. Players will then be given the option to:
- Hit: Take another card in the hopes of getting closer to 21. However, going over the number will result in the player automatically losing the game.
- Stand: If the player thinks their hand is strong enough to beat the dealer, they can stand and stop taking additional cards.
- Double Down: The double down option allows players to double their original bet and receive one more card.
- Split: If the player is dealt two cards that pair, they can make a second bet equal to the first and split the pair, using each card as the first card in a different hand. If the player continues to receive pairs, they can split up to four hands but can NOT play their hands after splitting with aces.
- Insurance: If the dealer’s upcard is an ace, players will be presented with the choice to take insurance, a side bet that the dealer has blackjack. It pays 1:2, so for every pound bet the player will receive two pounds.
- Surrendering: If the player has a bad hand compared to the dealer’s, the player can surrender their hand, reclaim half of their bet, and the round is over.
- Early Surrender: A player can only select an early surrender before the dealer checks their cards for a blackjack. However, because this option is highly beneficial to the player, it’s rarely offered.
- Late Surrender: Players can select a late surrender after the dealer has checked their cards for a blackjack. It allows the player to give up half the bet rather than playing their current hand.
After selecting an action, the dealer will either take more cards or reveal their hand, finishing the game. Players will then accept their winnings or lose their bets. Following this, players can click the ‘Rebet’ option to bet the same amount of money on the next hand. Alternatively, players can manually adjust their bet.
Due to blackjack’s popularity, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to discover that there are numerous variations of the game. So, when it comes to playing online blackjack, it’s important to know which game you’re playing as rules and gameplay can differ depending on the variation.
The classic version of blackjack is essentially what we’ve explained above. This version uses one deck of 52 cards and is the most commonly available version. Players are dealt with two cards and are tasked with beating the dealer by getting as close to 21 as possible without exceeding the number.
Three card blackjack is one of the easiest versions of blackjack available at casinos. Like the classic version, three card blackjack is played with a single 52-card deck. However, each hand starts with players placing an ante bet in the designated betting circle.
Once all bets have been made, the dealer gives players three cards face-down and deals their own cards face-up. The players then select any two or all three of their cards to create a combination reaching 21 without exceeding the number and beating the dealer.
Elimination blackjack is basically a tournament in which players compete against each other and the dealer. Players are eliminated during the tournament, which consists of around 30 hands. The winner of the game is the player who has the most chips at the end of the 30 hands.
In double exposure blackjack, both of the dealer’s cards are exposed to players, giving players a better chance to win. However, this variation has additional rules. For example, in this version blackjack hands pay even money, players can only split once and the dealer wins on all ties except when the player has blackjack.
The rest of the game is played just like the classic version, in which players bet, receive two cards and are asked to select an action before the hand is finished.
Pontoon is a popular variation of blackjack which became increasingly popular in the UK. Since pontoon is a variation of blackjack, the rules differ somewhat from the classic version. For example, pontoon is normally played with between five and eight players at real casinos. However, when the game is played with by more than eight players, the game uses two decks of 52 cards.
It’s also important to note that one player acts as the banker, selected by drawing the highest card before playing. Whenever a player and the banker have two hands of equal value, the banker wins. When playing online pontoon, players compete against the bank. In addition to that, British pontoon uses the terms twist (hit), stick (stand) and buy (double the bet) while the ace and 10-value card hand are called a pontoon and not a blackjack.
On top of all that, there are three Australian variations of pontoon which are called Federal Pontoon, Jupiters 21 and Treasury 21. Each variation is played at specific casinos and differs slightly from the original British version.
The European version of blackjack normally uses six decks of 52 cards, though some versions may use two, four or eight decks. In this version, the dealer doesn’t get a second card until all players have selected their actions regarding their hands. However, the objective of the game remains the same and sees players try to reach the number 21 without exceeding it.
Other rules in this variation include the ability to double on hard totals of nine and 11 and to split up three cards. However, players cannot surrender cards.
Multi-hand blackjack is played with five decks of 52 cards and allows players to play up to five hands at once. Despite this, the objective remains the same as players are tasked with getting a hand higher in value to that of the dealer without exceeding 21.
There are also a few differences in the rules compared to classic blackjack. The new rules include only doubling down on points of 9, 10 and 11, no doubling or splitting after a player has already split their hand, no surrendering and a rule in which the dealer cannot check their cards for blackjack until the end of the game.
Spanish 21 is very similar to pontoon. However, in this version of the game, all 10 cards are removed from the deck. While this may make the game seem more difficult, Spanish 21 actually compensates for that by implementing some player-friendly rules.
While most rules vary depending on the casino, they include the ability to resplit, player blackjacks beat dealer blackjacks, players can double down on any point totals, players can double down after splitting and players can also surrender after doubling.
Face Up 21
Face Up 21 is a variation of blackjack in which both of the dealer’s cards are dealt face-up. This gives the player more information to make decisions but comes with an extra set of rules. In this game, dealer blackjacks beat player blackjacks, players can only double on point totals of 9, 10 and 11. However, this variation allows players to double after splitting.
Match Play 21
Match Play 21 is another variation of blackjack. Like Spanish 21, this version of the game removes 10 cards from the deck but certain combinations of hands receive special bonus payouts. In addition to that, players can only double once throughout the game, splitting is allowed and blackjack pays 3:2.
Perfect Pairs Blackjack
Perfect Pairs Blackjack uses the regular rules of blackjack but allows players to place an extra side bet at the beginning of each hand which wagers that the first two cards will be of the same value.
Blackjack Switch is a variation where players are dealt with two hands and given the option to trade the second card dealt with each hand. However, some rules have changed as resplitting is forbidden, dealers always check for blackjacks and blackjacks pay more money.
Bankroll: The money you have to gamble.
Blackjack: The name of the game and a special combination of cards totalling 21, such as an ace and a 10 point card.
Bust: A Bust is when players take additional cards that make their hand exceed the maximum value of 21. When busting, players automatically lose their bet and are eliminated from the rest of the round.
Double Down: When players place a second bet on top of their original wager.
Even Money: This option is only offered when the player is dealt a blackjack and the dealer’s upcard is an ace with potential for blackjack. By accepting Even Money, players choose to get paid the equivalent of their bet rather than one-and-a-half times your bet made from blackjacks. This protects the player from losing against the dealer.
Hit: Hit, or Twist in Pontoon, means you want another card dealt to you. In real life casinos, a hit is signified by a hand gesture in which the player taps the table.
Hole Card/Upcard: A Hole Card and Upcard is the dealer’s two cards. The Hole Card is the card dealt face-down while the Upcard is the card dealt face-up.
Insurance: When the dealer’s up-card is an ace, the game will offer the player an extra bet in order to protect them against a potential blackjack.
Push: When a player and dealer end up with hands of the same value. Normally, there is no winner or loser when this happens and the player’s bet is returned to them. However, if the player and dealer both have blackjack, the winner is declared depending on the variation being played.
Splitting: When a player is dealt two pairs and decides to separate them into two separate hands.
Soft 17/Soft Hand: A Soft Hand is when the dealer or player has been dealt two cards, one of which includes an ace. Meanwhile, a Soft 17 occurs when the player or dealer has been dealt an ace and six.
Surrender: If the surrender option is available, it allows players to surrender their hand if they think they’re unable to win. Surrendering will also recover half of the player’s bet rather than lose it all.
Stand: Stand, or Stick in Pontoon, means players are satisfied with their cards and don’t want another dealt to them. Like a Hit, a Stand is signified by a hand gesture in which the player waves their hand over their cards.