Blackjack is an iconic card game that’s widely played in land-based casinos throughout the world. It’s also pretty popular at online casinos too, gracing the lobbies of many top iGaming platforms. Also known as Twenty One, blackjack is considered by many to be even more popular than poker.
The origins of the game are difficult to pinpoint – some have the Romans playing an ancient version of the game. Others argue that the first reference to blackjack can be attributed to 16th century Spanish author, Cervantes.
Whatever the truth may be, there’s no doubting the wide appeal of this compelling online casino game. Although each variation has different table rules, they’re all generally straightforward and easy to pick up. Most online casinos will have information about the rules in play for each variation of blackjack. Nevertheless, here’s a brief guide to get you started.
How to Play Blackjack OnlineIn games of classic blackjack, one or more, 52-card decks are used. After you’ve been dealt your first two cards you have two options: hit or stand.
Hit and StandTo ‘hit’ is to request another card from the dealer which you can repeat until you’re happy with your hand. ‘Standing’ means that you’re satisfied with your hand and that you don’t want to receive any more.
When to Hit in BlackjackHit and hand strategies are central to games of blackjack. Should your hand have a value of 8, you’re obviously going to want to hit because of the number of 9 and 10 cards in a pack. Even if you draw cards to improve your hand to 13 or 14, you’ve still got some room to take another card.
When to Stand in BlackjackYou should stand on 17s, 19s and 20s – it would be utter folly to take another card because the risk of going bust would be too great. Also, when the dealer shows a face up card of 6 or under and you’re hand is at least 13, you should stand.
SplittingIf your first two cards are the same value you can split them into two separate hands by placing a second bet of the same value as the original one. You can then take additional cards for each hand. Should you decide to split, the bet will be doubled and both hands will be played separately. You’ve therefore got two chances to beat the dealer. Nevertheless, knowing when to apply this strategy is very important.
When to Split Pairs in BlackjackIn most games of online blackjack, you’ll want to split pairs of eights and aces. Splitting aces makes sense because there are more 10-value cards in a standard deck than any others. So you’ve got a decent chance of hitting at least one blackjack. Splitting eights is a good idea too. Having two hands of eights is much better than playing one hand of 16, which does not have a high success rate.
Doubling Down in BlackjackThe doubling down strategy enables you to double your stake as long as you stand after receiving one card. Given the risk of being dealt a low second card this strategy can be pretty risky. So it’s crucial to understand when to employ this approach. Here are some of the best times to do so:
- Hard 9 – double down if you’ve been dealt a hard 9 and the dealer has a card worth between 2 and 6.
- Hard 10 or 11 – if you’ve got a hard 10 or 11, double down when the dealer shows any lower card
- Soft 16 - 18 – double down when you’ve been dealt an Ace with a 5, 6 or 7 and the dealer shows cards from 2 – 6.
Surrender StrategyThis strategy isn’t always available with games of online blackjack. If it is, it should be a major part of your overall approach. This is because you’ll be able to give your hand up and get half of your stake back – great if you don’t like your cards. There are two kinds: early and late. The early surrender enables you to give your hand up regardless of the dealer’s opening card. The late surrender allows you to surrender your hand, but only once the dealer has checked his for a blackjack. If he’s lucky enough to have one, you can say goodbye to your entire stake. With this in mind, take care to surrender at the right time. You should surrender 17 against a 9, 10 or ace but only if the dealer stands on all 17’s. A 16 hand should also be surrendered against a 10-value card
Insurance & Even Money StrategyWhen a dealer has an Ace, there’s always a risk that a face-down picture card is lying in wait. So for some online blackjack game variants, the dealer will offer an ‘insurance’ side bet. This is separate to the main game and requires you to part with half of your stake. But in return, you’ll be paid out 2-1 if the dealer lands a blackjack. So you’ll win the bet but lose half your stake which of course means that you’ll break even.
When to use the Insurance BetThe insurance bet is best used when you’ve been dealt low value cards. Although many players include the strategy as part of their overall approach, some avoid it altogether. If you’re starting out, we’d recommend that you avoid it.
Even Money InsuranceThe even money insurance bet is similar to the standard variant. It’s offered when you have a blackjack and the dealer shows an ace. By accepting an even money insurance bet, you’re agreeing to a 1:1 payout over a push brought about by a dealer holding a blackjack, or a 3:2 payout if he doesn’t.
When to us Even Money Insurance Bets in BlackjackOur advice would be to avoid even money insurance bets if you’re a beginner. The majority of experienced players stay well clear because they generate losses in the long-term.
PayoutsIf you beat the dealer with a higher combination you will win a 1:1 payout, which means if you bet $20 you will win another $20. With a winning blackjack you will receive a 3:2 payout. Payout rates will vary depending on the casino. Winning insurance bets will usually offer a payout of 2:1.
Best Places to Play Blackjack OnlineThere are multiple casinos where you can play online blackjack. But when searching for the best blackjack variants, pay close attention to the software that actually drives the game. As the marketplace becomes ever more competitive software designers are constantly trying to add something new. This often relates to extra side bets and special add-on games that specifically target web-based users. Some developers have even started to release progressive blackjack games. As far as online blackjack games are concerned, some of the best-known software providers in the gaming industry include, but are by no means limited to:
- Net entertainment (NetEnt)
- Microgaming Casinos