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So You Want To Play Blackjack?

Playing Blackjack
Playing Blackjack

Blackjack is the most-played casino game around the world, both at land-based and online casinos. It has its origins in the Spanish game of veintiuna and the French vingt-et-un, but its popularity came about once it was introduced to the United States.

Unlike poker, blackjack is a card game played against the dealer only and not the other players. And unlike games of chance such as online pokies, it requires a good strategy. It can lead to decent-sized pay-outs as blackjack has a thin house advantage (0.5% – 1%).

The main goal of the game is to beat the dealer without going over 21 points – ergo the game’s other name of Twenty-One. There are three ways this can happen: by getting a blackjack in the first two cards (only if the dealer doesn’t as well), by having a final score higher than the dealer’s (but not over 21), or by letting the dealer draw until he or she goes over 21.

What are the terms used during a game?

The basic terms used during a game of blackjack are:

Bust/ Break – the player or dealer goes above 21 points

Hit – take another card

Stand/ Stay – take no more cards, ending your turn

Double Down – double your wager, take one final card, and stand

Split – separate two cards of the same value to make two hands

Surrender – give up half of your bet and leave the game

Push – a tied score

Should I hit or not?

After your first two cards are dealt, you must decide on your move. If you have a low count (under 15 points), then you almost always should hit or double down. If you have 16 or more points, you usually should stand. However, if you have a “soft 17” (made with an Ace as 11 points; a “hard” hand is when you assign the Ace 1 point), you can hit as this hand can’t bust. If you have at least 18 points, do not hit as the dealer must continue drawing cards until they have at least a hard 17.

Ace card

Should I split or not?

Most of the time when you have two of the same cards in your hand, you can split them into two separate hands.

The two hands you always split are pairs of Aces and eights. If the two Aces stay together, one is 11 points and the other 1 giving a sum of only 12. If you split them, you have two chances to hit 21. A pair of eights is the worst possible hand because it leaves you with 16 points. When you know that the dealer must keep drawing until 17, this means 16 almost never wins. If you split them, you will have two chances of at least getting 18.

The one pair you should never split is a pair of ten. You already have 20 points and if you split you run the risk of ending with a bad hand.

I’ve heard the word “insurance” – what is it?

Insurance is a bet made on if the dealer has a blackjack with the initial deal based on their up-card being an ace. The wager is equivalent to half of the player’s initial bet. Insurance is always to the casino’s advantage, unless you count cards. If you are playing offline poker, you could give it a try. If you are playing online, it is impossible to count cards, so taking insurance will never work. The general rule is therefore to never take insurance.

Play in the right state of mind

When you are not in the right state of mind, you will not be able to stick to strategy. When you get emotional, you will play only based on your emotions and are almost guaranteed to lose. If you are very emotional, it’s probably not the best time to play. And if you get upset during the game, take a break, refocus, and come back later. After all, playing is supposed to be fun first and foremost!

What else should I keep in mind?

The most important thing is to play responsibly. You should only be wagering money that you can stand to lose. Set a cap on the amount you can lose and stick to it. If you feel you are playing too often and/or for too much money, please step back and put limits on your play. Blackjack can be a fun game, but it is just that – a game.