BlackJack Wikipedia

Jan 11, 2020 | Reading time: 24 Minutes

1. Blackjack History

Where did blackjack really come from? Just as experts continue to debate about the facts and origins of Shakespeare and his greatest works, so too do many argue about who created the most infamous card game in casinos today: blackjack. While the popular game of 21 has some similarities to the European card games of basset, baccarat and the Latin American "punto-banco baccarat," it could be older than all of them.

1.1 Facts on the Origin of Blackjack

Richard Epstein found the earliest reference to the Italian-born game of basset in 1593, a card-gambling pastime with few similarities to blackjack. Still, Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes described blackjack in a story he wrote in 1602 -- as if it was a game that had already been around for some time by the Spanish name "ventiuna," or "21." The French also called it 21 in their own language "vingt-et-un." What is clear is that blackjack and its relatives were most likely in play around the same time throughout Italy, France and Spain before spreading rapidly across the rest of Europe. From there, it was only a matter of time before European colonists brought blackjack with them into many European colonies worldwide. By 1931, Nevada became the first place in the United States where playing 21 was legal, and here is where the game received the name "blackjack." One casino offered an incredible bonus of a 10 to 1 payout if you got a winning hand of the ace of spades plus a black jack, i.e. a jack of clubs or a jack of spades, which is the original "blackjack" hand. After cancelling this bonus, the name still stuck. However, today's game counts any hand with an ace and a 10-value card as a winning "blackjack" hand.

2. The Definition of Blackjack

In blackjack card games, your goal is to either score exactly 21 or at least higher than the dealer without getting more than 21 points total.

2.1 Blackjack Card Values

Every jack, king and queen card holds a value of 10 points, and other numbered cards are worth the exact value shown on the card. Depending on which value is in your favor, each ace is worth either 11 points or only one point.

2.2 Basic Blackjack Game Play

The dealer starts by giving each player two cards, including themselves. You choose whether you're satisfied with the cards you already have, or you can ask for another card. Every player makes the same choices, receiving one card at a time until everyone is satisfied with their score. Then the dealer plays out his or her hand last in front of everyone to show the score that they needed to beat to win. The only catch for your dealer is that they must continue drawing cards until they score 17 or more. Every player who has a greater score than the dealer wins their bet. Also, if you get a perfect 21 score with the first two cards you receive and the dealer doesn't get the same, you'll instantly win. Anyone who gets a score greater than 21 or less than the dealer loses. If the dealer goes over the limit of 21, then all the players will win as long as they didn't exceed 21. If you get the same score as the dealer, you often won't lose or win.

2.3 Blackjack Terminology

A "push" is when you get exactly the same score as the dealer, which is generally equivalent to winning a tie. Casinos may have alternative ways of continuing the play, such as options to raise the stakes and play another hand to break the tie. If you receive an ace card from the dealer, you have a "soft hand" because it's a flexible card that helps prevent you from busting. Without any aces, you have a "hard hand" because all the cards have fixed values that can't change. The "ante" is the minimum bet you need to place to start playing. The casino's "house edge" is the amount of money that the casino is statistically likely to earn from each blackjack game, which usually appears as a percentage.

2.4 Options for Blackjack Moves:

When you ask the dealer, "Hit me," you're requesting another card after everyone has received their initial hand. You "stand" whenever you think your hand is as strong as it's going to get by declining to take any more cards. After everyone stands, the dealer will play to reveal who wins. You "bust" when your score goes beyond 21 points, causing you to automatically lose. When you hear someone call "blackjack," it means they've scored 21 with only two cards to win that round. You can choose to "double down" if the total score of your first two cards is either nine, 10 or 11. Some casinos will also let you double down on any of the first two cards you receive. In this case, you double your starting wager in exchange for receiving only one more card. "Splitting pairs" is a special option where you can play two hands at a time to increase your chances of winning. You can only choose this option if you've received two cards of the same denomination, like if you have two jacks or two numerical cards with the same value. Your initial bet would apply only to the first hand, and you have to make another separate bet for the second hand. The choice to "surrender" will greatly help you reduce your losses by giving up half of your initial bet and turning in your hand, but it's not available at every casino. Choose this option if you get a hand that's likely to lead to a bust when the dealer seems to have a better hand.

3. Blackjack Rules

Know the common variations of blackjack rules:

3.1 Casino Rules for Blackjack

will vary, and you should always check the rules before playing. You can often find a placard right on the blackjack that clarifies their specific rules on playing allowances and betting options. If you're in doubt, you can always ask the dealer directly during the game. An example of tight rules that make it harder for you to win are games that only let you double down on a 10, 11 or greater without options to double down on a soft hand or after a split. In this type of game, the dealer also hits a soft 17 hand to get higher scores that you must compete with. You'll have a much better chance of winning if you play at a blackjack table that lets you surrender and double down on any cards; your odds are even better if the dealer also stands on all hands of 17 or more.

3.2 Blackjack Gambling Rules

normally appear on a small sign to the right of your dealer on the blackjack table, and at the very least, they'll post the minimum and maximum bets they accept. In the United Kingdom, most casinos are open to everyone although some exclusive private casinos require that you must first apply to become a member before you can play. You may also have to show proof of identification if they suspect you're younger than the minimum legal gambling age of 18. Most casinos in this country may expect you to wear "smart-casual" attire, and membership-only casinos can require jackets and ties. In the United States, online gambling for blackjack and other games remains legal according to federal law for all citizens as long as banks don't handle the bets and you don't bet on the results of a sporting event. In land-based casinos in Nevada, you must be 21 years old to enter or play any games; however, children can go through the general public areas as long as they stay away from machines and all card tables since many casinos are part of a hotel where their family may be staying.

3.3 Playing Blackjack "Without" a Dealer

The blackjack rules without a dealer make the game more like poker since you have to beat the best hand among all the other players; plus, you can fold to give up your hand and save your bet at any time. This kind of blackjack usually isn't available in land-based casinos. However, you may enjoy it more because everyone keeps all their cards hidden. You keep drawing a card at a time until everyone stands, and you can't collect the pot if you've already busted.

3.4 Two-player Blackjack Rules

have some simple, alternative ways to play. One example is that everything remains the same as in traditional blackjack games with a dealer, and each player gets a chance to be the dealer. In both hands, one card faces up while the other faces down. Players bet on who wins the whole deck, so they would keep playing one round after another with one deck of cards until they've used the whole deck. At the end of each round, the winner keeps all the cards from that hand. Ultimately, the one who ends up with the most cards at the end of the deck wins.

4. Insurance Bets in Blackjack

What's an insurance bet in blackjack? While you may find variations on this popular side bet to protect yourself against a lucky dealer, the general rule is that the dealer can offer all players a chance to make an insurance bet if you believe that the dealer actually has a blackjack hand, which is an ace card with any 10-value card. Usually they offer this bet when the dealer's faceup card is an ace. If the dealer does have a blackjack, then you'll win the hand, and everyone who didn't take the insurance bet will lose. If both you and the dealer have blackjack hands, then you end up in a push.

5.House Edge Blackjack Calculator

How can you calculate the specific odds in your blackjack game? By using a blackjack house-edge calculator, you can see the different chances you have at winning among various casinos with different playing rules. The most reliable calculators will give you the odds based on: how many decks of cards are in your game if the dealer stands or hits with a soft-17 hand your options to double down if you can keep splitting to a total of up to four hands if you can surrender Here's a general example: For the most popular version of blackjack in casinos that use a total of six decks of cards, if the players have the most conservative playing options, the house edge is 0.75 percent. Thus, blackjack offers a comparatively high advantage to players over other casino games. If the same six-deck blackjack game allows players the most additional betting options possible, then the house edge is only 0.37 percent. Each casino has their own mix of betting options and different house-edge rates. In general, your chances of winning increase in games with less decks of cards without a continuous shuffler.

5.1 Average Odds of Winning?

Whether or not your dealer hits or stands on a soft 17-value hand, they'll still bust about 30 percent of the time on average. Smarter players like card counters will win about 50 percent of the time or more, depending upon their technique. By comparison, the average blackjack player with basic playing strategies could win around 40 percent of the time.

6. Blackjack Playing Strategies

6.1 Basic Blackjack Playing Strategies

To help you understand blackjack basic strategies, experts advise using a blackjack strategy chart that lists playing advice for each possible scenario of total card combinations you could see during a game. Your strategies should change according to the exact number of card decks in your game and if the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17. Here's an example: Supposing that you played a common blackjack game with more than four decks and the dealer hitting on a soft 17, the general rules are that you'd almost always hit a soft hand unless you've scored an 18. You'd almost always stand on a hard hand with a score of 12 or more unless the dealer's faceup card was a seven or higher. Keep in mind that you still have to memorize the entire strategy chart for your game to gain a real advantage.

6.2 Composition-Dependent Blackjack Strategies

For additional rules that can give you a slightly greater playing advantage, you'll need to learn a blackjack composition-dependent strategy from strategy charts that go into more details about how to play depending on the exact cards of your hand rather than just the total value of your hand. These strategies take into account many additional factors like when you should split pairs and when to stay or hit on soft hands.

7.Advantage Play in Blackjack

How can you gain extra advantages in blackjack?

7.1 Card Counting

7.1.1. Is Card Counting Illegal?

U.S. courts have ruled in the past that any gaming establishment technically has the right to defend themselves against the extra losses they experience from card-counters or other expert players who learn how to exploit the game. Still, card counting isn't illegal in Nevada or in many other states because players aren't technically doing anything that the house doesn't allow them to do. A man named Kenny Uston won his court case against a casino for counting cards in New Jersey, so theoretically, Atlantic City casinos can't harass card counters or prevent them from playing. Still, casinos have the full freedom to change their rules and game play in any way they like because they are private businesses. As a result of more people counting cards, more casinos now take away a counter's edge by shuffling the deck anytime you significantly raise your bet, and they can always ask you to leave. Nevada has passed laws that using a device such as an iPhone app to count cards while playing is against the law. You can also end up on a black list even from questionable playing at online casinos.

7.1.2. Card-Counting Basic Strategies

Among the top blackjack card-counting strategies, the idea is that you watch a blackjack game for the start of a new deck and begin a running count of the high-value and low-value cards that helps you determine when the odds are in your favor. If you do it right, then you'll know when the deck is rich in valuable face cards. Card counting can't help you predict your next hand; it just helps you learn when to bet big and when to bet small or surrender your hand. Card counting is a difficult practice that also requires you to first know basic playing and betting strategies first, and you can only be successful if you look like you're not counting.

7.1.3 Betting Strategies

Any professional card counter combines their mathematical observations with the appropriate blackjack betting strategy in order to make real profits. These strategies are often betting progressions that you can only use when you know you're about to hit several winning hands, such as doubling your bet in a calculated way after every win. Also, a card counter has to play in such a way that he or she continues to lose some money to look like a "normal" player. Therefore, they would typically increase the bet after a win and decrease their bet after a loss in addition to making good bets when the odds were in their favor.

7.1.4 Odds of Winning with Card Counting

Your odds of winning at blackjack card counting in the best of circumstances while following perfect betting strategy are about 50 percent or more; therefore, you could see an average return of 1.182 percent of your total initial bets, according to analyses by statistics software. This calculation assumes you're playing in such a way that the casino wouldn't catch you, which means you wouldn't bet in excessively high amounts.

7.2 Blackjack Shuffle Tracking

This highly complex version of a card-counting strategy uses the high-low method. In blackjack games where the dealer shuffles the deck by hand, you can see where he or she cuts the deck and which cards are on the bottom; therefore, you can theoretically observe and calculate where clusters of high-value cards would appear in the deck during the game to make a higher bet at the right time. However, it doesn't work in newer casinos with automated shuffling machines or with an experienced dealer who conceals the cards well during shuffles. As a side note, you should know that playing video blackjack online makes it impossible to count cards and may include programming to "shuffle" after every hand. You can typically make more money playing a live blackjack game in a brick-and-mortar casino since both your odds and payouts are better there.

8. Blackjack Side Bets

Every casino has their own individual types of side bets you can make before receiving the next hand. These separate bets are additional to your minimum required bet to play at the table, and they could wager whether or not your first two cards will score more or less than 13 or any other various possibilities of the casino's choice. If you know how to count cards or use other techniques of advantage play like,

8.1 Side-bet Payouts

then the extra blackjack side-bet payouts can make you more money than getting a blackjack hand and attract less unwanted attention than you'd get from playing basic strategies alone. However, side bets aren't worth it for new players because your probabilities of winning them are generally lower than winning the average blackjack game.

9. Blackjack Tournaments

In blackjack tournaments, most traditional blackjack rules apply, and you must end up with more chips than the other players to win. Tournament formats can vary from multi-table to single-table games where the losing players gradually become eliminated at the end of each hand. Blackjack tournaments online are available at many websites offering daily, weekly or monthly games that you can join against other real players.

10.Blackjack Elimination-Tournament Strategies

Blackjack Tournament Strategies What's different about blackjack elimination-tournament strategies? A blackjack elimination-tournament strategy is vastly different from traditional blackjack because you've got to focus almost entirely on out-betting your opponents. In this version of the game, the bottom line is that whoever has the most chips at the end wins. Here the object isn't to win lots of hands; it's about being the smartest better at the table. You can lose a fortune but still win as long as you end up with more chips than your fellow players. You'll have to continuously adjust your playing strategy according to which hand you're on too since the elimination of players happens after each third of the game. Follow these helpful hints to improve your chances of winning: Since the first elimination happens after eight hands, it's usually better to make the bigger bets with more risk early on in the game. You can also place your biggest bets on your last-chance hand if you've currently got the least number of chips; you've got nothing to lose at that point. If you suspect the dealer will bust, then you should make a high bet. Conversely, you should also bet low if it looks like the dealer will win. Don't continue making medium bets for most of the game because you're more likely to go broke than you are to get ahead in the game. Elimination tournaments are not for conservative blackjack players. You always have a slight advantage when you place your bet last because you can make appropriate bets to counter those of your opponents. Betting first allows others to neutralize your bets with their own. It's easiest to make a risky bet that will put you in the lead when you're in the position to bet last. You'll find yourself sometimes in situations where you'll lose if you stand, and you'll also lose if you bust. Take a "free draw," which means it's better to take additional cards since you still have a small chance of getting a better hand. Come what may, you'll generally lose or win hands at the same time as most of the other players because you're all playing against the same dealer. Therefore, you'll never win if your bets are the same as the others. Lay down more money than your best competitor, but you should bet less than the combined value of your competitor's bet and the difference between their chips and yours. For example, let's say you had a 50-chip lead, and your top opponent bets 100 chips. You could bet anywhere from 101 chips to 149 chips to keep your lead in that round.

11. Video Blackjack Online

11.1 Video-Blackjack Rules

You'll find that video blackjack rules are a little different than the traditional rules of live blackjack in casinos because they like to give you more bonus options. However, you'll see that the rules for online blackjack serve to make it less profitable. For example, the majority of brick-and-mortar casinos will reward you with a 3 to 2 ratio for getting a blackjack hand, but online casinos typically only give you a 1 to 1 ratio payout for blackjack hands and any other type of win. Video blackjack often lets you double down only when you have a hand totaling 10 or 11, and the option to surrender is often not available.

11.2 Video-Blackjack Guide

How can you tell if the website where you're playing blackjack is ripping you off? A legitimate website that pays you well will offer higher starting bonuses with 24/7 support from customer service. The bonus terms and conditions should be easy to find too, and you should look for instant payout options for your winnings. Your odds of winning are always higher on a one-deck game, but most games include two decks or more. Here are your general video blackjack playing options that vary in each game:
Insurance bets can pay out at a ratio of 2 to 1.
Take various additional side bets on getting pairs and other special combinations.
Las Vegas blackjack simulators offer blackjack payouts of 3 to 2.
Play USA or European style blackjack, a game in which the dealer won't receive their facedown card until all players finally stand.
The highest betting limit in the world is a British online casino that allows you to bet a maximum of 30,000 pounds.
The lowest betting wager in online blackjack is generally at European websites with wagers starting at a 0.10 euro bet. Still, you often need to deposit around 10 euro to start playing. At United States websites, the lowest minimum wager is typically one dollar.

11.3 Video-Blackjack Odds

Overall, the video blackjack odds are never exactly the same from one online casino to the next. You can take this example to get a general idea about an average: An online blackjack game that plays with the dealer standing with a soft-17 hand, no surrenders, allowances to split any pair and a total of eight decks' worth of cards has a house advantage of around 0.55 percent. The theoretical amount of money you'd receive from Las Vegas-based online casinos is around a minimum of 75 percent of your total bets, but a few sometimes offer a little more than 100 percent for a limited time to attract more players. Still your blackjack odds are almost always better in brick-and-mortar casinos.

11.4 Video-Blackjack Limits

Many of you may wonder about the video blackjack limits. Online, you'll find there is no real standard of limits in blackjack. A common maximum bet in most United States online casinos is often around $500. Limits vary greatly from one casino to another. However, it's also not hard for online casinos to dodge out of paying you. If an online casino has any bit of reason to believe that you're using a computer program, or "robot" software, to play blackjack on your behalf for hours on end, then they are entitled to deny paying you any of your winnings.

11.5 Video-Blackjack Strategy Chart

It's in your best interest to memorize a video-blackjack strategy chart that teaches you the best moves you can make in every scenario. These charts show your best choices based on when the odds of winning a hand are in your favor or not. In a good chart, the possible values of the dealer's faceup card are at the top of the columns while the possible values of your hand create the rows. At the intersection of these two values on the chart, the chart lists your most favorable playing choice.

11.6 Video-Blackjack Tips and Tricks

Sometimes you can play video-blackjack games online that use only one deck of cards, which gives you a slight advantage. You can't count cards because nearly all online casinos still shuffle the deck after dealing every hand. Still, you can observe all the cards on the table to estimate your chances and play appropriately. For example, you know that the chances of blackjack hands are much less in one deck than in other blackjack games, so you can assume more often that the dealer doesn't have a blackjack hand when deciding to take a hit or stay. The best thing you can do, especially in online blackjack, is to play using a good basic strategy based on mathematical probabilities.

11.6.1 Blackjack Side Bets Online

Blackjack side bets online are very popular, and you'll often see variations of the super-sevens bet: A gamble that your first card is a seven. The royal-match bet is when you win more money if your first two cards are a king and queen from the same suit. Another famous side bet is the pair square, which is when your first two cards make a pair. Plus, you can get even bigger winnings if the pair is from the same suit.

12. Playing Strategies in Blackjack:

12.1 Blackjack Strategy Trainer

Please note that what follows is a brief summary of general blackjack strategy tips. By practicing with an online program such as a free blackjack strategy trainer, you can memorize basic playing-strategy rules. At least 110 possible combinations of hands between the dealer and yourself exist in a live game, and we're not discussing all of these plausible scenarios here.

12.2 One-Deck Game Plans:

The typical advice for one deck is that you should always stand if you have a 17 hand or higher. If you had a hand of 13 to 16 though, then you'd stand if the dealer was showing a six or lower and hit if the dealer showed a 17 or higher.

12.3 Two-Deck Game Plans:

One big difference between strategy in a one-deck blackjack game and a two-deck blackjack game is what you should do if you have a hard-eight hand while the dealer is showing a five or six. In this case with a one-deck game, you should double down if possible. In a two-deck game, your odds are better if you take a hit instead.

12.4 Four-Decks or More :

12.4.1 When Should You Take a Hit?

If the dealer is showing a seven or higher, then you should take a hit if you have anything up to a 16 total value in your hand. However, it's better to surrender if possible when the dealer shows a 9, 10 or ace card while you only have 16.

12.4.2 When Should You Split Your Hand?

It's almost always good to split when you get the chance, except when you have a pair of fours or sixes. In that case, you'd want to take a hit instead if the dealer shows any card that's a seven or higher.

12.4.3 When Should You Double Down?

It's often smart to double down when you have a hard hand with a value of 10 or 11; however, you should consider taking a hit instead if the dealer also shows a 10 or 11.

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