Welcome to 10bet’s ultimate guide to blackjack and blackjack strategy, the most extensive and comprehensive guide to the game that you will find anywhere.
Learn about blackjack rules and how to play the game. Scroll down or jump to the section you would like to learn more about.
What is blackjack?
A variation on the games of pontoon and vingt-et-un played around the world, blackjack is the American version, one which pits a player directly against the dealer rather than each other. It is played with a deck of 52 cards and is undoubtedly the most widely-played game in casinos across the globe thanks to the simple structure that asks players to get as close to a score of 21 as possible.
Quick, easy to play and lots of fun, blackjack was named due to the original blackjack rules seeing the ace of spades and either the jack of spades or jack of clubs being the winning hands. It has since evolved and players can now win if they get any ace card and any of the tens, jacks, queens or kings.
Variations of the game
It is worth taking time here to explain that there are many different versions of the game around the world. Here are a few of them:
21 duel blackjack
This game is a mixture of two iconic games: regular blackjack and Texas Hold ’em. The objective remains the same in that players win by reaching a total of 21 (or as close to it as possible) but there are also community cards like the river in Texas Hold ‘em.
This pair of cards are available to both the players and the dealer who can use them to strengthen their own hand, substituting one of them for the face-down card they were originally dealt.
This version sees the dealer play with the usual blackjack rules but each of the players play two hands while also being allowed to switch cards between their two hands. This makes the house edge even lower and gives players a chance to improve their hand even before the next move in the game, making blackjack Switch one of the most fun variants.
21st century blackjack
Developed as a solution to California’s ban on blackjack and other card games in 1860, this game is played with between two and eight decks of cards and uses the joker as a wildcard. The aim is to get a score of 22 (or as close to it as possible) and players make up to three bets during the course of each hand, with players allowed to bet on each other’s scores as well as their own.
Seen as the obvious predecessor to the version of blackjack that has now become commonplace around the world, this version is played between the dealer and one player.
The objective remains to get a hand of 21 or as close to that number as possible to win, with cards from 2 to 9 scored at face value, 10s and picture cards are each valued at 10 while the Ace can be one or 11. Perhaps the biggest difference is that both cards are dealt to the player face down, rather than with the top one face up as is now customary.
Face up 21
This version gets its name from the major difference between itself and standard blackjack: here the dealer’s second card – the “hole” card – is not dealt face-down.
Instead, both the dealer’s original cards are dealt face up, meaning players know exactly what they are betting against as they play their hand, rather than waiting for a surprise from the dealer’s second card. For this reason, Face Up 21 is also known as Double Exposure blackjack.
Why play blackjack?
As blackjack grew in popularity, people began to play at home and even making movies about it. Why was it so popular?
It’s easy to play
One of the main reasons blackjack has become so popular is the ease of playing. Unlike some card games there is nothing complex about it, the blackjack rules and game strategy soon seem easy once the player understands when to hit, when to stand and when to split.
Blackjack rules don’t vary
While those other variations discussed above exist, blackjack has a set of rules that are well-established around the world, meaning that – unlike other card games – it is played exactly the same way no matter where you play.
With the rise in popularity of online gaming, casino games became available to a wider range of players and the speed at which blackjack hands are concluded is a hit here too.
The house has a low edge
Simply put, the odds of winning are good! The higher the house edge, the lower the chances of a player winning and blackjack, unlike most other card games, provides an exceedingly low house edge. This is why players keep coming back time and again to play live blackjack online at the 10bet Live Casino.
It rides on your decision
In most card games, once the bet is set you’re relying on the cards falling your way but with blackjack, players remain involved throughout. You decide the next move, and you will win or lose based on those choices not simply due to the wrong cards being dealt.
Take your knowledge
to the tables.
Learn to play blackjack like a pro
Now we have established why blackjack is so popular, let’s take a look at how the game is played. We’ll start with the basic blackjack rules: the aim of blackjack is to beat the dealer’s score or to not go bust when the dealer does – manage either of those and you have yourself a winning hand. With that established, we can take a look at what else you need to know.
- Before any cards are dealt, players make their initial bets, with many outlets setting limits for both the minimum and maximum amount that can be wagered at this stage.
- Once the bets are placed the cards are dealt alternately – two to you and two to the dealer. The dealer’s first card is face up while the second is face down – the ‘hole’ card – and this is where your strategy comes into play. We discuss what to do here.
- When you have made your move, it is the dealer’s turn and they also have the option of dealing additional cards to strengthen the hand.
- The hand with the higher value or closest to 21 wins.
- Once the game is over you can play again, either placing the same bets as before or modifying them by placing a different wager.
Glossary of terms
Here it makes sense to stop for a moment and explain some basic terms you will come across as you begin to play blackjack:
As mentioned previously, all cards count their face value in blackjack with picture cards counting as 10 and Aces scoring either 1 or 11 depending on what a player needs. Suits are irrelevant in any aspect of the game.
When a player or the dealer’s hand exceeds a total of 21, this is known as ‘busting’ or ‘going bust,’ with the term “break” occasionally used when the dealer’s hand exceeds 21. If you go bust, you lose.
Hard hand/soft hand
A hard hand one that either does not contain an Ace or one in which that card counts as one while any hand that contains an Ace which counts as 11 is known as a soft hand because that value can change when or if the total goes over 21.
For example, suppose a player is dealt a four and an Ace: that’s a soft 15. Now that player draws a seven, the Ace reverts to one and the player is holding a hard 12.
Make your move!
So, what do you do after the cards have been dealt? By now you should realise there are a number of options available depending on both your own cards and the others you can see on the table. Let’s look at what they are:
When you opt to hit you are dealt another card. This option is good if you have a low or moderately good first hand as you look to get as close to a score of 21 as possible.
This is when you opt not to be dealt another card. If you have a strong first hand – such as a pair of 10-value cards for a score of 20 – then this is your most likely option.
Here you choose to increase your initial wager by a maximum of 100%, but the player must then also stand after being dealt one more card. This option is not available in all variations of online blackjack.
If your first two cards are identical (i.e. a pair) then this option becomes available, splitting the base hand into two individual hands and receiving an extra card on each. From there, each hand is played separately and you can use any of the previous options on either or both of them.
It should also be noted that many online casinos have limitations on the kind of cards you can split: many only allow identical 10-value cards to be split, meaning that two Kings could be separated but not a Jack and a King. Be sure to check before you play.
The surrender option is not available at all casinos and on all blackjack variants, but when it is you lose only half your bet and keep the other 50%. Also known as “burning” your cards, a player simply opts not to play the hand they were dealt before the dealer checks their cards.
The insurance option allows you to take an additional wager, known as the ‘insurance’ bet, if you the dealer’s first card is an Ace. When that happens, the probability of the dealer’s “hole” card being worth a score of 10 is high meaning they have blackjack, hence the insurance bet being offered.
Unlike each player, the dealer in blackjack has no choice in the cards they must play. The blackjack rules dictate that the dealer must “hit” if their opening hand totals less than 17 and stand if the score is between 17 and 21.
Better than a casino!
The best part about playing blackjack online is it removes many of the pitfalls of playing the game in an actual casino! Most guides to playing the game contain a lengthy section on “blackjack etiquette,” a list of rules, faux-pas and things to avoid, none of which you need to remember when playing in the comfort of your own surroundings.
With a decent internet connection, you can play on your phone, laptop or tablet, with no need to worry about the thoughts, feelings or sensibilities of other players. You don’t need to know whether to tap the table for another card (you would), whether you should pick your cards up with one hand or two (always one) and what order to put your chips down on the table when placing a bet. There also won’t be anyone telling you how you should play your hand, nor complete strangers sat around watching you.
Instead, just follow the instructions, hit the buttons when you need to and take part in the quick, exciting world of blackjack without needing to learn a whole new pattern of behaviour. Online blackjack instantly becomes much more fun and far more enjoyable!
Blackjack strategies that just don’t work
As you are by now aware, blackjack has been around for quite some time and this has led to the creation of a number of approaches that supposedly help players win. They are known as “progressive betting systems” because they require the bettor to increase or decrease their wagers based on the result of their previous hand.
Some need you to bet more after a win (which we’ll look at shortly) and are called “positive progression” while others involve increasing your stake following a loss. Let’s take a look at some of these systems:
With each of these approaches, a player must first set the value of a unit. In this first system, you bet one unit, then if you lose you bet the next number in the following sequence: 1-1-1-4-8-16 (which equals 31).
If you win, you bet double the last bet and if that wins then you restart the sequence but if you lose, you once again bet the next number in the series.
Named after French mathematician and philosopher Jean le Rond D’Alembert, this negative progression requires players to raise their stake by one unit if they lose but lower it by one unit following a win.
This one follows the famed “Fibonacci sequence” – 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21-34 – in which each bet is the sum of the two previous numbers. So instead of doubling your bet after a loss, a player would increase their bet in accordance with the sequence until they win, at which point you go back to the beginning and bet one unit.
For this one, you bet the minimum stake and call that one unit, then double your stake every time you lose. Players must continue to double their previous bets until they win, at which point you would have covered all your losses and be one unit up.
Problems with negative progressions
Those seem straightforward right? The problem however, comes with the fact that blackjack players will, on average, suffer a run of ten consecutive losses once every 6,920 hands. That means that although a player is likely to enjoy small wins, the losses during that inevitable 10-loss streak will eat up any profit made along the way.
Therefore, those wins and losses will add up to the same casino’s edge (more on that here) that is in place for anyone betting without a negative progression system. That means that you cannot and will not gain any advantage from employing one of these methods, with the house protected even further by the table betting limit.
In practical terms, imagine betting £10 per unit and losing seven hands in a row. According to those systems, your next wager should be £1,280, but many tables have a £1,000 limit, set precisely to prevent progressive bettors recouping their losses.
A blackjack strategy worth learning
So now let’s look at ways you can improve the way you play blackjack online.
The first thing to understand is the term ”Casino’s edge” as it’s something you will hear a lot about while playing the game. Also known as “House Edge,” it is basically the mathematical advantage that the casino has in a particular game, resulting in an assured percentage return over time and, in turn, an assured percentage loss for players based on the size of the bets they make.
Obviously for the casino – whether an actual one or an online one – this return is to cover the cost of providing the games, paying staff and other overheads and ensuring that the business runs at profit.
Let’s take roulette as an easy example. On a single wheel there are 37 numbers (18 red, 18 black and the green zero) which means there is a 1-in-37 chance that a player would choose the right number. With payouts set at 35-1, the Casino’s Edge is 2.7%.
With blackjack, that edge is around 2%. The advantage the casino has is in the hidden card the dealer holds and against which players must bet after making assumptions about the total they are facing. Furthermore, the house wins if a player goes bust even if the dealer goes bust in the same hand.
However, what players must learn is that blackjack is not a game of random luck. With some basic knowledge, a coherent strategy and an understanding of probability, that house advantage can be significantly reduced.
For example, the initial chance of drawing a card of a specific value is 7.69% because there are 13 different options. But, with 10s, Jacks, Queens and Kings all having a value of 10 in blackjack, the odds of drawing a card valued at 10 is 4/13, which is a probability of 30.7%.
For the most part, online casinos shuffle the cards after every hand, rendering card counting impossible. Those that use a cut card on multi-deck games reshuffle once around 50% of the cards have been used, but players should always check a site’s instructions or rules for information on when the cards are reshuffled before starting a game.
The blackjack strategy
By adopting a few basic blackjack rules, players can significantly reduce the Casino’s edge in a game of blackjack. The basic strategy is an approach that tells a player the best way to play every hand by taking into account both the two cards you were dealt and the visible card in the dealer’s hand.
– 4 to 8 Decks
– Dealer stands on soft 17
– Double after split allowed
– Only original bets lost on dealer blackjack
The chart above breaks down every possible variant of those cards and tells you what to do in each case. Down the left hand side is your hand total, while along the top is the dealer’s “up” card. Simply follow the chart and find the best decision to make in each specific situation.The closer you get to 21, the more your chances of winning naturally increase, but so too does your chances of going bust.
Of course, the strategy is not unbeatable, but it is much more effective in online casino games because each round is played with a fresh deck and you can keep that chart open in front of you throughout which you certainly could not do at an actual table.
The more you use it, the more you will know the moves instinctively, but here are a few rules to remember:
The rule of 10s
10-value cards are by far the most common cards in the deck with four in each suit. Assume that the dealer’s face down card and every card you are about to receive will be a 10-value card.
Hit on soft 17
Given that the Ace can instantly revert to being one rather than 11, it is impossible to go bust on a soft 17 and there is a good chance of getting to 21. That makes sticking on a soft 17 the worst possible call.
Beware of hard 17s
17 is a low hand total, but it is very easy to go bust. Unless the dealer’s up card scores between three and six, your chances of winning are pretty low.
16 is the worst
Unless the dealer goes bust it is very difficult to win with 16. Hit and hope for a five is the best option, but it is so easy to go bust.
Always split Aces and 8s
When it comes to a pair of Aces, a soft 2 is a terrible hand but two chances at a blackjack are much better! Meanwhile, remember that 16 is the worst hand, so splitting a pair of 8s not only takes that away, it is also impossible to go bust on your first hit.
Never split 10s
You’re already on 20 which is tough to beat, why spoil your chances by splitting them?
Never split 4s or 5s
Splitting these totals leaves you with two very low scoring hands, while hitting leaves you in a good spot and it is impossible to go bust when starting with a score of eight or ten.
Advanced Blackjack strategies for online players
That basic strategy will help players significantly improve their play. It is predicated on the total value of your initial hand and is known as “Total Dependent” with “Composition Dependent” being the next step for advanced players to take.
This is more difficult to learn and there are no handy charts that break it down in an easy to understand manner, but basically it asks a player to consider the two cards they are dealt independently as well as in terms of the total value of the pair together.
Composition Dependent strategy was first suggested by mathematician Peter A. Griffin in his 1979 book “The theory of blackjack” and what follows here is a breakdown of the approach.
16 against dealer 10
As we learnt in the previous section, 16 is the worst possible hand and – if the option is available – players should surrender all two-card hard 16s when the dealer’s up card is a 10. If that is not permitted, then players should hit on a two-card 16 but stand on three or more cards because the number of lower value cards available has already been reduced.
12 against dealer 4
A total of 12 going against a dealer’s 4 is another hand where the right strategy is dependent upon the makeup of the cards in a player’s hand because there are five different ways to be dealt that total.
If it is a pair of sixes of course the answer is to split them, while with a 10-value card and a two the correct approach would be to hit, while in the other three cases (9-3, 8-4, and 7-5) a player should stand.
This is because by having even that one 10-value card in your hand, it reduces the chances of receiving another one and therefore going bust enough to make taking the hit on a 10-2 hand a worthwhile opportunity.
15 against a dealer 10
The basic strategy chart shows that you should surrender on 15 against a dealer’s 10 up card, but once again a more advanced player can alter that approach and push the chance of winning even further in their favour.
If the 15 is an 8-7 then you should hit rather than surrender because you have already removed an eight and a seven from play, taking away two of the cards that would make your hand go bust. This means that continuing with the hand is the better option and a player would lose less money in the long run when making this slight adjustment.
It has been calculated that incorporating these variations can reduce the house edge greatly even compared to a player using basic strategy. Indeed, writing in his well-respected book “Playing the Pros’ Way,” Donald Schlesinger – a member of the blackjack Hall of Fame – insisted that the casino’s edge is reduced from 0.19% to 0.18%.
That is a reduction of 5.3%, making these ideas extremely profitable for advanced players. Given that 16 vs. 10 is such a regular situation in blackjack, that first rule is certainly one you should learn as quickly as possible.
How does online blackjack work?
At its core, online blackjack is a single player against the casino, which acts as the dealer. When you join a table you’ll be asked to place a chip and be dealt your hand, with the cards selected using random number generator software. From there, the decisions are made by clicking buttons, with the options laid out onscreen in an easy-to-understand format, with some casinos even displaying warning messages if you make a clearly bad move such as hitting on a hard 18.
How old do I have to be to play online Blackjack?
The precise answer to this question will depend both on the laws of your country and the rules of the casino you want to play in but, in most cases, you need to be 18 years old in order to participate in online gambling.
Some countries – including many states in the USA – set the legal gambling age at 21, and almost every nation fits somewhere in the 18-21 range. As always, check with your local laws to be sure about when you are legally allowed to participate in online gambling.
What stakes can I play for?
Most casinos start their betting at just €1, and while you may even find some which are lower than this, you can go as high as €300 or €500 per hand in the standard game. There may well be special tables accommodating bigger bets too, but if not you can ask customer support at your casino to facilitate bigger betting limits.
What blackjack games can I play online?
At various sites you will have a huge choice of games, starting with the basic US and European rules. There are single and multi-hand games, and many games which have side-bets, including those with jackpots while there are also often opportunities to play some of those aforementioned variations on the core game.
Common examples include Spanish 21 – which is known as “Match Play 21” in some parts of the world – face-up 21, pontoon, blackjack surrender and blackjack switch. There are also “live dealer” games in which the cards are dealt in a remote studio and streamed live to your phone/device.
Do I have to pay tax on my blackjack winnings?
The answer to this question will vary from nation to nation, but in most cases the good news is that the answer is likely no. In many countries, like Australia and the UK, no gambling winnings are taxable, while in Canada, only the winnings of professional gamblers are taxable, and online blackjack players are unlikely to meet the threshold for that.
It is of course important to know your local tax laws, as nations such as the United States and a number of European countries will expect you to report any winnings from gambling as taxable income. Furthermore, in some European nations, the location of the casino site is important because – if it is located in the European Economic Area – your winnings may be exempt from taxation.
Is it possible to count cards online?
If you’re playing a virtual game – i.e. you against the computer – then card counting is simply not possible in online blackjack games because the decks are “shuffled” by the random number generator software for every single deal.
With live dealer games there is an opportunity to count, but if we remember that the decks are usually shuffled half way through the eight-deck shoe, then it is very difficult to get a positive enough ‘true count’ to make this pay. In addition, any sudden increase in the size of your bets is very easy for the casino’s online security to spot.
So, we hope this guide has answered all your questions and given you some useful tips on how to improve your skills. Are you ready to have even more fun playing blackjack in the 10bet casino?