Blakjack Betting Guide
Blackjack is a game of skill; when played properly it can result in the lowest house edge game. This is because Blackjack gives players too many advantages. Good players can gain an advantage over the Casino or “house” with the right information and strategy. However, bad Blackjack players are the reason that Blackjack is the most profitable of all casino table games.
Basic Blackjack rules
Blackjack can be played using one or more decks of standard playing cards. Players should not be concerned with the suit of the cards, as the card suit does not mean anything. Card value or rank is more important.
Blackjack is mainly about the number 21. Players play against a dealer to try and gain a hand that is closer in value to 21 but not over that amount otherwise they will forfeit their bet or “go bust”. Throughout the game players have the opportunity to “hit” or “stand” in order to try and gain a better hand than the dealer. To “hit” means that a player takes an additional card while to “stand” means that the player refuses to take an additional card. Once a player is finished hitting or has chosen to stand, it is the dealer’s turn to complete their hand. Unless otherwise stated, the rules require the dealer to hit on a sixteen or less and stand on a seventeen or more. The one exception to this is if the dealer has an ace and a six, which is referred to as a “soft seventeen”.
The dealer will finally compare their hand with the player’s hand.
- If neither hand has gone bust, then the highest total wins.
- If neither hand has gone bust and both hands are tied, this is called a push. This means that no money changes hands.
- If the player has gone bust then the player loses and the money is forfeit. The dealer’s hand is irrelevant to the player.
- If the dealer goes bust and the player has not busted then the player is the winner.
- If a player gets a natural, or blackjack¸ this generally pays 3:2 meaning for each $10 staked the player will get $15.
Blackjack card values
- Cards ranked from 2 to 10 are counted at the card number value.
- Picture cards (Jacks, Queens and Kings) are counted as 10.
- Aces can either be 1 or 11 (whichever the player prefers)
- Blackjack: A combination of a card valued at 10 and an ace. This hand will either win or be tied but will not be beaten.
A player with a hand less than 21 can ask for additional cards. This is called a “hit”. However, if a player exceeds 21 then they automatically lose, or “go bust”.
Blackjack is played at a table like the one below.The most important rules are always printed on the table. You can generally find additional rules on an upright card on or behind the table. Most casinos use multiple deck games but some also offer single-deck games where the dealer actually holds the deck as they deal the cards. In multiple-deck games four to eight decks of cards are stored in a box called a “shoe”.
Players are dealt cards face down in a single-deck game or face up in a multiple-deck game. Either way the chances of winning are the same. When dealt face-up players are not allowed to touch the cards.
To start the game the dealer deals the cards from the shoe to the first player on their left and any other players that are playing. The dealer will then deal one card face-up to themselves. A second card will then be dealt to each player and the dealer will then receive another card face-down this time. This is called the “hole card”.
As players can only see one of the dealer’s cards they must decide to “hit” or “stand” in order to get closer to 21 than the dealer.
How to hit or stand
If playing Blackjack in a casino it is important to give clear clues to the dealer as to how you want to play. Generally if a player wants to take an additional card they should tap on the table to demonstrate this. If a player wants to stand then they should wave their hand when it is their turn. Playing online requires no such effort!
Insurance in Blackjack
The question of the hole card will be important if the dealer’s up-card is an ace. This is the case as players lose if the dealer has a natural and they don’t. In this case some players choose to take insurance against a dealer blackjack when the dealer shows an ace. Insurance is generally an additional bet of one-half of the original stake. Insurance pays 2:1 when the dealer has a natural. If the dealer doesn’t have a natural then the player loses their insurance bet.
Insurance might sound tempting but it’s generally best avoided and should be regarded as a bad bet. The probability of the dealer having a ten under their ace is approximately 31% and yet this only pays out at 2 to 1. All in all, this gives the house an edge of about 7%…..in short, avoid insurance! Once instance where you may want to take insurance would be if you have a natural. In this instance a 1:1 payout is guaranteed.
Hitting, Standing, Doubling or Splitting
The majority of dealers’ hands will not be naturals, so players will have the opportunity to either ask for additional cards (hit) or to refuse them (stand).
Another variation of a hit is called double down. A double down requires an additional bet of an amount normally equal to your original wager. You put the chips next to your original stake and the dealer will give you exactly one more card. You cannot hit further on that card in most cases.
If a players hand is made up of a pair (A, A; 10,10, etc) a player can then split these cards for an additional wager giving the player two hands. The player will then have to play the hands separately.
Genie says: Some casinos restrict re-splitting and doubling on splits so make sure to check the rules before you play! If you’re playing online you can normally check the rules by checking the game information or help files within each game. Most casinos require that you can only get one extra card on split aces.
The dealer’s hand in Blackjack
If a player doesn’t go bust, it is then up to the dealer to beat them by bettering their card value. The dealer will turn their hole card and draw according to the rules. Some casinos require the dealer to hit a soft 17 (Ace and a six) but this will be stated either on the table or in the additional table rules.
Some casinos will allow a player to take back half their bet and forfeit the rest if their initial hand seems hopeless. This term for this is to surrender and it is usually restricted to situations when the dealer doesn’t have a natural. This option is generally unavailable when playing online!
- 21, 21, 21, that’s what Blackjack is about. Compete with the dealer to get a hand that is closer to 21 but not over that.
- Getting an extra card is called a hit, refusing cards is called a stand. Try not to go over 21 or you’ll go bust!
- Give the dealer visual cues if playing in a live casino. If playing online, no need to worry!
- Double down if a positive situation comes your way (see the strategy guide for this)!
- You can split when your original hand has two cards of equal point value.
- You can surrender if your initial hand seems hopeless.
Blackjack house edge and probability
Probability is hugely important in Blackjack as an effective Blackjack strategy is based on being able to predict certain outcomes based on the probability of that outcome occurring. Blackjack strategy is entirely about the cards in the deck. With Blackjack, the typical advantage is 1% or less when it’s pushed to the player’s side. However, this can also swing to a Casino or house edge of around 5%. Using basic Blackjack strategy without card counting, the house edge is generally reduced to .50%. With card counting techniques, this edge can be reversed to a player advantage of 1%. Despite this fact, Blackjack remains a highly profitable game for Casinos because the vast majority of players are unaware of the optimal strategy that they should use.
Genie says: Remember that by using the optimal strategy you will have a better chance against the house and over time will win more than you would without using optimal strategy. While having the edge doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll win the bet, it does guarantee that you’ll have an advantage every time you place your bet.
Find out more in our Basic Blackjack Strategy Guide!