Learn to play smart with our straightforward blackjack guide for beginners.
Our step-by-step blackjack guide will take you through the rules of play, to basic betting optimisation and finally to an overview of live and mobile play. Once you familiarise yourself with the information in this guide, you’ll be well equipped for some premium blackjack action.
Most people are taught to play a version of blackjack as children. The UK version is known as ‘Pontoon’, while other names include ‘Twenty-one’ and ‘Ventiuna’.
Blackjack in its non-casino form is usually a two player game. One player is the player, and the other the dealer, and the deal switches between the two players after every hand. The dealer deals two cards to each player, and then the player chooses what to do next.
The basic object of the game is to have a hand with a total number of points that’s either worth twenty-one, or is as close to twenty-one as the player dares. If a hand is worth more than twenty-one then it automatically loses.
All cards are worth their face value, aside from jacks, queens and kings which are worth ten, and aces which can be worth one or eleven, whichever the player chooses. Once the deal is complete, a player may ‘stick’ (or ‘stand’ in casino terminology) or ‘twist’ (‘hit’). If they stick, they receive no more cards. If they twist they receive another card. They can keep twisting until they stick, or bust.
If the player hasn’t bust and chooses to stick, the dealer then plays. He flips his cards and tries to beat the player’s total without going bust.
Below are the best online casinos for playing blackjack. Click below to start stacking chips.
Blackjack is based on the near-identical card game called ‘twenty-one’, which has been popular in France and Spain since before the 1600s. The first mention of the game is in a short story by the famous Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote the infamously lengthy tome Don Quixote. The story revolved around two Spanish con-men who swindled the people of Seville by cheating at the game ‘ventiuna’. Ventiuna is Spanish for twenty-one, and the object of the game was to score as close to twenty-one as possible without busting.
The game eventually made its way to the US. At first, it was not a popular game, so gambling dens added various bonuses to make the game more interesting. One of the bonuses was a ten-to-one payout if a player was dealt the aces of spades and a black jack – either the jack of spades or the jack of clubs. This hand was known as ‘blackjack’, and it became the name of the casino version of ‘twenty-one’, even when the blackjack bonus was dropped. These days, a hand consisting of any ace and any card worth ten is known as ‘blackjack’, and usually pays either 2/1, 3/2 or 6/5, depending on the rules of any particular casino.
The casino game blackjack has a number of different rules to twenty-one, but it remains a duel between dealer and player.
Usually a maximum of five players can play at once at a casino blackjack table. All five are playing against the dealer, and not against each other. Each active player places a chip or chips in the betting box in front of their position, which indicates they are in on the deal.
The dealer will then deal one card face up to each player, then one to themselves. They do the same for a second card for each player, but then they deal a second card face down to themselves.
Each player plays in turn, and ends up either standing or busting. Once all players have played, the dealer reveals their down card and plays out their hand according to the rules of the casino. If a player beats the dealer they receive back double their stake. If they lose, they lose their stake. If it is a tie (known as a ‘push’) their stake is returned to them.
When it comes to the dealer’s play, they must keep hitting until they have at least reached 17, or bust. It doesn’t matter if all the players have decided to stand on 12, and the dealer’s dealt cards total 13. Even though the dealer has ‘beaten’ all hands, they must keep hitting until they reach at least 17.
In some casinos a dealer must keep hitting even if they have reached 17, if their hand contains at least one ace. This is known as a ‘soft 17’. A hand of ‘A6’ must therefore be hit, the same as a hand of ‘AA5’. Once the total of the cards reaches 17 and all the aces count as having the value of one (i.e. ‘AA5A9’), then the dealer may stand.
There are a number of other special rules that apply only to the casino version of blackjack. These will be explained in brief here, and explored in more depth in the lessons.
While card counting is not illegal, it is frowned upon by most real-world casinos. Anyone suspected of card counting is usually ‘politely’ asked to leave a casino.
Card counting involves keeping track of how many tens are appearing out of the dealer’s shoe. In casino blackjack the game is played with between four and eight decks of cards shuffled together. When few tens appear out of the shoe, the shoe is deemed ‘hot’ and a card-counting player will increase their bets accordingly. When lots of tens appear out of the shoe then the shoe is deemed ‘cold’ and the player will lower their bet.
Card counting is frowned upon as it reduces the house’s edge over the player, and can even swing it into the player’s favour.
Card counting is not possible at online casinos as there’s no physical card deck. Even if you’re playing at a ‘live’ casino via an online video feed you’ll be unable to count cards since the decks are re-shuffled after every couple of hands.
Blackjack possibly rivals poker as the most popular gambling game seen in movies and TV shows.
Blackjack is the second-most popular activity provided by online casinos, behind online slots. Nearly every single online casino offers at least one version of blackjack, and most casinos will offer several. Some casinos will also offer ‘live’ versions of blackjack where you can play with a live dealer in a studio or casino room. The live casino action is then streamed back to your PC, laptop or mobile via a video link.
Blackjack at an online casino is played using the same rules as at an real world casino, although usually it’s you alone versus the dealer. Before playing blackjack at an online casino you should check what the casino’s policy is on each of the following:
Our first lesson will familiarise you with the basic rules of blackjack.
Most rule guides on blackjack will tell you that the objective is to get a hand with a value close to 21. This is incorrect – the real objective is to beat the dealer. To begin with, our guide will introduce the basic rules of blackjack, before discussing betting optimisation in lesson two.
As you can see, the blackjack table is very simple, containing relatively few components. Each player has one ‘betting box’ for placing wagers and the croupier is located in the centre, dealing to the left.
Blackjack is a card game played with between one and eight 52-card decks. Each card has its own value:
Suits have no bearing on blackjack. The value of a blackjack hand is the sum total of the point values of cards in that hand. For instance, a hand of one king and an eight has a value of 18.
The exception to this rule is ‘blackjack,’ which consists of an ace and any card with a 10 point value (any royal or a ten). This is the highest possible hand that outranks all others (except the dealer’s blackjack). Play begins when players place chips in front of them to indicate their stake. The dealer then distributes two cards to each player and him/herself.
All of this is done via an electronic interface in virtual blackjack. Also, the dealer is replaced with a computer that automatically distributes cards and manages its own hand.
One of the dealer’s cards is played face up – the unseen card is the ‘hole’ card. If the visible card is an ace, the dealer will offer players a side bet called ‘insurance.’ This pays at odds specific to the casino.
The dealer will then look at his or her hole card (without showing the players). If it is a 10-point card, the round will end immediately and all players who did not take insurance bets will lose.
Play begins with the player on the dealer’s left. Each player is given five options:
If a player’s total hand value exceeds 21, they are ‘bust’ and lose their stake. After all players have had their turn, the dealer uncovers his or her hole card. If the hand value is lower than 16, the dealer must draw again. However, in the case of a ‘soft’ 17 (made up of the two initial cards) the dealer can choose to stand.
If the dealer busts, then all players who haven’t already bust will win. In the event of a tie, there is a ‘push’ and all bets are returned. Winning wagers are paid even money.
There are a few different versions of blackjack, with distinct rules and odds.
As a centuries-old casino classic, blackjack has diversified into a variety of different games. Many players enjoy mixing up their play by trying their hands at alternatives to standard blackjack rules. Be warned, the information in our blackjack strategy guide will not apply to these variants.
Below are the most popular blackjack variants hosted by online casinos, organised from lowest to highest house advantage. All assume players bettors use basic strategy.
Follow the RightCasino strategy to optimise your play and give yourself the best chance of winning.
The strategy on this page is based on Michael ‘The Wizard of Odds’ Shackleford’s ‘Basic Strategy,’ which provides the soundest possible model for betting optimisation in blackjack. Following our betting chart will not guarantee success, but it will mathematically optimise your play and help you avoid silly bets.
This strategy makes reference to ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ hands:
The following applies to 4-8 deck blackjack following standard, non-European rules (the UK and most online casinos fall under this category).
These rules of thumb fall outside of the betting chart, but should inform the way you play:
As mentioned above, a ‘blackjack’ is any two-card total worth twenty-one. Most forms of the blackjack game pay extra for a blackjack – usually 3-2 – as opposed to the 1-1 odds you get for winning a hand. A player’s blackjack automatically wins unless the dealer has blackjack too.
A way of beating the casino by keeping a eye on how many tens are being dealt from the dealer’s shoe. If a low number of tens have been dealt, then it’s time to increase your bet. If a high number have been dealt, then it’s time to decrease it. Unfortunately, card counting does not work at online casinos – even live online casinos – due to the number of cards that are dealt unseen.
A bet you can make after receiving your first two cards. You are allowed to double your original bet on the understanding that you only receive one more card. In some forms of blackjack you can double down on any total, in some just on 9, 10 and 11, and in others you cannot double down at all.
A hard hand can only have one value, i.e. a ten and a six is sixteen. A soft hand contains an ace and some hands can have more than one total, i.e. an ace, a four and a two can either be seven or seventeen.
When the dealer’s up card is an ace, a player can choose to make a side bet of half the size of their original wager. If the dealer has blackjack, then the player has his bet returned plus the insurance wager. This is not seen as a good side bet as the odds of a dealer having blackjack when showing an ace (around 4-1) are worse than the dealer not having blackjack (around 4-3).
In most blackjack games, if you are dealt a pair you are allowed to split them and play them as two separate hands. You cannot often re-split a hand that has already been split, and if you split aces you are only allowed one more card for each hand. Most pairs are worth splitting aside from fours, fives and any tens or court cards.
In blackjack there are a fixed number of possible hands, based upon the player’s cards and the dealer’s up card. ‘Perfect Strategy’ is knowing what to do in each fixed scenario in order to maximise your chances of winning the hand. In all forms of blackjack the house has an edge, but that edge is often less than one percent if you play using perfect strategy. This will increase your chances of getting on a ‘hot streak’ and actually winning some cash. You also need to bear in mind that even with perfect strategy, long losing streaks are still perfectly possible. You can learn more about perfect strategy here.
Blackjack is a fun game to play and if you use perfect strategy, there’s always the chance of finding yourself on a decent winning streak and earning some cash. Just remember – if you hit a losing streak just walk away from the table instead of chasing your losses. Also, avoid silly betting systems such as the Martingale as they just do not work. Enjoy yourself, and may the cards be with you!
Everything you need to know about playing blackjack on the go.
Modern developments in online gaming technology have made it possible to bring high-quality, virtual and live entertainment to a range of platforms, including mobiles and tablets. This means you can now hit the online blackjack tables anywhere you can get a signal.
The development of mobile gambling has taken the industry by storm. Today, an estimated $10 billion is wagered through mobile platforms every year.
Blackjack is a very easy game to port to a mobile device, as the action can hardly be described as ‘graphics heavy’. All you really need to see are your cards, the dealer’s cards and the amount of chips you are staking on your hand.
Gameplay can become more complicated and therefore require more space on your mobile screen when you are dealt specific hands. When you split a pair – as is permitted in most forms of blackjack – then you suddenly have two hands for the price of one. Of course, there is always the chance that you will land a further pair when your hand is split, but it is unlikely that you will be allowed to re-split a split hand. Most online casinos do not allow you to do this, usually as the software that is used to render a game of blackjack has no way of displaying a re-split split hand.
Any casino that offers a dedicated mobile version of their software will usually have at least one version of blackjack that you can play on your smartphone or tablet. If you are presented with several different versions always select the one that uses the fewest decks. Doing so reduces the edge that the house has over you. Also make sure the version you play offers you a good rate for being dealt blackjack. Most casinos offer 3:2, but some will offer 2:1, and other less generous casinos will offer 6:5.
You’ve two options when it comes to playing blackjack on your smart-phone or tablet. You can either play via an app that you download and install onto your phone, or you can use a game that you play using any internet browser on your device.
If you have an iPhone, iPad or Android-powered device, then it’s usually a case of downloading an app. Just head on over to your chosen casino site to find out the details of how to obtain such an app. You will be able to download the app from the Apple App Store if you use iOS, but you will not be able to obtain an app from Google Play if you use Android. Google Play does not permit apps that allow real-money gambling to be hosted in the store. Instead, you will need to download an apk (Android Package) file from the casino’s site itself. You can then install this onto your phone – if you are not sure how to do this then the casino site will usually offer instructions.
If you are one of the five percent of mobile users in the world who owns a BlackBerry or Windows Phone, then you may find it a little difficult to play mobile blackjack. Hardly any casinos offer apps for these devices. The good news for you, however, is that more and more sites are developing mobile-optimised apps. These are written using HTML5, and run using any internet browser on a smartphone or tablet. This means that any mobile device capable of running a browser and with decent-enough processing power should be able to run a mobile, browser-based app.
A handful of casinos have the option of playing live blackjack via your mobile device. You connect to a real blackjack table, where you can control the action just as you do with any computerised blackjack game. The results of your actions are fed back to you via a live video feed.
Once you have found a mobile version of blackjack, playing is extremely simple. You load up your account with cash, choose your chips to set your bet, then press ‘deal’. Your cards and the dealer’s up-card will be dealt. Press the buttons that appear to show if you want to hit or stand. You may be able to split or double-down, depending on your cards. If the dealer is showing an ace, you may also be offered ‘insurance’, but most savvy blackjack players know never to take this option.
You keep hitting until you decide to stand or, unfortunately, you bust. The dealer will then make their moves, and you will either see your chips doubling up and bouncing back into your bankroll, or disappearing into the dealer’s coffers. Remember the previous lesson about playing blackjack with the correct strategy. By doing so, you give yourself the best chance of successfully riding the winning streaks, and successfully surviving those losing ones.
Blackjack remains one of the most popular games for mobile play, just behind online slots and roulette. Why not join the revolution and become one of the millions of players currently enjoying blackjack on the move?
Looking for the real thing? Play blackjack online with live dealers!
Thanks to developments in casino technology, internet gamblers can now access authentic, live dealer blackjack from a variety of devices. This page will introduce you to live blackjack and demonstrate how engaging with real dealers via live video uplink can create a genuine casino experience in the comfort of your own home.
More and more gamblers are leaning towards live blackjack, preferring to see the cards dealt right in front of them, instead of relying upon the random number generators of computer software.
While virtual blackjack has been popular since the origins of online gambling, some players are sceptical about the idea of entrusting their bankrolls to invisible gaming software.
Live blackjack guarantees legitimacy, with an actual human being shown handling cards in real time. On top of that, many players enjoy the communal element of live play, where chat functions allow interaction with the dealer and other punters at the table.
Live blackjack is played in exactly the same way as in land-based casinos. A real dealer takes responsibility for the cards, while visual recognition software allocates virtual currency to winners.
Improvements in wireless technology have made it possible to bring live blackjack play to a variety of mobile devices and tablets.
Many casino brands provide dealer galleries that allow punters to get a glance at their hosts before hitting the tables. VIPs can even request for their favourite dealers to take care of their games! Click on any of the casinos below to explore some dealer galleries.
If you like your dealers to be provided with a definite slice of glamour, then check out a site like 32Red that provides access to one of Microgaming’s Playboy Live Casinos, where the dealers are dressed in the iconic ‘play bunny’ uniforms.
When you log on to play live blackjack, you will usually be taken through to a video feed of a game that’s already in action that has a seat available. Most live blackjack tables have seating for up to seven players.
The dealer will be advised of your arrival as a player and usually will say a quick friendly hello to you. You will be offered a seat, so if you want to play, you will need to sit down.
The action at a live blackjack table takes place via a video feed of the table overlaid by your player interface. The type of interface will be familiar to you if you’ve ever played online blackjack before. The only difference will be that you will be sharing the table with a number of other players.
Once you’re seated, you’ll be given a time limit in which to place a bet. You do this usually by moving virtual chips from your stack and placing them at your position in front of you. The computer will note your wager and the dealer will be informed via a monitor at their end that you are to be included within the deal.
Note, if you fail to wager for a successive number of hands you are likely to be kicked from the table. This will happen even quicker if there are players in the table queue waiting for a seat to become vacant.
Once the time limit is up and all players who are playing have made a bet, the deal will commence. The cards are dealt from a shoe as at a real casino. Usually, the first card is dealt unseen and discarded. This is to prevent card-counting, which of course is much harder to detect at a online ‘live’ casino than in the real world.
Each player is dealt one card face up, and the dealer one card, also face up. All players are then dealt a second card face up, and the dealer a face down card. The order of the dealing of the face up and face down card may be reversed at some casinos.
As they are dealt, all the cards are passed over an optical card reader. This means the cards are fed into the computer software, and they will appear on the player interface as well as ‘live’ at the table. The computer will then know if you have won or lost the hand and adjust your bankroll accordingly.
If the dealer is dealt an ace as their face up card, you may be offered insurance against the dealer having blackjack. This will be offered to all players in turn, but unlike online blackjack, if the dealer does have blackjack this is not revealed until all players who did not accept insurance have played out their hands.
Play then commences from the right-hand side of the table, and moves around the table in turn.
When it is your turn to act the dealer will point to your cards and await your action. You will only have a limited time limit in which to act. You can use the controls to hit, stand or perform any other available action that you can. If you stand the dealer will move on to the player to your left. If you hit they will deal you another card. This continues until you stand or bust.
Once you have completed your action, play moves on to the player seated to your left.
Once all players have completed their action, the dealer will then reveal their cards and play their hand out as per the rules of the casino. The computer automatically follows happenings and will settle all wagers, updating the bankroll on your display.
The cards will be gathered in and discarded, and the next round begins.
The dealer shoes are changed on a regular basis – again to prevent card counting – and dealer shifts last for about one hour. Most online casinos are available 24/7. All dealers are very highly trained to prevent mistakes.
You will be able to chat with your dealer. They will speak to you over audio, and you will be able to communicate with them via a chat box that’s provided with the interface software.
In some live dealer casinos you’ll also be able to exchange messages with the people seated at the table with you, just as you would at a bricks and mortar casino. Abuse of any kind is not tolerated, and if you indulge in abusive behaviour you are likely to be kicked out of your chair.
Abusing or being disrespectful towards the dealer is a big taboo, and if you do behave in such a manner, you will be kicked from the table and possibly banned altogether from playing at the live casino via any casino portal where you’d normally be able to access it.
Live dealer blackjack is usually only run to a very basic template known as ‘Las Vegas Strip Rules’ in order to speed up play and minimise waiting times for the players playing at the casino. The rules usually have a few extra ‘bonus’ rules, as follows:
Before you start play at a ‘live’ blackjack table at an online casino it’s always best to check that you understand all the options available with regards to blackjack aspects such as surrendering, doubling down, splitting and insurance.