Online Blackjack for UK players

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.

About Online Blackjack

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.

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The history of blackjack

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.

Blackjack – the casino version

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.

Blackjack – other special rules

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.

  • Insurance: A side bet available when the deader’s up card is an ace. If the dealer is then revealed to have blackjack, the players wins the insurance bet at typical odds of 3/2.
  • Double down: Only available when two cards have been dealt. A player can double their bet on the provision that they only receive one more card. Some casinos allow doubling down on any total, while others on only 9 and 11, and some on 10 as well.
  • Split: If the two cards dealt to a player have the same value, they can be split and played as two separate hands. The original bet is doubled. Some casinos allow split hands to be split again if possible.
  • Surrender: Again only available after the first two cards have been dealt. If the dealer does not have blackjack, a player may surrender their cards and receive back half the total of their bet. Most casinos do not allow surrendering, while others only allow surrendering on certain totals, typically 13 to 16.

Blackjack – casino card counting

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 in popular culture

Blackjack possibly rivals poker as the most popular gambling game seen in movies and TV shows.

  • The film 21 deals with the true story of a team of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) braniacs, put together by math major Ben Campbell. The team uses their heightened love of numbers to attempt card counting at blackjack. In the actual real-life version, the team were at times earning $80 an hour (in the 1990s) just by playing the game.
  • The movie Rain Man features blackjack. In the film Dustin Hoffman plays an autistic character whom his brother, played by Tom Cruise, teaches to count cards. The pair then hit Las Vegas and win big until their card counting ruse is discovered.
  • In the 2009 film The Hangover a trio of friends require $80,000 in order to pay a ransom to recover a fourth, whom has been kidnapped. Zach Galifianakis has been absorbing card counting books and wins the necessary cash. However, once they hand the cash over, they discover that the kidnap victim is not their friend at all, but a local low-life drug dealer.

Blackjack at online casinos

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:

  • where the dealer hits or stands on soft 17
  • whether insurance is offered, and at what odds
  • whether you can double down, and on which totals
  • whether you can split, and re-split
  • whether you can surrender, and on which totals
  • what odds are paid for blackjack

Learn how to play online blackjack

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.

Blackjack table

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.

Black Jack Table - Online

How to play

Blackjack is a card game played with between one and eight 52-card decks. Each card has its own value:

  • Aces : 1 or 11 points
  • Face cards (the royals) : 10 points
  • Two to ten : pip value (their numerical 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:

  • Stand : the player sticks with his or her cards.
  • Hit : another card is drawn and added to the player’s hand.
  • Double down : the player doubles their initial stake and gets one more card. They cannot receive another.
  • Split : if the player has a pair or two 10-point cards then they can double their bet and separate their cards into two separate hands. Each ‘hand’ receives a second card. The player then continues as normal, with two hands.
  • Surrender : the player gives up on their hand and keeps half their original stake. This option is only available if the player has not previously hit and is sometimes not permitted by casinos.

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.

To recap…

Black Jack - Ace of Diamonds

Initial deal

After bets are placed, the dealer will distribute two cards to each player and themselves, starting with the player on their immediate left. The dealer leaves their second cards dealt visible. If their visible card is an ace, the dealer will offer an ‘insurance’ side bet at specific odds.

Player "Hits" in Black Jack

Player action

Starting from the left, players must choose to stand, hit, double, split or surrender. If the player’s card value goes over 21, they lose and their stake is collected.

21 "Hand" in Black Jack

Dealer’s hand revealed

The dealer reveals their hidden ‘hole’ card. If the dealer’s hand value is lower than 16, they must draw a new card, except in the case of a soft 17, where the dealer can choose to stand. If the dealer busts then all players still in the game are paid even money.

Settle Bets in Black Jack

Bets settled

Once the dealer has chosen to stand, all higher value hands on the table are paid even money and all lower value hands are collected. The dealer distributes money accordingly and deals for the next round.

Blackjack variants: get the best house edge

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.

Blackjack variations

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.

Black Jack: Caribbean 21 Hand

Caribbean 21

This game made the news in 2003 when a player won $1.3 million playing Caribbean 21 at Hampton Casino. The RTG-run casino however refused to pay, claiming the player had used a software bot to hack a flaw in the Caribbean 21 software. The player and the casino eventually came to an undisclosed settlement.

Caribbean 21 has the largest number of preferable rule changes that, by playing perfect strategy, can reduce the house edge to a measly 0.19 percent. Aces are always low, and players can hit, stand, double down, split (when applicable) or surrender whenever they wish. The dealer wins all ties, and the only hand that pays more then evens is ‘Caribbean 21’ which is two tens or court cards and an ace, which pays 3/2.

House edge: 0.19%

Black Jack: Spanish 21 Hand

Spanish 21

Spanish 21 helps to swing the odds in favour of the player, although the house still retains an edge, of course. The deck used has only 48 cards – a “Spanish” deck in which all four tens are removed. There are many additional rules that make this a very interesting blackjack variant:

  • Late surrender, doubling after a split and re-splitting aces are all allowed
  • A player scoring 21 always wins, including blackjack
  • Players can double down on any number of cards
  • Players can hit and double down after splitting aces
  • Players can surrender after doubling down
  • A five-card 21 pays 3/2, a six-card 21 2/1 and a seven card 21 3/1, unless the player has double downed or split
  • 678 or 777 of mixed suits pays 3/2, and of the same suit 2/1, and of spades 3/1
  • Suited 777 when the dealer has a seven as an up card pays a tasty bonus

Note – not all versions of Spanish 21 will honour all rules, so check with your chosen casino before playing.

House edge: 0.40%


Black Jack: Bust!

21st Century Blackjack

AKA ‘Vegas Style’ blackjack. This variant is played in California card rooms. Player busts are not always considered automatic losses. Players can sometimes collect if the dealer also busts, although the dealer must bust with a higher total.

House edge: 0.44%

Black Jack Hand: Switch

Blackjack Switch

A version in which a player plays two hands at once. Once the player’s two hands have been dealt, the player has the option to switch cards to make better hands. For example, if a player is dealt 6J and Q5, they can switch to make better hands, in this case 65 and JQ.

The trade-off with this game is that a dealer scoring 22 results in a push, and blackjacks only pay even money.

House edge: 0.58%


Black Jack: Double Attack

Double Attack Blackjack

A popular game in Atlantic City, in Double Attack Blackjack (played with a Spanish deck) the player has the option of doubling his bet when the dealer’s up card has been dealt. There are multiple variations associated with this version – such as dealers standing on soft 17, doubling after a split allowed, aces may not be re-split and so on. If you play Double Attack Blackjack it’s best to check all the rules that are in play.

House edge: 0.62%

Black Jack: Pontoon


This is the version of the game that most players in the UK will have grown up with. There are again many possible different rules, so its best to check with the casino before you start playing. The main rule differences are that the dealer hits soft 17, doubling after a split is allowed, players may double down on 9 and 11 only, and a player 21 or blackjack is an instant winner.

House edge: 0.64%

Black Jack: Double Exposure

Double Exposure Blackjack

Identical to standard blackjack, except that the dealer’s first two cards are both played face up. The trade off to this added feature is that the dealer wins if there would otherwise be a push (except on a natural blackjack), a player blackjack only pays 2/1, and re-splitting is not allowed. There are other slight variations as well.

House edge: 0.66%

Black Jack: Super Fun 21

Super Fun 21

This is an online version of a game that is popular in Vegas casinos that has been adapted for online play. There are lots of extra possible rules, such as re-splitting being allowed up to a maximum of four hands, doubling is available on any number of cards, and a non-doubled, non-busted hand of six cards or more automatically wins. The trade-off on this occassion is that blackjacks (except a blackjack in which both cards are diamonds, which pays 2/1), pay evens.

House edge: 1.16

Learn the right blackjack 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.

Hard and soft hands

This strategy makes reference to ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ hands:

  • A ‘hard’ hand either has no aces, or has aces that have to count as one point to prevent the hand busting.
  • A ‘soft’ hand contains at least one ace, which can still count as one or eleven points.

What’s the right strategy?

The following applies to 4-8 deck blackjack following standard, non-European rules (the UK and most online casinos fall under this category).

4-8 Decks, Dealer stands on soft 17

4-8 Decks, Dealer stands on soft 17: Black Jack

4-8 Decks, Dealer hits on soft 17

4-8 Decks: Black Jack

Black Jack Options

General points to bear in mind

These rules of thumb fall outside of the betting chart, but should inform the way you play:

  • Never take insurance money (side bets) when the dealer’s visible card is an ace.
  • If you can’t split, treat your hand as a hard total.
  • Always hit when you have three or more cards or if table rules don’t allow soft doubling, even if the strategy recommends doubling. However, you should stand on a soft 18.
  • With a hard 10 or 11, double if you have a higher hand value than the dealer, treating a dealer ace as 11 points. To be precise, you should double with 10 against a 2 to 9, and with 11 against 2 to 10.
  • Where the strategy says not to split, treat the hand has a hard total of 8, 10, or 20.
  • If surrendering isn’t allowed, then hit where the chart says to surrender.

Blackjack - some terms explained


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.

Card counting

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.

Double down

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.

Hard and soft

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.

Perfect strategy

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.

Them’s the facts, now hit the tables!

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!