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Blackjack – the facts

Blackjack is the world’s most popular casino card game. The aim of the game is simple – you are dealt two cards then can add more (‘hit’) or not (‘stand’) in your quest to get as close to a total of twenty-one as possible without scoring more (‘bust’). Once you’ve stood or bust, it’s the dealer’s turn. The dealer must play his hand and try and beat you without busting. You win back double your stake if you emerge the victor.

Casino blackjack is a little different to blackjack you might play at home. The main difference is the way that the dealer plays their hand. The dealer MUST keep drawing until they reach seventeen even if they have beaten you, and cannot deal more cards if they reach seventeen and they haven’t beaten you. This is to simulate real casinos conditions, where the dealer will be trying to beat more than one hand.

A little bit of history

Nobody really knows where blackjack originated, but most playing card game scholars think it originated in either France or Italy. There’s certainly evidence going back three hundred years of a French card game called ‘Vingt-et-Un’, which is French for twenty-one.

The game travelled across the Atlantic as the USA began to become colonised, and was played in casinos in heavily French areas such as Louisiana, from where it traveled up the Mississippi. It was still called ‘twenty-one’ until the 1930s when casinos began to add bonuses to make the game more appealing. If you were dealt an ace along with a black jack, you won ten times your stake. Hence, the game became known as ‘Blackjack’, although the special blackjack bonus was soon dropped, and any two-card total of twenty-one become known as ‘blackjack’.

Blackjack – some terms explained

Blackjack

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.

Insurance

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).

Split

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!

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