Blackjack is a game of probability and possibilities; you’ll need to judge the most beneficial moves to make if you’re going to beat the dealer – here, representing the casino or “house” – at their own game. In brief though, the objective of blackjack is to use your cards to get as close to 21 as possible, while beating the dealer’s own tally.
There are several other ways to win – if the player or dealer is dealt 21 on the first two cards (an ace and a card worth ten points, like a King), they win immediately; also, if either party goes over 21, they go “bust” and their opponent wins – but, for the vast majority of the time you spend playing blackjack, you’ll be charting a path to that elusive 21.
With regard to adding up your total, all numbered cards retain their face value (e.g. a 2 of diamonds has a value of 2) but you can forget about suits; they don’t mean anything in blackjack. Aces can be either 1 or 11, with the choice left up to the player. Finally, “face” cards – Kings, Jacks, and Queens – are all valued at 10.
Hitting and Standing
As a beginner in a real casino, you’ll want to play the most forgiving form of blackjack out there so sit at a table with a low minimum bet, such as £5. Keep your chips on the felt in front of you (don’t hand them to the dealer). Online, it’s much easier to set your own limits – and there’s no need to worry about etiquette.
One of blackjack’s most famous gameplay mechanics occurs right after the player receives their first two cards from the dealer – they have to choose whether to “hit” (receive another card) or “stand”, which ends the current round in favour of the player with the score closest to 21. You can hit until you go bust.
Splitting and Doubling
If players are dealt two cards with the same value (e.g. a 4 of clubs and hearts or a King and Queen), a new option arises – “split”. This divides the player’s hand into two different ones. The player is then given two additional cards. As both new hands count as valid as far as beating the dealer to 21 is concerned, the player is effectively given two chances to win.
Learning when and what to split is a key aspect of blackjack’s gameplay. For example, it’s advisable to always split aces.
There’s also such a thing as the “double” or “doubling down”. Doubling gives the player twice their original bet but they will only receive one more card (they can’t keep hitting for more). Doubling is a gamble and, for that reason, there are both good and bad times to use the option. Doubling on a total of 10 or 11 gives the best odds of a win, for example.
Much like doubling, insurance is a bet on probability; specifically, that a dealer with an ace (one card is always face up) will have blackjack with their second or “hole” card. The appeal of the bet is that it pays two-to-one; however, the odds of success are one in three, meaning it’s a much riskier wager than doubling.
You might also encounter terms like “push” (a draw), “surrender” (giving up half your bet to end the round), and a “soft” hand, one that can’t go bust with the next card dealt.
Blackjack is a very deep game, despite the simplicity of its core gameplay, so it’s advisable to play a few non-cash games on a mobile app or for small change with friends before hitting the casinos. Most iGaming websites let players practise for free too.
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