Blackjack (a.k.a. “twenty-one”, “21”, or even “vingt-et-un”) is said to be the most widely played casino table game in the world – and it’s difficult to dispute that contention. Surely you know the rules, but we’ll run through the basics briefly…
Standard blackjack is played with at least one standard 52-card deck of cards, but internet casinos typically deal from a six- or eight-deck “shoe” which is reshuffled after every hand to further randomize and to effectively make card counting impossible – or at least extremely difficult.
Player and dealer are each dealt two cards with the object of the game to score as high a total score as possible without going over 21 (a.k.a. ‘busting’). Aces are worth 1 or 11 points, face cards are worth 10 and all other cards are scored by the value shown on their faces. In the standard variation, an ace and a face card is an automatic ‘blackjack’ for the player, a win that pays off at a 3:2 proportion on the initial wager of the game.
After receiving his/her two cards, the player has a few options: He/she may “hit” (take a card), “stand” (keep the hand dealt); “double down” (double the initial bet for one more card in the hand); “split” (create two hands from a pair of like cards); or, at some tables, “surrender” (play half the initial wager to end the hand with no further losses).
Another standard rule in the game – and the entire modus operandi for blackjack, really – is the requirement that the dealer must “stand” on hands worth 17 points and must “hit”, i.e. take another card, on hands worth 16. This rule often provides players the opportunity to let the dealer bust and thus win.
In the many variations typically available at a decent online casino today – popular favorites include Spanish Blackjack, Pontoon, Double Exposure and others – these rules are usually tweaked or augmented with progressive jackpots or “side bet” offers.
Spanish Blackjack is probably the most commonly seen blackjack variant at the typical online casino. This one plays out quite a bit differently than regular blackjack, except the standard rules apply. The Spanish Blackjack decks/shoe are without 10s; only face cards are worth 10 in this game. Also, the dealer shows no hole card, so if the dealer has a blackjack, players will not know until the end of the round. In Spanish Blackjack, combinations of 21 formed by drawing three 7s or a 6, 7 and 8 trio also pay out. Blackjack tends to pay out lower in this variant as well due to the extra paying hands.
Pontoon is a British version of blackjack in which the 10-less deck is used. A few different vocabulary terms and betting options are also used: to “twist” is to hit and to “stick” is to stand. To “buy” is a doubling of the bet while drawing cards, though unlike the standard “double down,” the “buy” allows the player to keep drawing cards. Some other rules apply with regard to splitting cards (these change from casino to casino), but note that a five-card hand with value 21 or under is an automatic winner for the player.
Rapidly becoming one of the most popular blackjack variations is Double Exposure. This one plays like regular blackjack, except that both the dealer’s cards are shown before players begin drawing to their hands. Sound easy? On the contrary, in Double Exposure, the player often finds him-/herself having to draw to a hand of 18 because the dealer is showing a 19. And like that.
Of course, many other variations on blackjack may exist at the online casino of your choice; we suggest only that you make yourself well-versed in the specialized rules of any variant before playing.
In strict terms of odds, blackjack is the most player-friendly game in either the real-life or online casino. The so-called “house advantage” in blackjack is right around a scanty 0.9%. With smart and consistent play, the everyday punter can in fact turn a profit in the long run – helped by a modicum of luck, of course.