Learn Basic Strategy and Game Rules in this Blackjack Guide
Blackjack is one of the two most cerebral games offered at any online casino. Our Blackjack Guide will cover blackjack strategy and rules, and we will describe the qualities of the best online blackjack games.
The most basic rule of blackjack is simple: you try to get as close to 21 points as possible without going over that number. Number cards count as their face value; picture cards count as 10 points; and Aces can count as either one or eleven.
The players and the dealer get two cards. Online it doesn’t matter who sees your cards so players’ cards come in face up. In most variations, the dealer gets one card face up and one card face down. The face down card is called the hole card.
Players play their cards first. Online, you can play single-hand or multi-hand blackjack. If you are good at card counting, you should play multi-hand blackjack because you see more cards and can make more knowledgeable decisions.
Here is the first major area strategy regarding how to win at blackjack online. Since you go first and since you lose automatically if you go over 21 points, you have decisions to make on every card. When you have 12 or more points, you could go over 21 or bust on the next card if you choose to take one.
Some players always stand when they have 12 or more points but this is not the best blackjack strategy if you want to win at online blackjack. The dealer must hit, or take another card, with 16 points or less and must stand with 17 points or more. So, if you have 12 points and the dealer’s up card is 7,8,9, a ten point card, or an Ace, it’s probably the best blackjack strategy to take another card.
However, if the dealer “us showing” a 6, 5, 4, 3, or 2 it’s probably best to stand and give the dealer the chance to bust. Remember, if you bust you lose automatically.
So now you know that you have to make decisions at every turn. Here are some more wrinkles in the rules that will affect your decisions.
- If your first two cards are the same, you can split them. This means that from one hand you create two. You have to match your bet in order to play the second hand.
- If you think that you could get a very high point count by taking one card and one card only you can double down. You double your bet and get one card only.
- If the dealer shows an Ace, she will ask you if you want insurance. This is another bet equal to your first bet. If the dealer has 21 points, you don’t lose. The insurance protects your original bet.
- In some blackjack variations, a player may surrender half his bet and keep the other half.
Winning Strategy 1: Splitting Cards
Now that we know all the basic variations in any blackjack game, let’s see how each rule affects how to win at blackjack online.
- It is considered very bad blackjack strategy to split ten point cards. The reason is obvious: you already have a very strong hand of 20 points.
- It is considered mandatory strategy to split Aces. Two Aces are a weak hand because they are either two points or twelve points, both problematic. But when you split them, they are both 11 points and you need only one of the sixteen ten point cards on each to get to 21 points.
- Most strategists say that you should split two 8’s because 16 points is a weak hand but two 8’s have the potential to win with 18 or more points.
- There is lively debate about whether to split 9’s. You already have 18 points. Some players like going for 19 points and some stand pat with 18 points.
- It is never wise to split 2’s, 3’s, 4’, 5’, 6’, or 7’s. if you do, you’ll probably lose!
Winning Strategy 2: Doubling Down
- Double down Aces unless the dealer is also showing an Ace. If the dealer has an Ace she will offer insurance. Then she’ll peek at her hole card. If it gives her 21, she will show it and collect from those who don’t have 21 themselves or didn’t take insurance.
- If she doesn’t have 21, she might still have a very powerful hand. Since an Ace can be counted as 1 point, the dealer can get another card even if she has already reached 17 points. This is called hitting on soft 17.
- Depending on the card the dealer is showing, it can be excellent strategy to double down with 10, 9, or 8 points.
Winning Strategy 3: Insurance
There is no debate about insurance. Every statistical analysis shows that taking insurance is a bad bet. We know that it seems counter-intuitive but the chances that you’ll get your money back are less than half. Furthermore, there’s no reason to assume that you can’t win the hand outright. So, never take insurance!
Winning Strategy 4: Surrender
There are times that surrender is very good strategy. If dealer has 7, 8, 9 a 10 point card or an Ace and you have 16, 15, or 14 points, you should surrender. Taking a card is too risky in those cases and if you play on, the chances are great that you’ll lose. So, cut your losses.
Strategy in Light of Blackjack Variations
- In some variations you can split as many as three times, thus getting four hands. It is usually best to play such a game because it gives you a slight edge that you don’t have in a variation that allows only one split.
- In the variation called Double Exposure, you see both of the dealer’s cards. This is a big help in making your decisions. But there are other rule changes that turn the tide in the dealer’s favor. So, overall, although this variation is very alluring, best blackjack strategy dictates not to play it.
- It is a big advantage to the house when the dealer can hit on soft 17. So never play a blackjack variation with his side rule.
- Some games give an automatic win if you have 5 cards and still have 21 or fewer points. Games with this variation give players a very slight extra benefit.
- Some variations allow doubling down with three or more cards. This rule is rare but very helpful to players.
- In most blackjack variations, a player wins automatically with blackjack, meaning 21 points on the first two cards. Beware variations where the dealer ties if she has blackjack also.
- In Spanish 21, the tens are taken out and you play with 48 cards. This changes strategy from doubling down and splitting to standing or hitting based on the dealer’s up card.
- In Blackjack Switch you get two hands and you can switch one card from one hand to the other. However, if dealer has 22 points he ties a player’s 21.
- In Chinese Blackjack, all hands must reach at least 16 points before you can stand.
Best Online Blackjack
There is no single best online blackjack because players have different likes and dislikes. Of course, if you play for fun, the best blackjack is the one that gives you the most fun playing. Some players are less interested in how to win at online blackjack than in how to have the most fun playing blackjack online.
Graphics and Animation
If the visuals are spectacular and you can hold your own against the house, graphics and animation may be the deciding factors in what will be the best blackjack game for you.
We have to point out that blackjack graphics vary tremendously from casino to casino. There’s nothing wrong with checking out a number of casinos before settling on one.
Many variations offer side bets. We are always leery of side bets but many players love them.
Whichever variation you decide to try, it is always the number one best strategy for how to win at blackjack online to read the rules carefully and to play the game in free play mode a few times just to get the hang of it.
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We have one final bit of advice before we end this Blackjack Guide. There are many fine strategy cards available online. We suggest you play with a strategy card. The house edge in blackjack is usually very small, one or two percent. With a strategy card, you might change the odds in your favor.