Blackjack is by far the most popular table game played at casinos around the world. Being able to trace its origins back to the 1600s, blackjack is also one of the longest-standing card games that has been played at casinos since it was invented.
There are a number of different variations which have each originated from different parts of the world. Blackjack is a particularly unique game because it puts every player at a single table against one dealer, as opposed to other table games which require players to face off against each other.
We have composed a number of extensive articles and resources dedicated specifically to the game of blackjack. Each of our articles are written by industry experts, game strategists and gambling enthusiasts. You can take a look at the following links to learn more about different blackjack variations, basic strategy, to find tips and more.
Blackjack Strategy Articles
Types of Blackjack
Blackjack is not the name of one game, but rather an “umbrella” term used to cover several different types of the game. While the end goal of every blackjack variation is to reach (or come as close to reaching) 21 without going over, different versions of the game have slightly different rules which we’ll go over below.
Single-Deck Blackjack – This game is played with only one 52 card deck. If you are able to understand and play classic blackjack, chances are you will be able to master any of its variants.
European Blackjack – This game is played with two 52 card decks and is sometimes referred to as “double-deck” blackjack. This version of blackjack carries a house edge of .39% and most often requires the dealer to hit on soft 17’s. Like some other blackjack variants, European Blackjack only allows you to double with a 9 or 11.
Free Bet Blackjack – The most popular new variation in Las Vegas. This game allows players to double down on 9-11 for free. All splits may also be made for free, except on face cards. Resplits and double down after splitting are also on the house. In exchange for all of these great player friendly rules, the house pushes all hands that did not bust or get dealt a blackjack when a 22 is made by the dealer.
Change It 21 – Available at Fremont in downtown Las Vegas. This game allows players to pay 50% of the original bet in exchange for the ability to discard one of the first two dealt cards. Players may double down or split after receiving the new card. Double down after splitting is not permitted. This game pays 6-5 on blackjack.
Spanish 21 – Another commonly found variant of blackjack is known as Spanish 21. This game is played with 6-8 48 card “Spanish” decks. A Spanish deck is the same as a normal 52 card deck minus the four numerical 10 cards. The dealer is allowed to hit on a 17, but is not forced to do so like in European and classic blackjack. The house edge of Spanish 21 ranges between .40% and .76%.
Vegas Strip Blackjack – This variant is played with 4 standard decks of 52 cards. In this game the dealer is forced to stand on a soft 17 and is able to peek at his or her face-down card to see if they hit blackjack. The house edge on Vegas Strip or 4 deck blackjack is about .34%.
Atlantic City Blackjack – This form is similar to Vegas Strip, but it is played with 8 decks of 52 cards and has a marginally higher house edge of about .35%. Another difference between Atlantic City and Vegas Strip blackjack is that you are given the late surrender option, which allows you to quit the hand and recoup 50% of your original bet.
Blackjack Switch – This is an interesting variation of the game because each player is dealt two hands and are able to interchange cards between the two dealt hands. The game is played with 6-8 decks of 52 cards and allows players to place two separate bets of equal size. You are able to double on any two cards and the dealer is forced to hit on soft 17.
Double Exposure Blackjack – This variation has one of the highest house edges at .69%, making it one of the toughest types of blackjack to win. Double Exposure is played with 8 decks of 52 cards. Both of the dealer’s cards are dealt face up and the dealer is forced to hit on soft 17. Players are only able to double on 9 and 11; even if they have already split.
War Blackjack – More of a side bet than a game. Unlike most blackjack side bets, a winning War Blackjack wager may be parlayed into the original bet. The War bet is similar to the standard home card game. The dealer gives the player one card, as well as himself. The highest card wins. In the blackjack version, an ace is low and the house wins all ties. The player has the option to take any winning bet out of action or use it to parlay the original bet. The two bets must be equal. Once the War bet is graded, the other card is dealt to the player and dealer.
Most Liberal 21 – Often referred to as the World’s Most Liberal 21, is only available at two downtown Las Vegas casinos. The game is owned by the parent company of Plaza and Las Vegas Club. The game offers several player friendly rules. These include the ability to hit and resplit aces. Players may also double down on any number of cards. Surrender is available. A player that makes a hand of 6 cards without busting automatically wins. In exchange for these rules, blackjack only pays even money, except on suited blackjacks, which pays 2-1.
Basic Blackjack Rules
When playing blackjack, the player begins by placing a wager and is subsequently dealt two cards. The sum of those two cards will range anywhere from 4-21. If the initial two cards you are dealt consist of an ace and any face card (including a numerical 10), you will automatically be paid because you just hit blackjack.
If you get blackjack will either be paid 6:5 or 3:2 of your initial bet, which we’ll go over more in the next section. If the cards you are dealt do not constitute blackjack, then you will be forced to choose between hitting and standing.
If you stand, you are hoping that your initially dealt two cards will be greater than the dealer’s final total, or you are hoping that the dealer will bust (have his or her cards total over 21). If you hit, you will receive another card in addition to your first two dealt cards. If you hit and the sum of your cards exceeds 21, you lose. You may hit as many times as you would like so long as the sum of your cards does not exceed 21.
Blackjack has a few different payout ratios depending on the cards you end up with. If your first two cards do not constitute blackjack and you are able to outlast a dealer who busts, or have a higher total than the dealer, your payout will be 1:1. This means you will win an amount equal to your bet. So for example: if you beat the dealer and had a $10 bet out on the table, you will win $10.
When the first two cards you’re dealt DO constitute blackjack, there is a slightly better payout structure than the even money offered to players who simply outlast the dealer. Blackjack typically pays out at 3:2 odds, meaning if you hit blackjack you will receive 1.5x your original bet. For example, if you wagered $20 and hit blackjack, you will win $30. Some tables only pay 6:5, which you should try to avoid for obvious reasons. This also means you should thoroughly inspect the rules before sitting down and playing at any blackjack table.
Apart from the two payouts we went over above, the only other one you need to be familiar with is called an insurance payout. Insurance is simply a side bet wagered by a player who thinks the dealer has blackjack. This option is only available when the dealer is showing an ace. If the player is correct and the dealer does in fact have blackjack, the payout will be 2:1. For example, if you make a $10 insurance bet and the dealer has blackjack, you will win $20.
It is important to keep in mind that there are some variations to the payouts made for hitting blackjack at casinos. For example, some Las Vegas casinos only offer a 6:5 blackjack payout at certain tables. The 6:5 payout is usually only associated with single-deck games and is employed as a way of mitigating any advantage a player may derive from counting cards.
It must also be noted that when playing Double Exposure blackjack, all wins pay out 1:1, including blackjack.
Basic Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack is not a game heavily reliant on skill like Texas Hold’em or most other forms of poker, though there is still some basic strategy every player will do well to learn. Blackjack strategy consists of taking into consideration your hand relative to the dealer’s single face-up card. In games where both of the dealer’s cards are dealt face-up, your moves will depend much more on the cards you hold.
“Soft” vs “Hard” Hands
Before discussing actual strategy, players must know the difference between a soft and a hard hand. A soft hand is any hand that contains at least one ace, while a hard hand is a hand that contains no aces or contains an ace that is forced to count as 1. The softness or hardness of your hand will help you decide how to wager and what moves to make.
To keep things simple, we will discuss strategy in terms of soft hands first and then hard hands. If you are dealt a hard hand in the range of 4-8, it goes without saying that you should hit every time. If you are dealt a hard nine, however, you will either double or hit depending on the dealer’s one face-up card. If the dealer’s face-up card is between 2 and 6, it is advised that you double down, whereas if the dealer has anything superior to a 7, you should hit. With a hard 10 or 11, it is almost always advised that you double down on your bet if you are able to.
A player dealt a hard hand ranging from 12-16 you should stand so long as the dealer’s one face-up card is no greater than 6. If, however, the dealer is working with a face-up card of 7 or more, you should hit, even though you risk busting. Finally, if you are dealt hard hands in the range of 17-21 you should stay every time.
The strategy behind soft hands says that if your hand is between 13-15, you should hit every time regardless of what the dealer’s face-up card is. If you have a soft 16-18 and the dealer’s face-up card is less than 7, you should double down. If you have the same soft 16-18 and the dealer’s card is 7 or greater, you should hit. Finally, any soft hand 19 or greater is a sign that you should stand.
Splitting Your Hand
Splitting is another strategic move in blackjack, and should only be done with certain card hands. If you have pocket 2s, 3s, 6s, 7s, or 9s, it is advised that you split so long as the dealers’ one face-up card is below 7. If you have pocket 8s or aces, you should double no matter what the dealer’s face-up card is. Finally, with 4s, 5s, and 10s it is highly suggested that you never split. For those who are unaware, splitting involves turning your one hand with two cards into two separate hands totaling 4 cards. If you split, you are able to place a wager on both of your new hands and have the chance to win twice.
Learning Basic Strategy to Lower House Edge
In summation, blackjack is the world’s most popular table game and can be found at casinos all over the globe. Though there are a number of variations available, having knowledge of and understanding how to properly play the classic version of blackjack will help you immensely when trying to play any of its derivatives. Despite the fact that blackjack is a game based much more on luck than skill, there is still a good bit of strategy involved. If you take the time to understand blackjack strategy, even in its most basic form, you will be doing yourself a service that can take you a long way.