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A basic introduction to blackjack which might just see you take to the game along with millions of players who all swear by the game of 21.
Blackjack is a game with origins in ancient Roman, Chinese and Egyptian culture. Today’s Blackjack is a direct derivation of an 18th century French casino game called “Vingt-et-Un” (21), and it arrived in America by the hands of European colonists.
Modern Blackjack got its name from a promotion bonus that was offered in early American casinos; the bonus was a payout with 10:1 odds if a player’s hand included the Ace of Spades and a black Jack. The promotions didn’t last, but the name stuck.
Blackjack became really popular in America during the Great Depression, when Nevada legalized gambling in order to increase its revenue. The simple card game became a fast favorite at casinos in Las Vegas and around the state, until it eventually spread to the other states and was enjoyed from coast to coast.
Like baseball, Blackjack started out as mainly an American pastime, but due to the rise of online casinos, many other people around the world now enjoy playing it. While the game’s actual rules haven’t changed in the past century, plenty of new versions of the game have popped up – from Online Blackjack to Mobile Blackjack to Live Casino Blackjack for online gamers.
Because Blackjack’s origins lie in France, but its main popularity is in America, the game’s terminology contains a mix of both French and America flavors.
Blackjack: The name of the game and also, the term for an Ace and any card valued at 10.
Bust: A bust is an automatic loss; it happens when a player gets a hand that totals over 21.
Double Down: This is the doubling of an initial bet, in return for agreeing to stand down after receiving an extra card.
Hit: The term for when a player asks for another card from the dealer.
Holecard: This is the Dealer’s second card, usually dealt facedown and not turned over until the players decide what move to make.
Insurance: This is something the player can request if the Dealer has an Ace. Before the Dealer reveals his hole card, the player asks for insurance, which pays 2:1, and covers for the loss of the original bet.
Push: A tie between the player and the Dealer.
Soft: When an Ace is valued at 11 (and not 1).
Split: If the player’s two hands have the same value, he can split them into separate hands. The player then plays both hands at the same time (doubling his chances at winning).
Stand: When a player decides not to accept any more cards.
Surrender: If a player is losing, some casinos might let him stand down and “surrender” at a certain point in the hand. If this happens, the player receives half of his bet back.
Upcard: The Dealer’s card that is facing up.
Unlike Poker, where players play against each other, in Blackjack, players play against the dealer. The goal is to reach a total value of 21 or as close as possible. Aces can be played at 1 or 11, and Jacks, Queens and Kings are all valued at 10. Numbers 1-9 are taken at face value.
The game starts off with players placing their bets. Then, every player is dealt two cards facing up. The dealer deals himself two cards, the upcard and the holecard. Once everyone has received their cards, players must choose whether to “hit” (get more cards), “stand” (take no more cards), “double” their bet or “split” two cards of equal value into two separate hands. Once the players have made their choices, the Dealer draws cards until he “busts” (over 21) or gets cards that value 17 or higher.
A game of Blackjack has three possible outcomes: the player can win, the Dealer can win, or there will be a tie (in which case, the player gets his cash back). The best possible scenario? When the player gets blackjack on the first round. Casinos usually offer higher odds of 3:2 if a player gets this.
Blackjack is a fairly straightforward game, as the player doesn’t need to focus on other players; only on the Dealer. Of course, there are certainly advanced strategies the players can learn; mathematically inclined players may even be able to count cards (though not recommended!).
But for players just starting out, there is a basic strategy that you need to master; that is, you need to know when to hit, stand, split and double. While of course, you can never predict what card will come your way 100% of the time, the basic rules for these moves are governed by the laws of probability. If you draw any card between 5-16, you should hit, but if you draw any card between 17-21, you should stand. When it comes to splitting and doubling, there are a few more options; splitting is a good choice if you draw two cards of the same value, but you also have to keep an eye on what the dealer has as well.
- While the rules of Blackjack don’t vary from casino to casino, the odds do. Check out what the odds are before you play at any online casino, and try to find the one with the best payout offer.
- Practice makes perfect! Try a demo version of Blackjack before moving on to the real deal. Many online casinos allow their registered players to play Blackjack for free, without time limits. This is a great way to get experience without risking your money.
- Stay calm: This is the golden rule for any card game, and while it seems basic, it is actually difficult to maintain. Players in online casinos, however, have a better chance at staying calm than players in real casinos, because in real casinos there are numerous more distractions. In both cases, the more focused you are, the better your chances are of winning.
- Educate yourself! Read up about Blackjack, even watch movies such as 21 and Rain Man – these will get you thinking about all the math involved in Blackjack, and can help you get creative in your strategies.
- Remember that you are playing against the Dealer. Ignore the players around you; they simply are not relevant to your goal.
- Remember that the House has the advantage. While players are still able to – and do – win, it’s important to remember this fact.