Planning to visit an online or land-based casino to play blackjack for the first time? This comprehensive and easy-to-understand blackjack guide for beginners is for you.
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We’ll take you through the basics of blackjack, including the rules, how to play the game, blackjack strategies, and more. This online blackjack guide is also suitable for bettors looking for a refresher on blackjack.
We understand that there are many blackjack guides on the internet, but the problem is that they are very complicated for beginners. We explained every topic in this guide in the simplest form possible to avoid unnecessary complications. Our beginners guide to blackjack covers:
- Introduction to blackjack
- Why blackjack is considered the best casino game Scoring in blackjack
- Basic terms every beginner should know
- How to play blackjack
- Understanding how the dealer plays his hand
- Best blackjack strategies for beginners
Introduction To Blackjack
Since this blackjack guide is for newbies, we’ll be starting by introducing the game to you. Blackjack is one of the best games available at casinos. Unlike slots and roulettes that are purely based on luck, blackjack requires you to learn a skill to increase your chance of winning. Whether playing virtually or at brick and mortar casino, the game is played against the dealer. So even when you see two or more bettors playing at a table, they are all playing against the dealer, not against one another.
Why Blackjack Is Considered The Best Casino Game
Let’s give you a glimpse of why blackjack is considered the best casino game before going into the details of how to play the game. Blackjack is highly rated because it has the lowest house edge you can get at a casino. In other words, of all the games at a casino, blackjack gives you the highest chance of winning your bet. On average, the house edge of blackjack games is about 0.5%, while that of slot, roulette, and baccarat is 2 -15%, 2 – 15%, and 1 – 15%, respectively.
Perhaps you are wondering what house edge means. It is the mathematical advantage the casino has over its players. It represents a small percentage of the total bets on a game that the casino expects to win. House edge is usually expressed as a percentage. All casinos have a house edge to ensure they stay profitable in the long run. The higher the game’s house edge, the more difficult it is to win.
Aside from having the lowest edge, strategically-minded bettors prefer blackjack because it is not entirely based on luck. You can gain some edge over the house and win roulette games if you have good blackjack strategies. We’ll discuss some of the strategies you can use to increase your chances of winning your games later in this blackjack guide.
Scoring In Blackjack
You play blackjack using a traditional deck of cards. As you already know, a standard deck has 52 cards with four different suits: hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs. The first two suits are in red, while the last two are in black. Another important thing to note about these cards is their ranks.
A standard card comes with 13 ranks – A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack (K), Queen (Q), and King (K). So in a deck of cards, you have four different suits, with each featuring 13 ranks. In other words, the hearts have 13ranks, the spades 13 ranks, diamond 13 ranks, and clubs 13 ranks. The A is called Ace, while the J, Q, and K are termed face cards. Now that you understand the suits and ranks in a traditional deck let’s give you a lowdown of how scores are awarded in blackjack.
First, note that the suits do not matter in most blackjack variants because scores are awarded based on the ranks of the cards. Second, always remember that there are only four cards of each rank in a deck. In other words, you will only find four As, four 1s, four 2s, and more in a deck.
The cards in a hand of blackjack are scored as follows:
- Ace – 1 or 11 points
- Face cards ( J, K, & Q) – 10 points
- Other cards (2 – 10) – get the same points as their ranks. For example, 4 = 4 points.You calculate the score of each hand of blackjack by adding up all the points of all the cards in that hand. The player with a hand that has the higher number of points wins. However, there is a clause you must never forget: any player with a hand that has a total of 22 points or more is considered a bust, meaning the player automatically loses.Basic Blackjack Terms Every Beginner Should KnowYou will always come across four essential terms when you visit a casino to play blackjack. These terms are:
- Blackjack pays 3 to 2
- Dealer must hit soft 17
- Insurance pays 2 to 1
- £5 minimum, £500 maximum – To have an optimal experience, you must understand these basic terms before hitting a roulette table. Below is a summary of what each term means:
• Blackjack pays 3 to 2
We’ll explain this term by breaking the words into two. First, you get a blackjack when you have two cards that total 21 points. When this happens, you are automatically the winner. However, there is an exception, which is called a push. A push occurs when you get blackjack, and the dealer gets blackjack too. Here, there is no winner, so you get your bet back.
If you get a blackjack and there is no push, the payout for your win is 3 to 2. For example, if you wager £30 and win, your payout will be £45. While scouring online casinos, you may find games with 6:5 instead of the standard 3:2. We advise avoiding these games because these odds give the casino a higher edge over you.
• Dealer must hit soft 17
A soft hand exists when you or the dealer has an Ace, seven and nine. When this happens, there are two options depending on whether the house rule is dealer must hit soft 17, or dealer must stand on 17s or higher. The rule is often visible on the roulette table. You should check which rule applies to the game before you start playing.
If the rule is ‘dealer must hit soft 17’, it means when soft hand occurs, the ace amounts to one, and the dealer can request an additional card. This rule increases the house edge by about 0.2%, often favouring the casino. The rule may also favour the player sometimes. For example, if the dealer draws a card with nine points after hitting soft 17, the total points in the dealer’s hand will total 26, which is a bust.
• Insurance pays 2 to 1
Insurance involves betting on whether the dealer has a blackjack or not. It is an optional side bet with a 2:1 payout. The house edge for insurance bet is high, so you are more likely to lose than win. Though dealers always encourage players to place an insurance bet, we advise you to skip them if you are new to the game. Below is an example of how insurance pays 2 to 1 works.
Let’s assume you place a £20 bet on a roulette table, and both you and the dealer have been dealt your cards. The dealer could offer you an option of placing an insurance bet of £20. this bet is different from the first one you placed.
If the dealer has a blackjack, you win the insurance and lose the original. In other words, you win the insurance bet (2 x £10 = £20) and lose the original bet. However, if the dealer’s hand does not total 21 points, you lose the £20 insurance bet and may still lose the original bet.
• £5 minimum, £500 maximum
This phrase shows the minimum and maximum amount you can wager on the blackjack table. The minimum bets allowed on most top casinos in the UK is £5, while the maximum is £500.
How To Play Blackjack
Blackjack is played between player(s) and a dealer. The dealer is a casino employee, so when the dealer wins, the casino makes money. You start the game by placing a bet. Once done, the dealer deals everyone on the table a card. If you are playing online, it is you vs the dealer. If you are playing at a land-based casino, the number of players could be 2 – 7, including the dealer.
In a physical casino, you play blackjack games using chips. The dealer at the table will give you information on how to exchange your cash with game chips. After getting your chips, you bet by placing them in the designated spot on the table. Once all the players place their bets, the dealer starts the game by dealing two cards to each player. The cards may be dealt face up or face down.
After the dealer deals your cards, he also gets two cards, one facing up and the other facing down. The card facing up gives you and other players information on how to play your hand. The highest total points players can get with their two cards is 21, and you get this only if you have an Ace and a ten.
The dealer may offer an insurance bet option if the dealer’s faceup card is an ace. As discussed earlier, an insurance bet is called a sucker bet as it increases the house edge. So as a beginner, we recommend saying no every time the dealer offers you this option.
What happens after all cards are dealt
Once all the players get two cards each, the dealer peeks at his facedown card to see if he has a blackjack or not. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, then players have to decide their next action. You have several options, but the most common are hitting and standing. You hit by requesting an extra card, thereby increasing your score. If your score goes beyond 22 after taking an additional card, you lose as it is a bust.
The second option, standing, is when you choose to keep the cards in your hand rather than taking an additional one. Both standing and hitting are calculated risks. For example, if you choose to stand and the dealer has a higher total, you lose. Later in this beginners’ guide, specifically in the blackjack strategies section, you will learn how to make this decision intelligently and increase your chance of winning.
Other moves in blackjack
Aside from hitting and standing, you can make other moves like splitting, doubling down, and surrendering.
Splitting is allowed if you have two cards of the same rank. It means separating the two cards in your hand and using them to start two new hands. You must be ready to place an extra bet on the new hand to split. After splitting, you play the two hands independently. This means you get a separate payoff for each hand.
For example, you bet £20, and the dealer dealt you two 8s. So rather than standing or hitting, you chose to split and place an additional £20 bet on the new hand. Three scenarios can play out after you are dealt the two new cards. You either win on both hands, lose both, or win one hand and lose the other.
• Doubling down
Doubling down involves placing an extra belt and agreeing to take only one additional card. For example, you bet £20, and the first cards you get are 6 and 4. Then you double down by placing an additional £20 bet and taking one more card. Let’s say you are lucky and the new card you get is an Ace, which makes your total points 21. This way, you win your £40 bet.
Surrendering is similar to folding in poker. Here, you give up half of your bet and leave the table. This move is suitable only in rare scenarios. There are two types of surrender: early surrender and late surrender. The former allows you to drop out and get half of your bet back before the dealer checks his facedown card. This option is very rare in online and physical casinos because it lowers their house edge.
For late surrender, you are only to drop out after the dealer checks his facedown card for blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, you are not allowed to surrender. If otherwise, you can surrender.
Below is an example to show how the above rules work;
- You place a bet of £20 on a blackjack game
- The dealer deals you and other players a card
- The dealer checks his facedown card for blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, all otherplayers who don’t have a blackjack lose their bet.
- If the dealer doesn’t, players who have a blackjack win and get a 3 to 2 payout. So if youwin at this point, you get £30.
- Then players who don’t have a blackjack and the dealer continue to play the game.
- At this point, the players decide whether they want to hit, stand, double down or surrender.
- Any player with a hand totalling 22 or more loses.
- Once all the players make their move, the dealer plays his hand and settles all bets.Understanding How The Dealer Plays His Hand
When playing blackjack, dealers must follow certain rules. First, the dealer must hit anytime his hands total 16 or below. Second, dealers usually stand when the cards in their hand total 18 or higher. If the cards in the hand of the dealer total 17, it is called a soft 17. Here, the dealer may hit or stand, depending on the casino’s rule.
One thing to note about this rule is that the dealer always acts last. This factor gives the casino an advantage over you. For instance, you place your bet, and the dealer deals you cards that total 22, which is a bust. You lose your bet immediately without getting the chance to see whether the dealer has a bust too, or not.
Best Blackjack Strategies For Beginners
1. Playing hard hands and soft hands
The first thing to take into consideration when deciding on what to play is whether you have a soft hand or a hard hand. Below is an explanation of the two types of hands.
• Hard hands
A hard hand can exist in two ways. It could be a hand with no ace in it or a hand with an ace that can only count as 1 to avoid a bust. A hard hand gives players no room for negotiation. For example, A queen and 4 give you a hard total of 14. Similarly, a 7, 5, and an ace gives you a hard total of 13. Here the ace counts as one as you will go bust if it counts as 11.
• Soft hands
This is a hand with an ace that can count as 11 or 1. Here, there is room for negotiation. So, you have the freedom to decide whether you want the ace to count as 11 or 1. For example, an nine and an ace give you a soft total of 20. You can either stand or take a hit. If you take a hit, the highest card rank you are likely to get is a ten, and that leaves you with a total of 20.
2. Making decisions using the rank of the dealer’s faceup card
The second most important thing to consider is the dealer’s up card. You should check it to determine the probability of the dealer going bust. If the dealer’s faceup card is six or lower, he is more likely to go bust, so you should play conservatively. However, if the dealer has seven or higher, he is likely to have a higher total, so you should also aim for a higher total. Here is why.
A common blackjack myth is that you should always assume that the dealer’s facedown card is a 10. Though this may not always be true, you should note that a 10 has a higher chance of appearing than other numbers. Earlier in this roulette guide, we explained that Queen, King, Jack, and ten have 10 points. This means there are 16 cards in the deck worth 10 points.
Additionally, there are also other cards like 7, 8, and 9 in the deck. So if the faceup card is six or lower, the dealer is likely to have a total of 16, 15, 14, or 13 if he gets any of the numbers above. If this scenario plays out, the dealer will likely go bust if he takes a hit. We hope you now understand why it is important to stand when the dealer’s faceup card is six or lower and take a hit when it is seven or higher.
3. Always split aces and 8s
If the dealer deals you two aces, the best decision is to split the card up. If you don’t and take a hit, you get a hard total of 12, even if your new card is 10. However, if you split into two hands, you get two blackjacks if you get a ten on each of the new hands.
The same thing applies to 8s. If the dealer deals you two 8s and you take a hit, you are likely to go bust. If you stand, your total will be 16, and the dealer wins if he has a higher total. On the flip side, if you split into two hands, you have a chance of getting a total of 18 on both hands, thereby increasing your chance of winning.
3. Never split 4s, 5s, or 10s.
When you get two 10s, the total is 20 so not splitting is a no-brainer. Likewise, if you get 4s or 5s and split into two hands, the total you will get if dealt ten on both hands is 15, which is not a very good hand. However, if you take a hit and the dealer deals you a ten or an ace, you get a total of 20 or 21 points.
No doubt, blackjack is one of the best games to play in a casino. It is one of the few games whose outcome does not entirely depend on luck. Learning the basics of the game can give you an edge over the house and increase your chance of winning. We hope this beginner’s guide on blackjack helps you get off on the right feet.
We hope you have found our guide to Blackjack helpful!. If you would like to discover more about other types of casino games then check out our main casino guide page.
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