Online Blackjack Tips
Blackjack is one of the world’s most popular casino games. Not only is it a global classic with almost 400 years of history, but it is also one of the fairest games at a casino. Because the dealer and the player are subject to almost the exact same rules, the infamous house edge is reduced to a fragment of what it usually is.
This article, is meant to provide you with a background on everything you could possibly need to know about this game. Below, we will cover how it works, what the rules are, and how you can start playing effectively, even as a beginner.
Playing online blackjack is a fun hobby. However, beginners need to start off by understanding how to do it safely, and effectively. Below, we break down a few tips that will help you enjoy the game.
- Choose a reputable casino. Online casinos are subject to the same rules and regulations as their land-based counterparts. Everything they do should be above board. However, scams are always easier in a digital space than they are in real life. Research your casinos thoroughly. Make sure they are fully licensed and find out what sort of experiences other people have had with them.
- Test your skills with a free game. The best way to learn blackjack is by playing it. Test drive your strategy in some free games before you start staking your wagers with real money.
- Use casino bonuses to your advantage. Once you are ready to move on to paid games, look for online casinos that offer good startup bonuses. Most casinos will give new players free credits either for depositing funds or even just making an account. These credits always come with strings attached—for example, you will typically need to make a certain number of bets before you can withdraw bonus funds. So, while you shouldn’t exactly think of a new player bonus as free money, you can at least consider it an extension of free playing.
- Look for live dealer games. Live dealer games don’t necessarily give you any kind of strategic or financial advantage, but they tend to be more fun. Online casinos will often provide live recordings of real dealers, who manage the games the same way they would in a physical casino. These games tend to have more social energy than most people associate with online gambling.
- Develop a strategy. Most serious blackjack players will have a system they use to achieve better results. This system is usually number based. Always hit until you get to 17 (the dealer follows this rule as well). Split when the dealer is showing 7 or higher. The actual efficacy of any blackjack strategy is questionable. Yes, you can improve. No, you can’t erase the house edge completely.
- Play sensibly. Frankly, this is the most important blackjack tip you will ever get. Unfortunately, it can also be the hardest to follow. Safe gambling requires always keeping a level head.
- Learn to recognise when you have a problem. Gambling addiction impacts only about 1% of the population. However, it can have a very serious impact on the quality of your life. Compulsive gambling results in stress, anxiety, depression, and significant financial loss. If you feel like your gambling habits lack control, or have in some way damaged your life, seek help immediately.
Ultimately, it’s all about having fun. Play the way you want, and above all else, make sure you are doing it responsibly.
How Does Blackjack Work?
A game of blackjack follows a pretty simple formula. The dealer gives out 2 cards to all of the players at the table. Your hand will add up to a number based on the face value of your cards. You bet not against the other players but against the casino.
The goal is to get as close to the number 21 as possible. If you go over 21, you bust. That means that you are out for that hand, and have forfeited the money you bet on the table.
Once you’ve seen your hand, you can choose to stay, which means you keep only the cards you are dealt, or you can accept a hit.
When you take a hit the number value of your hand increases, hopefully to a total amount that brings you to 21.
Because the dealer plays essentially the exact same game that everyone else at the table is playing, blackjack games feature favourable probability.
There is still a house edge in a blackjack game, but it tends to be significantly less than other casino games.
To better understand the rules and expectations, let’s break that structure down into easily digested chunks.
- Card values. Number cards retain their numerical value. For example, if you have a 10 and a 2, you’re sitting at 12. Kings, queens, and jacks are worth 10 points each. Aces can be worth 11 points, or 1 point depending on what the player chooses. The value of an ace can even change as the game progresses. If you hit with an ace and 5, and are given a 7, the ace value becomes 1 so you can avoid busting.
- Starting the game. The game begins when the player receives 2 cards. Unlike in poker, these cards will usually be given face up, as there is no element of deception in blackjack strategies. The dealer will also be given 2 cards. One will be face up (this is called the “upcard”) and the other will be face down. It is worth noting that this difference is one of the few that shifts the odds ever so slightly in favour of the house. Because you do not know what their total is during the normal course of gameplay, it is harder to determine the probability of collecting winnings when it comes time to decide if you should hit or stay. The player will, however, be notified if the dealer busts.
- Your turn. Once the cards have been dealt it is your turn to implement your blackjack strategy. If you choose to hit, the dealer will give you another card from the deck. You can continue to hit as many times as you wish, though each new card increases your chances of busting.
- Special rules. There are also opportunities to change your bets depending on your hand. Most notably, there are the options of doubling down or splitting. When you double down, you order 1 final card and double the amount of your bet. Players will usually opt for these bets when they are confident that they will get closer to 21 without taking on a significant risk of busting. For example, if you are sitting at 14, your chance of winding up with a good hand after doubling down is more than 50%.
- Splitting takes place when you have a matching pair. The player who splits receives 2 extra cards for a total of 2 separate hands. Note that not all casinos will allow this type of bet. It is good to collect information on the variations of different game styles before you begin betting.
- Dealers turn. Once you have made all of your decisions it is time for the dealer to take their turn. At this point, they will reveal all of their cards so you can see their amount total. In most basic game variations, the house is required to hit until they have at least 17 points. However, this rule may not always be present.
- How to win. Once the dealer takes their turn, it’s a question of determining the wins and losses. As mentioned earlier, to win, you just need to be closer to 21 than the dealer is, without busting. It doesn’t matter if everyone at the table hits 21 and the dealer busts. You will still collect the same amount in winnings. In most cases, the payout is 1.5x whatever you bet. If you tie with the dealer the game ends in a “push.” In that case, you won’t win money but you won’t lose it either.
- Insurance. It is also worth noting that some games will give you the option to purchase insurance when the dealer is showing an ace. The idea is that an ace gives the house a distinct advantage—they could theoretically have been dealt a 21. In this case, you are essentially placing a bankroll bet on the dealer’s luck. If it turns out that they did win with a 21, you will receive a payout on your insurance bet at a rate of 2 to 1. You will, however, still lose your initial bet.
If you have watched movies like “Rain Man,” or “21,” you may have been introduced to the concept of counting cards. This leads many beginners to wonder: Is card counting against the rules?
Most times, there is no rule forbidding players from taking part in card counting. However, if a casino suspects you of making this move, they can require you to leave. Most players will never even run that risk for the simple reason that card counting is very hard—particularly online.
Casinos run multiple decks to deter basic card counting manoeuvres, and they also have trained supervisors on the floor to make sure everyone’s play is above board.
Learning how to manage money at a casino is an important skill to have before you begin gambling. Here are a few things you can do to keep yourself from losing more than you are comfortable with at the tables.
- Budget a specific amount. A simple but effective way to limit your losses. If you aren’t comfortable entering a casino with no off-ramp strategy, go in already having decided how much you are okay with losing. Even $20 can buy a decent amount of hands—particularly if you find a table with low limits.
- Take regular breaks. Gambling is fast-paced on purpose. While most table games like blackjack are slower than slot machines, it’s still very easy to get caught up in the action and lose track of time. To avoid significant losses, it is a good idea to take 2-3 breaks per hour. Use these times to assess your wins and losses, but also just to cool off. Once you’ve taken a step back from the adrenaline, you may have a clearer idea of how much more you are comfortable playing with.
- Keep a clear head. Land-based casinos are famous for offering players free or affordable alcohol. Out of the goodness of their hearts? Not quite. It’s no secret that most casinos are designed in every way to keep players at the table for as long as possible. Free drinks get you sticking around and may put you in a more pliable frame of mind.
- Consider a betting system. Some players manage their money not by setting a budget, but instead by sticking to a very specific betting system. For example, there’s the Martingale system, which has you double your bets after a loss. Then, once you win, you go back to your original bet. The idea, of course, is that you will eventually break even. However, if you get on a bad losing streak, this system will do much more harm than good. Note that betting systems are not ideal for people on a restrictive budget.
Most importantly, don’t look at gambling as a way to make money. Blackjack is a game to have fun with.
For most people, it’s healthiest to go in expecting to lose more often than they win and be pleasantly surprised if they are wrong.
Finding success at blackjack is similar to the approach you should take with any other form of gambling. It’s all about moderation. Remember, the game is built so that if you play long enough, the house will come out on top.
With that understanding in mind, it is a little easier to relax, and focus on developing strategies that make playing an enjoyable form of entertainment. Be conservative, be sensible, and just enjoy the game!
Online Blackjack Glossary
- Hit: The decision to accept another card from the dealer in the hopes of getting closer to 21.
- Stay: The decision to leave your hand the way it is.
- Split: When a player breaks a pair into 2 separate hands.
- Bust: When a player’s hand exceeds 21.
- Insurance. A side bet in which the player wagers that the dealer will hit 21. Insurance can usually only be purchased when the dealer is showing an ace.
- Double down: The option to double a bet and receive 1 final card.
- Push: The player and dealer tie. The player is returned their original bet.
- Surrender: The player decides to give up their hand and receive half of their original bet. Surrenders are often not allowed at all. When they are permitted it is usually under the condition that the player has not made any other moves.
Still have questions about the game of blackjack? Below, we take a look at a handful of common questions that may add clarity to your playing.
When should you “hit” in blackjack?
While there is no perfect answer to that question, the general rule of thumb is to only accept hits that favour you. For example, if you have 14, there is a good chance that you can improve your hand with a hit. If you have 17, you are more likely to bust. On the other hand, if the dealer is showing good cards—say, a 10, it may also be to your benefit to hit, even if you are sitting at a risky number.
Is blackjack about skill or luck?
Both! While luck ultimately determines who wins and loses each hand, skill can help you achieve better overall outcomes.
How many cards do you get in blackjack?
Players start with 2 cards and are given the option to take more in the hopes of improving their total.
Is 21 an automatic win?
While getting 21 is the objective of the game, it isn’t a guaranteed win. You will still push if the dealer also gets 21.
How likely am I to bust if I accept another card?
The odds of experiencing a bust can vary pretty radically based on what you are showing. In general, it is always safer to hit when you have a low total.
Dudley Nader is our casino game expert at Betkiwi. A University of Otago graduate in Statistics, he's leveraged his skills in a decade-long gambling industry career, earning recognition as a top casino specialist in New Zealand. In his free time, Dudley enjoys developing new game strategies and playing poker.More Articles From The Author