Blackjack remains the most widely played casino banking game in the world – and it has been played in one form or another for centuries.
The simple yet engaging game has easy to learn rules, which makes it perfect for the beginner – you just need to beat the dealer without holding more than 22 in value in the cards in your hand.
There is some speculation about when the first game that we would recognize as blackjack was played, but we know that a version was played in Spain in the 17th century. It was the English game of 21 that became the one used in America and renamed blackjack around 1899.
Now, mor than 100 years later, you can find blackjack tables in casinos around the world and in online casinos – so if you want to get started with the game and get some tips to help you play better and win, here are some things you need to know about the game.
How to Play
Blackjack is played with standard decks of cards, between one and eight decks are usually used in a physical casino. The dealer sits facing the players in a semi-circle, and there are normally 5-9 players at a table.
The dealer gives cards from left to right, giving two cards face up to each player to start the game, and dealing one face up to themselves. In some games, the dealer has their second card ‘in the hole’ (face down) while in others the last card is dealt once all the players have completed their hands.
The aim of the game is to beat the dealer without going bust – so you do not get a value of 22 in your hand. The card values are as follows:
- Number cards – as their value
- Face cards (K, Q, J) – 10
- Ace – 11 or 1
Players can choose to hit (take another card), stand (end their turn), double (double their wager and take a card), or split (create two hands from cards of the same value).
The dealer has to draw until they reach 17 or higher (or go bust). If the dealer busts, everyone wins. If your hand beats the dealer, you win. Wins are paid out at even money.
Tips for Better Games
The game is simple, but there are some things you can do to improve your own game and make it more enjoyable for yourself.
- Assume the dealer has a 10 in the hole. 31% of the cards in a standard deck have a value of 10, so this will help you make better decisions.
- Don’t split a pair of 10s – one (or more) is likely to bust and lose you money.
- Don’t bother taking insurance bets; they are just a way to improve the house edge and don’t have any benefit for the player.
- Double down on an 11 – especially if it’s got an ace. You can do so much more with that even with only one extra card.
- You don’t have to get 21 to win – you just have to beat the dealer. This is a common misconception that can cost you a game or more before you realize that 21 is the maximum, not the target. You can win with 15 sometimes!
- Don’t chase your losses. Protect your bankroll and your winnings – the game might be mathematical, but there is an element of luck, and chasing losses is not only poor strategy but will ruin your fun too.
Edward Thorp System
Edward Thorp wrote the 1960 book Beat the Dealer based on his concept that blackjack can be won using mathematical principles. In the book, he has a series of tables and charts that you can use to decide what move to make based on the cards that have been dealt and the cards that are coming out in your hand.
The Paroli system is a popular strategy for all sorts of betting situations. Essentially, this is a way to manage your bankroll, so you know what to bet and when.
Essentially, you double your stake after every win to a maximum of three wins, then you reset back to the minimum again.
Similarly to the Paroli, the Martingale tells you what to bet and when. Start with a betting unit of your choice, then if you lose, double your stake next time. Keep going until you win, and then restart.
This is about upping your stake by one betting unit every time you win, but you keep going until you reach your preselected winning goal. If you lose, you restart with the minimum amount.
Another increasing bet, this is based on the Fibonacci sequence – each bet should be the next number (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55) if you lose. If you win, move back two numbers.
Whatever strategy you choose, stick with it, and make sure you are managing your bankroll – the game can be immersive, and it is easy to get carried away. Be sensible and have fun making blackjack your new favorite game.