Blackjack is a game that is almost as old as casinos are. Also known as Pontoon, twenty-one and by a myriad of other names, the game has been a classic for a long time, yet still enjoys the same level of popularity as it always did, if not more thanks to the rapid rise of the online casino world in recent years.
One of the main factors that makes Blackjack so appealing is that it has one of, if not the highest RTPs (return to player) of any casino game, meaning that safe players who like to protect themselves from heavy losses will often favour this particular game.
Before we delve into what Blackjack is and how to play it, let’s first take a second to study exactly what the above statement about RTP actually means.
The RTP of a game is a theoretical return to player, theoretical in as much as there is no guarantee that it will give you a true sense of how much you will win or lose while playing Blackjack.
The RTP is taken as an average from thousands of hypothetical games. In the case of Blackjack, the RTP is normally over 99%, which means that the house edge is around 1% or less.
What a 99% RTP means in simple terms is on average, players will get back 99% of what they bet while playing Blackjack.
The first mention of Blackjack being played came over 500 years ago in a book about card players in Seville written by Miguel de Cervantes, although some believe that the game goes back as far as the Roman Empire.
The still much used name on Twenty-One comes from the French “Vingt-Et-Un” which is what the modern game was referred to when it started life in France in the 18th Century.
Napoleon was a huge Blackjack fan, and played a great deal after he was exiled.
As always with the guides that you will find on these pages, we will take you through the basics of Blackjack to explain what the game is, how it is played, and a few tips and strategies to consider while playing.
Blackjack is arguably the simplest game in the whole of the online casino world. You play against a dealer, and you are dealt two cards each. You’re aim is to get as close to a total of 21 as possible without going over it. If you do go over, the dealer wins.
When you are dealt your initial two cards, look at them and count up your score, keeping in mind cards 2-10 are all worth their face value, while all face cards are worth 10, and the ace is worth One or 11, it’s up to you which value to attach to it.
If your initial two cards are close enough to 21, or if you have 21 (which is referred to as Blackjack), you may choose to stick, or stand, which means you take no more cards. However, if your cards do not come close enough to 21, you can choose to twist, or hit, which means you will be dealt another card, you can do this as many times as you want as long as your total does not exceed 21.
If you are a confident player, and if you can afford to do so, you can choose to double down if you like the look of your cards, this means that you will double your bet and be dealt another card.
If you have a pair in your hand, you can choose to split them, you will then play that round with two hands, with a separate wager for each hand.
After you have chosen how to play and taken the number of extra cards you choose, after choosing whether or not to double down or split your cards, the dealer will reveal their hand and choose to stand or hit, then the winner will be revealed.
If you land 21, either with your initial hand or after taking extra cards, you’ll win a payout of 3:2, and that will be true regardless of what the dealer has in their hand.
If you manage to beat the dealer, but you do not have 21 as a total, you will get receive a 1:1 payout, if you and the dealer have the same points total (unless you land 21) then you will get your bet back. If you go over 21, you will bust, and win nothing, you will also win nothing if the dealer’s hand beats your hand.
Blackjack Strategies can take the RTP all the way up to around 99.5%, which is impressive, but it is also worth remembering that this still means you are more likely to lose than win, if only by a tiny margin.
Many people will have different strategies when it comes to the right way to play, but most experienced players will tell you that there’s a very strict set of rules as to when to hit and when to stand if you want to give yourself the highest chance of winning. These break down as follows:
You should hit when…
You should stand when…
This never stops being true if you want to keep your chances as high as they can be, so as much as it may be tempting to take a risk every now and again, if you want to maintain the best possible RTP, do not deviate from this strategy.
Doubling down is one of the most important tools in the arsenal of a Blackjack player, but you have to know when is best to do it.
For example, if you’re holding a 10 or 11, or if you have an ace and a low value card, and the dealer has below six (described as a bust) then double down makes sense.
However, doubling down is always a risk, so before you raise the stakes, make sure you are in a position to be able to lose the money you are putting down, because there is never a guarantee that you will get it back, as is the nature of gambling.
When it comes to splitting pairs, there are certain pairs that should always be split, and others that need some more strategy to them.
For example, you should always split aces because this means you start with either one or 11 in each hand, depending on your preference. Aces are also sensible to split as 16 is a weak hand that is unlikely to win by itself, and has a high chance of busting if you hit, so splitting the hand increases your chances.
Never split tens or face cards, because you are unlikely to beat 20 with either hand so the potential reward does not outweigh the risk.
Low value cards shouldn’t be split either, because you know going in that you will be dealing with two bad hands, so you may as well see if you strike lucky with one bad hand, while not running the risk of losing twice as much.
This gets tougher when you consider splitting nines, or sevens, for example, when you will struggle either way to pick up a win. It’s not impossible, but the decision of whether or not to split your cards will depend very much on the type of player you are.
If you are a high-risk player who has the money to back up such an attitude, then splitting a pair of sevens may seem like a risk worth taking, even if the likely outcome occurs and you end up losing both.
However, if you are a player who prefers a safe approach, then it’s worth playing it out with the one hand and assuming you are cutting your losses, which will make a win a nice surprise if the cards happen to fall in your favour.
If you are a safe player, or a traditionalist, then Blackjack is probably the game for you. With the highest RTP of any casino game (most slots sit at around a 96% RTP, for example) it is the most likely game to payout for you, but also has fairly low wins on average, although there are jackpots to be won in some games.
However, despite it being the game that offers the highest chance of winning, players will still lose on average, meaning it is always worth taking the time to consider how much you can afford to spend, and afford to lose, before playing.
Whether you are playing Blackjack in a land-based casino, online as a traditional table game, or online as a live dealer game, it is a simple game that can give some nice wins if strategies are adhered to, but remember nothing is guaranteed, and taking a risk should always be considered at length in advance.