Of all the casino games, blackjack is the most played. The tables turn faster and it’s easy to master even for the newbie kid on the block. It’s also a fun, mathematic game that stays challenging every time the cards are drawn. Even if you haven’t played it before, you probably heard something like “21”, “soft hand”, or “hard hand”. All of these will become clear in a few steps. The goal here is to know how to play blackjack and to grow your wager one game after the other.
Blackjack isn’t a very complicated card game. The goal here is to defeat the dealer and not the co-players. Still, it requires strategy and preparation in order to increase your chances of winning. Blackjack is far from being a guessing game. Players observe the cards laid on the table and the actions of the dealer in order to read his hand. Here are some points to get you started on how to play blackjack at a casino:
Background of the game
Like what’s said earlier, the goal of the game is to defeat the dealer. A blackjack is a hand with an ace and a face card (total of 21). It can also be a combination of cards with a total value of 21. Each face card has a value of 10 while the other number cards take its set value. Also, you can use the ace as 1 (hard hand) or 11 (soft hand).
The goal here isn’t always to have a blackjack hand after the first two cards are drawn. The aim is either to get an exact 21 or anything close to that. It can be 17, 18, 19, or 20 if you want to know how to play blackjack in a casino.
Although the odds of winning against the dealer is higher if you have at least 17 in your hand, you can still win even at the value of 10, 12, 13, and other lower numbers.
It’s all about what the dealer has. If you’re not satisfied with your hand (the set of cards you have), you can “hit” or get another card. On the other hand, if you’re confident of your hand, you can “stand” or skip the drawing of new cards.
If you go beyond 21, it will be a “bust” and the dealer gets your wager. If your dealer gets the “bust” or anything lower than your hand, you’ll be paid the amount of your wager. In the case of a blackjack on the first two cards, you will be paid 1.5x your wager. When you and dealer arrive in the same hand value, it will be a “push” or a draw. No one gets the wager of anyone.
Remember that in an actual blackjack game, there would be multiple players. The rotation would be from the left of the dealer clockwise. This is the reason why no one wants to sit at the right side of the house.
In this video, President and Founder of 21 Nights Entertainment Shawn Tinling shows the basic rules of the game:
The etiquette on the table
So how do you play blackjack? When practicing how to play blackjack in a casino, dealers don’t expect you to speak to know what you want them to do. This is the reason why blackjack players use body language to communicate with the dealer.
If you have two cards that are less than 21 in value, you can hit or stand. Players can indicate that they want to hit or stand by lightly scratching the table or waving their hands in little motions respectively. The practice differs from casino to casino. Some casino players use the finger signal as if asking someone to come near them when hitting. The dealer can also stand or hit depending on the cards on his hand. If everyone on the table is satisfied with their hands, the dealer will now flip his card in the face-down position to start playing.
Again the goal here is to have a hand that’s near or at the exact value of 21. If you go over, it will be an automatic bust and you’ll lose your wager. The dealer is always required to stand when his hand is at least 17 or higher. Knowing how to play blackjack will increase your chances of winning at this point.
This isn’t a typical practice among casinos, but some allow this for their players. If a player has dealt with first two cards with a total value of 16 and the dealer has a flipped card worth 10, the player can surrender and lose half of his bet. This is done so the players won’t lose their entire wager but only half of it. Surrender is also called ‘fold’ by some players and dealers.
Doubling down is most common among online casinos where players are allowed to double their wager in different hands. The most common is eleven where the player can double down and then hit one last card before standing.
Some players say that you should always double down when you get an eleven. Still, this is a matter of preference and strategy as you practice how to play blackjack in a casino.
In both online and table casinos, an insurance bet is possible whenever the flipped card of the dealer is an ace. You will deal with another wager, called an insurance, which will be paid three to two in case the dealer has a blackjack. This is a safety bet in case the dealer gets a blackjack and you lose.
If the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you will lose the insurance bet. How do you play blackjack? You play it with caution.
A split is done when a player is dealt with two similar cards. When you split your card, you will have another hand where you can place another bet. For example, if you have two kings, you can split it into two hands. This doubles your chances of winning. When it comes to double aces, some casinos allow you to take another card per hand. Make sure that you know well how to play blackjack at a casino.
Each casino will have a maximum betting amount. For example, a $5 minimum betting table will have a maximum of $1,000 per wager. Some tables won’t even have a bet limit. But to be safe, a $1,000 bet for beginners should be a maximum. This reduces the blow in case you got a big bust on your hand.
A small-time blackjack game can make use of one card deck. But for large tables, around 6-8 decks can be used. Some tables can be double decks of four decks depending on the setup of the game. As the deck of card increases, your chances of winning become bleaker. Knowing how to play blackjack with a formula will increase your chances of winning.
The house edge
Each casino or online gaming platform will have their pre-set house edge. House edge is the way of measuring the house’s (the casino) advantage over the player. If a table has a house edge of 2.8%, that means the dealer expects you to lose 2.8% of your bet every time you place a wager.
The lower the house edge, the better for you as the player. The lowest possible house edge is 1% although there are houses that offer a much lower edge.
Play styles you can try
Each blackjack player would have his own style. Depending on what you want, you can try the following. Make sure that you master the strategy before putting a large bet on it.
➕Always split eights
If you happen to have two eight cards, it’s best to split these into two hands. Based on my playing experience, 16 is an ugly hand to have. Splitting these into two hands allows you to break the curse. It also increases your chances of winning in separate wagers.
For beginners, I personally recommend that you bet with a lower amount. Chasing wins isn’t a good idea, especially if you haven’t mastered the blackjack game. Having a winning streak isn’t a guarantee that you’ll have a big win in the end. Nothing is certain at the table and you might soon find yourself broke. How do you play blackjack as a beginner? You play it easy.
Keep your ego grounded even after a few wins. Being blinded with your winnings may affect your playing edge.
➕Never split faces and tens
A hand of 20 is a promising hand. Never split these two cards or you’ll decrease your chance of winning. A hand of 20 is difficult to beat since your dealer needs to have a blackjack in order to take your wager away. If ever you got a push, there’s still nothing to lose.
➕Double down on eleven
A lot of players say that doubling down when you have a hand of eleven is a good choice since there’s a high chance that you’ll make a good hand out of it. And with an increased bet, you’ll have a higher chance of doubling your wins. Still, this is a risk and might not be best for newbie beginners who are still weathering the table.
Based on my experience, placing an insurance bet is a no-no. Why? Because your dealer’s chance of having a blackjack is very low. Just imagine your probability of having a blackjack and that would be the same with the house. It’s a risk that some are willing to take, especially those that can stomach losing both their insurance and wager. If your dealer doesn’t have a blackjack and still managed to have a higher hand than yours, you’ll lose everything. This isn’t how to play blackjack.
➕Avoiding to overrun your hands
Some blackjack players, mostly newbies, tend to play with the blackjack as the goal. Sure thing, blackjacks are great in payouts, but it’s not worth the risk all the time. For example, if you have the ugly hand of 16, it’s not a good choice to hit, especially if you think that the card will be higher than five. Even if the card is indeed higher than five, there’s still a chance that your dealer will bust.
When to hit or stand
For beginners, hitting or standing depends on what they have on their hands. Still, there are strategies you can do when hitting or standing that will increase your chance of busting or defeating the dealer.
➕If you have a hand of 8 and below, always hit as a default. This is regardless of what the dealer has on his up card.
➕If you have between 17 and 21, always stand. There’s a small chance that a 2 will be in your favor when you hit. It’s either you get busted for sure or you wait to see what the dealer has on his hand.
➕In case the dealer has a 2 or 7 on his up card, always hit.
➕If you have 10 and your dealer has an up card between 2 and 9, always double down. When the dealer’s up card is 2 or anything higher than 7, always hit.
➕If the dealer has an ace card up, always hit. Again, skip insurance.
Mistakes to avoid when playing blackjack
How do you play blackjack? From time to time, you’ll make mistakes on your game regardless if you’re a pro on how to play blackjack at a casino. This is a pretty normal thing. However, you can prevent losses if you avoid committing the following:
➕Not mastering any basic strategy
There’s a reason why I gave you some of the card tips above. If you master it, you’ll have a higher chance of winning. It doesn’t work all the time, but it does MOST of the time. After all, blackjack is some sort of a game of chance. You have no way of controlling what card gets into your hand.
➕Blaming others for bad luck
Remember, blackjack is a game of chance that can be paired with a formulaic approach. There’s no sense of blaming others for bad luck. Instead, focus on increasing your accuracy and observing the card layout. Check the proportion of small cards to big cards during the game. This will give you an informed move when it’s time to hit or stand.
➕Not checking the rules
Remember, each casino will have their own rules. Unfortunately, the dealer won’t take time to discuss this with you. What you can do here is observe the other tables during play. Through that, you’ll know if there’s a surrender rule or if you can double down after a split.
Knowing how to play blackjack is a tricky game. You have to master the basics first before eyeing the big guns.