Each card has a numerical value. The numbered cards are nice and obvious – 2 is worth 2, a 3 is worth 3 etc. Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are worth 10. An Ace can either be valued at 1 or 11 – whichever is best for you at the time.
Any hand that has an Ace and cannot go bust by taking one more card is known as a soft hand. For example your hand is made up of an Ace and a 6 (total of 7 or 17). You cannot go bust from your next card no matter what it is. Any hand that does not fit this description is called a hard hand.
Aim Of The Game
The goal of Blackjack is to have a hand worth more than the Dealer’s but without going over 21.
- If your hand totals 22 or more then you are bust and you lose.
- If your hand has a higher value than the Dealer’s then you will win a profit of your stake amount.
- If your hand total is lower than the Dealer’s then you will lose your stake.
- If your hand is worth exactly the same amount as the Dealer’s then this will be a push. In this scenario you get your stake back and thus are in a break-even situation.
How The Game Plays Out
Initially you will be dealt two cards that make up your starting hand. The Dealer will be given a single card face up card (you can see it). You will then make various decisions with your hand to try and make it as strong as possible (these decisions are explained below). After you’ve finished making decisions with your hand the Dealer will add cards to their hand one by one until they have a total of 17 or higher. As soon as the Dealer hits 17 they must stop.
The most powerful hand in the game of Blackjack is a starting hand of an Ace and a 10 (this 10 could be a Jack, Queen or King also). This is an instant total of 21, is called a “Blackjack” and it beats all other hands (including if the Dealer has a total of 21) except for another Blackjack.
Blackjack has a payout of 3 to 2 instead of the standard 1 to 1 payout. If the Dealer also has a Blackjack then it will be a push.
You will receive another card which will contribute to your total hand score. Provided this does not take your total to 21 or above you will have the option to hit again if you like.
You will choose to end the hand with your current total and receive no more cards. The dealer will then begin their turn and draw their cards.
Choosing the double option will mean your stake is doubled and you will receive one more card (you will not be allowed to make any more decisions after receiving this one card). Doubling is the choice you want to make when you’re in an advantageous position (e.g. you have 11 against the Dealer’s 5).
You can only decide to split if your initial hand is made up of two of the same card value (e.g. two 9s or two Aces). Splitting will then create two separate hands out of your original cards – one card in each hand. You’ll then get dealt another card to each of those hands and you can make more decisions afterwards.
After splitting your stake will be doubled as you now have two hands instead of one.
If the Dealer’s face-up card is an Ace you may be offered insurance. You can decide to take insurance or not – it’s up to you. This is a separate bet as to whether you think the Dealer will get Blackjack (an Ace and a 10). If the Dealer does have Blackjack then this bet pays 2 to 1. For example a £1 insurance bet will give a £2 profit.
Saying yes to insurance will give the house a larger edge so it is wise to turn down the option.
If you think your hand is looking in particularly bad shape then you can choose to Surrender. This means you will immediately lose the hand but only lose half of your stake rather than the full amount should you have gone on to lose the hand. This option will only be on certain versions of Blackjack and may not always be available to you.
As well as the main game of Blackjack you will sometimes have options to play various side bet games. The house edge will often be very large for this additional bet but they can give potentially large payouts. If you want to place your chips on a side bet then you will also need to play a standard hand of Blackjack alongside it. Below are some examples of the side bet options you may encounter. The exact rules and payouts may vary depending on the exact version of the side bet game you’re playing.
The Perfect Pairs side bet is all about the two initial cards that you are dealt in your hand. If you have a pair (e.g. two Queens or two 4s) you will have a winning bet. If your pair is the same colour then you will have an even higher payout. If your pair is the same suit (perfect pair) then this will give out the largest win available. The house edge based on the payouts below is 6.11%.
21 + 3
Your aim with 21+3 is to make a 3 card poker hand comprising of your two dealt cards and the Dealer’s face up card. A Flush (3 cards of the same suit) will get you the lowest payout and a suited 3 of a kind (3 cards of the same value and the same suit) will pay very handsomely. There are also other winnings hands available. The house edge based on the payouts below is 4.62%.
Top 3 is almost identical to 21+3 except here you will win nothing for a Straight or a Flush. The downside is that there are less winning hands however the upside is that your winning hands will land you with more profit. The house edge based on the payouts below is 6.30%.
Another example of a side bet comprising of your starting hand and the Dealer’s card is Lucky Lucky. If the total of the 3 cards is 19,20 or 21 then you will be a winner. You can also win if the cards are specifically 6,7 and 8 or all 7s. Suited versions of these hands will increase the payout. The house edge based on the payouts below is 3.95%.
A Buster Blackjack side bet is a bet on the Dealer to go bust. The more cards the dealer has when they go bust, the higher the payout. If you have Blackjack as your initial hand then the winnings can be even larger. The house edge based on the payouts below is 6.21%.