Casinos have been around for a long time but what we associate most with them is the game of Blackjack. It’s an American version of the game the world knew as Twenty-One as it has the same gameplay. Blackjack is easy to learn which is why it’s very popular among casino players. There are more than two dozen variants of the game and most of them can be found at both land-based and online casinos in Kenya. The idea of the game is for players and a dealer to play against each other. The aim is to get 21 or as close to it as possible. Going over 21 means your hand is bust. If the dealer goes over 21, they are bust and you win. In any other scenario, having a higher hand than the dealer makes you a winner.
As we can see, the gameplay is very simple; however, properly mastering Blackjack can take years. Below, we will talk about the history of this game as well as a short guide on how to play it. Last but not least, we will mention some of the most common strategies. Keep reading to learn more about one of the oldest table games in the world.
History of Blackjack
The first time a game known as 21 was mentioned was back in the 16/17th century. Historians claim that Spanish literature has several mentions of such a game. As a matter of fact, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote mentions a similar game as well. In the book, there are characters that are gambling and cheating as they play a game called “ventiuna”. The literal translation of that word from Spanish to English is twenty-one. This version of the game had a different card deck to the one we have today. In that deck, all the 8s, 9s, and 10s were removed.
The true history of modern-day Blackjack began in France, during the 18th century. Casinos during that time featured a game that was very similar to the version of 21 we play today. The name of the game was “Vingt-et-Un” which translates to 21. However, that was only the beginning. After some time, the game left France and spread all over Europe. It hit the USA during the 19th century but didn’t really expand until the 20th century when Nevada became a gambling heaven. It was the first place in the world that legalized gambling and came up with a way to regulate the gambling industry. In the casinos of Las Vegas Nevada, Blackjack became one of the most popular table games in the world.
In the rest of Europe, the game spread during World War I. That’s the reason there are two main variants of the game and we know them as the American and the European (French) variants. However, more about that is below. Keep reading to learn the rules and the strategies on how to play Blackjack.
How to Play Blackjack?
As we mentioned above, the game of blackjack is quite simple and easy to master. Even people who step into a casino for the first time can play the game right away. The first thing we have to mention is that the cards are separated into two categories. Cards from 1 to 10 have the value of the number that is written on them. For instance, a card with an 8 on it will count as 8 as you try to get to 21. The other cards, namely the jack, queen, and king are known as face cards and their value is always 10. One last thing is that the Ace can count as both 1 and 11, depending on the situation. The deck has 52 cards and the idea is to reach 21 or close to it while the dealer has a worse combination than yours.
Different variants of the game at land casinos will have a different number of decks. Players will notice that there is a “shoe” on the blackjack table. The “shoe” is the place where the cards sit and where the dealer pulls them from. A regular game can have from 1 to 8 decks of shuffled cards. When you sit at a table in a casino, there will be a sign that tells you how many decks that game has, or the dealer will tell you. It’s important to note that you can wind up playing alone against the dealer but there might be other players on the table as well. Usually, there will be 5 positions on a table which means up to 5 players can play at the same time. This is true when it comes to playing blackjack online as well.
The rules are very simple and we mentioned the most important ones above. However, in this section, we will go into more detail in order to better explain the game. So, the first step is picking a blackjack variant, sitting at the table and making a bet. There can be more players around the table which means you have to wait until everyone makes their bet before the dealer starts dealing the cards. Once all bets are placed, the dealer will give two face-up cards to everyone. The dealer gets two cards as well but only one of them is face-up. The dealing always goes from the left side to the right.
As a player, you look at your cards and make a decision. You can “hit” which means you get another card or “stand” which means you are satisfied with the hand you have. If the dealer gets to 21 and you don’t or simply his combination is higher than yours, then you lose the bet. In cases where the player and the dealer have the same hand, the player gets his wager back. All the details that we wrote here are the basics of blackjack. However, to master the game, there are a lot of things that need to be learned. For starters, here are some of the actions that a player can take during the game:
- Double Down
We already mentioned the “Hit” and “Stand” actions so we will now explain the “Double Down” option. As the name suggests, this action allows you to double your initial bet. However, you will receive only one more card after Double Down is initiated. This is an option that players often use when the first two cards they receive are small-value cards. Statistically, the next one could be a face card so Double Down can get you to 21 or close to it, meaning you will win with an increased bet, thus winning more.
This is an action in Blackjack that’s taken when you receive two cards of the same value. For instance, you get two Jacks which is 20 and it’s a very good hand. Experienced players want to increase their chance of winning so they Split their hands. Basically, instead of one hand, now you have two hands, each with one King in it. However, you have to match your initial bet on the second hand. What you do next depends on the game variant you are playing. Certain games will allow you to make individual decisions with both hands. There are variants where you can get only one extra card after the split. This is usually done when you want to split aces.
Casinos are trying to protect themselves which is why some blackjack variants don’t allow you to split Aces. The reason is simple, if you get a hand of two Aces, you are sitting with a score of 20 which is pretty good. However, if you decide to split them into two hands, now you have 11 in each hand. This scenario can get you to two 21 hands with just a bit of luck. Experienced players always split Aces and 8s.
The surrender action is not available at all tables and variants even when it comes to blackjack online. Games that usually have the option will have the word surrender in the name. The action of surrender is pretty simple and can be done after you receive the initial two cards. If a player doesn’t like his hand, he can surrender right away which will result in the casino taking half the stake while the other half is returned to the player. Basically, if a player has a bad hand and thinks he can’t win it, he can ask for the surrender option and lose only half the stake.
This is another option that’s not available on all blackjack tables. It’s an option that can be used when the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace. If you choose insurance you are insuring your bet against the possible blackjack of the dealer. So, if the dealer manages to get to 21, you will get your wager back. However, if the dealer doesn’t manage that, you lose your insurance bet.
As we stated at the beginning, there are two main versions of the blackjack game. We know them as the American and the European (French) versions. However, with the introduction of online casinos and blackjack online variants, there are a couple more versions of the original game. We will explain all of them right below.
This version of the game is alternatively known as classic blackjack. It’s easier to play than any other version and the house edge is lower which means players can win more. In the American version, the player gets two cards face-up while the dealer gets two cards but one is face-down. The face-down card is known as the “hole card”. Now, here comes the difference between all the other variants. The dealer has the option to check the face-down card if there is a possibility of a blackjack. For instance, if the face-up card in American blackjack is an Ace, the dealer will always check the face-down card. If the dealer has a blackjack with the face-down card, he collects the winnings and a new round begins.
This situation protects the players from doubling up or splitting and increasing their wager. Basically, in the American version, the player can lose only the initial wager. Classic blackjack pays out 3:2.
European (French) Blackjack
The European version of the game is considered the original and the one from which all the other variants were invented. The main difference in comparison to the American variant is the “hole card”. In European blackjack, the dealer gets only one face-up card at the start which means there is no “hole card”. The dealer in this variant gets his second card after the player makes his decision on what’s the next step. As we can see, the European version doesn’t protect the player as much as the American one. The dealer could get blackjack as soon as the second card shows while the player might have already doubled up his wager. So, you can lose more than the initial wager with this variant. On the other hand, the payout is the same, 3:2.
Double Exposure Blackjack
This is one of the variants that was invented recently and many land-based casinos won’t have it. However, online casinos will always have at least one double exposure option in their game portfolio. In this version of the game, the dealer gets two cards and both are face-up. This makes it very easy for the player to decide what to do next. To protect the casino, Double Exposure Blackjack has some additional rules. For instance, the dealer wins on all ties except when the player gets a natural blackjack instantly. Additionally, the payout is lower in this version. The payout is 1:1, unlike the previous two variants we mentioned.
The last version we are going to mention is the blackjack switch. It’s an interesting version because it changes the gameplay a bit. In this variant, the player has to make two equal bets at the start of the round. Basically, the player plays two hands without having to do the “Split” action. So, the player gets two cards on each hand and both are face-up while the dealer has only one face-down card. In this version of blackjack, the player can choose to switch the second card of each hand with a card from the other hand. Basically, you are playing with four cards instead of just two.
As we can see, this changes the gameplay which is why additional rules were introduced. For instance, if the dealer busts with exactly 22, all bets remaining in play are pushed. Unless of course, you have a blackjack which is a win against the dealer.
Basic Blackjack Strategies
Now that we covered the history and the rules of the game, we can talk about some of the basic blackjack strategies. There are dozens of different strategies and most are aimed at experienced players who have been playing the game for several years. Below, we will mention some of the basic strategies that every player can learn within minutes.
Single Deck Strategy
Here we have the most basic strategy out there. First, you need to find a single-deck blackjack version whether in a land-based or an online casino. When there is only one deck, it’s much easier to control the outcomes. So, players can react in a certain way whenever they get a certain combination of cards. For instance, if your hand total is 12 while the dealer’s face-up card is a 4. There is only one deck which means the possible combinations that can happen are limited. That’s why all strategies suggest that you should always hit when you find yourself in such a situation. It makes a lot of sense because the next card you get is likely to be a low-number card.
On the other hand, the best hand that the dealer has at that moment is a 14. So, if he has to hit to beat your hand, chances are he will get a high card and bust. However, this rule is only when you have a 12 that’s made up of a 10 and a 2. If you get 12 by any other means, you should stand. There are hundreds of these options that players can learn beforehand and then win at blackjack.
This is one of the strategies that’s used the most in gambling. You can use it in all the table games and it’s good for players who want to win big. The martingale strategy is considered an advanced system but in reality, it’s very simple and easy to learn. The strategy tells you to double your wager every time you lose. The idea is that when you win, you cover all your losses and make a profit. However, this strategy can be very dangerous. As a player, you need to place a limit on how much you are willing to lose. Also, if you are betting big, find a blackjack table that has larger betting limits so that you can keep doubling longer if you go on a losing streak.
To finish up this article, we will give you several tips & tricks that you can use to improve your blackjack game.
- Learn the Basic Strategy – This is the best tip that anyone is going to give you. Learn the basic strategy we mentioned above. It means that you can learn the hands and the possible outcomes which will help you make the right decisions. Don’t just follow your “gut feeling” but rather learn how to take advantage of the strategies.
- Set a Budget – We mentioned this above and we will repeat it here. Make a budget and stick to it. You need to know how much you are willing to spend because luck will not be on your side all the time. If that happens, just stand up from the table and return at a different time. Never go over the budget you have set.
- Stick to Blackjack games that pay 3:2 – These are the perfect odds when it comes to blackjack. Everything more than that gives the edge to the house. For instance, a game that pays 6:5 has a higher house edge which means the house takes more of your winnings in the long run.
- Insurance is not always great – In most cases, the insurance bet is a bad bet. The reason for that is simple, there is a 30.8% chance for the dealer to get blackjack. That’s why you should pick your moments with this action.
- Don’t go All In – Always leave some money so you can either double or split your hand.