An introductory guide to Blackjack

When most people are asked to name a casino game the first one that they’ll think of is probably Blackjack or Roulette. The reason for this is the massive media exposure the game has in terms of appearing in movies, books etc. Another reason is that the game is so accessible and easy to play.

If you break Blackjack down to its core then you find that all you need to do is get nearer to a points total of 21 than the dealer. Depending on the rules of the casino the dealer has to stick on either 16/17 or higher or keep drawing cards until they go bust, with a points total greater than 21.

The points total is calculated as follows, cards 2-10 are worth the value printed on them. The face cards, Jack, Queen and King are also worth 10. The Ace is a little bit funny as it can be either 1 or 11 depending on what suits you the best.If you get dealt a 10, Jack, Queen or King together with an Ace then this is called a natural Blackjack and you get paid out at 2.5:1 as opposed to the usual 2:1 i.e if you bet $5 and win you would normally get paid out $10 but with a natural Blackjack it is $12.50!

To further complicate things a bit you are presented with a few options after you are dealt the first two cards. If the two cards have the same value, e.g two 10’s or 2 9’s or a 10 and a king then you are given the option of splitting your cards. What this means is that you repeat your initial bet but get a brand new hand to play each of which have an initial value of just one of the pair. Each of these hands is then dealt a new card. This can be a great strategy especially if the dealers visible card, the dealer is also dealt two cards one of which is visible to the players, is a 6 or lower. I have a table in the articles section which can be used as a strategy guide for these kind of decisions.

Another option after the initial deal is insurance. This is where the bank will offer you insurance against the bank getting a natural blackjack, which beats any hand you might have. Insurance will be offered if the dealers, banks, visible card is an Ace and if you take insurance, half your original bet, and the dealer makes the blackjack then you get paid at 2:1 which means you cover your original bet, if not then you loose your insurance money. It is completely up to you if you decide to take out insurance or not and at best it comes down to a gut feeling!

A third option offered at most Casino Blackjack games is the option of doubling your bet after the initial 2 card deal. This is similar to the decision of whether or not to split and depends heavily on how strong your hand is compared to the dealers but as a rule of thumb if you are sitting with a points total of 10 or 11 and the dealer is showing 6 or lower then you can double. Again the Blackjack strategy table, which I mentioned before, is very useful for this.

As mentioned previously the dealer has to stick at typically 17 although there are variations on this number from casino to casino. Because of this it is important that you get as high a points total yourself before the dealer reveals his second card and starts possibly drawing further cards. The Blackjack Strategy Table can be used to help you decide which number you should stick at but in general you should always try and get at least a 17 or higher to have any real chance of winning.


I will now provide a few examples to show how Blackjack should be played:


Example 1:

You get dealt a King and a 10 and the dealer has a 5 showing. This is a really strong starting position for you and a weak position for the dealer, you already have a points total of 20 which is the second best you can ever have, in this situation you should always stick as you would have to be extremely unlucky not to win, whilst the only card which could improve your hand is an Ace which is not very likely to come up!



You get dealt a 5 and a 6 which totals up to 11. This is a very strong starting position and the only dealer card which would make you nervous would be an Ace. In this situation you should always double up your bet, unless the dealer has that Ace, because any card 6 or higher would give you a great chance of winning the hand.


Example 3:

Let’s say you get dealt 2 aces, this is not only a great hand in Texas Hold’em but also very strong in Blackjack although not together as you would have to take the lower value for at least one of them, i.e a value of 1 which gives a total of 12 which is not a very nice starting position. What you would do in this situation is split the cards so that each new hand now has a starting value of 11. If at least one of them gets an extra card with a value of 10 then you have Blackjack.


This then is the basics of Blackjack, obviously this is just a very brief overview but in reality it is not a very complicated game and can be enjoyed by anyone. I would recommend playing a few hands for play money until you get comfortable with it and then start playing to win some proper money. A great casino for Blackjack games  is 888 Casino.