Complete Blackjack Guide (2020 Edition for CA players)
Blackjack is one of the most popular online casino table games, and it gives gamblers some of the best odds of winning.
Unlike poker, where you’re playing against other players, Blackjack is you against the house, and you have around a 50% chance of winning every hand. It’s an equal chance to Roulette when you’re betting on black or red.
Extremely popular at land casinos, Blackback has made its way online, and it has taken the world by storm. Every quality casino offers Blackjack playing opportunities, especially for Canadian players.
Whether you know it as Blackjack or 21, it’s a great game, but knowing the rules, where to play, and advanced Blackjack strategy before you hit the tables is essential.
We look at the basic rules, as well as some of the more complex rules that will make you feel more comfortable at the table.
How to play Blackjack
At face value, Blackjack is a relatively simple game for beginners to play. The goal is to get a higher-valued hand than the dealer without going over 21.
Every player starts with two cards, but before you play, it’s good to know the value of each card.
The number of the card represents its value. If you draw a 5 and 8, your value is 13. Picture cards, which include the jack, queen, and king, are all worth 10.
An ace is worth 1 or 11. It’s one of the best cards for players to draw, as the chances of busting and going over 21 are lower. Of course, having an ace in your hand from the draw means you have a chance of getting a blackjack.
A blackjack is when you have an ace and a picture card (or 10) from the deal. The casino pays one and a half times your original bet, and your hand is completed without needing to draw more cards.
It’s the ultimate goal of playing Blackjack, hence the name of the game.
If you don’t get a blackjack from your first two cards, you’ll need to access your hand based on what the dealer has drawn. The dealer has only one card showing, compared to your two.
Depending on what the dealer has drawn, you will need to decide if you want to hit or stand. Hitting will give you another card until you’re satisfied with your total. Standing means you’re happy with your hand, and you don’t take any more cards.
To beat the dealer, you need a better-value hand at the end of the game. A casino always pays out even money for a winning hand, so whatever you bet will get matched.
For instance, if the dealer ends their hand with 18 and you have 20, you win. If you complete your hand with 12 and the dealer busts, you also win.
IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to claim a casino bonus in order to maximize your chances of winning.
What rules does the dealer have?
A basic strategy of playing is knowing the rules of the dealer. It has a big impact on what you decide to do, so here are the basic rules for the dealer.
The dealer must hit if their total is lower than 17. If they have soft 17, they can take more cards. There is no maximum in how many cards a dealer can take, so long as they stop when 17 is reached.
It goes against the usual casino house edge, as players can keep drawing cards, but the dealer’s rules are fixed.
The dealer isn’t allowed to split or adopt any other rules available to gamblers.
When do I hit in Blackjack?
Knowing when to hit is possibly the most crucial aspect of playing. Firstly, any hand with a total of 11 or below should be automatically hit.
You can’t go bust, so you have nothing to lose. Keep drawing cards until you reach at least 12, and then you have to start making decisions.
Taking a card is entirely dependant on what the dealer is showing. We don’t know what their hole card is, so all we can do is act on the card showing.
If the dealer is showing a 6 or lower, you should always stand if your total is 12 or higher. The dealer will need to draw multiple cards, thus giving you a better chance of winning.
However, if the dealer is showing 7-10, or an ace, different rules on whether to hit are applied.
You should try to get a better hand or even hand than the dealer, assuming they will have a 10 with their second card. For instance, if the dealer is showing a 7, you should keep hitting until you reach 17.
The odds of winning or tying the hand increase if you can end your hand with the same or higher total than the dealer. However, not every situation is comfortable.
What do you do if you’re on 16 and the dealer is showing a 7? We look into that in more detail in the advanced blackjack strategy section.
When should I stand?
Standing is when you opt not to take any more cards from the dealer. You can stand at any time you like, and it doesn’t matter if you have 12 and the dealer has an ace, the decision is yours and yours alone.
However, knowing when best to stand is always valuable information. There are hundreds of scenarios in Blackjack, so we’ll stick with the main decisions you’ll be forced to make.
Firstly, we’ll at the decisions made depending on what card the dealer has shown.
If the dealer has a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, then you should always stand. Some players will prefer to hit on their 12, but there is a risk of busting.
If the dealer is showing 7, 8, 9, 10, face cards or an ace, your decision depends on what total you’re currently at.
Ideally, you want to match the card the dealer has plus 10. If the dealer is showing an 8, you would ideally want to stand on 18.
If you are sitting on 15 and the dealer has a 7, we would recommend hitting. It’s unlikely that the dealer will bust with a 7, so you’re best chances are to try to improve your hand.
It’s also recommended to look around the table to see what cards have already been played. If there are a lot of picture cards on the tables, you’ll have less chance of hitting one.
However, if you’re playing only one hand against the dealer, this strategy is all but worthless, unless you’re playing one deck blackjack.
Another common situation is having 17 with the dealer holding a picture card or ace. The general rule is that you should always stand when you have 17 or more, no matter the situation.
The likelihood of hitting a 4 or lower isn’t worth the risk. Take your chances with the 17 and hope the dealer needs to draw another card or two.
Overall, when to stand is your choice. There is no correct or incorrect strategy, so find what works best for you.
When to split in Blackjack?
Splitting is when you split two cards of the same value in Blackjack.
It’s one of the more fun aspects of playing, and it gives you a chance to win more than once for one hand.
Knowing when to split depends on what the dealer has. It’s only advisable to split when you’re in a better position than the dealer. For example, the dealer is showing a six, and you have 8 8.
It gives players a chance to split their hand into two separate hands, but you will have to put down double the money. You can split more than once, but be careful, it can be an expensive risk.
If you have two aces, we recommend splitting. There are many strategies for playing two aces, but splitting is a good option.
You just need to pay your original bet for the extra hand, and you’re set. You will get paid even money for each winning hand, so the rules don’t change because you split.
We don’t recommend splitting when you have two picture cards. It’s a basic strategy that when you have a total of 20, you don’t want to risk losing that good hand.
The riskier players will give it a go, to try to double their money, but we would only ever do it when the dealer is showing a 6.
When to double in Blackjack
Doubling in Blackjack is a very basic strategy that requires you to double your bet size for one card.
If your first two cards total to 11 or less, it’s a good time to double if the dealer has a low card. Doubling means you need to equal your original bet, but you also get the chance to take advantage of your good hand.
When you double, the dealer gives you one card and one card only. It could mean you end up on a low total, and you have double your original investment. However, you could end up with a good total.
Don’t double when the dealer has a good card. It’s not easy to beat the dealer, let alone when you can take only one more card from the deck.
Most blackjack rules would suggest doubling with a 10 or 11, but always pay attention to what the dealer has. They could have a 10 or an ace as a hole card, and you’ll be struggling to win the hand.
You can also double your bet after you have split. If your split hand is an excellent doubling hand (9, 10, or 11), then you can double your bet.
Of course, you can double your hand at any stage. If you want to double a 16, then go for gold. However, we would stick with the standard blackjack rules; otherwise, you could struggle to make money consistently.
What is a side bet?
Blackjack is one of the rare casino games that doesn’t have a significant house edge. They offer side bets to help even up the house edge, but you can make money playing these side bets.
Most casino establishments offer Perfect Pairs, and that’s a big drawcard for new players. It’s when you can put money on your hand, and if you get a pair, you get paid out a certain amount.
Each casino could offer different payouts for the Perfect Pairs, depending on what the house edge is. However, most will offer as follows.
- Perfect pair (two cards of the exact same match) – 25/1
- Coloured pair (a pair of the same suit) – 12/1
- Red/black pair (a pair of the same colour) – 6/1
Players can put as much as they want to on the perfect pair, but most players opt to play half of their original bet.
There is no basic strategy for playing perfect pairs. It all comes down to luck, and that’s where the house edge becomes more apparent.
Many Canadian casino sites will offer 21+3 as a side bet. It’s is where you examine your two face-up cards and the dealer’s face-up card. If all three cards form a flush, three-of-a-kind or a straight, you win.
Not every casino offers this, so check with your casino before you play Blackjack.
What is insurance?
If the dealer has an ace, they will always ask if players want insurance. If you take insurance, you need to put down half your original wager.
If a dealer gets a blackjack, you will get paid 2:1, which means you break even for the hand. It’s a way of giving casino players a chance to break even on a hand that doesn’t look good for them.
However, if the dealer doesn’t get a blackjack and you still lose the hand, you’ll lose more money.
Unless you’re playing big money, the rules of Blackjack suggest not to take insurance. We prefer to let our bets ride, and because you’re only playing for even money, it’s not worth it.
How to play Soft 17
There are some basic strategy rules of Blackjack when it comes to playing soft 17.
Soft 17 is when you’re dealt an ace with a 16. Having a 17 is a good hand, but you should always hit in this situation.
If you look at it from a casino perspective, when a dealer has to hit on a soft 17, that means there’s a house edge. Therefore, the same applies to a player.
When you play Blackjack enough, you’ll know that you need to maximize every hand you play. When you have soft 17, you can’t bust after the first card you draw.
The worst situation you face is when you hit, and you get a 5, which leaves you on 12. However, evidence shows that hitting with soft 17 is the best blackjack play.
Playing a late surrender
Not every casino offers a late surrender for blackjack players, so check with your casino rules first.
If they do, it means you can opt-out of a hand after the dealer checks for Blackjack. However, you will lose half your original bet.
Most players choose not to play the late surrender and let their hand ride, but some players know when to give up.
If you have a total of 17 and the dealer has an ace, it can be wise to play the surrender. However, we don’t recommend playing it as it can give the casino a house edge.