Blackjack: rules and unique variants

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Blackjack is one of the most popular traditional card games. The simple rules make placing bets easy, even for beginners. Additionally, with great odds for the player and a fast pace that requires snap decisions, it continues to attract experienced gamblers too.

Blackjack most probably emerged in fifteenth-century Italy; however, disputes about its exact origin continue to this day. Blackjack is also mentioned in an American handbook from 1875, under the name ‘vingt-et-un’ (‘twenty-one’ in French). Later, blackjack spread all over the world, becoming known in England and the USA as Pontoon. A similar game also gained popularity in the USSR, which was likewise named after the Russian for ‘Twenty-One’.

Fun fact: blackjack is the only classical gambling game in which, according to probability theory, the player can have an advantage over the casino.

Game rules

The goal of the game is to get a card total that is higher than the dealer’s but does not exceed 21. If the total of your hand exceeds 21, it busts and you lose. The game will start once the player takes their seat and places a main bet.

If both the dealer and the player get the same total at the end of the round, a tie is declared, unless otherwise stated by the rules of the particular game session.

A ‘hand’ is a word used in card games to describe the set of cards dealt to a participant.

Card values

Cards 2 to 10 are worth their numeric value.

The face cards (jack, queen and king) are worth 10 points.

An ace can be worth either 1 or 11, whichever is most favourable to the hand.

A combination of an ace and any card worth 10 points is called a ‘blackjack’.

Hard and soft totals in blackjack

The concept of hard and soft totals often appears in books and articles about blackjack strategies. The idea comes from the fact that an ace can count as 1 or 11, depending on the circumstances. The ability to quickly assess situations and make decisions based on these concepts is crucial if you want to master this game.

A hard total (hard hand) in blackjack is a hand of any two cards, neither of which is an ace.

For example:

10 + 2 = hard 12
9 + 4 = hard 13
7 + 7 = hard 14
8 + 7 = hard 15
10 + 6 = hard 16

The risk with such totals is that the next card can result in a bust.

A soft total (soft hand) in blackjack consists of two cards, one of which is an ace.

For example:

Ace + 2 = soft 13
Ace + 3 = soft 14
Ace + 4 = soft 15
Ace + 5 = soft 16
Ace + 6 = soft 17

In this case, there is no risk of a bust if you get another high card, because the ace will then count as 1 instead of 11.

Tip: If you have a hard total of 18, 19 or 20 you shouldn’t take another card, as your chances of winning are favourable and your chances of busting are high.

Insurance in blackjack

If the dealer gets an ace on their first card, you can buy blackjack insurance for up to half of your current wager. You will then get some money back if the dealer gets a blackjack.

If both the dealer and the player get a blackjack, a tie is declared and the bet stake is returned in full.

Hitting, standing and doubling down

A benefit of choosing to play blackjack, as opposed to a different game, is that you can make a lot of different decisions and control the game even after the initial two cards have been dealt. Your first option is to ask the dealer for another card, to improve your position and try to get closer to 21. The number of additional cards you can ask for is unlimited, and you can stop at any time. Usually, this option is displayed as a ‘Hit’ or ‘+’ button online.

You can also double your bet if you believe you have a good hand and that one additional card will be enough to win. This is normally done by clicking on the ‘Double’ button online.

If you think you have enough points to win and don’t plan on taking any more cards, click on the ‘Stand’ or ‘-’ button, then just sit back and watch.


You can also split your starting hand to create two new hands when both cards have the same value. In this case, each hand will have a stake equal to the initial bet. You can then play each hand in turn, essentially playing against the dealer with two sets of cards.

When splitting a pair of aces, you can only take one additional card for each hand.


Some variations of blackjack allow you to end the round early if you don’t like your first two cards. If you surrender at this point, you will get half of your bet back. However, you cannot surrender if you’ve already taken an additional card or split your hand.

Side bets

In the most basic form of blackjack, you simply join a table and place a main bet. Many blackjack tables, however, also allow you to place side bets and thus get extra winnings.

21 + 3

This is a bet that the player’s initial hand and the dealer’s face-up card will make specific poker hands when combined. Each of the different hands has a different payout. For example, a suited three-of-a-kind is paid out at 100:1!

Perfect pairs

This is a bet that the player’s initial hand will be a pair. This may be a suited ‘perfect’ pair (paid out at 25:1), an off-suit ‘coloured’ pair of the same colour (12:1), or a ‘mixed’ pair of different colours (6:1).

Betting behind

Is the table full? Maybe you don’t fancy playing yourself?  Place a bet on the player you think will win and win with them! There’s no need to go through the effort of making your own decisions when you bet behind. The bet will be settled based on the result of the player you back to win the round.

Unique variants of blackjack in the Marathonbet Live Casino

Lightning Blackjack

Lightning Blackjack is a unique game based on classic blackjack, but with added Lightning Card multipliers that can increase your winnings up to 25x!

Lightning Blackjack
Lightning Blackjack

A 100% Lightning Fee is added to each initial bet and, in return, you get a helping hand in the form of bonus multipliers. If your main bet wins, you are guaranteed a random multiplier of between 2x and 25x. You can use the bonus multiplier right away on your next hand in the current session. If that winning hand was your last hand in that session, the bonus multiplier will be saved (for up to 180 days) and will be used on the first hand you play in your next session.

The studio is set in a stunning black and gold, Art Deco environment. Electrifying visuals and sound effects accompany the Lightning multipliers, to add a dose of drama and suspense to the game.

Infinite Blackjack

Infinite Blackjack is yet another exciting game from Evolution, where modern theatrical effects meet a quintessential casino favourite. The main attraction of Infinite Blackjack is that an unlimited number of players play in each round. No more worrying about getting a seat at the table—you’ve always got a place at the Infinite Blackjack table! You can also place side bets (‘Any Pair’, ‘21+3’, ‘Hot 3’ or ‘Bust It’) to make gambling and winning even more exciting.

Infinite Blackjack
Infinite Blackjack

This variant of blackjack also includes the ‘Six Card Charlie’ rule. This means that, if you manage to reach six cards without going bust, you will win automatically, even if the dealer has a blackjack.

Thanks to optical recognition technology, all the cards are instantly shown on the modern, high definition display. So, you’ll feel as if you are right there, sitting in the glamorous studio and getting involved in every thrilling round.

Whilst it’s true that blackjack is an extremely popular game among beginners, these special virtual card tables will enthral more advanced players too. The Marathonbet Live Casino offers 140+ blackjack tables, including some unique games with exciting and dramatic twists. Sign up and make a deposit to start playing and winning!