Blackjack is one of the most popular Casino games, and one of the most straightforward.
The objective is simple. You play directly against the dealer, with the aim of trying to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. If your score is higher than the dealer’s score but not over 21, you win. If the dealer’s hand is higher but not over 21, they win.
A ‘blackjack’ is the best hand, which occurs when the first two cards dealt have a combined total of 21. However, there are a lot of intricacies to the game, which are explained in the following sections.
How to play Blackjack
In the Marathonbet Live Casino, there are blackjack tables to suit every taste: from regular tables with minimum stakes of €5; through to the exclusive Salon Privé tables for the high rollers, with stakes starting at €1,000.
These games are fast moving. Once the cards are dealt, the player must let the dealer know whether they want to ‘hit’ (take another card), ‘stand’ (forgo additional cards and stick with their current score), or ‘split’ (create two hands from two initial cards of the same value).
So, sit back and soak it in as we take you through a few basic rules and strategies to keep in mind when taking a seat at a blackjack table.
Placing a Bet
To indicate to the dealer that they are participating in the next round, players need to place a bet.
Once the dealer starts dealing the cards, the amount wagered cannot be changed.
Dealing the Cards
The dealer deals one card face-up to each player, as well as dealing their own face-up card. They then deal a second face-up card to each player and a second card to themselves, which is face-down.
Remember, you are only playing against the dealer, so the other players’ hands are not relevant to you. However, based on the visible cards, you can get an indication of what cards may remain in the shoe, even if most games are played with a shoe made up of multiple decks.
There are numerous articles and guides online about card counting, a technique in which the player tries to calculate the values of the cards played and thus the probability of certain cards being dealt. The player can then vary their stakes according to the probabilities and place larger bets when high-value cards are more likely to be dealt.
Blackjack Card Values
Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value. Jacks, queens and kings are each worth 10 points. An ace is worth either 1 or 11 points, depending on which number is most beneficial to your hand.
If you are dealt an ace in your first two cards, your hand is referred to as a ‘soft hand’, which means that the ace has two possible values (1 or 11). For example, if you are dealt an ace and a 4, your card value will be referred to as a ‘soft 15’ (11 + 4).
Betting Options at Blackjack
Stand: Keep the two cards you have been dealt as your final total.
Hit: Take one or more additional cards, until you have a total on which you want to stand or you have ‘bust’ (you’ve exceeded 21), with the latter meaning you are out of that round.
Double Down: Increase your bet after you have seen your initial hand. To do this, you pay the amount of your initial stake again and get one additional card. With that third card, your final hand is completed and your turn ends.
Split: If you are dealt two cards of the same value, you can choose to split them. This means that you will essentially be playing two hands, paying a second stake of the same value as your original stake for the new hand. You cannot double down on either of the split hands. Although rules may vary in different casinos, you can often hit to add further cards to each split hand until you decide to stand. However, there is an exception if you split two aces, as in such cases you are only allowed one additional card for each hand.
In some cases, if one or both of the new hands then receives cards of the same value after you have split your initial cards, you can split those cards once again.
The dealer cannot split their cards.
When to Stand, Hit and Double Down
As a general rule, you should stand with a hand of a hard 17 or more, irrespective of which face-up card the dealer has.
If you have a hard hand of between 12 and 16, then the decision to hit or stand will depend on the dealer’s visible card. It’s important to remember that the dealer cannot stand on anything less than 17; so, if they have a hand of 16, they are forced to take another card.
Therefore, if you hold a hand with a hard value of between 12 and 16, and the dealer’s visible card is between 2 and 6, you may be better off standing. This is because, if the dealer’s second card has a value of 10, they will then need to draw a further card and thus be more liable to bust.
A hard 11 should be played with a double down stake, as the probability of hitting 21 is relatively high.
With soft hands (those including an ace) your actions should also be determined by the dealer’s visible card.
With a soft 20 (ace + 9) you should always stand, as only a further ace can improve that hand. A soft 19 would also generally be considered a good hand on which to stand.
From a soft 18 downwards, you should consider doubling your bet and taking an additional card, although this will generally be more beneficial if the dealer’s visible card is between 2 and 6.
When to Split
The main two things to remember when deciding whether to split are: always split aces and never split 10s. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a 10 dealt to a split ace is not considered a blackjack, even though the hand has a value of 21.
It should be noted that, in the vast majority of casinos, you can split cards that are worth 10 even if they are not the same face card (i.e., a ten and a queen, a jack and a king, etc.). However, a hand of 20 is considered advantageous, so splitting the 10s would more than likely result in two weaker hands.
A pair of 9s should generally be split, unless the dealer’s visible card is a 7. The reason for this exception is that 18 is a fairly good hand and, as the dealer has to stand on 17 or over, there is a reasonable probability of them hitting 17 with their second card if they are holding a seven already.
Another pair you should always split are 8s. A hand of 16 is not so strong, and you still have the possibility of hitting a face card with the split 8s.
A pair of 5s should not be split, and you should double down unless the dealer has a 10 or an ace.
Strategies for splitting other pairs will depend on the dealer’s visible card. However, splitting is not recommended for 7s, 3s or 2s if the dealer’s card is 8 or higher; nor is it recommended for 6s or 4s if the dealer’s card is 6 or higher.
If the dealer’s visible card is an ace after the initial cards are dealt, you can choose to take out insurance (an additional bet) against the dealer getting a second card that has a value of 10 and thus achieve a blackjack.
This is generally paid at odds of 2:1 and will cost the player half of their original stake. Therefore, if the dealer gets a blackjack and beats the player, the player will essentially get their main stake back from the insurance bet.
Theoretically, the odds for the insurance aren’t actually in the player’s favour. Although the odds are better if the number decks of cards in the shoe (and thus the number of cards with a value of 10) is higher, it’s not considered a wise play when the player is holding an average hand.
Some casinos will offer you the option to ‘surrender’, which means that you will take no further part in that round and lose half of your stake.
You can only surrender when your first two cards have been dealt, the dealer’s card is still face-down and you have not made any other plays in that round.
Blackjack Side Bets
Some blackjack variants offer side bets, which will be available alongside your main bets. Side bets must be placed before any cards are dealt.
The most common variants are ‘Perfect Pairs’ and ‘21+3’.
This is a bet based on a player’s first two cards, with three types of pairs resulting in a payout:
- Perfect Pair – a pair of the same suit (e.g., two King of Hearts).
- Coloured Pair – a pair with different suits but of the same colour (e.g., a 4 of Hearts and a 4 of Diamonds, which are both red).
- Mixed Pair – a pair with different suits and different colours (e.g., a 9 of Hearts and a 9 of Clubs, which means one is red and one is black).
This is a side bet based on a player’s first two cards and the dealer’s face-up card.
Those three cards are combined to make a three-card poker hand, with the following hands resulting in a payout:
- Straight Flush – three cards in numerical order of the same suit. Aces can count as either the high or low card.
- Straight – three mixed suit cards in numerical order (e.g., 5, 6 and 7). Aces can count as either the high or low card.
- Flush – three non-sequential cards of the same suit.
- Suited Three of a Kind – three cards of the same value and suit.
- Three of a Kind – three mixed suit cards of the same value.
The various outcomes of these two side bets have different odds, depending on their relative probability, and may vary between casinos. The odds offered will also depend on how many decks of cards are being used in the shoe in that particular game.
These bets are purely based on luck, so they should be treated as fun bets that add some extra excitement to the main gameplay.
This option allows you to bet on another player’s hand. You can either place this bet whilst also playing your own hand at the table, or when simply just watching the table. You can’t bet behind on your own hand.
This also allows you to take part in a round if all the places at the table are already taken.
Your bet will share the outcome of the other player’s hand, but you are dependent on the decisions that player takes. If the player does not participate in the round on which you have bet behind, your stake will be returned.
This can be a good option for new players that want to experience the thrill of playing blackjack but are nervous about making their own decisions. This way, new players can get involved by putting their stakes ‘behind’ a player who is on a hot streak, or on someone who they think is experienced based on what they have seen.
The rules around split hands and doubling down when betting behind vary between online casinos. In some cases, the player betting behind can decide if they wish to go along with the player’s additional stakes, or their stake may just depend on the initial hand in the case of a split. It’s always sensible to read through the specific game rules before placing your bets.
Complete Guide to Online Blackjack
As with other popular table games, some online casinos have added a few variations to the standard game of blackjack, with bets starting as low as €0.50 or €1 in some cases.
With a whole array of different side bets, winning multipliers, free bets, etc., and different table limits to cater for all tastes, there is something to suit everyone when it comes to playing blackjack in the Marathonbet Live Casino.