The Basics of Online Blackjack


Blackjack is one of those games most people ‘sort of’ know how to play, but often lack familiarity with the specifics. Blackjack is more than hitting or standing and hoping for a 21. Depending on the lay of the cards there are a number of playing and betting options as well as strategies for employing them all. All of this pushes blackjack out of the realm of ‘pure chance’ and, like poker, into the realm of chance and strategy. This article, however, will step back for a second and summarize the basics of online blackjack.


One of the inherent difficulties when discussing online blackjack is that, while all online casinos will offer blackjack according to the same basic structure, there will be deviations in the specifics from one online casino to the next. In general the vast majority of online casinos will follow Vegas or Atlantic City rules, but this is by no means always the case. As such the specifics presented here may not be the specifics present in your or your eventual online casino. Be sure to check this out before playing.


The goal in online blackjack is to obtain a higher hand than the dealer without busting (going over 21). This is actually much more difficult than it sounds. Cards in blackjack are worth points. Faces are valued at ten, aces at either 1 or 11 (according to which benefits your hand), and the remainder are all valued according to the number given on the card. Suit does not play a factor in this game.


You will begin a hand of online blackjack with two cards, face-up. The dealer will also begin their hand with two cards –one face-up and the other face-down. The former is generally referred to as the ‘up-card’. If your first two cards are an ace and a face you have scored a blackjack, and instantly win the hand (unless you have exceptionally lousy luck and the dealer also blackjacks –dealers always win ties).


Chances are, however, you will not get a blackjack, which means you must decide whether you want to ‘hit’ (add another card to your total), ‘stand’ or ‘hold’ (stick with what you have), ‘double down’ (double the size of your bet), or ‘split pairs’ (allows you to split any pair into two separate hands). Sometimes an online casino will allow players to ‘surrender’. This is similar to a fold in poker.


Whether it is better to hit or stand depends upon the cards you were given, the dealer’s up-card, and how you prefer to play. While there are charts for the ‘best’ way to play all possible combinations in online blackjack, many combinations can be played with a degree of common sense. For example, say your hand totals 5. Not only is this rather far from 21, but not even an 11 valued ace will bust your hand. Clearly the best decision is to hit. As a general note, most dealers will elect to hit until their up-cards are at 17. On the other hand, if your cards already total, say, 19, your best bet is obviously to stand –the odds of hitting a 2 or an ace (1) are agonizingly slim.


A double down or a split is, in most online casinos, permitted only on the first move. The double down does two things. First, as stated above, it doubles the size of your bet. Second, and this is the kicker, it restricts you to only one more hit. Many online casinos restrict doubling down to specific totals, such as 9, 10, and 11. Since you only get one more hit it is imperative to hit only under specific circumstances which in turn depend upon your hand and the dealer’s up-card. Nothing is worse than doubling down an 11 and then drawing a 2!


A split also doubles your bet, but in a markedly different fashion than the double down. If your first two cards are a pair, most online casinos will let you split them and make each card the start of a new hand. An ace split can be a particularly effective maneuver. It is even possible to double after the split!


Be sure to reference more in-depth discussions of online blackjack strategy. The easiest method for managing one’s options in online blackjack is to both keep a blackjack grid nearby, and to read up on what particular up-cards tend to mean for the dealer’s hand. Best of luck!



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