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Blackjack is one of the most popular card games in the world, and it is also known by the names Vingt-et-un, Twenty-One and Pontoon. The rules of blackjack are simple enough to be understood by almost anyone, and the game can be played at a variety of limits to suit anyone’s budget. Online blackjack for real money is approaching poker's popularity and its happening fast. We recommend studying a blackjack basic strategy chart before you every play blackjack online with money.

While the blackjack house edge favors the casino, it’s still one of the lowest around. In fact, skilled card counters can actually gain an advantage over the house with proper play and patience. Unfortunately, card counting is not possible at online blackjack casinos.

Blackjack games first appeared in France around 1700. Years later, its debut in America was less than successful, and casinos quickly began looking for special payouts to lure customers into playing. One of these was a 10 to 1 payout if a player got an ace of spades and a black jack. This hand was known as a “blackjack“, and the name was eventually applied to the entire game (although the 10 to 1 payout was sadly dropped).

In modern times, online blackjack games have become all the rage. A quick search of the Internet will show that there are literally hundreds of online casinos offering a wide range of blackjack variations to their customers.

How to Play Blackjack

In a traditional game of blackjack (also known as “21”), both the dealer and player are dealt two cards. The dealer receives one card face down, while the other card is dealt face up. The object of the game is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over (or “busting”).

When learning how to play blackjack, it’s important to remember that aces are worth either one or eleven. A soft hand is one where the ace can be counted as either number. Hard hands are those with no ace or in which the ace must be counted as a one to avoid busting. Face cards are valued at ten, while all other cards are worth the value on the card (two through ten).

If the player’s first two cards total 21, he is said to have a blackjack. In most cases, a blackjack pays out at either 6 to 5 or 3 to 2. A regular win pays out at even money, while losing a hand (or busting) results in a loss of the player’s wager. A tie with the dealer is known as a “push,” and it results in the player’s wager being returned.

During a game of online blackjack or casino blackjack, the dealer must adhere to a set of rules (which sometimes varies from casino to casino). In most cases, the dealer must continue to hit if their card total is less than 17. When they reach a total of 17 or more, they must stand (although most Vegas strip casinos hit on a soft 17).

Blackjack players have a few more options at their disposal, including:

  • The player can choose to stand at any point.
  • As long as they haven’t busted, the player can continue to hit.
  • The player has the option to split two cards of the same rank (two eights, two jacks, etc.). The split cards each form a new hand, and the player must add an additional wager for the extra hand. Each hand then gets an extra card.
  • If a player feels that a loss is inevitable, he can surrender. This ends the hand, but the player only loses half of his bet. Surrendering is not always allowed, so be sure to check with your online blackjack casino.
  • A player can “double down” by taking one additional card and doubling his bet. Afterwards, the player cannot receive additional cards.
  • Some casinos allow the player to buy insurance if the dealer’s upcard is an ace. The insurance bet may be up to half the size of the player’s initial bet. This bet pays off at 2 to 1, but the dealer must have a natural blackjack.

Blackjack Strategy

Playing proper blackjack strategy affords players a decent chance of winning (although the house still has the overall edge). While many blackjack players have hundreds of blackjack odds and combinations memorized, most players can be successful by remembering just a few basic rules.

  • Blackjack players should stand on a hard 17 or better.
  • Players should hit on a hard 8 or less.
  • Players may want to double down on a hard 9 through a hard 11.
  • A pair of aces or eights should always be split.
  • Do not split tens or fives.
  • Hit on a soft 17 or lower.
  • Stand on a soft 18 or higher.

Card Counting in Blackjack

A card counter is one who keeps track of the cards already played from the deck. By doing so, a card counter can make larger bets when the odds are in his favor. Since successful card counting turns the advantage to the player, many casinos will ban a skilled counter from further play.

Casinos have attempted to make card counting more difficult by dealing blackjack games from multiple decks. Since online blackjack games can deal from an unlimited number of decks, card counting online is impossible.

If you’re looking to learn how to card count, there are a number of systems available. Some of these include:

  • Uston Advanced Point Count
  • Revere Advanced Point Count
  • Ed Thorp’s Ten-Count
  • Hi Lo Blackjack Card Counting System
  • The Red Seven Count

Blackjack Games and Variants

Over 100 blackjack games and variants are known to exist, and each casino or country may offer subtle differences in their rules and payouts. Keep this in mind before you play any online blackjack games, and always familiarize yourself with the game at hand.

  • Single Deck Blackjack - One deck of cards is used, and the game is limited to the dealer and only one player. This game has a lower house edge than multi-deck games.
  • Double Exposure Blackjack - The dealer shows both of his cards to players.
  • European Single Deck Blackjack - Dealer only gets one card at the start of the game.
  • Las Vegas Downtown Blackjack - Game has a maximum bet of $200. Eight decks of cards are used, and the dealer hits on a soft 17. Up to three splits are allowed, and dealer checks immediately for a blackjack (insurance is also available).
  • Las Vegas Downtown High-Limit Blackjack - The same as above, except the maximum limit is $1000.
  • Lucky 7 Blackjack - Allows for an optional side bet where the player can win if a seven card is dealt within the first three cards.
  • Spanish 21 - Uses a 48-card deck (with the tens removed). A player blackjack always beats a dealer blackjack, and a number of other special payouts are available. Players can double down on any number of cards, plus numerous other options are also available.
  • Five Card Charlie - The player wins if he draws five cards without busting.
  • Blackjack Switch - Player is dealt two hands and allowed to switch cards. Natural blackjacks pay out at 1:1.
  • Elimination Blackjack - Played on the Ultimate Blackjack Tour, this blackjack variation is a tournament-style game. Up to seven players compete at a table, and the objective is to be the last remaining player. Secret bets can be made on occasion, and hands 8, 16 and 25 are elimination hands, where the player with the lowest chip total at the end of the hand is eliminated.

World Series of Blackjack

The World Series of Blackjack is an annual blackjack tournament televised on the Game Show Network. Players compete for a $1 million prize pool, and anywhere from 25 to 40 players may participate in a season. Players have ranged from renowned card counters to celebrities and online blackjack experts, including: James Grosjean, Stanford Wong, Ken Smith, “Hollywood” Dave Stann, Jean Scott, Penn Jillette, Orel Hershiser and Shannon Elizabeth.

Season winners include:

  • Mike Aponte (Season One, $100,000)
  • Ken Einiger (Season Two, $250,000)
  • Dr. Jeff Bernstein (Season Three, $500,000)
  • Alice Walker (Season Four, $500,000)

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