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How to Play Blackjack Online

Playing Blackjack online has become increasingly popular. Already a classic card game in brick-and-mortar casinos, Blackjack – also known as 21 - is now the most popular card game in online casinos due to great odds and the mental challenges players must face. With the chance to try out the game on free demo sites without risking any money, many more people are signing up to online Blackjack to see if their bets, usually made for the player’s hand to win, are successful.

Basic rules

In Blackjack, the numbers 2-10 retain their face value, with the Jack, Queen, and King also having a value of 10. Aces can act as 1 or 11, depending on how it best suits your hand.

Initially, each hand has two cards distributed by the dealer. The aim is to get a hand with a value closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, which means the average winning total in Blackjack is 18.5. The skill needed to win relates to decisions a player makes to take an additional card (known as a “hit”) or to keep the cards they already have (known as “stand”). If the value of the cards goes over 21, the player is said to have “gone bust” and the round is lost along with any bet.

Hard hands and soft hands

It is important to understand the difference between hard hands and soft hands in Blackjack to make the best of the cards you have.

Hard hands

Hard hands (stiffs or stiffies) may not contain an Ace or if they do, the Ace is assigned a value of 1 and cannot be counted as 11. For example, an Ace-less hard hand of 16 is K-6. A hand of A-4-10-3 with a total of 18 is also hard despite the presence of the Ace because here, it counts as 1. Otherwise, the player would exceed 21 and lose the round.

Soft hands

Soft hands contain an Ace that counts as 1 or 11 as the player wishes. This means that whilst playing Blackjack, there can be many times where a soft hand at the start can change into a hard hand after one or more hits. For example, an A-2 hand can total either 3 or 13. If you then draw a Jack, the hand transforms from a soft 13 to a hard 13 (otherwise you would be bust) and basic strategy would suggest another hit.

If a dealer has 17

The most important hand values in Blackjack is 17 because if the dealer has a hand value of 17 or above, they are usually required to stand. This can have a big impact on how you play your hand to increase your chance of a win.

Split

A split is offered when the player's first two-card hand is of two cards with the same value. Whether playing blackjack online or in a brick-and-mortar casino, the player can choose to split the cards into two separate hands, and after an additional bet is placed on the newly created hand equal to the original bet placed when the game began, then receives an additional card for each hand from the dealer.

When to hit and when to stand

Whilst Blackjack is a game of chance, since an online casino will be using a randomly shuffled deck, understanding the rules of probability can give you more of a chance to win. The mathematical probabilities have already been calculated and published online in charts that can guide you when to hit, stand or split.

Hit

Taking another card to add to your hand should be done to gain a tactical advantage, not to get as close to 21 as possible. The advice for those who have a hand that has a value of 10 or less, which does not include an Ace, is to take another card. This is because the chances of a high-value card are good and will put the player in a stronger position irrespective of the dealer’s first card.

With other hand values, the player’s strategy will depend on the dealer’s initial card.If this is a 7 or higher and the player’s hand value is between 12 and 16, you need to think about the wisdom of taking another card since there is no guarantee the dealer’s next card will also be high, but if it is then the player is in a tricky situation.

Stand

Like choosing to hit, the special circumstance of play will determine if standing is the most sensible option or should be avoided, but there may also be times where the player’s decision is not so clear cut. What is clear cut is that when a player’s hand has a value of 19 or 20 it is always best to stand. Hard 17 and 18s also follow this rule. With a pair of 9s, it is best to stand if splitting is not a viable option. However, soft hands that include an Ace may go against this pattern, with soft 17 a particularly poor hand to stand in all situations.

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