Many of us are familiar to some degree with the standard variation of blackjack, but equally, many of us have probably only ever played it for fun.
If you’re planning on trying your hand at live dealer blackjack, make sure you know the rules – in most cases the dealer will be specifically banned from helping you with anything that resembles ‘strategy’, so you’re on your own.
We’ll look at a hand of live blackjack in more detail below, but the basics of the game are the same in all casinos, whether in the real world or online. You are dealt two cards, and the dealer is dealt two cards. Cards 2-9 have their usual face value. Tens, Jacks, Queens and Kings are all worth 10. Aces are worth 11, unless you’ve bust, in which case they can be worth 1 instead.
If your initial hand totals 21, it’s blackjack, and only blackjack from the dealer will match it – a score of 21 with three or more cards is worth less. If your score is less than 21, you have the option to ‘stand’ or ‘hit’ – either stay at your current score, or receive an additional card.
Initial pairs can be ‘split’ to form two new hands (but online, unlike in Las Vegas casinos, if one of these new hands is also a pair, you usually cannot split again). You can also place ‘double down’ bets on your initial hand, doubling your stake, or ‘insurance’ wagers to reduce your losses if you are beaten by the dealer.
Generally speaking, the winner is the higher scoring hand, and you’re playing purely against the dealer, not against any other seated players at your table.
Live dealer blackjack puts a human dealer in charge of your game, and while they will play to the same fixed rules that are common to real-world and online casinos alike, it adds a degree of interaction to the process.
Before each hand, you have an opportunity to place your bets.
if you do not place a wager, you will be dealt out of the next hand, and if you miss too many hands you will usually forfeit your seat at the table to give other players a chance.
In the game shown above, we can see one player has wagered on two different seats at the same table, while the remaining seated players have just one second left to place their bets, if they want to participate in the next hand.
The initial deal of each hand sees two cards dealt face up to each player, and two cards dealt with only one face up to the dealer.
A total score of 21 at this point is Blackjack, while anything less gives you the opportunity to ‘hit’ and build your hand; an experienced player will take into account the dealer’s shown card at this point.
Here we can see that the participating players have all managed to reach scores of 18-20, and nobody has gone bust by scoring more than 21.
However, with a King showing for the dealer, there’s still a good likelihood that any of their hands could be beaten.
Once all players have concluded their turns, the dealer takes his or hers, according to set rules about whether they should hit or stand.
In this case, that led the dealer to a total score of 20 points from three cards, and the players whose hands were beaten lose their wagers.
In the event of a drawn hand, this is called a ‘push’ and often sees the initial stake returned to the player; some casinos may carry over the stake to the next hand instead.
Play blackjack logically and there’s a good chance of winning any hand – and if anything, the most common beginner’s error is probably to hit when the balance of probabilities says you should stand.
With live dealer blackjack in particular, you have an excellent chance – even as a spectator – to see games played as they would be in a real-world casino, and pick up some strategy tips from your fellow players.