Most people have played Blackjack or one of its variations at some point in their lives, and whether you say ‘hit’ and ‘stand’ or ‘stick’ and ‘twist’, the basic gameplay is broadly the same across blackjack, Pontoon, and each of the other rule sets and regional versions.
At its most basic, blackjack is about getting as close to 21 points as possible, by totaling the face value of all of your cards, without going bust.
If your first two cards are an Ace and a Ten, Jack, Queen or King, your hand constitutes Blackjack, and only a Blackjack from the dealer is enough to stop you from winning; in the rare event that you are both dealt that hand, it is deemed a push, and you may either receive your wager back, or see the pot rolled over to the next hand.
Originally, a hand only constituted Blackjack if it contained an Ace and a black Jack – and a bonus was often paid out for such winning hands even above others that totalled 21. Today any Ten or above can couple with an Ace to form Blackjack, but other hands totaling 21 in three or more cards are considered to be worth less.)
If your initial two cards total less than 21, you have the option to ‘hit’ and receive further cards, one at a time, from the deck – in this way, you can increase your total towards 21, but you must remember to ‘stand’ (i.e. to stop dealing) before you go bust.
One escape route if you go bust is if your hand contains an Ace – these are usually valued at 11, but if it prevents you from going bust, you can instead count them as having a value of 1.
There are certain other options open to you in the normal set of rules commonly played – more about those below.
During ordinary gameplay, you might encounter any or all of the following terms – and you’ll need to know all of them if you’re going to play blackjack properly yourself:
There is an eternal debate about how random online Blackjack really is – RNG (Random Number Generator) Blackjack usually involves a full shuffle after each hand, whereas Live Blackjack may play through the complete card stack before each shuffle.
Both typically use six decks shuffled together into a single stack, meaning there are theoretically 24 Aces, 24 Kings, and so on.
If the complete stack is shuffled after each hand, there is a consistent degree of randomness to each round; if not, you could arguably count the cards as they are dealt, and have more confidence about later hands within the same shuffle.
As you take part in Live Blackjack – or as you spectate – you may also see hands taking longer than in RNG. This is partly because of the live aspect of the game, and the inevitable slight delay as people make their next move over a remote connection, rather than in person.
However, it can also be because this effect is multiplied by the number of players at the table – unlike in RNG Blackjack, where you might be playing alone, or subject to stricter timeout deadlines.
Live Blackjack is supposed to be a more interactive experience than playing against a computerised RNG dealer, so if you want to maximise your enjoyment, don’t be afraid to get involved.
The live dealers are there to help you – and are often quite happy just to chat about how your day’s going, too – so introduce yourself, be friendly, and you can soon build some genuine rapport.
Switch on your speakers, if you have the option of doing so, as most live blackjack rooms have sound, and this will allow you to hear what the dealer is saying.
And if, for any reason, you’re not feeling the excitement of a particular room, look out for side bets to spice things up a little – these can particularly help if you’re in with another player who’s taking their time over things.
The exact side bets on offer will probably vary significantly depending on which site you play at, and most have a greater house edge than blackjack itself, so check the rules carefully before making a wager.
Depending on the nature of the side bet, though, the potential return could be quite large – so if you’re feeling lucky, it’s sometimes worth giving them a go.