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Blackjack is the most popular game played at casinos worldwide, and online play is no different. As well as having easy-to-understand rules and principles that allow a wide variety of players to join in, it’s also the game that offers by far the best odds of taking home a profit. With average luck and standard rules, the rate of loss for blackjack is tiny, meaning that the risk is low, but the rewards of managing to get lucky can be huge.

Blackjack online v offline – which is better?

As with all casino games, playing online is much simpler for the player. Playing from the comfort of their own home, they can easily switch from game to game and opponent to opponent, and always find a table for the game they want to play. Bluffing, although not as important in blackjack as in poker, can still play a part, however, and playing offline changes this significantly. Not only does it make it harder to do, but it also makes it harder to read – often making for more exciting and unpredictable games, and giving less experienced players an edge.

Playing online will also give players the chance to pick up bonuses, which are common for online casinos such as those in the affiliate links. No deposit bonuses make this effectively a free blackjack casino while the deposit lasts, allowing the player to not only get to grips with the game and the particular online casino, but also to win money without wagering any of their own. With offers for free blackjack play widely available, that makes the decision for players to sign up and try their luck. Check our affiliate links for the latest offers.

Another concern for players, particularly those who like to sit at the tables all night, is keeping track of money. Bricks-and-mortar casinos are notorious for seeming to take money without players even realising it, since among all the excitement, glamour and having to deal with physical chips, it’s hard to keep track of and remember how much you’ve spent and won over the course of an evening. Online, that’s not a problem – it’s as easy as a click of a mouse.

Real-world casinos also often have another disadvantage, in that the effort to go to one often means players will find themselves staying for an expensive night, even when luck isn’t on their side. Playing online offers an easy advantage – it’s simple to quit at any time, and if you’re in the mood for just a quick five minutes, you can be in and out in no time at all.

Blackjack bonuses and how to get them

The affiliate links above will help you find the best blackjack bonuses available on the internet. Most of these are deposit bonuses, but if you find an offer, you can play free blackjack no-deposit needed, where a bonus, granted simply for signing up can be used to play straight away. Otherwise, the bonus will be granted in addition to your first deposit at the casino. Free blackjack bets are a great way to start, because you can get used to a game or a particular casino without taking the risk with your own money. Play free blackjack by looking through our affiliate links, all of which offer fantastic deals and offers.

Rule variations in blackjack

With the goal of the game to hit 21, blackjack, or a higher total than the dealer, blackjack is a simple game, yet the rules can vary significantly, and it is important for players to know exactly what their options are when deciding what to do with each hand. Some moves that are allowed in some games are barred in others, while other times a player’s hand can oblige him to make a certain choice.

Here are some rule variations, although not all are allowed in every game – in general, where some rule changes can decrease the advantage held by the dealer, others will be used instead to increase it. Each player will generally have a preferred style of play and will want to pick the game that suits them best where they know what rules are in play and what their options are before coming to a decision, so knowing what variations can arise is vital for every players balance over the course of several hands.

Number of decks

Blackjack can be played with any number of decks, although the more decks in play, the higher the chance of the player hitting blackjack. In general, this means that fewer decks have a higher probability of the player winning, although other rule changes can affect this, so make sure you know what type of game you’re playing before you start. When you have a good idea of what your chances of winning are with each potential decision, you’ll be well on your way to making money by playing online blackjack or mobile blackjack and beating the dealer.

Blackjack terminology

  • Hit

To take another card from the deck. Knowing the probability of drawing a card that will be favourable or one that will cause the player to go bust is essential for knowing when to hit. Some game rule variants require players or the dealer to hit when certain types of hands are dealt (often a soft 17, for example.) Make sure you know when this is the case, or you might get a nasty surprise.

  • Stand

To play their current hand and take no more cards. As with deciding to hit, the player should find the probability of drawing a favourable card, and conclude that his or her best option is to stand even if it gives him or her a lower total. Much like hitting, some rule variants require the player or dealer to hit or stand when certain hands are dealt too, so knowing when this can be a factor is important.

  • Double down

A player often has the option of increasing his or her bet by up to or exactly (depending on the rules) 100% of his original bet, on the basis that he or she will be dealt one more card and then stand. Some rule variations will not allow doubling down on certain hands, such as any soft hand (that contains an Ace.) Knowing the rules and knowing when to double down based on the player’s own hand and the dealer’s revealed card is crucial – while it won’t change the result, it will make a huge difference to relative winnings over the long run. Dealers will never double down – it’s always up to the player in question.

  • Split

In some games, if the player’s first two cards have the same value (or are exactly the same card in some variations, e.g. two tens rather than a ten and a king) the player can split his hand by placing an additional bet and drawing cards on to each hand with every subsequent round, having two hands in the game and maximising his chance of winning. There can be restrictions on certain types of splitting – some games won’t allow Aces to be split, for example, while others will restrict resplitting hands. Knowing the effects this will have on the probability of getting a favourable draw is a hugely important factor in making the decision whether or not to split. Dealers, by contrast, will never split.

  • Surrender

Some games will also offer players the opportunity to ‘surrender’, laying down his cards on the first draw, in return for half of the initial bet back. Depending on the player’s hand and the revealed card of the dealer, this can occasionally be statistically the best move over the long haul, if the player is in a near-hopeless position where the chances of victory are remote. The dealer will never surrender.

  • Insurance bets

Insurance is another hugely important part of blackjack strategy in games where it is allowed. If the dealer’s revealed card is an Ace, the player may decide to make a side-bet at odds of 2/1 that the dealer has blackjack. Although the odds do not match the probability the dealer has blackjack (just under a third), it helps to insure, or hedge, the player’s other bet in the normal game, thus spreading the risk (albeit while simultaneously increasing it, since the player is now making two bets rather than one and the odds are against them.) Mastering this can be crucial when the scenario occurs, depending on the player’s style of play and how he wishes to spread the risk.

Other forms of blackjack

Blackjack can also be played in tournament form, where players play for chips, rather than money, after agreeing a flat buy-in fee, and players with the most chips from each table progress to the next stages of the tournament. Elimination blackjack tournaments work the other way around, where the player with the least chips is eliminated from the game at regular intervals. These can be a good way for inexperienced players to test the water, where after their buy-in, they can effectively play free blackjack where their maximum losses are limited.

Free games also exist online too, where players play for chips that have no monetary value. Playing a free blackjack game for fun is great for practice and sharpening up on the rules, and unlike games such as poker, since the player is not betting against other players, there is a lot less difference between free online blackjack games and those where real money is involved. But to really try out the game, practice, not risk any of your own money but still have the chance of winning cash, the only option is to look for no deposit bonuses, which many casinos will offer to new sign-ups as a freebie. You can check our affiliate links to find the latest offers – they’re updated regularly, so keep checking back to find out any new deals.

Basic blackjack strategy

Basic blackjack strategy simply involves working out the probability of possibly outcomes based on the dealer’s revealed card and the player’s hand, and making a decision accordingly. While this is difficult to memorise and calculate, and differs slightly depending on rule changes, these basic principles will form the core of most advanced players’ thinking when playing the game. However, it’s not that simple – there’s a lot more to blackjack than simple probability, especially over the course of several hands. Maximising winnings and minimising losses are key to ending up in profit over the long run. More advanced players will even play differently based on the composition, rather than the total, of their hands – the game is easy to play, but has a lot of hidden depth.

Glossary of blackjack terms

As with many casino games, blackjack has a lot of rules and jargon which can almost make it seem like a second language. There are far too many to list here, but here are a few basic ones you should know.

  • Bust

Exceeding a score of 21, meaning the game is lost and all wagers must be forfeited immediately.

  • Hard

A hand which does not include an ace, or a hand where the player has the chance of going bust if they choose to hit. E.g. a combination of a King and a seven would be a ‘hard 17.’

  • Soft

A hand which includes an Ace valued at 11. E.g. a combination of an ace and a five would be a ‘soft 16.’

  • Upcard

The dealers card which is revealed to players at the table and dealt face-up.

  • Hole card

The dealers card which is dealt face down and is not revealed to other players at the table.

  • Five card charlie

Having five cards in one hand without going bust – a rare feat.

  • Push

When the player and the dealer both have hands of equivalent value, it’s a push – a tie.