You may have heard that blackjack (also called twenty-one) is one of those casino games that experts claim you can beat – with enough skill and practice. While that’s not the only reason to learn how to play blackjack, it’s definitely an enticing prospect. But before you set your sights on any of that, you should equip yourself with a basic understanding of what a typical round looks like before becoming familiar with its bits and pieces. Luckily, you’re in the right place, so, read on to discover the know-how to bring out the winning player in you!
Let’s get the definition of blackjack out of the way first. This casino game, which traces its roots back to the early 15th century, is a comparing card game that is played between several people, with one of them assuming the role of the dealer and the rest as the players. Each individual then attempts to beat the dealer either by:
1. Obtaining 21 points on their initial two hands without a dealer blackjack.
2. Reaching a final score higher than the dealer’s without exceeding 21.
3. Letting the dealer draw additional cards until their hand exceeds 21, in other words, they go bust.
Therefore, live blackjack is essentially bringing this brick-and-mortar card game from the 1600s to the 21st century through the advent of modern technology. Forward-thinking concept creators, dedicated game developers, high-tech studios and passionate dealers come together to bring the felt to life on your PC or smartphone screen anytime, anywhere.
Ahead of pointing out the different side bet areas or revealing any blackjack tips, let’s start with a brief walk-through on how to play blackjack for beginners and explain the real answers of some of the most commonly asked questions.
At an initial glance, this may come across as a simple casino game. For instance, there are far fewer fiddly pieces than there is in roulette, but sit in on a couple of rounds, and you’ll notice that there’s more to the game than you thought. The in-depth explanation is coming up in a minute, but here’s a sneak peak of what we consider the basic steps of how to play blackjack online.
1. Choosing a game provider
2. Finding a live casino
5. The role of the live dealer
6. Playing your hand
7. Revealing the winning hand
8. Calculating your winnings
9. Error handling
Of course, the best way to learn how to play blackjack is by getting some practical experience. That way you can test out everything you’ve learnt to see how the rules and bets can be used to your strategic advantage. Playing live blackjack for free is not possible as it requires a dealer, cameras and a secure environment. However, there are a number of RNG versions to choose from that provide you a place for blackjack practice. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, why not put down a minimum bet too?
There may only be three ways to beat the dealer but obtaining success at this, and any other, casino game is never a sure-fire thing. Blackjack cards are expertly shuffled in specially designed control rooms to ensure the game’s randomness, so while many a mathematician, physicist or game enthusiast may allege to have uncovered how to win at blackjack all the time, this is rarely the case.
What you can know with certainty is that a comprehensive understanding of how to play a game of blackjack with all the tips and tricks straight from aficionados themselves will transform you into a well-informed player capable of making a good decision no matter the hand you’re dealt.
Every player has sought to limit the number of times they lose to the dealer but none of them can hand on heart say that they’ve never lost a round of blackjack. The truth is there are no blackjack secrets – only players who dedicate more time to perfecting their skills and those who don’t.
So, instead of attempting an implausible winning streak, focus your attention on developing a solid understanding of how blackjack works and remain open to expanding your knowledge base as your encounters with the game increase. Remember, if you do hit a couple of unlucky hands in a row, step away for some time, take your time to reassess your available bankroll and playing tactics, such that you’ll return to the table with a fresh mind.
Now that you know a little more about casino blackjack, you’re one checkpoint closer to staking on your own. The next stage of your training is to take you through the nine or so steps of playing blackjack online. Before you perform any of these, you’ll need a reliable internet connection, a smartphone or PC to play on and some money on your account. Let’s look at each step one by one for now.
Much like you would at a land-based casino, your first step is finding a table you’re excited to play at. Think about what sparks that inexplicable good feeling in your gut. Perhaps it’s the live dealer’s persona (for example, Live Blackjack Party), suitable bet limits (any Evolution Gaming table) or an innovative approach (such as NetEnt Live Common Draw Blackjack). Once your preferences are clear in your mind, leaf through our game provider reviews to see which one checks all your boxes and then take a detailed look at their surfaces in our game reviews.
Online operators can be seen as the medium through which suppliers’ live tables reach your screen but they’re more than that. The way their casino works, the bonuses they offer, the extensiveness of the VIP programme and the level of support available all come into play and affect the way you play live blackjack at their casino. In the case of some providers, such as Evolution and NetEnt, you’ll likely have your pick of all the best online casinos but when it comes to the likes of Lucky Streak Live or Extreme Live Gaming, you may need to forgo some perks to play their games. All this information is broken down in our casino reviews with testimonials of our unbiased, first-hand experience with each operator.
Unless you’re betting at a no account casino, you’ll first need to create an account. Once that’s in order, you can add playing funds to your account for the first time via the casino’s Deposit page. Usually, these are quite straightforward to use with minimum input fields according to your chosen payment method and the minimum deposit is typically around €10 or your currency equivalent.
Once your payment method is registered to your account, you’ll be able to deposit without losing your seat at the table as most operators and game providers offer what is called an in-game deposit feature. This allows you to top-up your balance as you play meaning that if you’ve hit a stride by applying perfect blackjack strategy or the rewards of your card counting technique are about to come through, you won’t miss out.
There’s no doubt that betting on online blackjack is far easier than doing so at a busy land-based casino on a Saturday night, there are still some things to keep in mind.
Betting time commences with both a clear on-screen instruction and verbally by the dealer. The digital chips then appear automatically when the betting time is open, and your betting area becomes highlighted as you hover over it. If you still have any uncertainty on this, play Lucky Streak Live Blackjack first as this features arrows that clearly indicate where to place your chips.
Image source: LeoVegas Live Blackjack Party
Depending on the variant of the game, you will have anywhere from 30-90 seconds to place your wager. Only bets placed during this timeframe are allowed, so keep an eye on the timer and place your chips before it gets close to 0.
The dealer is the physical representation of the casino house. He or she sits behind the coloured surface and is charged with running all aspects of the game including dealing the cards from the dealing shoe (where the decks are stored) on their left, handling all bets and placing them in the discard rack (the pile of used cards) on the right once the round is complete.
Once betting time comes to a close and all seated and unseated players have placed their wagers, the dealer deals out cards starting from the player to their far left. Each player receives one card, face-up, as does the dealer. A second card, also turned-up, is dealt to players while the dealer’s second card (their hole card) remains face-down. Players must then decide on what they will do with their hand, the choices available will be explained in step 6. As soon as each player has acted, the dealer reveals their hole card, and pays and keeps players’ bets accordingly.
Aside from the mandatory game interaction and specified blackjack dealer rules they must follow, the person who leads the game is trained and encouraged to interact with players at the table. How he or she does so depends on the nature of the game. For example, LeoVegas Silent Blackjack requires that the live dealer keeps chatter to a minimum however the more gossip on Party Blackjack tables, the better. On the other hand, Evolution’s Salon Privé dealers are handpicked on the basis that they know how to keep high rollers happy.
There are five main ways you can handle your cards. In land-based casinos, each of these actions are not communicated orally but rather through hand gestures (that vary whether the game is played face-up or face-down) that can be seen by surrounding floor managers and the eye in the sky. Each one is explained below, but be sure to perform your choice in time as a lack of response will be assumed to be a stand.
When you are satisfied with the initial two cards you received, you can choose not to be dealt any more. Note the dealer must stand if their hand total equals seventeen points.
How to stand
If you think that you can get your hand closer to the coveted 21, you can ask to receive an additional card. The dealer must continue to draw cards until their hand reaches a minimum score of 17. You can choose to hit again after 17, however, it’s not recommended.
How to hit
The act of doubling your initial bet after seeing your hand. The catch here is that one additional card must be drawn too.
How to double down
If the first two cards you’re dealt are a pair (3-3, 7-7, etc.), you have the option to split them into two separate hands. You’ll be required to place an equal bet on the split hands and will receive an extra card for each split card. This action gives you the opportunity to turn a bad hand into two that offer the chance to win and gives you the opportunity to double your bet when the dealer busts (don’t worry, that will be made clear soon). If you’re unsure of how to react to a hand, just remember the community rule: always split aces and eights, and check out the Strategies page for the full approach.
How to split
Sometimes referred to as the sucker rule, here you’re given the chance to surrender once you’re dealt your hand and the dealer’s upcard is in view. This rule isn’t too common amongst game providers, we’ve only come across it on some Ezugi tables. Variations to the surrender rule are covered on the Blackjack Rules page.
How to surrender
Two other options for your hand are asking for insurance (which is explained on the Blackjack Side Bets page) and going bust. The latter is not really a choice, more so an inevitable side effect of being dealt an automatic losing hand that exceeds a count of twenty-one. Note, that you’ll never go bust in the initial 2 cards you receive as there are no 2 card totals that surpass 21.
In all situations except for going bust, it is only once the dealer reveals their hole card that winning blackjack hands can be revealed. Bets are paid out to players instantly and any losses are kept, with digital overlays and spoken utterance from the dealer to communicate this. Once a game round ends, the dealer clears the cards from their right to their left and places them in the discard rack. The betting time then begins again.
Fear not, you’re not expected to perform any mathematical calculations in your head. The payout of each bet you can make is displayed as part of the interface which you can keep pinned as you play.
Image source: Evolution Gaming Live Blackjack
Unlike roulette, each bet in blackjack is always treated as an individual in terms of its respective payouts which means that you simply need to work out the ratio to determine your blackjack winnings. For example, if the player wins on a blackjack, their winnings are paid at 3:2 on the total bet wagered, meaning that if the player bet €10, they receive their original bet back plus €15 in winnings.
For a more precise look at the respective payouts, odds and house edge of these bets, take a look at the Blackjack Odds page.
Just as you may have seen a dealer mistakenly collect player cards from the wrong end of the table at a land-based casino, both human and technological mishaps may occur when playing online too.
In order to minimise such errors from occurring, live dealers undergo rigorous training while the software used is tested, re-tested and updated to ensure it’s always up to standard. But much like you cannot predict the outcome of the game, it’s impossible to prevent all hitches. To see to this in the best way possible, providers and operators have developed systems to deal with any potential issues swiftly.
Each live dealer begins their 20-minute session in front of the camera by swiping a key card at the table. In this way, floor managers know who’s guiding each game and can monitor how many rounds they perform during their shift, how engaged customers are and so on. Conversely, live dealers are in direct contact with table supervisors such that if a mistake is made – for example, dealing the cards incorrectly – these managers can come to the table promptly and address the situation.
Simple errors are usually seen to by cancelling the round and returning bets to players. On the other hand, system errors, such as receiving an incorrect payout, require more resolution time as well as the collaboration of the software supplier, casino and yourself as the player.
If it’s you that’s bringing forth a concern about a game round, go to the casino’s customer support team with as much information as possible – the game name, the time you were playing, the device you were playing on, etc. – so they can locate the specific round you’re querying. From there, they’ll review the footage in question and any technological hiccups that may have occurred at the time to provide you with a settlement as soon as possible.
You’re almost there! The final stage of this part is to familiarise yourself with the bits and pieces of the game by answering questions such as What do the different sections on the table mean? And, what values do the cards have? If it’s these answers that you seek, settle in and find out about the basics of blackjack.
This is the area where bets are placed. An online casino blackjack table typically seats up to seven players, so you’ll need to pick your place before you’re able to put down any chips. The table itself is covered in coloured felt with a few of the main rules of the game displayed across it. Each of the seven betting areas are divided into four parts: the main betting area where chips are placed initially, two side bets areas for Perfect Pairs and 21+3 and the Bet Behind area.
Image source: Evolution Gaming Live Blackjack
A blackjack game is played with one or more decks of 52-French cards. In each deck, there are 16 face cards – Jacks, Queens and Kings – that are worth 10 points, 4 Aces that are either valued at 1 or 11 (whichever denomination is more favourable to the hand) and 32 cards that are worth their respective numerical value, that is, from 2 to 10. Different variations can be found online, some with four or even eight decks but the blackjack card values do not change. The number of decks used affects the variance of the game, so be sure to check this out in the Information section of the interface.
Coloured blackjack chips are used to make your bets at the table but, unfortunately, there is no universal standard for the hue these should be. This means that you cannot memorise colour-value associations as they vary between game providers, such as the two we’ve listed:
Extreme Live Gaming
As we explained above, the chips are digital. All you need to do is ensure that your preferred value is selected and click the betting area to place your chips.
We already detailed the role of the live dealer but to remind you, they’re the person who guides the game. Casino providers refer to them as game presenters and that isn’t an overstatement as each individual is subject to intensive training for several weeks before they are camera-ready.
Blackjack online is often streamed from a live casino studio. The structure and set-up of the surroundings are at the complete discretion of each casino game provider. Some choose to adopt green screen technology while others, like Lucky Streak Live, utilise TV-show-like sets to create their gaming environments. Evolution Gaming takes things a step further with themed promotions tables and bespoke tables such as the ones found at Genting Casino. With so much choice, you’re sure to find one that tickles your fancy.
The gaming screen comprises of all the features and functionalities necessary to play a game of live blackjack. Your chip selection, adjustable video and sound settings, a live view of how other players are betting as well as a view of your own betting history can all be found here.
Constant improvements to technology mean that live blackjack keeps getting better and better. Most providers are able to deliver twenty-one in HD, with the option to adjust the quality according to your internet connection. There’s only one-camera angle here – a head-on view of the table and dealer – which is more than enough to keep up with the game.
These include all the tacit rules of twenty-one tables. Every player is expected to follow them, or risk being removed from the game. The main unwritten rule is that you be polite to both the dealer and those at the table to keep things running smoothly. But if you do prefer a bit of banter, then the relaxed atmosphere of those party tables we mentioned earlier might suit you better. Lastly, remember that the seats are limited, so don’t take a seat unless you’re ready to bet.
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