Blackjack is one of the world’s most popular card games and is played all over the globe. Given its enduring popularity in real world casinos, it was inevitable that the game would take off online and blackjack has become one of the most popular online casino games in South Africa, played in all its varieties by online gamers of all ages and experience levels.
So how do you play blackjack online? The basic aim of the game is to beat the card dealer by gathering cards and scoring a tally as close to 21 as possible without going over that limit. Like all the best games it sounds simple, but can involve a range of strategies and tactics, so we’ve put together a handy guide teaching you how to play blackjack online.
The rules of the game
First, it’s important to understand the basics of blackjack, which do not differ online from the traditional game played in real casinos. The standard game is played with two regular 52-card decks. Each card is given its face numerical value, with Aces valued at eleven or one, according to the choice of the player, and face cards all valued at ten.
The player makes a bet, then the dealer deals two cards to the player, face-up. The dealer then deals themselves two cards, one face-up and one face-down. The player must then choose to take another card, known as ‘hit’ or remain with their current cards, or ‘stand’.
As mentioned above, the aim of the game is to get a score as close to 21 as possible without going over that number. If your score is closer to 21 than the dealer’s, or if the dealer’s score passes that total, then you win. If your score is lower than that of the dealer’s, you lose.
For newcomers to online blackjack, some of the terminology involved can be confusing. Here is a brief round-up of some of the other terms you may come across online:
Insurance - if the dealer shows an Ace as his face-up card, players can take out an additional bet, known as insurance, to offset the risk of the dealer landing 21.
Push - if your total matches the dealer’s your bet is refunded or ‘pushed’ back to you.
Split - if your hand is made up of a pair or two ten-point cards, you can split your hand, making two separate hands. Each of these hands is then dealt a second card, you are now playing with two hands, and your original bet is doubled.
Double – taking this option means that you only receive one more card and your wager is doubled.
Surrender - in some versions, you are allowed to surrender half your bet if you don’t like your starting cards. You lose the other half of the bet and the round ends.
There is a bewildering array of blackjack variations available in South African online casinos, from Atlantic City blackjack, which is played with eight decks, to European blackjack, in which the dealer only gets one card and even more exotic versions such as Spanish Blackjack, Vegas Downtown Blackjack and Super Fun 21. All of these variations build on the basic Blackjack game but add new twists, and before playing a new version of Blackjack, it’s a good idea to study the rules carefully and ideally play the game in free mode.
The aim of any online Blackjack strategy is not just to win as often as possible, but also to maximise the amount that you win and to minimise your losses. There are a number of ways to go about this, and all of these methods can be effective in reducing the house edge.
The most important thing to remember is that taking the Double option can be an effective way of boosting your chances of winning. There is varying advice about when to double, but in general, it is usually a good idea to double when you hold 11 or 10 in your starting hand unless the dealer’s hand shows that they have a 10 or an Ace.
Surrendering is also an important tactic, which can help to reduce your losses. Again, opinion varies on the best time to use this option, but generally you should consider taking the surrender option when you have 15 or 16 (without an Ace) and the dealer has a 10 or an Ace.
In these circumstances, taking the hit of losing half your stake may save you money in the long run and ensure that you’re still in the game to take advantage of a good hand.
Other important aspects of Blackjack strategy is to generally avoid side bets, where the house edge is usually significant, and don’t take the Insurance option if you can avoid it, as in the long term this will result in a steady erosion of your profits. There is also a slight advantage to be had in playing Blackjack games involving two decks of cards, rather than those with more than two decks, although the edge is small.
Finally, if you are new to Blackjack or you want to hone your technique, take advantage of playing the free version of the game that is usually offered by most South African online casinos. This will help you to fine-tune your strategy in preparation for the real thing!
Blackjack’s perennial appeal is down to the element of skill involved. Although luck plays a significant part in online blackjack, just as in the original version, there are opportunities for shrewd players to reduce the casino’s advantage. It is one of the most popular and entertaining online casino games available to South African players and can provide hours of fun to newcomers and experienced gamers alike.