Online Blackjack

Blackjack is the most well-known card game across the globe, also called 21. South African players can play Blackjack at most online casinos, including live casinos. Although it is also possible to free Blackjack online, playing real money Blackjack is often a whole lot more exciting. 

Luckily, there are many different Blackjack variants available nowadays, and most South African online casinos offer a whole range of them. In this full Blackjack Guide, our casino experts will not only explain the basic Blackjack rules, but also outline how certain Blackjack strategies work, cover the most popular online Blackjack variations, and tell you the meaning of the most important Blackjack terms.

By Adiela de Bruyn - Updated 2024/02/08 - Estimated reading time: 25 minutes.

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Online Blackjack

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Rules icon

Blackjack Rules

Blackjack is the most popular card game played in land-based and online casinos in South Africa and a lot of other countries. Almost every online casino offers it and you can play it both from your desktop PC and laptop and from your mobile devices, such as Android and iOS phones and tablets.

In this section, our experts will explain to you the Basic Blackjack Rules in great detail. The better you know and can apply these rules, the lower the casino’s house edge becomes. After reading this full guide, we guarantee that you know how Blackjack works.

First of all, it is important to know that Blackjack is a game of skill and strategy is involved to increase one’s chances to beat the dealer. The goal of Blackjack is to get a hand score of as close to 21 as possible, without going over it and beating the dealer’s total hand score.

It is important to take strategic decisions along the way to increase the value of your own hand and use the face-up card of the dealer to your advantage to increase your chances of winning.

Blackjack is played with one or multiple decks of cards. Each card has its own numerical value, except for the face-cards, which are all valued at 10. An ace can be valued at either 1 point or 11, depending on what is more favorable for the player.

Understanding the Blackjack rules is essential to play the game profitably and to enjoy the casino experience that it offers. Before the dealer starts dealing the cards, you have to place your bet(s). After each player has placed their bets, the dealer will deal two cards to each player. Below, our experts will explain step-by-step how a game of Blackjack naturally goes.

1. The dealer will deal two cards from the shoe to each player, including to him or herself. Both cards of each player are visible to all players, whilst one card of the dealer stays face-down. Each card has a specific value in the game. Knowing the values of each card and their situational benefits and disadvantages will allow you to make better strategic decisions whilst playing. Note that the dealer will deal the cards according to the specific rules of the particular Blackjack game that you’re playing.

2. Based on the value of their cards, players will have to decide whether to take an extra card to increase the total value of their hand or whether they are satisfied with their current score, and don’t want to take an additional card. Players essentially have different options to increase their hand values, such as taking an extra card (hitting), splitting, and doubling their bet. Players also have the option to confirm that they are satisfied with their current hand (stand). In land-based casinos, players use hand signals to signal their decisions to the dealer, like tapping on the table, indicating they would like another card.

3. The more advanced options we just discussed in step 2, like doubling down and splitting, works as follows: by doubling down, a player doubles his or her initial bet, but only receives a single extra card. Splitting is only possible whenever a player receives two cards of the same numerical value. These cards can then be ‘’split’’ into two individual hands. By surrendering, a player forfeits and receives a part of his or her stake back. By taking out a Blackjack Insurance bet, a player is covered from the dealer having a Blackjack. In this case, the player is paid out 2:1.

4. After all players have made their decisions, the dealer will reveal his or her face-down card. The dealer will then continue to take extra cards (hit) until he or she has a hand value of at least 17.

5. Whenever the player’s hand is closer to a score of 21 than the dealer’s hand and not over 21, the player wins. If the hand value of the player is higher than 21, the player loses immediately (bust). When the dealer and the player have the same hand value, it is a tie (push) and the player receives his or her stake back.

Blackjack Rules - Hitting

In Blackjack, there is a risk attached to hitting or receiving an extra card: you can bust yourself by reaching a hand value of 22 or higher. Whenever you have a hand value of 12, hitting comes with substantial amounts of risk.

If you receive a 10 or face card, you will have a hand value of 22, and bust. The closer you are to a hand score of 21, the higher the chance you will bust if you decide to hit and receive an extra card.

However, if you have a hand value of 12 and the dealer has a hand value of 7 or higher, it is advisable to draw another card. The same counts when you have an ace and a 6 and the dealer a 7 or higher.

Blackjack Rules - Splitting

Whenever you receive two cards of the same value, you can split them. When you split your cards, you double your initial bet, and both individual cards will receive one additional card. However, as you will learn later in this guide, it isn’t always wise to split every combination of cards. Obviously, it is smart to split twos, but splitting tens isn’t always the most intelligent thing to do.

Blackjack Rules - Doubling Down

As you only receive one additional card when doubling down, it is always risky to do so. Doubling down is actually only advisable when you have a hand score of 9, 10, 11, or a combination with an ace and another favorable card. The dealer’s visible card plays an important role in choosing to double down or not.

Let’s say you have a hand with a value of 9 and the dealer has a 2. In this case, you should hit and not double down. However, if you have a hand value of 9 and the dealer’s visible card is a 3, then it is smarter to double down.

If you have an ace and a 2, you simply hit, unless the dealer has an open 5 or 6. Note that in most cases, you can only double down when you have a hand score of 9, 10, or 11. In the table provided under the Basic Blackjack Strategy later in this guide, you will find an overview of what to do in which scenario.

Note

If the dealer busts, all players still in the game win that particular game round and the next one starts immediately.

If the bank didn’t bust itself all players that have a higher hand value but didn’t bust themselves, win. In both cases, the payout will be 1:1. A Blackjack always pays out 1.5x your current bet or 2:1.

In the case of a tie, we speak of a ‘’Push’’ and players get their bets returned.

Whenever your hand value is lower than the dealer’s, you lose your bet.

Blackjack Payouts

A winning hand is paid 1:1.

A Blackjack insurance is paid 2:1.

A Blackjack is paid 3:1.

You lose your bet whenever your hand loses against the dealer.

Blackjack table

Blackjack table as shown in Galactic Wins casino.

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Important Blackjack Terms and Terminology

While playing both online Blackjack and land-based Blackjack games, there are a few terms you will have to know at one point, in order to fully understand the game. Below, our experts will highlight a couple of the most commonly used terms in the Blackjack world. Make sure you take note of all of these, so that you know exactly what you’re talking about when playing online Blackjack.

  • Blackjack - A hand consisting of an ace and a 10-point valued card, such as a 10, jack, queen, or king. A Blackjack often leads to a higher payout.
  • Bust - Whenever your hand reaches a value of 22 points or above, we speak of a bust and this results in losing your bet.
  • Hit - Taking an extra card to try to increase your hand value.
  • Stand - Being satisfied with your current hand value and not taking an additional card.
  • Double Down - Doubling your bet and only receiving one additional card. Imagine receiving a 5 and a 6, whilst the dealer has an 8. In this case, you could take the gamble that you will receive a 10 and the dealer as well. You then double down your bet because you think you will be able to beat the dealer. Note that doubling down during Blackjack often equals taking significant risk as you only get one additional extra card. If this extra card turns out to not be good enough, you will lose twice your initial wager. The rules for doubling down differ from casino to casino. In some casinos, you can only double down when the total of your first two dealt cards is 9, 10, or 11.
  • Blackjack Insurance - With the Blackjack Insurance side bet, you can insure your hand against a dealer’s Blackjack. If you take out a Blackjack Insurance, you pay half of your initial bet for it. Whenever the dealer ends up having a Blackjack, you will be paid out 2:1. If the dealer doesn’t have a Blackjack, you will lose your Insurance side bet. In regular we do not recommend insurance bets.
  • Soft 17 - If you have a hand consisting of a 6 and an ace, you have a hand value of soft 17. The reason for this is that if you decide to hit and take another card and go over 21, the ace won’t count as 11 anymore but as 1.
  • Hard 17 - Whenever your hand already contains an ace that is valued at 1, we speak of a ‘’hard hand’’. Hitting when having a hand value of hard 17 is not as wise as doing so with a soft 17.
  • Natural Blackjack - We speak of a natural Blackjack whenever you are being dealt an ace and a 10-point valued card as the first two cards.
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Blackjack Variations

There are many different Blackjack variations available at South African and foreign-owned online casinos. Below, our experts will outline the most popular Blackjack variations and explain the differences between them and regular online Blackjack.

Multihand Blackjack

Multihand Blackjack is essentially played the same as regular Blackjack, but then with multiple hands at the same time. This slightly increases your chances of winning because card counting can be done more easily.

Blackjack Surrender

In Blackjack Surrender, players have the option to early or late surrender. With early surrender, you have the possibility to surrender half of your bet before the dealer checks his or her hole card for a Blackjack. With late surrender, you can forfeit your hand and lose half of your bet after the dealer has checked his or her hand for a Blackjack. This Blackjack variant greatly boosts your odds of winning, as you can decide to surrender when the odds aren’t in your favor. If the dealer has an ace, you want to surrender a hard 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17. If the dealer has a soft 17, you also want to consider surrendering a hard 4.

Double Exposure Blackjack

In Double Exposure Blackjack, both the dealer’s cards are exposed. However, there are some other rules in effect that benefit the dealer, such as Blackjacks paying even money and the fact that the dealer wins on all ties, except on a natural Blackjack. Additionally, players may only split once.

Pontoon

Pontoon essentially works the same as Blackjack, with the only differences being that each player simultaneously becomes the dealer. Additionally, the Five Card Charlie rule is active, which states that any player with a 5-card hand with a point value of 21 or lower automatically wins.

Spanish 21

In Spanish 21, all the same rules as in regular Blackjack are active. However, all 10s are removed from the deck. In some cases, late surrender is allowed in Spanish 21.

Blackjack Switch

In Blackjack Switch, you always receive two hands to be played separately. However, you will have the option to switch or swap the second cards dealt to each hand between your hands, increasing your chances of winning. In most cases, the dealer doesn’t bust on 22 with this Blackjack variant to make up for the increased chances of winning for the player.

Free Bet Blackjack

A live dealer Blackjack game, where you can freely double when having a hand score of 9, 10, or 11. If the dealer has a Blackjack or 22, you will lose your original bet.

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Blackjack Side Bets

Perfect Pairs - A Perfect Pairs side bet pays out when the first two cards dealt to you are a mixed, colored, or ‘’Perfect’’ pair. If the two cards are a pair of the same rank but not suited, you can expect a 5:1 payout. If the two cards are a pair of the same color but different suits, you can expect to be paid out 10:1. A Perfect Pair is when you receive a pair of the same rank and suit, which is paid out at a rate of 30:1.

21+3 - This Blackjack side bet includes the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s face up card. These three cards can make various winning poker hand combinations that pay out the player accordingly. When all cards are of the same suit, we speak of a flush, and this is paid out at a 5:1 ratio. When the three cards are in sequence irrespective of suit, you will be paid out 10:1 if you placed a Perfect Pairs side bet. If all three cards are of the same value, the payout is usually 30:1. Whenever the three cards are both in sequence and have the same suit, then you can expect a 40:1 payout. A suited three of a kind pays out the most, clocking in at 100:1.

Insurance - Essentially, the insurance is a side bet as well. By taking out a Blackjack insurance, you cover yourself in the case the dealer’s face up card is an ace and he or she might have a Blackjack (if the other card has a value of 10).

Bust It - With the Bust It side bet, you bet on that the dealer will bust with its third card dealt. The more points the dealer is over 21, the higher the side bet will pay. Use the table below to view the different payouts of the Bust It side bet.

Points Over 21Payout
31:1
42:1
59:1
650:1
7100:1
8250:1
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Blackjack Strategy

To increase your chances of winning, you should apply a Blackjack strategy. A Blackjack strategy allows you to make more well-informed decisions based on your hand value and the visible card of the dealer.

Basic Blackjack Strategy

There are strategies for almost every casino table game, and Blackjack is no exception to this rule. The Basic Blackjack Strategy is a set of rules and guidelines that players can follow to always make the best statistical decision whilst playing Blackjack. It is a strategy that relies on math that maximizes the chances of winning for the player and that reduces the casino’s house edge as much as possible.

The basic Blackjack strategy is based on the probability of receiving certain cards and the visible card of the dealer. The strategy tells players what move they should play to increase their chances of winning, like hitting an extra card or standing and not taking an extra card. Additionally, the basic Blackjack strategy tells players when they should double or split.

The Blackjack strategy chart below tells you exactly what to do. You can print out this cheat sheet and keep it next to you when playing online Blackjack.

Blackjack Strategy Chart

Hard Total/ Dealer Upcard2345678910A
5-7HHHHHHHHHH
8HHHHHHHHHH
9HDDDDHHHHH
10DDDDDDDHH
11DDDDDDDDH
12HHSSSHHHHH
13SSSSSHHHHH
14SSSSSHHHHH
15SSSSSHHHRH
16SSSSSHHRRR
17SSSSSSSSSS
Soft total2345678910A
A, 2HHHDDHHHHH
A, 3HHHDDHHHHH
A, 4HHDDDHHHHH
A, 5HHDDDHHHHH
A, 6HDDDDHHHHH
A, 7SDSDSDSDSSSHHH
A, 8SSSSSSSSSS
A, 9SSSSSSSSSS

S = Stand

H = Hit

D = Double

DS = Double or Split

In a short session, less experienced players can still win the game with a bit of luck. Yet you will have to become a trained and experienced Blackjack player to be more profitable and consistent over the long term.

For Blackjack, there are several strategies that can increase your chances of winning significantly. By sticking to a solid Blackjack strategy based on rigorous statistical knowledge and math, you can lower the game’s house edge to around 0.50%. To do so, you should follow the actions or moves described in the Blackjack strategy chart above.

However, you should keep in mind that the best Blackjack strategy depends on the situation, depending mostly on the used Blackjack rules and amount of decks used. What is the optimal play in a certain situation, should be avoided in a different scenario. Factors that influence the Basic Blackjack Strategy are:

  • Number of decks used.
  • Whether the dealer peeks for Blackjack.
  • Whether the dealer hits on a soft 17 or not.
  • Whether there are limitations regarding the splitting and/or doubling down of hands.
  • Whether players are allowed to surrender or not.
  • Whether players win if their hand reaches a certain number of cards (like the Five Card Charlie rule).
  • In what ratio a Blackjack is paid out.

Number of Decks Used

The number of decks used is very important for the basic Blackjack strategy. In most cases, up to 8 decks are being used. Although the number of decks used usually doesn’t matter for the average Blackjack player, card counters would want to know the exact number of used decks to be able to calculate their true count better.

Soft and Hard Hands

Just like the number of decks used, the so-called ‘’soft’’ and ‘’hard’’ hands also influence the course of the game and the strategy used. Basically, it boils down to that a soft hand consists of two cards, of which one is an ace. The ace is valued at 11 points in this case.

With a hard hand, there are two cards, with or without an ace, that is valued at 1 point. For instance, A+3+4 is a soft 18 because the ace is valued at 11 points in this case. On the other hand, A+9+8 is a hard 17 because the ace is valued at 1 point to stay under 21.

The difference between a hard and a soft hand heavily influences what the dealer should do. In most cases, the dealer needs to pass at a hard 17, but has to hit on a soft 17.

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Blackjack Card Counting

Counting cards is an advanced Blackjack strategy, where players try to find out the balance of high and low cards left in the deck or shoe. Understanding the basic principles for counting cards helps you to increase your chances of winning. However, it does require some practice and accuracy.

In Blackjack card counting, each card receives a point value of +1, 0, or -1. The player then adds or subtracts those point values to get a ‘’running count’’, and determines whether the cards left in the deck are positive or negative. Although there are quite some Blackjack card counting methods, they all share the same basic principle, which is tracking the high and low cards left in the deck.

Players should only raise their bets whenever there are more cards with a value of 10 left in the deck to maximize their chances of winning. However, when too many low-value cards are being dealt, the casino’s house edge increases.

In these kinds of situations, you shouldn’t bet or raise your bets at all as a player. Although it all sounds very simple, it is actually quite difficult to keep an accurate running count of all card values left in the deck because Blackjack is played at a decent pace, even online. For this reason, it takes a lot of effort and practice before you will master the art of Blackjack card counting.

Advantages of Blackjack Card Counting

  • Reduce the House Edge - One of the most significant advantages of card counting in Blackjack is the fact that you can greatly reduce the house edge or even flip it in your advantage by counting cards correctly over the long run.
  • Constantly Repeat the Same - Once you’ve mastered the art of Blackjack card counting, you can just rinse and repeat the same trick over and over again and generate constant profits.
  • Not Only for Math Geniuses - The whole idea that Blackjack card counting can only be learned by people with significant math capabilities, is totally wrong. It is mostly skill, dedication, and practice that determines how well a person is able to count cards in Blackjack.

Disadvantages of Blackjack Card Counting

  • Requires a lot of Concentration - One of the most significant disadvantages of card counting in Blackjack is the fact that it requires a lot of concentration, which can be difficult in a land-based or live Blackjack situation.
  • Mistakes are Fatal - Even if you do everything correctly for an entire evening, one small mistake can lead to great losses. Keep in mind that whilst practicing online Blackjack, you probably won’t be that easy distracted, whilst playing in a load casino might lead to making one or more costly mistakes.
  • Casinos Watch Their Players - Casinos go to extreme lengths to block card counters from their venues. You should know that you are constantly being watched when trying to count cards. It is not illegal to do so, but if you’re caught, there is a decent chance you will be escorted off the premises.
  • Casinos Have More Restrictions - More and more land-based casinos try to combat card counters by using electronic shuffle machines after every hand dealt or instructing dealers to spot card counters.
  • Difficult to Apply Online - Although you might think nobody is watching you and that, therefore, Blackjack card counting would be easier online, this is not the case. It is difficult to do at online casinos because you are playing versus a computer-automated and software-based card dealing system rather than a dealer. In live casino games, 8 decks of cards are being used to make card counting as difficult as possible.
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The History of Blackjack

Blackjack, also known as Spanish 21, has a long history. The exact source of the game isn’t known and is heavily debated about among experienced Blackjack players. However, most players, mathematicians, and historians agree that the game most likely arose in the Seventeenth century and was played mainly in French casinos.

After becoming popular in both France and Spain, the game set sail and reached American shores. It is in the United States where Blackjack got its huge popularity from. Some experts claim Blackjack rose to popularity in 1718, the year the French founded the city of New Orleans.

Blackjack has obviously spread across the globe and has evolved a lot, practically into one of the world’s most popular casino games. The game has a very easy concept and comes in many different variants, as you might have read earlier on in this Blackjack guide.

The core principles of the game stay the same in each variant played. However, Blackjack certainly is a game where players can hone their skills and strategies to increase their chances of winning.

Added to this, Blackjack is fairly easy to learn, which makes it an accessible casino game for players of all skill levels. The game also offers the opportunity to take up other players, which heightens the social interactions and tensions whilst playing accordingly. The introduction of both online and live Blackjack have caused the game to become even more popular among South African and international casino players.

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Blackjack: Play Free Blackjack Online or For Real Money

Online Blackjack is offered in many different shapes and variants. It is much easier to try out different Blackjack variants online than in land-based casinos, as you might need to travel the world in order to do so.

All information regarding table limits and betting options are always displayed in great detail at online casinos. Furthermore, you don’t need to leave your house and you are able to play Blackjack 24/7. Most Blackjack games can be played for free in demo mode, except for live Blackjack games. Most casinos use 6 to 8 decks of cards for their online Blackjack games.

Playing free online Blackjack has a lot of advantages, with the most significant ones being the ability to learn the game and apply Blackjack strategies without putting your hard-earned money on the line.

However, if you want to experience the real feeling of playing Blackjack and stand a chance to win real money, free online Blackjack isn’t going to be sufficient. Note that playing Blackjack for real money does involve bankroll management and adequate risk taking.

Added to this, you should only play at licensed, regulated, and reliable online casinos. Additionally, you should use safe and secure payment methods and only upload your banking and personal details at SSL-protected online casinos. Playing free blackjack games can help you try and better your skills at the game without losing your bet money.

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Blackjack - Conclusion

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games among players across the globe, including South African players. It is a fascinating card game in which the goal is to form a hand with a value as close to 21 as possible and beat the dealer without surpassing 21.

By knowing the game rules and basic strategies, you can increase your chances of winning. Blackjack can be played in land-based casinos, online casinos, and in live casinos. Blackjack is legal in all three forms for South African players aged 18 and above.

Everyone can learn how to play Blackjack because of its fairly simple rules. The only thing you need to be able to, is count to 21. However, to become better in Blackjack, you will need to practice a lot.

For this reason, our experts highly advise to take the time to learn the game rules, apply the Blackjack strategies mentioned in this guide, and hone your skills. Enjoy the game and the challenges playing Blackjack offers.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Blackjack

What is the standard house edge in Blackjack?

The house edge in Blackjack differs from variant to variant. If you use the basic Blackjack strategy explained in this guide, you can lower the house edge to between 2.10% and 0.17%.

How can I increase my chances of winning in Blackjack?

You can increase your chances of winning in Blackjack by utilizing our Blackjack strategy chart, by not splitting tens, not placing any side bets, and by not playing 5 or 6 player Blackjack games.

Is Blackjack a skill-based or luck-based game?

Blackjack mainly involves luck because in the end, the casino has a house edge and you will end up losing. Yet you can apply certain rules and skills to reduce the casino’s house edge as much as possible. By thoroughly reading the game rules and by applying the Basic Blackjack Strategy, you can increase your chances of winning and turn the luck-based game more into a skill-based game.

Where can I play online Blackjack?

You can play online Blackjack at our top-rated South African casinos, which are ZAR Casino, Yebo Casino, Fun Casino, Springbok Casino, and Galactic Wins, previously known as Galaxyno. Alternatively, you can play some free Blackjack games on our site to practice a bit, without having to register any casino account or making any deposit.

Can I count cards in live Blackjack?

Yes, you can count cards in live Blackjack. However, you should keep in mind that you only have 20 seconds to think about each decision and that there are often 6 to 8 decks of cards being used.

Is it legal to play Blackjack online?

Playing free Blackjack games and for real money is both completely legal for South African players. However, we do recommend only playing at licensed and regulated online casinos. The last thing you would want is to win big only to find out that you won't be paid out your winnings anyway.

Author: Adiela de Bruyn

Adiela de Bruyn

Adiela de Bruyn, our founder, launched this site in 2016. Since then, she's written over 100 pages filled with crucial info to enhance your gaming experience. Her goal? To provide you with the best, most reliable online casino knowledge.

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Article published 2019/04/24