Lisa Cheban | 28 September, 2023 17:53 | Last update on: 28 September, 2023 17:53
Undoubtedly one of the world’s leading casino games, blackjack offers thrills and spills as you try to beat the dealer with every hand. But while it might look complicated at first, how to play blackjack is actually quite simple. In fact, you’ve probably played pontoon with friends or family – well, blackjack is very similar.
Put simply, you must make a total as close to 21 as possible without going over (called going bust), beating the dealer’s score in the process. If the dealer busts, you win the hand, assuming you didn’t bust yourself.
You’re dealt two cards at the start of each round after placing your bet, and the dealer gets two with only one of them face up. All picture cards (jacks, queens and kings) are valued at 10, and all others retain face value. Aces can be one or 11.
You begin by standing and sticking with your two cards or hit and take another card to try and get closer to 21. Once you’re happy (or bust), your action ends, and the dealer reveals their second card and plays their hand out. The totals are compared, and any payouts are distributed accordingly.
In this hugely detailed and informative guide, our blackjack experts will tell you all you need to know about playing blackjack. We’ll explore the blackjack rules, introduce you to the basic blackjack strategy to maximise your winning chances and tell you about the best online casinos where you can enjoy the game.
Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart
The good news about playing blackjack online is that you can play while looking at a chart that essentially gives you the optimum play for every possible scenario.
Sounds good, right? And best of all, the blackjack basic strategy chart is easy to follow.
On it, you’ll see every possible combination of your starting cards down the left-hand side. Find your hand, then read across to the column that matches the dealer’s upcard. You’ll then find your optimal play is presented.
It might tell you to hit and take another card, stand and end your action, double down or split (we’ll introduce those concepts in more detail later).
While the chart might look a little confusing at first, it’s super easy to get used to, and you’ll have enough time to refer to it while playing at the online virtual tables.
What is Basic Strategy in Blackjack?
There are two essential secrets to unlocking a basic strategy in blackjack. One is recognising that more cards are valued at ten in blackjack than any other. That’s because all tens, jacks, queens and kings represent that number. So, 16 cards out of every 52-card deck are valued at ten.
With that in mind, you can always assume that it’s more likely the next card will be a ten or another high card, like nine or eight, than any other.
The second secret is to use this information to determine two things. Firstly, how strong is the dealer’s upcard, given that we now know their downcard may be a ten? Secondly, if you hit and take another card and assume it might be a ten (or nine or eight), how will that leave your total? Will you bust?
Our expert blackjack team suggest you study a couple of examples to emphasise the power of these two key strategies.
Example 1: Weak dealer
The dealer’s upcard is a 4, 5 or 6. You now assume that his starting total is 14, 15 or 16. Given that the dealer must take another card on any total under 17, they are now at significant risk of going over 21 and busting.
With that knowledge, you are in a much stronger position to play your hand better, even though you have to go first. With the dealer looking weak, you can be more conservative in how you play your hand. In fact, you should consider standing on any total of 12 or over. Why risk taking another card when it’s quite possible the dealer will bust?
Example 2: Strong dealer
But what if the dealer’s upcard is strong, like a 10, 9 or 8? In this case, you correctly should assume their downcard is a 10, and they have a strong hand of 20, 19 or 18. Having established they are strong, you must play your own hand with more aggression to try and at least match the dealer’s assumed high score.
Even if you are 15 or 16, you might consider taking another card.
Take another look at your blackjack strategy chart, and you’ll now understand why the instructions to hit or stand shift as the value of the dealer’s upcard increases.
Of course, there are exceptions here because you can double down or split your cards if you’re dealt a pair. But we’ll explain those concepts a little later in this guide.
Now, however, we’ll also mention the perfect hand from which blackjack takes its name. If you’re dealt an ace and a ten (or picture card), you make 21 immediately. It’s a natural blackjack and cannot be beaten. In most blackjack variations, you get a 3:2 payout (you win even money, a 1:1 payout, on any other hand).
If you see the dealer’s upcard is an ace, then there is a strong possibility that the dealer has a blackjack. Depending on the type of game you’re playing, the dealer will offer players insurance against blackjack or declare blackjack right away and end the hand (taking all players’ bets).
The software uses a random number generator to determine the cards if you play online blackjack on a simulated table. You’ll play on your own against a computer dealer. But if you play in a live dealer game at your online platform’s live casino section, you’ll take a seat alongside other players. In this case, you’ll take turns to play out your hands before the dealer wraps up.
Choosing the Right Blackjack Game
Like all popular casino games, which variation of blackjack you play is a matter of personal choice, you may prefer playing solo against the computer, or you might like the engaging gameplay of the live-streamed real dealer games.
Live dealer blackjack
Live dealer games offer the most realistic casino-playing experience. Real dealers deal at real tables, with proper playing cards and the action is streamed live to your favourite online casino platform.
Your ability to stand or hit, plus your bet sizing options, are overlaid onto the screen so you can take part in the action alongside other online players. You can even chat with the dealer using the live chat feature.
The rules for each blackjack variation are the same as in a real-life casino, or indeed, as the computer-generated versions of the game you can also find online.
There are only a couple of significant differences you should know about. Firstly, no demo games are available in live dealer blackjack; you can only play for real money. Secondly, when you play on a virtual table, you have a wide range of bet-sizing options, whereas live dealer blackjack tables tend to have more strict minimum and maximum bet sizes.
If you’ve ever played in a real casino in Australia or been further afield to gamble in Macau or Las Vegas, you’ll probably prefer the action in live dealer blackjack to the computerised version.
Joining the Best Blackjack Casino
Selecting the best casino to play blackjack can be daunting, given there are so many options to choose from.
The good news is our experts have scoured all the sites in Australia to come up with only the very best for you to enjoy. Our selection criteria are famously strict, and we tend to look for:
- A site with an international gaming license
- Wide choice of blackjack games
- A good live casino section
- Broad range of payment methods
- Good customer service
With that in mind, we narrowed down the options for you.
Best online casinos for trying out a blackjack strategy
We present our top five online casinos for playing blackjack below.
Our experts often play here and insist it’s one of the best Australian online casinos for blackjack games. BetandPlay has a lovely design that makes navigation easy, but it’s the quality of the games that shines through.
Taking computerised table games first, where you play on virtual tables, there are an impressive 12 games to choose from. Try Single Deck Blackjack, Multihand Blackjack and Blackjack VIP among others. The live casino section is also packed with options, including the fun variation Gravity Blackjack from BETER Live, which applies random multipliers to some hands.
Bonuses and promotions
If you sign up to BetandPlay, you receive a decent starting welcome offer of up to $2,500 and 300 free spins to use on the pokies. This bonus is distributed over your first four deposits, so the fun keeps on coming. Existing players also get decent promo offers, such as deposit bonuses and other innovative surprises.
- Good welcome offer, including free pokie spins
- Large selection of blackjack games, including live dealer options
- Nice choice of payment options, including crypto deposits
- You might prefer a welcome offer in one deposit
- No phone support
Playfina has a great layout that performs exceptionally well on mobile. This means you can enjoy blackjack on the go, wherever you may be. The site holds a Curacao licence; you can deposit in traditional currency or crypto.
In the live casino lobby, you’ll find plenty of blackjack options from the likes of LuckyStreak and BETER Live. As well as the usual standard variations, you’ll see some fun options, including Speed Blackjack and Single-Deck Blackjack.
Bonuses and promotions
We like the straightforward bonus offer at Playfina, where you get up to $1,500 in bonus funds plus 200 free spins on the pokies. And to top it all, there’s a “secret bonus” as well, which becomes available once you create an account. It’s not just new players who get the benefit – existing Playfina players also get regular offers.
- Simple welcome package including a “secret bonus”
- Good selection of classic blackjack table games and live dealer titles
- Licensed and regulated in Curacao for peace of mind
- Live chat not available 24/7
- Bank transfer withdrawals can take up to ten days
If seven is your lucky number, this is the site for you. Blackjack is just part of an excellent choice of games, including a dazzling catalogue of pokies. Licensed and with lots of payment options, Lucky7even is definitely worth a try.
We found 26 different blackjack games across the site, spread between traditional computer tables and the live dealer games. You can try European Blackjack here, played with six decks of cards.
Bonuses and promotions
The welcome bonus at Lucky7even is worth up to $3,000 plus 200 free spins. This is one of the best our team has seen. The promotions continue for existing players, too, including a fun and rewarding VIP Club.
- Generous welcome bonus
- Quick withdrawals
- Very good blackjack section
- No phone support
- Navigation is not as good as some
4 Slots Gallery
As the name suggests, Slots Gallery focuses on pokies. But the table game offering, including blackjack games, is also very good. Also, a generous welcome offer is available. The Curacao licence is good to see, and deposits and withdrawals are slick.
Look past the pokies, and we’re impressed and a little surprised by the number of options for blackjack fans (and roulette, baccarat and more). There are blackjack games from Betsoft and Bgaming, including Multihand PRO.
Bonuses and promotions
You will like the Slots Gallery welcome package, which brings in up to $3,000 and a whopping 225 free spins. Existing players also get regular Friday cashback. There are also seven levels of the VIP Club to explore.
- Good selection of traditional and live dealer blackjack games
- Crypto deposits available alongside traditional currency
- Platform works beautifully on mobile
- Live chat could be quicker
- Some bank transfers may take up to seven days
5 N1 Bet Casino
Completing our top five Australian online casinos for blackjack fans is N1 Bet Casino. The site has a licence in Curacao, so that you can trust its fairness and customer service. And just wait until you see the welcome package!
The N1 Bet Casino table games lobby is split clearly between roulette, card games and other titles, so it’s easy to find the blackjack options. Betsoft and Bgaming offer options for blackjack fans, and variants include American and European blackjack, Pirate 21 and Single-Deck Blackjack. Meanwhile, the live casino has 11 variations of blackjack alone.
Bonuses and promotions
The welcome package is huge: $10,000 on offer and 200 free spins. This bonus is spread over your first four deposits, and you’d have to play relatively high stakes to play through it all. But it’s certainly tempting, while existing players also get many reload bonus offers.
- Massive welcome bonus
- Sports betting available
- Decent mobile gaming experience
- Six-day limit on the free spins
- No phone support available
How to Play Blackjack for Beginners
Now that we’ve introduced you to the five casinos our blackjack team recommends, it’s time to begin playing.
Rather than expanding upon the blackjack strategy we discussed earlier in this piece, let’s focus on helping you if you are a complete beginner to the game.
After all, not all of you have played it before, and some of you might need a refresher.
These are the steps you need to take after joining one of our recommended blackjack casino sites. We assume you are playing for real money, so you have made your deposit and triggered your welcome bonus (happy days!).
Joining a table
First, decide whether you want to play a traditional computerised version of the game or the live dealer tables. As you’re a beginner, you might prefer the unhurried conventional version.
In this case, go to your casino’s ‘Table Games’ section and then browse the blackjack game options. Click on your game, and the table will open up.
Unlike live dealer games, nothing will happen until you place your bet. Then, the cards will be dealt, and you can begin to play.
Decide whether to ‘hit’ or ‘stand.’
The first decision is whether you ‘hit’ or ‘stand’. The aim of the game is to get a score as close to 21 as possible without busting. Picture cards are worth ten, while aces are worth one or 11.
Add the value of your two starting cards together to get your beginning total. It’s now that you have to make your first in-game decision.
Choose to ‘hit’
If you want to take another card to increase your total and get closer to 21, then you select ‘hit’. The dealer then gives you the next card off the top of the deck. If your starting two cards are worth 11 or fewer, you should always hit because one more card will never make you bust. That’s because the next card is worth ten max.
You can elect to hit no matter the value of your starting cards. But if you have a strong made hand, like 18, 19 and certainly 20, it makes little sense to hit as it’s highly likely an extra card would send you over 21 and you lose.
Choose to ‘stand’
As we have said, never stand on 11 or fewer because you cannot go bust with another card. The trick to knowing when to stand is to assess the potential value of the dealer’s hand. It’s the dealer’s score you need to beat, after all.
But blackjack is a game of incomplete information. You must second guess the dealer’s score based on their upcard alone. If the upcard is strong, you assume their total score will also be good, and you should stand less often.
Once you have taken as many cards as you dare, you then press the ‘stand’ button.
Your hand value
Once you elect to stand, your decision-making is complete, and you must stick with your finishing total, which is the total value of all the cards in your hand.
It’s a case of waiting now for the dealer to play out their hands.
The dealer reveals their cards.
The excitement ramps up when the dealer’s downcard is revealed. The dealer must hit and take another card if their total is fewer than 17.
On computerised and live dealer blackjack tables, the dealer completes their actions quickly, so you don’t have to wait very long.
See who is closer to 21
The dealer will either bust by going over 21, or they will be forced to stand having a total of 17 or more. Assuming you and the dealer did not bust, the program compares your two scores and whoever is closest to 21 wins. If you bet $5 at the start of the hand and go on to win, you receive your $5 bet back, plus another $5 in profit.
But if you lose the hand, you watch as the dealer removes your $5 bet.
The exception to the 1:1 payouts is if you land a natural blackjack – this happens when you are dealt an ace and ten (tens, jacks, queens and kings). This is the best possible hand, and you also receive a bumper payout of 3:2. Nice if you get it.
When the hand is over, the dealer clears the cards, and the next round begins as soon as you place your bet in the box.
The format of play is very similar in live dealer blackjack games, which you can access via the live casino tab in your chosen casino platform. The key difference is that you will be playing with other players sitting around the table, so you have a limited time to make your betting and playing decisions.
By now, you should be clear about how to play your cards – choosing whether to hit and take another card and stand to see if your total outpaces the dealer’s.
But there are one of two extra bets you can consider in blackjack, starting with doubling down.
On the other hand, before you decide to hit, you might instead choose to double down. Here, you double the size of your initial bet and receive one more card (some variations let you receive more than one).
You should take the double down if you are confident you have a good chance of winning the hand. In other words, if you think you’ll win, it makes sense to ‘get more money on the table’. For example, here are two favourable scenarios:
- You are dealt two cards totalling 10 or 11. In this case, knowing the next card may be valued at 10, it’s worth doubling down because it’s likely you could finish with a strong hand, like 20 or 21. The dealer will be hard-pressed to beat your score.
- The dealer has a weak upcard. Statistically, this is 5 or 6 because the stats say they have a 42 per cent chance of busting, more than with any other upcard. You can consider doubling down with any two cards with a total value of 11 or fewer.
As a rule, it’s never wise to split tens, even if it seems sensible. That’s because you likely have the winning hand already, with a total of 20. So why not take your winnings and move on rather than risk adding more money to the table with no guarantee you’ll win anything back?
But while this sounds well and good, be careful about when you should split. Your blackjack strategy chart, which we introduced at the start of this article, will give you the optimal times to split.
Another betting option we have not discussed so far is splitting pairs. If your two initial cards are the same value, you have a pair and can elect to split them. If you do, you must match your initial bet, and then the dealer will add a second card to each of the split pair. You’re now effectively playing two hands instead of one.
When you do, you half your initial bet, and so don’t risk losing as much. The flip side with an early surrender, of course, is that if you get lucky and go on to win the hand, you win half as much as you have done without surrendering.
In some blackjack game variations, you have the option of an early surrender. This means that if you don’t like the look of your starting hand, especially when compared to the dealer’s upcard, you can elect to surrender.
Blackjack Side Bets
However, our blackjack experts do warn that while playing blackjack side bets is indeed fun, it is not necessarily profitable over the long term. With that in mind, let’s look at the two most common types of blackjack side bets you’ll find at your chosen casino site.
Like most other casino table games, blackjack comes with the opportunity to place some side bets. This allows more adventurous players to get more chances of winning on the table during any one hand – and the side bets do come with the potential of winning a decent amount in one go.
21 + 3 Blackjack Side Bet
Flush – three cards of the same suit. It’s the most frequent winner and, as such, pays out 5/1.
Straight – three cards with a numbered sequence, like 4, 5, 6. An ace can be high or low. Returns are 10/1.
Three-of-a-kind – all three cards (your two and the dealer’s face-up card) must be of the same number or face card value—payout 30/1.
Blackjack Straight flush – three running numbers of the same suit, 40/1
Suited three of a kind – all three cards must be the same number and the same suit (remember, blackjack uses many decks). It’s the highest payout at 100/1.
The better your side bet 21 + 3 hand, the higher the return. With this side bet, you win with a qualifying hand, even if your main blackjack hand goes on to lose. These are the winning 21 + 3 combinations to look out for:
With 21 + 3, you can get a decent return by putting together a three-card “poker” hand from your two cards and the dealer’s face-up card.
Mixed pair – two different colours, red and black. Payout of 5/1.
Coloured – if you make a pair that is the same colour but not the same suit (one club and one spade, for example), the payout is 10/1.
Perfect pair – this is what you’re looking for, the ultimate blackjack pair where you have two of the same number in the same suit. The payout here is a generous 30/1.
The other blackjack side bet you often see is Perfect Pairs, which focuses on your two cards alone. They must be the same value – a pair – to qualify, but the amount you win depends on the following criteria:
Like other types of blackjack side bets already described here, playing insurance is a losing proposition in the long run. Fun, yes. Profitable? No.
It’s literally buying insurance against the chances of their downcard being a ten, thus making a blackjack, You pay the price to ‘insure’, thus saving your initial bet should the dealer make a blackjack. Your insurance bet is forfeit if the dealer’s hand is not blackjack.
An insurance bet is a third type of blackjack side bet, but it’s not one you choose to play before the cards are dealt. Instead, it’s an option the dealer will offer once the cards are dealt, and their upcard is an ace.
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Blackjack Strategy FAQs
Whether to stand or hit on 16 depends on your judgment of the strength of the dealer’s hand. If the dealer’s upcard is strong, like a 9 or a 10, they may likely end up with 19 or 20. In this case, you may as well take the chance of hitting and receiving another card – you may get lucky and receive a four or five!
Conversely, if the dealer’s upcard is weak, like a 5 or a 6, they will likely go on to bust, so you can offer to stand in a broader choice of hands, including 16.
As all picture cards are valued at ten, it’s always quite likely the next turn of a card will be 10. With that in mind, you can make an educated guess about whether it’s best to ‘hit’ and take another card or stand with what you’ve got. If you have 16, for example, then any 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q or K will send you over 21 and you’ll lose.
Use this knowledge to your advantage when you look at the dealer’s upcard. If it’s weak, like a 5 or 6, you can assume their downcard is a 10. A total of 15 or 16 is very poor for the dealer because they must take another card and likely go bust. In this case, a good blackjack player will stand on any total over 11 when the dealer shows 5 or 6.
Lastly, double down when you’re strong, and you believe the dealer is weak. This gets more of your money on the table in favourable situations.
Quite simply, you need to beat the dealer’s score without going over 21 and busting. If you stand, you will win if the dealer busts. Sessions of blackjack take place over as many rounds as you wish, so you can sit down at the table, get up, and leave whenever you like. In this way, it’s possible to play out winning and losing hands, and you might make an overall profit or a loss.
The key to successful blackjack is to follow the basic blackjack strategy – you’ll find many charts online that will provide optimal plays for every situation. Remember, a casino has a house edge in blackjack of around 0.5% if you’re playing a good strategy.
Blackjack rules are simple game where the aim is to hold cards valued as close to 21 as possible. You have to beat the dealer’s score without going over 21 and busting, or you can win, holding any value below 21 if the dealer busts. When it’s your turn to act, you can elect to hit and take another card or stand with your current cards to see if it’s enough to beat the dealer.
Cards hold their face value, although all picture cards (jacks, queens and kings) are valued ten, and aces can be either one or 11. The best possible hand is a natural blackjack, where you’re dealt an ace and a ten.
Yes, our blackjack experts recommend you always double down with 11, no matter what upcard the dealer is showing. This is because it’s pretty likely the next card will be a ten, giving you an unbeatable total of 21. Best of all, you have doubled your bet and will receive double winnings!
Of course, the downside to this is that if you go on to lose the hand, you will lose twice as much as you otherwise would.