Blackjack is a legendary casino card game that has been played at casinos and gambling houses for centuries. A disarmingly simple game, blackjack is perfect for beginners and experienced players, offering thrilling gameplay, big potential payouts, and various exciting side bets. In this complete guide, we explain everything you need to know to play blackjack online in Canada and introduce you to the most popular variants of this classic casino game.
Introduction to Blackjack
Blackjack is one of the most widely played card games in the world and is available at all online casinos in Canada. The simplicity of blackjack is what appeals to so many players, and it’s a super easy game for beginners to pick up in no time at all. Blackjack as we know and love it today derives from a group of casino games known colloquially as “twenty-one” and is played alongside titles like pontoon and vingt-et-un, which are both popular in Europe. The objective of blackjack is to create a better hand than the dealer. The best possible hand in the game is blackjack, which can be obtained with a 10-value card plus an ace to equal 21.
However, you can win with any value in your hand, provided that you don’t go bust by going over 21. The key to any blackjack strategy is knowing when to hit and when to stand, as we explain in detail in the following sections. At online casinos today, there are so many variations of blackjack, including Blackjack Switch, Multi-hand Blackjack, and live dealer blackjack. Each game employs the same standard rules, but often with slight variations that make things more interesting, including side bets and dealer regulations. But given its popularity at Canadian casinos today, we wanted to start with a look back at blackjack’s origins to chart its journey from Western Europe to the floors of North American casinos.
The History of Blackjack
It’s difficult to trace the game of blackjack to one specific event or period in history, but it’s clear that it is a derivative of the game twenty-one. The first written mention of this game was in the work of Miguel de Cervantes, best known as the author of the first-ever novel, Don Quixote. In one of de Cervantes’ later narratives, he describes a scene in which card cheats take advantage of other characters to win a game by getting to 21 points without going over the total. Another key aspect of the game is that the ace card can be worth one or eleven points.
The book in question – Riconete y Cortadillo – was written by de Cervantes in 1602, which suggests that a form of 21 was played in southern Spain in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. We must fast-forward to Britain in 1800 to find published rules attached to the game of vingt-un, as it was colloquially known. This is the version of the game taken to America by travellers and renamed “blackjack” sometime around 1899. Legend suggests that the game got its name because some North American casinos offered payouts of 10:1 if a player won a hand with an ace of spades and a black jack. Though the story has never been proven, it’s a plausible explanation for why the name was changed in the US, even though the gameplay remained the same as it always had been in Europe.
Basic Rules and Gameplay
The aim in blackjack is to beat the dealer. To do this, you need to create a hand equal to 21 or closer to 21 than the sum total of the dealer’s cards. You don’t play against other players in blackjack, as every player competes against the dealer. This means that multiple players can join a blackjack game at once. In all blackjack variations, the player and the dealer receive two cards. Only one of the dealer’s cards is face up. When you have seen your cards, you can stand on your total or hit to receive another card.
You can theoretically hit as many times as you like, but be careful – if the total in your hand exceeds 21, you go bust and lose your bet. Whenever you decide to stand, the dealer then reveals their second card. In some blackjack games, the dealer must stand on 17, but other variants don’t have this rule.
The dealer continues issuing cards until they beat your hand or go bust. If you win the hand, you earn a payout of 1:1. Winning the hand with blackjack is usually worth a payout of 3:2. In most blackjack games, there are two other options to consider alongside hitting and standing. The first is known as the split. If you receive any pair of matching value cards, you can split the hand in two. To do this, you must place a second bet the same size as your initial bet. You can then play two hands simultaneously.
The second is the double-down option. As the name suggests, you must double your stake in exchange for only one more card. If you beat the dealer after doubling down, your payout will double. However, if you go on to lose, you lose twice as much. This, in a nutshell, is how to play blackjack at online casinos in Canada. Now that we’ve outlined the basics, it’s time to take a closer look at the rules attached to the most popular blackjack games available at online casinos.
- You must make a qualifying bet to sit at the table. Check the bet limits before playing.
- Up to eight decks of 52 cards can be used in online blackjack games.
- Aces are worth one or eleven.
- 2-10 cards are worth their face value.
- J, Q, and K cards are worth ten.
- The player receives two cards face up.
- The dealer receives two cards, one face up and one face down.
- After receiving your cards, you can hit, stand, split, or double down, as explained above.
- If the total of your cards exceeds 21 at any stage, you go bust and lose.
- You can stand on any number you like, but the closer to 21, the better.
- As soon as you stand, the dealer reveals their second card.
- In some blackjack variations, the dealer must stand on 17.
- The dealer will issue subsequent cards until they beat your hand, meet the stand requirement, or go bust.
- If you beat the dealer with a standard hand, you receive a payout of 1:1.
- If you beat the dealer with blackjack, you receive a payout of 3:2.
The Blackjack Table
Most blackjack tables can accommodate 2-7 players. In some online blackjack variants, you can take more than one seat at the table and play multiple hands simultaneously. The blackjack table itself is straightforward. There are 2-7 spots with blank card spaces where the dealer can deal the necessary number of players into the game.
There is also usually a central section that informs you how much blackjack and insurance payout (if the latter is applicable). Some blackjack tables also include details of any rules, such as whether the dealer must stand on 17. Basically, all you need to know to play at the blackjack table is that the empty card slots indicate where you can sit, and if they are vacant, you can join the game.
How to Play Blackjack
One of the reasons why blackjack is so popular at online casinos in Canada is that you can play multiple variants of the game. From classic European blackjack to the patented Blackjack Switch, we introduce some of the most popular blackjack games available at Canadian casinos below:
The most popular version of blackjack played at online casinos, European Blackjack is the perfect game for beginners. The house edge is just 0.40%, and the dealer must stand on soft 17. You can also double down when you have 9, 10, or 11, and the split is an option with any pair. You will find some form of European Blackjack available at practically every online casino in Canada.
Atlantic City Blackjack
Exported to the world via the Atlantic City Boardwalk, this brilliant blackjack variant has a low house edge and additional rules that add to the fun. Specifically, the surrender rule means that you can claim back a portion of your bet if you surrender your hand to the dealer. As a result, Atlantic City Blackjack is great for anyone looking to add strategy to blackjack, as it enables you to minimize your losses.
Vegas Strip Blackjack
This is undoubtedly the blackjack game with the coolest name. But it is also an excellent game to play if you’re keen to double down, as there are no constraints attached to your options. Also, the dealer peeks at their cards if they have an ace, which isn’t something that happens in every blackjack game. If you don’t want to travel to Nevada, check out this quirky blackjack variant for a slice of Las Vegas at home.
As discussed at the start of this article, blackjack probably has its roots in southern Spain, so what better game to try than Spanish 21? All ten cards are absent from the deck, and the player’s blackjack always beats the dealer’s. You can also take advantage of the surrender rule in Spanish 21, while there are numerous side bets to place for bigger potential payouts.
Live dealer blackjack
The most engaging blackjack games at any online casino are those within the live dealer lobby. These games are hosted by a real-life dealer and live-streamed online. Evolution Gaming is the undisputed king of live casinos, and they have some brilliant blackjack games, including Free Bet Blackjack, Speed Blackjack, and Infinite Blackjack.
Created by Geoff Hall, Blackjack Switch is a popular game that issues you with two hands. After the initial deal, you can switch the cards from hand to hand to make the best hand possible against the dealer. It’s something a bit different, and it offers you more choice when beating the dealer to 21.
Betting, Odds & House Edge
To play blackjack at an online casino, you must check the bet limits at the table you wish to play at. Most casinos offer options to low-budget players and high-rollers alike, so you should be able to find a game to match your bankroll. In terms of payouts, blackjack is super simple. If you beat the dealer with a standard hand, you will earn a payout of 1:1. If you beat the dealer with blackjack (10, J, Q, K + A), you will earn a payout of 3:2.
In terms of odds, standard blackjack gives you a 42.22% chance of beating the dealer, while the tie (or push) comes in at around 8.48%. One of the key things to remember about online blackjack is that each game has its house edge. But generally speaking, blackjack is known as a casino game with a very low house edge, and it’s less than 2% in most games. The table below shows the approximate house edge of some of the most popular blackjack variants available at Canadian online casinos:
|Game||Approximate House Edge|
|Atlantic City Blackjack||0.40%|
|Vegas Strip Blackjack||0.35%|
|Live Dealer Blackjack||Varies, from 0.50%|
Blackjack Side Bets
Though conventional blackjack is extremely easy to play, some variants allow you to place a number of side bets to increase your potential profits. In fact, there are three main side bets that you will find in blackjack variants in Canada:
The insurance side bet is available in lots of blackjack games, and it allows you to cover the possibility of the dealer receiving blackjack. If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, you are invited to place the insurance bet. The bet costs half of your original stake, and if the dealer has blackjack, you earn a payout of 2:1.
This is a bet that you can place based on your cards alone, and as the name suggests, you receive an additional payout if you receive a pair. A mixed pair usually pays out 5:1, while a coloured pair pays out 12:1. A perfect pair (two of the same card) offers a payout of 25:1.
Another popular side bet in blackjack is 21+3. This bet takes into account your cards and the dealer’s face-up card. The idea is to form a ranking three-card poker hand with the cards on show, and you can earn the following for each respective hand:
- Flush: 5:1
- Straight: 10:1
- Three of a kind: 30:1
- Straight flush: 40:1
- Suited triple: 100:1
Strategies for Winning
Working on your blackjack strategy can undoubtedly improve your chances of winning. Fundamentally, you need to work out when it’s best to hit and when it’s best to stand, which is something that you can learn through trial, error, and experience. In terms of the other nuances of the game, here are some other blackjack strategy tips to bear in mind as you decide which action to take when the cards are on the table:
First of all, if you want to surrender your cards, you need to select a game that offers this as an option (such as Atlantic City Blackjack), as some blackjack games don’t allow you to give up your cards. Essentially, if you think your hand is extremely poor and has little chance of winning, you can surrender your cards and give up half of your stake without playing on.
Typically, it makes sense to surrender your cards if the dealer’s up card is a ten or picture card, particularly if you have a poor starting hand, such as 2+4. This is known as an early surrender. At some casinos, you can also opt for a late surrender, but such an approach is best reserved for experienced blackjack players, as timing is everything.
Pair Splitting Strategy
Knowing which pairs to split and which pairs to leave is fundamental to any successful blackjack strategy. Let’s start with the basics – never split tens or picture cards, as a starting hand of 20 is hard to beat. Most blackjack pros recommend splitting aces while splitting eights is also a good move. A pair of eights gives you sixteen, which isn’t a great hand. But it can potentially deliver two hands of eighteen if your next cards are tens or picture cards.
As for other pairs, you need to make a judgement call based on what the dealer has in their hand. This is something you will learn with experience, and you should take notes about what works and what doesn’t to inform your future splitting decisions.
Doubling Down Strategy
Working out when to double down in blackjack can pay dividends as it delivers double the payout. Helpfully, there are some pretty straightforward unwritten rules about when you should consider doubling down. If your cards total 9, 10 or 11 without an ace, doubling down is generally a good strategy, given the chance of landing a ten or picture card with your next card. You should never double down if you have more than 11 in your hand, and it’s best not to double down when the dealer is showing an ace.
Regardless of your approach to online blackjack, you should always gamble responsibly and within your means. Whether you have $10, $100, or $1,000 to spend on blackjack, you should recognize your limits and set your budget accordingly. Don’t go chasing your limits, and make sure you stay in control of your spending. Playing blackjack online in Canada should be fun, so always remember to gamble responsibly.
Tips for Playing Blackjack
Now that you have a good idea of how the game works, here are some insider tips that will help you as you play blackjack online in Canada:
- Never forget there are more cards valued at ten than any other (including jacks, queens and kings). This should come into your thinking when guessing what the next card might be.
- Always check the game’s house edge before playing. Blackjack is a great game as far as the house edge is concerned, as most titles have a house edge of 1% or less. Still, the lower the house edge is, the better the value of the game is.
- You can find lots of free-to-play versions of blackjack online in Canada. It’s a good idea to play some free hands before placing real money bets so you can work on your strategy and try out different things.
- Though side bets in blackjack deliver attractive payouts, they increase the house edge of the game and don’t come in as often as you might think. Therefore, you should be cautious when placing side bets to protect your bankroll.
- When trying out a new blackjack variant online, always read the game’s rules. Every blackjack game is slightly different, so you need to be aware of nuances that can have a big impact on how the game is played.
Etiquette and Casino Tips
Of course, blackjack is also a brilliant game at brick-and-mortar casinos in Canada. If you’re planning to take a seat at a blackjack casino in a real casino for the first time, here are some etiquette tips to be aware of:
- Hand movements: Most blackjack players in real casinos use their hands to signal to the dealer the action they wish to take. For instance:
- Hit = tap the table next to the cards.
- Stand = wave your hand over your cards.
- Double down = Place another chip next to your current one and hold one finger out.
- Split = Place another chip next to your current one and hold two fingers out.
It’s best not to go with the hand movements immediately, but you can watch other players to get a feel for how best to communicate with the dealer.
- Don’t fiddle with your chips: After placing your bets, don’t play with your chips. This might raise suspicion, and the dealer may even ask you to leave the table.
- Keep your advice to yourself: Though it might be tempting, don’t fall into the trap of telling other players what to do with their cards. Just focus on your own game and be polite and courteous to the dealer and all other players at the table.
Blackjack is a hugely popular online casino game, and it’s available at all legal and licensed online casinos in Canada. You can enjoy classic blackjack, Blackjack Switch, Spanish 21 and other popular variants at home or on the go from your mobile device. You now know everything you need to get started with blackjack, so good luck as you place your bets and try to beat the dealer to 21.