Tips & Tricks on How to Play Blackjack Online at UK Casinos
Blackjack is a favourite casino game for many players and sits right up there alongside roulette as one of the most popular table games at UK online casinos. On the surface, the game looks simple and it has a tiny house edge, making it a favourable choice for many beginners. However, a simple game of blackjack can be quite difficult to master.
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How to Win at Blackjack
Blackjack used to be called “21” for a very good reason: the highest possible score without going bust is 21. Although getting a score of 21 is the ultimate goal, there are two main ways to win at blackjack:
- Get a higher total than the dealer
- When you’ve called “stand” and the dealer goes bust
Players’ chances of winning are heavily reliant on chance and strategy. Dealers are at the mercy of chance and the robust table rules directed to the dealer. Most blackjack table rules require the dealer to twist if their hand is less than 17. If it’s 17 or higher they are forced to stand. You will find that there’s a difference in rulings between soft and hard hands for dealers: stand on a soft 17 and hit on a hard 17.
The objective of Blackjack is to beat the dealer or hit 21. When playing, there are two parties involved – the dealer and the players. The game is played using one to eight basic decks of 52 cards. Kings, queens and jacks are worth 10 points, 2 through to 10 are worth their face values, whereas the ace is somewhat of a wildcard – it is valued at 1 or 11, depending on which option suits the player or dealer.
The game begins with the dealer dealing cards to the leftmost player and progressing to the right, until he or she deals a card to himself. Cards are initially dealt twice in increments of one. All initial cards are dealt face-up, except the dealer’s first card which is dealt face-down. Once the cards have been dealt, it’s the player’s turn to act. A players possible actions, are described below:
Hitting in Blackjack
All you’re simply asking for is another card. You can keep hitting until you’re either bust, reach 21 or make the call to stand. All cards apart from your original two will be dealt face up for all to see.
Standing in Blackjack
Standing in blackjack is when you purely decide that you no longer wish any more cards to be dealt to you. You’re happy with your hand and are ready to take on the dealer. Simply click the stand button in the live interface.
Splitting in Blackjack
Splitting your hand is possible when your original hand has cards of the same number. You’ll see the split option appear and all you need to do is click it. From now on, you’re playing two separate hands. You’ll also have to bet the same as your original bet for the new hand. If your starting hand was a pair of 6’s and you elect to split, you now have two hands, each starting with a 6. Each time you hit, a card will be placed against one of the hands and will continue to be drawn until you’re bust, hit 21 or stand. When this happens, play will move to the other hand you hold and the same process repeats.
What is Double Down in Blackjack?
Doubling down in blackjack occurs when you double your original bet. For most blackjack casinos, this is only possible after you’ve received your hand and before your next decision to hit. This can be risky, of course, since you don’t know what card you’re about to receive! If you do take this option, you only get one more card for that hand. Doubling down in blackjack is no different than hitting, in essence. When doubling down, you double your initial stake and are dealt an additional card by the dealer. You may not request more cards past that point.
Doubling down is beneficial when you have a strong starting hand, such as a 9, 10 or 11, whereas the dealer has an unfavourable up-card (2 to 6). If you win, you will receive double of what you would normally win, because of the doubled stake. Not all blackjack tables allow doubling down as some will allow it only on 9’s to 11’s, and some won’t allow you to double after a split. Having double down as an option is always beneficial to players.
Surrender Rules in Blackjack
Returns half of your bet. It can only be done on the first turn once your initial cards have been dealt. Depending on the casino and table rules, a player can surrender their hand at different stages of the hand:
- Early Surrender: An early surrender in blackjack is when a player “folds” before the dealer has had the chance to check their face-down card for blackjack. The player forfeits immediately and loses half their stake.
- Late Surrender: A late surrender in blackjack occurs when a player forfeits their hand in the same vein as an early surrender but after the dealer has checked their face-down card. As soon as the dealer has checked their card, surrender is not available.
What is Blackjack Insurance?
When the dealer has an ace as his face-up card, whereas his other card is unrevealed. You have the option to make an insurance side-bet for up to half of your initial bet value. In case the dealer hits a blackjack, the insurance bet wins 2:1, otherwise your stake is lost. Any sensible person will advise you to never make insurance bets, the risk is not worth it. It is estimated that the house gains an approximate 7% edge when players take insurance bets.
Taking out insurance during blackjack is only possible when the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. If this is the case, there’s a chance that they draw a natural blackjack hand if their other card is a card worth 10 (jack, queen, king or a 10). Blackjack insurance allows you to place a side bet up to 50% of your original bet for the hand in the event the dealer does get blackjack. You’ll see this option highlight in the betting interface of your chosen casino table. The amount of your insurance bet can vary, depending on the online casino and specific table rules. Generally, the limit is 50%, but do double-check the specific blackjack rules before settling down.
What is Blackjack Even Money?
An even money bet in blackjack is somewhat similar to insurance. This is possible when you have blackjack and the dealer’s face up card is an ace. If you take the even money offer, you immediately receive a 1:1 payout on your hand, no matter what the dealer’s face down card is. Note that this is offered by the casino before knowing what the dealer’s other card is. If the result is that the dealer goes bust, you only get your even money payout at 1:1, you do not get the usual 3:2 blackjack winnings.
The house edge in blackjack is actually very low and depends on the table rules and number of decks that casino or table is playing with. Ultimately, the house holds the upper hand, since the player plays first. Without the dealer even having to play through a hand, all the players on the table can go bust and lose their chips for the round. Even if the dealer busts too, the house wins since the dealer doesn’t gamble any chips.
The house edge ranges between 0.2% and 8%. Yes, that’s a huge variation and the sliding scale between these amounts is thanks to a bonus payout. As well as if a player gets “blackjack” and how efficient they are with hitting, standing, doubling down and splitting.
The standard payout in blackjack is 1:1. So, if you bet £10 on a hand and win, the dealer will hand over £10 of the casino’s money in chips and you get your initial bet back. If you’re fortunate enough to score “blackjack” in your dealt two cards, the usual is for the casino to pay out at 3:2. So, if you bet £10, your winning will be £15, and you get your initial stake back.
An insurance bet pays out at 2:1 and is only possible when the dealer’s face up card is an ace. If you lose a hand, the house keeps your chips. If you tie with the house, you get your chips back. There are some hybrid payouts that aren’t always on offer. Since payout amounts can vary so much between casinos, look for ones that have blackjack payouts similar to the following:
|Player/Dealer Pair Payouts|
|21 + 3 Payout – Blackjack Side Bet|
Online Blackjack Variations
The above information is based on a standard ruleset for blackjack. They’re common in most blackjack UK online casinos. There are, however, some other popular variants that you may come across:
- Spanish 21
- Free bet blackjack
- Switch blackjack
- 5-card Charlie
The biggest shift away from traditional blackjack in Spanish 21 is that all cards worth 10 points are removed. So, no 10’s, jacks, queens or kings. What this does though, is it make it even more difficult to achieve the fabled 21 with the remaining ace to 9 cards. Increasing the house edge. But, there is an incentive to players in that the payout amounts are increased depending on the hand. For example, a 5-card total of 21, pays out at 3:2 (since the traditional blackjack hand is no longer possible). A 6-card total of 21 pays out at 2:1 since it’s much harder to achieve. This increases again to 3:1 for a 7-card 21 total. Other increased payouts are on offer for hands of 6, 7 and 8, and 7, 7 and 7, of same and varying suits.
Free Bet Blackjack
The main difference with free bet blackjack is around the doubles, splits and the push rule when the dealer busts. Doubling down is free for a hard hand totalling 9, 10 or 11. The usual doubling down rules apply as per our information above. Splits are free on all pairs except 10’s. The free double rule also applies on a free split. If a player has 21 and the dealer busts on 22, the hand is a push and the player gets their stake back rather than winning.
Switch blackjack is a little more complicated than what you may be used to, so make sure you only play this version if you have a decent understanding of blackjack already. The big difference here is that players are dealt two hands, with one card facing up on each. They can swap the top cards over, once they’ve checked the face-down cards. Can you see where the variant gets its name from?
Sounds good so far; more chances to beat the dealer, right? Yes! But, casinos aren’t stupid and so they’ve reduced the payout for a natural blackjack hand from 3:2 to 1:1. Similar to free bet blackjack, the house pushes on a bust of 22. These two changes alone greatly increase the house edge way beyond any gain achieved with the 2-hand switching.
More of a table rule than a game variant, 5-Card Charlie is when the player automatically wins if they achieve a total of 21 across five cards. Many of you will know this as a “5-card trick.” Depending on the other rules in place at the table, this can have a 1.46% swing away from the house edge, which is awesome for the player. This rule is much more common in private blackjack games though, as opposed to online blackjack, but it does sometimes exist.
Blackjack Basic Strategy
The blackjack basic strategy is a set of strict mathematically calculated rules and guidelines. It eliminates all doubts on what your next move should be regardless of the situation. By perfectly employing basic strategy, the house edge is reduced close to 0.4%. While nothing can overthrow the house edge, it is a simple, yet very powerful tool that will increase your chances of winning at blackjack without counting cards. You can’t count cards at online casinos anyway.
The blackjack basic strategy is one of the most powerful tools at a player’s disposal. It has become so widely accessible that you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not using it. The average blackjack player won’t bother with learning blackjack strategy, which is why he will seldom come out ahead. If you’re looking to get serious into playing blackjack, learning the basic strategy should be number one on your to-do list. Assuming a six-deck table where the dealer stands on a soft 17, by employing basic strategy you can reduce the house edge to about 0.4%.
Soft vs. Hard Hands When Playing Blackjack
If a hand contains an ace with a value of 11, it’s a “soft” hand. So, if a dealer’s starting hand is an ace and a 6, this is a soft 17 (11+6), and they have to stand. If they start with an ace and a 3, this is also a soft hand with a total of 14. But, the house rules means they need to twist since they have less than 17. If their next card is anything more than an 8, the ace can change to a value of 1 and so the hand becomes “hard.” The ace, 3 and 8 now totals 12 (1+3+8), and they need to keep twisting until they have at least 17. If the next dealt card(s) means the hand totals 17, the dealer still needs to hit. This is in the player’s favour since hitting on a 17 can be risky.
How to Play Blackjack for Real Money and Win
When trying to win blackjack, a common misconception, or rather misleading way of playing, is to solely focus on your own set of cards. In blackjack, paying attention to the dealer’s hand is of equal, if not greater, importance. While hitting a blackjack (21) is what the game’s marketed around, beating the dealer is what you should be focusing on. The dealer’s hand should be your main point of reference on deciding your next move.
Online Blackjack Tips and Tricks
Splitting aces allowed
This is one of the more important blackjack rules. Nowadays, most online blackjack tables will allow you to split aces, but be wary of those who don’t.
Resplitting aces allowed
Having the option to resplit aces is a very rare occurrence in blackjack. When it does happen, it can be beneficial, but it’s not as important as other rules because of its rarity.
Double after split
This is another blackjack occurrence that you’ll seldom come across. If you can find it among other beneficial rules – good, but don’t be too upset if you don’t.
Blackjack pays 3 to 2
A blackjack table that pays 3 to 2 is always better than a table paying 6 to 5. This should be your number one priority when pursuing a blackjack table online.
Single deck blackjack that pays 3 to 2
Finding a single deck blackjack game that also happens to pay 3 to 2 is near impossible across land casinos. Online, it’s a slightly different story, and there are a number of variations that support both rules.
Dealer hits on soft 17
This rule should be avoided when possible. The house edge when the dealer hits on a soft 17 vs when he stands is .2%. Not the greatest odds shift in the world, but it does make a difference.
Blackjack pays 6 to 5
There is no compromise when it comes to 6:5 paying blackjack tables. If you value your budget, under no circumstance should you play at such a table.
Casino Deal’s Online Blackjack Recommendations
When to Hit in Blackjack
- Hard 4 to 8
- Hard 9, double down if the dealer has 2 to 6, else you should hit
- And, Hard 12 to 16, only when the dealer has 7 to A
- Soft 13 to 15
- Soft 16 to 18, double down if the dealer has 2 to 6, else you should hit
When to Stand
- Hard 12 to 16 if the dealer has 2 to 6
- Hard 17 to 21
- Soft 16 to 18 if the dealer has 2 to 6
- Soft 19 to 21
When to Double Down
- Hard 9 vs dealer’s 2 to 6
- Soft 16 to 18 vs dealer’s 2 to 6
When to Split
- If you have a pair of 2’s, 3’s, 6’s, 7’s or 9’s vs dealer’s 2 to 6
- If you have a pair of 8’s and Aces
When to do a Blackjack Surrender
This is the one and only time you should surrender, without exception. With all other combinations, the risk of getting a better hand is absolutely worth it, as it’s been proven mathematically.
- Hard 16 vs dealer’s 10
Play Blackjack Online for Free
Since casinos want you to use their games and services for your blackjack needs, you’ll always be able to play for free. This is an excellent opportunity to get used to the gaming interface, the different rules and pace of the game. All you need to do is register your basic information with the casino and browse through their blackjack tables for a free option. Note that many of these won’t be live blackjack with a real dealer and other players, but more of a virtual option. This is so the casino doesn’t have to cover its overheads and dealer costs with no return from players.
Blackjack Staking Plan
Start off by playing on the lower stake tables. These tend to start at £1 or so. Divide your casino bankroll by 100 and use the result as your maximum stake for each bet (this will not include any insurance or doubling down bets). At the very worst, this gives you 100 hands to play with before going completely bust. If you go that long without winning a single hand, you’re doing something wrong and need to employ a blackjack strategy.
What are the Best Blackjack Software Providers?
You might not realise it, but the software you use when playing blackjack plays a massive part in the overall experience you have. The rules, the games, the payouts and the speed of the game are all linked with the software a casino uses. Instead of choosing a blackjack online casino that has a good welcome bonus or some good existing customer promotions, the better option may be to find out which software provider you prefer and go from there. Evolution Gaming are definitely the best for Live Blackjack. Most blackjack software providers can be found at multiple casinos, which gives you the opportunity to make an informed decision on which one to use based on security, trust, and payment methods.
How to Play Blackjack FAQs
Can You Win on Blackjack?
Yes! Blackjack is actually one of the most favourable to players in terms of an edge; much lower than craps and roulette, and if you apply some of the popular blackjack strategies, the house edge can shoot way down to as low as 0.2%.
Is Online Blackjack Legal?
Yes! Check with your country’s laws, but generally, blackjack is a perfectly legal form of online gambling.
Is Blackjack the Same as 21?
Yes. 21 is the old-school name for blackjack, which was modernised as it became more and more popular in the US. It’s rare to find blackjack referred to as 21 anymore with online casinos, apart from in the “Spanish 21” variant.