Blackjack, sometimes known as twenty-one, is the most popular casino banking game in the world. Players compete against the dealer rather than against each other in Blackjack. The game is played with one or more decks of 52 cards and the objective is to reach 21 points or a score higher than that of the dealer. The player must do so without exceeding 21 or the game is lost.

Over one hundred variations of blackjack exist. Blackjack has been a target of advantage players, particularly card counters, who track cards that have been dealt and vary their stakes and playing strategies to increase their chances of winning.


Blackjack was developed from the original game of twenty-one. The earliest records of such a game date back to the beginning of the 17th century in Spain with reference to the game of “Ventiuna” (Spanish for twenty-one).

When twenty-one was introduced in the United States, bonus offers included a 10-1 payout if the player's hand consisted of the ace of spades and a black jack. This hand was called a "blackjack" and the name was later adopted for the game itself. In the modern version, a blackjack refers to any hand of an ace plus a ten or face card, regardless of whether they are black or red.

The French/German version of Blackjack does not allow splitting. An ace always has a value of eleven, but two aces count as a blackjack. The British game of "Pontoon” is also very similar to Blackjack. “Spanish 21” has other allowances, including doubling down any number of cards with the option to rescue or surrender only one wager to the house. In "Vegas Style" Blackjack, a player does not automatically lose when they go bust if the same fate befalls the dealer.

There are many other variations including Double Exposure Blackjack, Double Attack Blackjack and Blackjack Switch, each with their own rules and strategies.

How To Play

The player or players are initially dealt two cards and simply add the two for a combined total. Face cards (Kings, Queens, and Jacks) have a value of ten points whilst an ace have a value of one point or eleven points. All of the other cards are counted at face value. After receiving the first two cards, players have the option of getting a "hit" i.e. taking an additional card. The can also “stand” i.e. refuse any additional cards.

The player or the dealer wins by having a score of 21 or by having the highest score that is less than 21. If the player takes a hit and goes higher than 21, this is called "going bust” and the hand is lost. A player may win by having any final score less than 21 if the dealer goes bust. If a player holds an ace valued as 11, the hand is called "soft", meaning that the player cannot go bust by taking an additional card; otherwise, the hand is "hard".

The dealer has to take hits until his cards total 17 or more points. In some casinos, the rules with dictate that the dealer also hits on a "soft" 17, e.g. initial ace and six. Players who do not go bust and achieve a higher score than the dealer win the game. If both the player and dealer have the same total, the game is declared a "push" and no money is lost on that hand.

Tips & Tricks

As with all casino games, blackjack incorporates a "house edge", a built in statistical advantage for the casino. The advantage for the dealer derives from the fact that if the player busts, the player loses, even if the dealer subsequently busts. Blackjack players using basic strategy will lose less than 1% of their total stake based on a calculated average. This compares very favourably to other casino games.

Basic strategy is based upon a player's total and the dealer's visible card. Most basic strategy is common to all blackjack games, with rule variations calling for only minor alterations. Casino promotions and bonuses can give a player a slight advantage, providing they do not deviate from basic strategy. Players may improve on this further by taking into account the precise composition of their hand.

Advantage play is trying to swing the odds in your favour using memory or computation techniques. Card counting is the best known, involving the meticulous accounting of all exposed cards to determine which are still to be dealt. The player then increases his bet when they are certain that the odds are in their favour. In theory, card counting can swing a 1% house advantage into a 2% advantage for the player. This system became so successful that casinos began insisting that players do not reveal their cards to one another in single deck games.

There are new approaches being developed all the time to try to give the player an advantage. These include the “never bust” method of play. This strategy dictates that a player with a hand of twelve to sixteen never takes a “hit”, theoretically avoiding the risk of a “bust”. However, some experts maintain that this strategy is doomed to failure and will increase the casino’s advantage to 5%.

Most experts recommend that players stick to proven strategic methods, even if it does not seem entirely logical. A good examples is the law in basic strategy that says a player must “hit” on a 16 if their dealer has 7 or higher. Statistics strongly suggest that the 16 hand is often a loser for the player, so the best strategy is always to “hit” from this position.

The game of Blackjack is so popular because it is one of the few games that genuinely provide the player with the opportunity to employ strategy and skill to reduce the built in house advantage. While many players will develop and test their own theories and systems, the only guaranteed method for improving your prospects of winning at Blackjack is to familiarise yourself with the standard Blackjack strategy tables.