Blackjack - Your Complete Guide

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Beginners Guide: How To Play Blackjack

What is Blackjack?

Blackjack is a casino card game played on a table against the dealer. One of the oldest card games around blackjack is played in every brick and mortar casino along with every online casino. It is played 1 on 1 against the dealer however a standard blackjack table will seat up to 7 players who all individually play against the dealer one at a time.

The aim of the game when it's your turn is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over (commonly known as busting). If you're closer to 21 than the dealer when his turn finishes then you win. If the dealer busts and you don't then you also win. Payouts at 1:1 but 3:2 for a 2 card 21, also known as blackjack!

How to play and How to win

Start by placing your bet before receiving your cards.

The dealer begins by dealing every player at the table two cards face up in turn. He also deals himself one (depending on the casino he may deal himself a second face down card. This doesn't change the order of play at all but may affect the type of strategy you chose to use).

Once everyone at the table has been dealt two cards the dealer will check to see if anyone already has a total of 21, also know as blackjack. The way the dealer will calculate this is using the following system:

  • Numbers 2 to 9 all hold the value shown
  • Ace can be 1 or 11 (the choice is up to you)
  • Face cards (jack, queen, king) including number 10 all hold a value of 10

So for example:

blackjack table

As you can see every player in this example has been dealt 2 cards and the dealer above has one card face up (9 of diamonds) and one face down.

Immediately you can see player 4 (counting right to left) has blackjack (cards that add up to 21. King = 10 Ace = 11). Therefore as the dealer has no chance of also hitting 21 with his second card, player 4 automatically wins their 1 on 1 game and gets paid out 3:2. In this example they win NZ$25 total from their NZ$10 bet. They must now wait for everyone else to have their turn before the next game starts.

The dealer will now start with the player to their left and ask if they wish to "hit" = take another card or "stand" = take no more cards. You only get one go to take as many cards as you want. Now what's important to remember as you can see written on the table is that the dealer will only stand on 17 or higher. What that means is that when the dealer has his go he will keep taking cards until they total 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 or he busts.

Now if he busts, everyone on the table who has not busted wins!... But!

If he doesn't bust and ends his turn anywhere between 17 and 21 then whoever has cards that total less than him all lose. On a side note if the dealer ends up on the same number as you do, for example 19 then it's called "push" and it's classed as a draw. Basically you just get your money back for that bet and on to the next game. Got it?... Okay just a few more things before you start you'll want to know.

There's no maximum card count, if you haven't busted you can keep taking as many cards as you want but I'm sure you can work out that hitting on 20 might not be the smartest move.

There are some other options available depending on the cards that come out. I'm sure you can see the "double" option there for player 1. I'll explain all this below if you want more information on all things blackjack.

Outside of that there are numerous different types of blackjack variations depending on the casino you play at, (I really like perfect pairs) but I'll go through that a bit below if you're interested.

Overall it's a pretty fun game and simple once you get going. Probably why blackjack is likely the most widely played card game in the world both at online casinos and offline.... hmmm actually,maybe after poker.

In Play Options

Within the game of blackjack there are in play options that the dealer will offer depending on what two cards you initially get dealt. You can refuse all of them but sometimes it works out in your favour to take the option. These include:

Double Down

One of the most exciting moves in blackjack as it allows you to double your bet after seeing your cards. The only downside apart from risking more cash is that you only receive ONE card after taking this option. The upside of course being that if you hit 21 or close to it you now have a greater chance of winning the hand and that chance is possible with a bet twice the size of your original bet.

Now this opportunity is available only once right after your first two cards have been dealt. If you take a third card that option is now no longer possible. Without doing too far into strategies the best possible time to double down is when your first two cards add up to 9, 10 or 11 combined with the dealers first face up card being a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.

The reason for this is that there are more cards in the deck worth 10 than anything else so we must assume the cards coming out will be valued at 10. Combine that with the fact the dealer will need at least 2 cards to hit 17 or higher and you can quickly see why this works in your favour for choosing to double down.

But remember! You're only going to get one card and then your turn is over.


Casino houses out in the world may use up to 6 decks in a shoe (a shoe is what holds the cards the dealer is about to use). Online of course the casino has unlimited cards with it being computer based but in both situations occasionally your first two cards will be the same. They may be two queens, two 8's or even two aces. This may be of different suits or even both of the same suit. When this happens you will be offered the opportunity to split.

What this means is that your two 5's for example that in one hand would be worth 10 can be split into two separate hands both consisting of one 5 and one more card each the dealer will immediately deal on top of each 5. This will require you to double your bet however does mean that you now have the opportunity to play 2 separate hands. Unlike doubling down where you would only be given one final card, splitting two of the same card means that you are now playing two completely separate hands and can take as many cards on each as you like.

So why would you do this? What's the benefit to you?

Now there's lots of combinations of cards that strategy wise make sense to split, lets just go through a few.

  • Splitting aces - We know that aces can be a value of 1 or 11. So in this case two aces would give you a total of 2 or 12. Now as we said above there are more cards with a value of 10 in the deck than anything else so assuming the next card coming out will have a value of 10 means that we end up on 12 total or bust on 22. Not that great right? However... If we split those aces and play them as two separate hand. Assuming the all cards that come out have a higher than average likelihood to be a value of 10 suddenly we give ourselves a decent chance to hit 2 blackjacks! Sounding good right about now to split those aces right??
  • Splitting 8' - So as the dealer stands on 17 or higher we have to use that to judge how we want to play. Two 8's mean we're currently on 16. 1 away from a good standing point but easily beaten by the dealer, statistically the worst place to end our turn. Buuuuut if we were to split those 8's then we have a decent chance of hitting a 10 on each of them and ending both split hands with 18. Potentially a much better idea.
  • Splitting 5's - I used this as an example above however can you tell why this would be a terrible idea in real life?.... Yep, you guessed it because two 5's equal 10 and hitting just one card may give us 20, which is a great place to end our turn. In fact if the dealer is holding less than a 10 it may even be worth doubling down.

Now those are just a few examples as to when splitting pairs may or may not be a good idea. After this happens to you a few times you'll get the hang of it I'm sure.


Now if you look at our picture of the blackjack table above you'll see around the dealer is a band called insurance that you can purchase at odds of 2:1. But what is it?

Insurance refers to the dealers likelihood of hitting blackjack after we have seen his first card. Like we've spoke about before it as always assumed that the next card coming out from the shoe is more than likely going to be a 10. Now as we can see the dealers first card, when that first card is an ace we have to assume that his second card will be valued at 10 and he'll hit blackjack. If this is the case then everyone at the table will lose because it means that the dealer can't be beaten and the best you can do is push (draw).

So when the dealer deals himself an ace as his first card you will be offered the option to purchase insurance against him having blackjack at the rate of half your bet. What this means is that at 2:1 odds if the dealer does in fact have blackjack then you won't lose any money that hand as you've protected yourself against the loss. Online casinos will usually reveal this to you immediately if you decide to purchase insurance and the dealer does in fact have blackjack. If he does not then you will lose the insurance money and play the hand as normal.

Insurance has benefits but in my experience it usually comes down to individual players as to whether or not they like having the insurance bet. Statistically we have to assume he will hit blackjack however many players opt not to take an extra bet and just play out the hand as normal, the choice is yours.

Even Money

Even money is another in play bet that all brick and mortar casinos offer however only some online casinos offer. When you hit blackjack, the holy grail of hands (ace plus a 10 equivalent in 2 cards) you are unbeatable within that hand. The only chance the dealer has not to lose against you is if he too hits blackjack within 2 cards. As we can only see the dealers first card then we know the only way for this to happen is if the first card that's face up is an ace or a card holding a value of 10.

If the card showing is a card equaling 10 then nothing special happens but if the card showing is an ace then you will be offered "even money". What this means is that the casino knows the likelihood of a card equaling 10 coming out next is higher than any other specific card and they're offering you the opportunity to take 1:1 money now on your blackjack instead of risking either a push (draw if the dealer hits blackjack) or a 3:2 payout if the dealer does not hit blackjack.

It's a way for the casinos to avoid paying you 3:2 on your blackjack as statistically the dealer has less than a 50/50 chance of hitting blackjack anyway so the odds you will still win are actually still in your favour not to take the even money, however getting paid up front is what I see most players take as it's gutting to hit blackjack and then not get paid and see the hand pushed.

Game Variations

Both online and offline there are dozens of different types of blackjack game variations for you to play. Some people prefer classic blackjack and to play the original game but now there's so many variations with different betting options.

The basic premise of how the game is played doesn't change but there are slight variations on betting sequences or even card switches depending on which blackjack variation you decide to play. Let's talk about a few below.

Perfect Pairs

As you already know when the game begins you are dealt two cards to start. Your side bet is placed before you are dealt your cards. The blackjack variation known as perfect pairs refers to those two initial cards and for you to be paid on this additional side bet those two cards must match. For example a pair of 8's, a pair of kings or even a pair of 2's. It doesn't matter which cards they are but they must match.

What is important though are the colours of the pairs and the suits. As there's 6 decks in a shoe in real casinos and unlimited decks online what that means is it's possible to be dealt two 6 of hearts or two ace of clubs. That's also going to be a different payout than a king of diamonds with a king of hearts. Let's break it down some more.

  • Perfect pair - odds of 30 to 1 - Identical matching cards E.g. Both cards are 4 of spades.
  • Same colour pair - odds of 12 to 1 - Both cards red or both cards black E.g. 7 of clubs and 7 of spades.
  • Mixed colour pair - odds of 5 to 1 - One red and one black E.g. Queen of diamonds and queen of clubs.

Odds may vary slightly between casinos but this is the standard structure of perfect pairs blackjack.

The dealer will pay out all successful perfect pair side bets before you play your usual blackjack hand. After this you play your blackjack hand as normal.

Blackjack 21 + 3

Similar to perfect pairs you must place your 21 + 3 side bet before your cards are dealt. After you receive your cards this is how you win...

Look at your two cards and the dealers first card. Does this make up a poker hand? To be more specific here are the 3 card combinations that will give you a 9 to 1 payout.

  • Flush - Three cards of the same suit E.g. 2, 5, 9 all clubs.
  • Straight - Three cards of consecutive rank and mixed suits E.g. 6 of spades, 7 of diamonds, 8 of clubs.
  • Three of a kind - Three cards of the same value (not necessarily same suit) E.g. 10 of clubs, 10 of spades, 10 of hearts.
  • Straight flush - Three cards of consecutive rank and the same suit E.g. 3, 4, 5 all hearts.

As I said above the usual payout is 9 to 1 across all successful combinations. Depending on the casino house however the odds may vary between 5 to 1 and 100 to 1 depending on which combination of 21 + 3 you hit.

The dealer will check successful side bet wins before the usual blackjack game is played. After which the game is played as normal.

These are just two examples of multiple blackjack game variations both in casinos and online. Different online casinos will have different variations available but there will be a large selection to choose from.

Common Strategies

When playing blackjack the reason the casinos all have rules and ways of playing is so that the house retains a slight edge over the player. What this means is that over 100 average games the house will likely win slightly more than the player if the player bets in the same way every time.

That is why there are many different blackjack strategies out there. What these strategies can do is increase your likelihood of winning and swing the percentage of winning in some situations in your direction.

When it comes to strategies there are some basic statistical edges that many players follow, here are a few:

  • Always hit on 11 or less
  • Always stand on hard 17 or more ("hard" means one of your cards is not an ace)
  • Hit on 12-16 if the dealers first card is 7 or more (including an ace)
  • Stand on 12-16 if the dealers first card is 6 or less
  • Double down on 9, 10 or 11 if the dealers first card is 6 or less
  • Always split aces or 8's
  • Never split 10's

These are some basic well known guidelines for playing that help swing some of the odds slightly more in your favour.

Useful Tips

First of all playing online it makes the most sense to start with classic blackjack. Before you mess around with so many different betting variations it's a good idea to know how to play the basic game and figure out how the game works.

After that I would suggest starting with a demo or very small amount you are willing to lose and have a go at some blackjack variations you may find more fun or side bets that are more interesting than classic blackjack. Personally I've always loved blackjack 21 + 3.

Make sure that you stick within your limits and stop when the fun stops. Blackjack is a fantastic game and can be a lot of fun but if your bets feel too large or you start to get uncomfortable then it's time to reassess your situation and maybe take a break.

Lastly make sure that you take full advantage of the incredible bonus deals we have available here at Casino Picker. We've spoken to the casinos and got you the best bonus deals the offer so don't be afraid to check them out and take advantage of what they offer!

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FAQ's about Blackjack

Most blackjack questions will be answered in the beginners guide above but here are some common questions we haven't covered yet.

What's the best casino to play blackjack at?

We've reviewed the top online casinos that offer blackjack and scored them to make it easier for you to decide. Along with that we've reviewed the casinos that offer the best bonuses for you to claim at the top of the page.

How do I claim my free bonus?

Just click the yellow box on the casino above you want to play at the top of this page and it'll take you straight there for you to claim your bonus!

Does it matter what casino I play at?

Yes and no. Blackjack rules and regulations will be incredibly similar across basically all online casinos however if you want some of the best bonuses available then that does matter which casino you use and we're here to help you with that by finding the best bonuses available online.

Is blackjack easier to win at than other casino games?

One of the few casino games where you can actually affect the outcome through your actions blackjack actually gives you the chance to increase your odds of winning mid game, compared to other games like roulette where you cannot affect the outcome at all this is definitely an advantage.

What's the minimum deposit?

Most online casinos will be as little as NZ$10 or NZ$20. Their individual terms and conditions will confirm this.

How fast can I withdraw my winnings?

This depends on your method of withdrawal. Many can be as fast as within 24 hours however some of the slower transfers can take up to 3-7 days.

Is it safe to gamble online?

Over the last few years online security and regulations have become a lot safer and stronger. Each individual casino will have their own security systems as well as the depositing bank/money transfer organisation having their own systems in place as well.

Do I need a strategy before I start to play?

That's up to you. It's useful to read some or all of the info above in our beginners guide to blackjack but if you just want to claim your free bonus and play straight away then go for it and let the fun begin!

What minimum stakes can I play for?

Many online casinos will be as low as NZ$1 or even NZ$0.50 a hand. Some will even be less and you can always play on a demo table for free until you feel ready.

What maximum stakes can I play for?

Most online casinos will allow you to play NZ$2,000-NZ$5,000 per hand. Some even as high as $10,000 per hand or more if you want to open a high roller or VIP account.

If you're interested in getting the best deal possible along with maximum bonuses please email Paul at Don't be shy, we're here to find you the best deal with no cost to you!

Any more questions you may have feel free to email our team for help and advice at the same email

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