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The Rules of Blackjack & Its Variations

Along with baccarat and craps, blackjack is a universally known card game that is simple enough to play.
 
The goal of blackjack is reflected in its nickname of Twenty-One i.e. trying to get a hand that is as close to this number as possible without going over 21. And another important part of this game is that you have to fulfil the prior criteria while also competing to have a higher hand than the dealer. 
 
This is the most basic, stripped-down version of blackjack — it offers a straightforward albeit exciting gameplay experience and has tons of opportunities for strategising.
 
One of the most well-known strategies (that is often frowned upon by our casino overlords) is the act of card counting. But even if you aren’t as mathematically gifted as the experts, casual play is plenty exciting on its own since blackjack offers one of the best house edges in the casino.
 
Still, if you somehow do not have an inkling of how blackjack works, we’re here to explain to you how to play blackjack. Along with that, we’ll also list some exciting blackjack variations that you could partake in once you’ve got the basics down pat.

What You Need To Play Blackjack

Like poker, the standard 52-card deck is all you need to play blackjack. However, most physical casinos will use several decks at the same time in order to discourage card counting. The six-deck format (312 cards) is the most commonly found in brick-and-mortar casinos.
 
Additionally, the dealer will typically utilise a blank plastic card as an indicator for when it’s time to reshuffle the entire stack of cards. And when more than four decks have been used, the cards are dealt from a shoe instead.
 
Of course, the above scenario is applicable to physical casinos only. If you were to play blackjack online, the system will use a digital form of the standard 52-card deck to play the game.
 
The standard card scoring also applies in blackjack with the ace having a value of one or 11 depending on the player. The face cards (King, Queen, and Jack) are valued at 10, while any other card’s value is reflected by its number.

Let’s Play Blackjack

Every round of blackjack begins with the betting stage with the players placing a bet in the form of chips or cash in front of them in a designated area. Once all the bets have been placed, the dealer will begin to shuffle portions of the pack until all the cards have been mixed well. Thereafter, one player will be designated to cut the deck. A blank plastic card is then used to divide the deck so that the last 60 to 75 cards are not used.
 
After shuffling, the dealer will start to deal cards to the players — beginning with one card face up for each player in a clockwise rotation which ends with the dealer’s own card face up as well. The second card is also dealt in the same fashion albeit their own will remain face down. In short, all the players at the table except the dealer will receive two initial cards facing up, while the dealer has one of their own cards face down.
 
This is the standard for most casinos, but there are variations that are played with only one deck. Some casinos will also allow the players to hold their own cards or deal their cards face down.

The Most Common Blackjack Scenarios

Once all the initial cards have been dealt to the players, the next phase will begin. Here, a few scenarios could play out:
 
  • Naturals: A player or dealer who has gotten an ace along with a 10-valued card (a picture card or a 10 card) which equals 21 has a natural or blackjack. This is one of the strongest hands in the game and a player automatically beats the dealer if they do not have a blackjack of their own. In the event that both dealer and player have naturals, it is a tie and the player does not have to pay the dealer.
  • Doubles: In the traditional iteration of blackjack, doubles (same value cards) are not a winning hand. However, if a player receives two cards of the same denomination, they may instead choose to split the cards and treat them as two separate hands during their turn. Of course, the original bet will then be doubled for the two separate hands. The rest of the round will play out the same as any other round of blackjack.
  • Double Down: Another scenario that players may come across is doubling down on bets. Players can only double their bets when the cards they’ve been dealt total 9, 10, or 11. Once their turn comes, they will be required to place a bet equal to the original bet and the dealer will deal another face-down card to the player. This card is not flipped until the rest of the bets have been resolved at the end of the round.
Apart from those specific scenarios, each round of blackjack will go by turns as we’ve mentioned. Thus, your goal as a player is to beat the dealer to the 21!

The Popular Variations of Blackjack

Once you’ve mastered the basics of blackjack, you might be thinking of trying something a little out of the norm. Thankfully, blackjack has its fair share of variations that will surely appease your sense of adventure and excitement. Here are a few popular variations of blackjack:
 
  • Pontoon/British Blackjack: This variation is the British equivalent to that of American/classic blackjack. While it shares much common gameplay with its American cousin, pontoon has its own twists that make the game slightly more interesting and strategic. The biggest difference here is that players will be able to see one card first before deciding on their bets. And they can also increase the size of their bets in the middle of the round.
  • Blackjack Switch: Since its inception in 2009, Blackjack Switch has quickly established itself as one of the more popular options when it comes to blackjack variations. In this version, the rules are similar to classic blackjack with the twist being each player gets to play two separate hands. They then have the option to switch (hence the name) the second cards dealt for both hands between each other.
  • Chinese Blackjack: Obviously, this variation made its name and became popular in the regions of China and Southeast Asia. Although at first glance it may seem like a copy of regular blackjack, there are a few subtle differences between the two. Chinese blackjack starts the same as regular blackjack, with each player and the dealer receiving two cards each. The similarities end there though as you will notice several differences between the two. For example, a hand with two aces is an automatic winner, as well as the dealers being able to choose whether to hit or to stand, are just some notable differences here.
Whether you’ve mastered the basics of playing blackjack or are looking for an alternative variation to the classic card game, you’ll obviously need someone to play with. That’s where Play88, one of Asia’s premium online casino brands, comes in. Better yet, if you sign up today, you’ll be entitled to claim a generous welcome bonus courtesy of Play88. Sign up here if you’re interested.

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