Black Jack – rules, strategy and tips

Blackjack at Unibet

Black jack is, without doubt, one of the most played and popular casino games. It gives many players big stacks quick, as long as they know what they're doing. The game is easy to learn but can be hard to master, and this is also what makes it so popular. Here in our article, we want to give you all the knowledge you need to have before you go out for the chase after 21. You'll find player rules and dealer rules, strategies, a bit on card counting, some black jack tips and some of the variations. The more you know and understand, the more fun you'll have playing it.

Black Jack rules

The rules of black jack is quite simple. You want your cards to have a greater value than the dealer's cards, but you don't want it to be over 21. The best cards is an ace and a card with the value of 10, as the first two cards on the round. This is the black jack and it will pay you 3:2, being the best payout in this game. The rest of the wins pays 1:1, and insurance gives 2:1. The player always compete with the dealer and not the other players, making it a game for the individual as well as bigger parties at the table.

If your card value becomes greater than 21, you'll bust, lose your bet and your hand is out of the game. This is where the tricky part comes – do you want to take another card on 16, risking it to become over 21, or do you want to stop and hope for the dealer to bust?

When playing black jack, the standard way, you use 2-6 decks with 52 cards each. The cards 2-10 is their said value, the ace is worth both 1 and 11 and the jack, queen and king is all worth 10. A king and a five is worth 15, one jack and one king is worth twenty and so on. An eight and ace is worth both nine and nineteen, but if the player stops it will be worth 19.

The dealer usually takes a card if he or she has 16 or under, and stops at 17 and over. If both the player and the dealer have the same value on their hands, it's called push and the player gets it's stake back. This, among with many other rules might vary a bit between the many variations of the game. More on this under the heading Black Jack Variations.

If your hand with the first two cards has a value of 9, 10 or 11, you can often double down. This is simply a ”double or nothing” bet, that gives you the possibility to win double your stake. You add an extra stake, the same size as the first one, and you get the chance to win more. Although, you also take the risk to lose more. You also have a possibility to split your cards, and create two separate hands. If you have two cards with the same value, e. g. two sixes or one king and one ten, you can split them by adding a stake equally big to the first one. This gives you two hands to play with, and and increase your chances of winning.

Insurance is a sort of side bet and is suitable if you think the dealer will get a black jack. It's only available if the dealer has an ace as their open card, and costs half of your original stake. If the dealer gets a black jack, you lose your stake but win 2:1 on your insurance, which leads to you keeping both your stake and your insurance. If not, you lose your insurance and the game continues as usual. If you got a black jack and the dealer has an ace, you have the option of taking even money. This works the same way as an insurance, and will give you a 1:1 profit directly.

How to play

First, the players places their stakes in the marked boxes on the table. The stake should remain there until the round has ended, or until the dealer takes it if you lose it. When all players have placed their stakes accordingly, the dealer announces ”no more bets” and starts by giving the first player one card. The dealer works its way from his or hers left, all the way to their right and the last player. The dealer gives themselves a card, and continue to give the first player their second card. This also ends with the dealer getting a card, but this one is put face down. The players cards, as well as the dealers first card, are all placed face up.

The round then continues with the dealer asking the first player wether they want to stand, hit, or double or split if possible. After the first player has made its choice and can't or don't want to take another card, it's the second players turn. Once all players has gone through this it's time for the dealer to show their card. If the open card is an ace, all players get the chance to choose to buy an insurance/even money, unless this has been done before the players get to stand or hit.

Once the dealer has showed the faced down, also called the ”dark” card, they either take another card or stand. Usually the dealer must hit on 16 and below, and stand on 17 and higher. The dealer then gives out the profit to those who won, and collect the stakes of those who lost. This is the final step of the round and a new round can start after this.

Basic strategy

Play black jack with a basic strategy

Through the years, a lot of different strategies for black jack has come up. Some of them are more famous than other, and some are more simple while others are very complex. Card counting is of course one strategy that also is widely used among players since it can be easily taught and user-friendly. We'll talk more about card counting later in this article, but first it might be wise to learn a basic strategy for black jack.

The best way to learn this strategy is to play with it. You will soon learn what to do in the game, and understand how it works. Just keep in mind that this won't guarantee you success in the game – it can only do so much and increase your chances of winning. This strategy is best used on classic black jack with six decks, as we described earlier. While learning this, it can be wise to try for free at an online casino, to avoid unnecessary losses with real money.

First, don't make your bets too high – bet what matches your wallet and don't play with money that you don't have or that you can't afford to lose. In the left column you will se your hand, and in the top row you can see what the dealer has. The table is useable even when you have taken a few cards. Stick to this, and your chances will rise a bit – no matter if you play on a casino or play online.

H = hit, take another card

D = double, double down your bet

S = stand, don't take any more cards

P = split, split your cards. Continue to refer to the table

Card counting

Counting cards is another famous black jack technique, that aren't very liked by casinos. Most casinos even ban people for using card counting, as it increases the players advantage dramatically. Mainly, there is two techniques that is the most used ones. Hi/Lo is the easiest one, that also is the foundation to True Count, the other technique.

Card counting is used to predict what card might come next, as well as to see if the cards are in favour of the dealer or the player. The more low cards are out from the dealer shoe, the better for the player and vice versa. If a lot of high cards are out, it's best to lower your bet or not playing at all. If the count is high, giving a lot of high cards left in the shoe, it's time to increase your bets to win more. Of course, this is only useful when the dealer mixes the cards by hand.

If you play black jack online where the cards are generated randomly, it's useless, as well as if the cards are mixed with a machine continuously. However, of you play online you can often get a black jack bonus that gives you extra money to play for. This can increase your chances to win big, since you might be able to bet a bit higher.

Hi/Lo

Hi/Lo, or High/Low as the proper name is, is the easiest way of counting cards. Every card has a value of +1, -1 or 0. The cards 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 is worth +1. 7, 8 and 9 is neutral and wort 0, and the higher cards (10, J, Q, K) are worth -1.

If you and a friend plays black jack against a dealer, you might get 4, 5 (+1, +1) and your friend has Q, 8 (-1, 0). The dealer has a 2 (+1) as its open card, the count is +1, +1, -1, 0, +1 = +2. This means the cards are good for the players, but it's still a bit early to say since only a few cards is out. The counting continues as the cards are dealt and if you take a card, say 8 (0) and you stop. The dealer shows the dark card, 3 (+1), and takes a new card. The dealer gets a 5 (+1), 8 (-1) and stops. Now, the count is +2 (from before) 0 +1 +1 -1 = +3.

When the next round comes, you continue and start the count on +3, as this was the last count from the previous round. For the best result, start counting from a fresh shoe and stay until the last few rounds before mixing. At this point, you should have a count that either tells you to take it easy, or to raise your bets. The higher count, the better.

True Count

Hi/Lo is a good start and foundation when it comes to counting cards, but it's not always enough. The count can be very misleading if it is high in the beginning of the shoe, and it can cost you very much. True count gives you a more detailed count with more accuracy, and is better if you want to bet high.

True count comes from Hi/Lo and uses this method of using, but takes the amount of cards played in consideration as well. +8 in the beginning of a shoe is not at all as good as +8 in the end of a shoe. However, it's not that hard to master True Count once you learnt Hi/Lo. Simply take the Hi/Lo count and divide how many decks are left in the shoe. This is a rough estimation, but it's not a problem if you are wrong with a few cards. Try to precise your eye to see how many decks are out, so you know roughly how many there are left.

As an example, you have +8 in your Hi/Lo count. In the card holder there is two decks out, meaning it's four decks left to play with. 8/4 = 2, meaning your true count is +2. Not quite as good as +8, but still better than a negative number. With each +1 on the True Count, the player gets an extra 0.5% advantage. If played right, True Count along with a good strategy will increase your chances of winning fast. Here you can also see how much you should raise your bet, according to the true count:

True count of +2 or +3: double your normal bet
True count of +4 or +5: 3 times your normal bet
True count of +6 or +7: 4 times your normal bet 
True count of +8 or more: 5 times your normal bet 

Black Jack variations

Through the years, a lot of different variations has been developed as well. A lot of people has made their own version and the players has polished it to be the way they want to play. Some of the variants has become widely spread and popular, and it's good to know what these are. We could write forever about versions and different rules, but we'll try to keep it short and easy to understand.

Pontoon

One of the most different yet popular version of black jack. Its name is probably a mock-of from the English, as the Fresh called it Vingt-et-un (twenty-one) and the English thought it sounded like ”pontoon”. The names and rules are changed, as well as the pay outs and odds. As a player, you must hit on 14 and below, hit is called Twist, a black jack is Pontoon. A hand with five or more cards that is worth 21 or lower, is called a Charlie or a Five Card Trick. This is the second best hand you can have, just under a pontoon. Both hands pays 2:1.

The dealer also keeps both their cards faced down, but checks for pontoon before the round starts. If the dealer and the player has a hand of the same value, no matter how high it is, the dealer will win. However, a Charlie/Five Card Trick beats a hand worth the same but contains fewer cards.

Spanish 21

Spanish 21 is also quite different from the classic black jack, and is more similar to Pontoon. It's played with 6-8 Spanish decks – a deck with no 10s. The J, Q and K is still there, but no 10. The dealer has one open card and one dark, and the dealer checks for black jack if the open card is an ace or a card worth 10 (J, Q, K). Just like in Pontoon, the dealer wins on every push, except for black jack – if it's black jack push the player wins.

One big difference between Spanish 21 and Black Jack is some of the rules. In Spanish 21, you have a rescue called Late Surrender. This makes it possible to give up your hand and get half your stake back, whenever you want if the dealer has checked for black jack. You can also surrender after you've doubled down – a so call double down rescue. There is also a few other ways to win more than a 1:1 profit. Some of them and their payouts are shown below.

7-7-7 in spades – 3:1
Five Card Trick (21 or lower with five cards) – 3:2
Six Card Trick (21 or lower with six cards) – 2:1
Seven Card Trick (21 or lower with seven cards) – 3:1
7-7-7 in the same suit when the dealer has a 7 – 50:1