Blackjack is a simple card game where the players play against the bank rather than each other. It is probably the most popular casino card game in the world and comes in many variants.
The aim of the game is to get a higher value hand than the dealer, without going over 21. Because there are so many variations, it is fair to say that the name blackjack refers to the group of card games that share this basic objective, rather than one specific game.
The name itself is believed to derive from a variant that no longer exists. When the game first came to America in the 1800s, casinos offered a special payout of 10:1 if the player made a 21 consisting of an Ace and the Jack of Spades, the black Jack. This was in order to encourage players to try the new game.
This payout was dropped pretty quickly, but the name blackjack stuck, and refers to both the game and a hand with a value of 21.
Classic blackjack is believed to be the closest to the original game of Vingt-Un, which was mentioned in literature as far back as 1602 ("Rinconete y Cortadillo" by Miguel de Cervantes). It is played with eight decks of 52 cards, and you can read the rules here.
American blackjack refers to a group of games that share similar rules.These can be played with 2 to 8 decks of cards, and you can find out more here.
European blackjack is similar to American blackjack in that it uses between 2 and eight decks of cards. However, the rules, which you can read here, are much more restrictive for the player.
This is the variant that is most commonly played in Las Vegas. Its liberal rules on splitting, doubling and surrendering, which are detailed here, give the player better odds than European or classic versions.
Blackjack switch is a newer version of the game that was patented in 2009. Basically, the player is dealt two hands instead of one, and can switch the top cards between hands. To find out more about how it evolved and how to play, click here.
Perfect Pairs is another newer variant of blackjack that offers players the opportunity to place a side bet on whether their initial hand will be a pair.
Spanish blackjack, also known as Spanish 21, is a fast-paced variant of the game with some unusual twists, including the removal of all tens from the packs. You can find out how this affects the game and how to play here.
While each variant of the game comes with its own twist, simple blackjack rules all cover the same situations. Below is a list of basic blackjack rules and some variations.
Insurance is a side bet that can be made when the dealer is showing an Ace. It costs half the original stake, and the player is betting the dealer will get a natural blackjack. If this happens, the player loses their main bet, but receives a 2:1 payout on the insurance bet.
Experienced players, when they receive certain value hands in blackjack, double, meaning they double their original stake and get one more card. This can be a risky move and must be based on both the value of the player’s hand and the dealer’s card.
A split in blackjack means dividing your hand into two separate hands. This can only be done when the hand is a pair. Rules regarding exactly when a player can split, and what value pairs can be split, vary significantly from version to version, so be sure to clarify this before you start playing.