You’re down to your last dollars. The virtual casino has taken your money all night at different table games and machines. You decide to just wing it at the online blackjack table, throwing the last of your money down on a single hand. Your heart beats faster and you try not to smirk as your first card is an ace. You’re waiting for that second card. Hoping luck is turning your way and your comeback can begin. You wave your fingers at the electronic cards, hoping to magically influence them. Here comes your card and the second it takes to get it feels so much longer. Are you back in the game? Blackjack! It’s a face card, and you win, feeling the rush of excitement.
How to Play Online Blackjack
The basics of online blackjack couldn’t be simpler. All you have to do is beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21. One important thing that we will touch on in more detail later is the dealer has to play to 17. Knowing this can give the player an advantage when deciding what to do with their cards. But let’s break it down to the basics before moving on to strategies. I’ll even share some tips and sayings I’ve learned from my father-in-law. And while he’s no Al Francesco, I’ve seen him do quite well at blackjack.
Once you’ve placed your bet, which is normally in increments of $5, the cards are dealt. You’re dealt two cards. The dealer also has two cards, but you can only see one of them. The other remains facedown until you’re done with your hand. You want to get as close to 21 without going over. In online blackjack, you can push the button that reads “hit” and receive another card from the deck as many times as you want. Your other option is to press the button that reads “stand” and keep the hand you have. This is also known as stay. Once you’ve decided to stay the dealer will play until they are at 17 or over. Aces can be a 1 or an 11 and are the most important part of getting a blackjack.
When I play online blackjack, I always assume the dealer’s face-down card is a 10. Of course, statistically, it can’t always be a 10. However, it’s a good way to play your hand and decide how you’re going to move forward. If I’m sitting on 12, and the dealer is showing a 9, I’m assuming they have 19. In that case, I will most likely hit and hope they hit me with anything besides a face card. This is also true if I’m sitting on a 15 and the dealer is showing a 4. I assume they have 14, and I’ll stand. This strategy would be hoping the dealer’s two cards equal 14, and that their next card will bust them. It’s not foolproof but it can help you decide what to do.
Lucky number 17?
One thing to keep in mind is the dealer has to play to 17. If you stand at 15 and they have 16, they don’t automatically win. They have to take another card. Most online blackjack rules also have the dealer stay on soft 17’s. A soft 17 is when the dealer has a 6 and an ace. Once a dealer goes over 17 their turn is done. For example, let’s say you stayed at 19. If the dealer’s two cards equal ten and they hit an eight for 18, their turn is done. They can’t take another card to try and beat your 19, granted the likelihood of them busting would be high anyway. If the dealer is showing a face card or an ace, they will always check to see if they have blackjack. If they do, gameplay ends there, and you lose your bet.
How Do I Win?
You probably understand at this time the way to win is to have a higher hand than the dealer without busting or to have the dealer bust. When you win in online blackjack you get the same amount as your bet. For example, if you bet $10, you’re given $10. If you’re dealt a blackjack, an ace, and a face card, you get your bet paid times and a half. If you had bet $10 on the hand, you would be given $15. When you win you always get your bet back as well so these examples would technically give you $20 and $25 back, since your original bet is included. If the dealer’s hand is better than yours or you bust, you lose your bet. If your hand matches the dealer, it’s considered a push and you don’t win anything, but you also don’t lose your bet.
If you’re dealt two cards of the same value, you can split them. It is highly debated on when you should and shouldn’t split, however, I base my decision on what the dealer is showing. Let’s say I’m dealt two 9’s and the dealer is showing a 5. Remember my mentality would be thinking that the dealer has 15. In this situation, I could split. When you split your cards, you put another bet out equal to your first and are now playing two hands, separately. You’ll get an additional card on your first 9 and hit or stand, and then move on to the second once you’ve decided to stay on the first. The rest of the gameplay plays out like normal. One thing to remember is if you get two aces and decide to split, some online blackjack casinos only let you get one card per hand. However, it’s customary to always split aces and cross your fingers for two blackjacks. It’s important to know the rules of your particular casino.
Another thing you can do in online blackjack is double your bet to receive just one card. This is most common when you are dealt 11 and you’re hoping the one card you get is a face card. Deciding on whether to double or not can also depend on what the dealer is showing. Not everybody agrees, but the degen that I am always doubles when I’m dealt 11. When you get 21 this way it isn’t considered a blackjack but is still the highest hand you can get. If I’m dealt 10, I base it on the dealer’s hand, and if the card that is showing is below 7. If it is and I’m feeling lucky, I’ll double my bet for one more card, hoping for a high card or a dealer bust.
As Easy As 1, 2, 21
Online blackjack is as simple as that. You’re now ready to make your way to the blackjack hall of fame. You play each hand, hoping to best the dealer or hoping the dealer busts. Now that you’ve learned some of the bare bones of online blackjack, let’s dive into some strategies I’ve learned over the years. I frequent blackjack tables at the casino, at home online, or even on a family gambling night. My father-in-law’s game of choice is blackjack and he decided to start giving me little bits of wisdom. While we give him a hard time for these, I have seen him put his strategies in action at the casino and watched them work. I often follow them as well and the sayings are a good way to remember what to do when the pressure is on. We call them “Mike-isms”.
Can You Take An 8?
This Mike-ism always gets some giggles from people as it sounds a little funny, but here’s the blackjack theory. This is a strategy when you’re sitting somewhere between 12 and 16, and the dealer is showing a 7 or higher. You’re debating if you should risk hitting and busting or standing. This theory is simply based on the cards in the deck. 61% of them are an 8 or less. So, if you’re sitting at 13, and you feel the dealer has 17, you need an 8 or less. This means there’s only a 39% chance of busting. However, if you’re sitting at 15, and you feel the dealer has 17, only 53.8% of the cards will help you, and 46.2% of them will be bust cards. Your odds of busting in this situation are basically 50/50. Leaning on the percentages, “can you take an 8”, is a strategy to help you weigh whether you should take a hit or not. The next online blackjack strategy can supersede this one, however.
Stick Around For The Dance
Another Mike-ism when playing blackjack is “it pays to stick around for the dance”. I know what you’re thinking. What the hell does that mean? Hang on, I’ll explain. This can over-rule the “can you take an 8” rule and comes into play if the dealer’s shown card is between 2 and 6. You may be sitting on a 12, but you know they have to play to 17. Therefore, sometimes it pays to stick around for the dance and stand on 12, hoping for the dealer to bust. When I’m at the casino I’ve had many questioning looks when I stand on a 13 or 14. But as I’ve seen others around me bust, trying to get higher hands, I watch the dealer reveal his 16, and then draw a face card and bust. This is true for in-person and online blackjack.
Double Up On A Loss
This Mike-ism requires some bankroll. The strategy is simply doubling your bet with each loss with the idea of coming back to even. Let’s say you bet 1 unit and you lose. You would then bet 2 units. If you lose that one, you would bet 4 units, and so on until you win. Once you win, you’re even again and go back to betting 1 unit. I don’t normally play this way with online blackjack because it can get out of hand quickly if you happen to hit a losing streak, but it’s a strategy I’ve seen work for others.
A Very Versatile Hand
The last Mike-ism is one I don’t always follow, so take it with a grain of salt. This online blackjack strategy takes place when you are dealt an ace with a card that isn’t a face card. For example, you get an ace and a 4. This could be 5, or 15. The versatility comes into play because you can always take a hit on this, no questions. You might get a 6 and have 21. But, if you get a face card, you don’t bust and you’re right back at 15. The reason I sometimes avoid this is if I’m sitting at 15, and hit, my next card might be a 7, putting me at 12. I realize this doesn’t affect much since the dealer still has to play to 17, but I would rather be sitting on the 15. Plus, taking the 7 means I might have potentially taken the dealer’s bust card.
Putting Strategies to Use
It’s time to put my money where my mouth is with the how-to-play online blackjack explanation and the Mike-isms. So, I logged on, jumped on the blackjack table and made note of my hands. Below you can see how it goes. I’ll break it down into groups of five and give some explanation.
1st 5 Hands
Right away I put my one of the Mike-isms into play. I started with 10, which looked pretty good until my hit card was a 4. With the dealer showing a jack it was tempting not to take another hit. But I asked myself, can you take an 8? I couldn’t, so I didn’t take a hit and I stood where I was. The dealer’s face-down card ended up being a 2. Their hit pushed them to 22, busting, so I won. The second and third hands I stood because I had 17 and 18 respectively. Nothing can be done with these hands except to hope for the best. The dealer beat me on one of them and busted on the other. The fourth hand was unfortunate as the dealer hit blackjack. Last, I had 13. Asking myself can you take an 8, I realized I could and hit. I received a 5, giving me 18. Unfortunately, the dealer had 19. After the first 5 hands, I was down a unit.
The next three hands were pretty standard. The dealer busted on one of them and played to 21 on another. On the ninth hand, I tried to stick around for the dance with my 16, but the dealer ended up with 20. On the final hand, I had 6 or 16. I drew a 10, which left me at 16. I stood around for the dance given the dealer was showing a 2. The dealer ended up busting, giving me a win. I was even after 10 hands.
On my 11th hand with the dealer was showing a 3 I stayed on 14 so I could stick around for the dance. The dealer busted so I won. On the 12th hand, I could take an 8, and got an 8, putting me at 20. The 14th hand was one where I’ve been questioned at blackjack tables. But I had a 12, and the dealer was showing a 5, so I decided to stick around for the dance. Some online strategies follow this, others don’t. But the Mike-isms can help you remember which actions to take. With four wins in this section, I was up three units.
The 19th hand was the versatile hand and the hit paid off. I had 6 or 16 and got a 3, giving me 19. On the last hand, I would normally stay at 20 but split just for an example of a split. The dealer was showing a 4, so I felt fairly confident in my hands anyways. The first split hand gave me a 9 on the hit for a total of 19, which I stood on. The second was a 6, giving me 16. Standing on both of these I watched the dealer reveal a 10, for 14 total. The next hit put the dealer at 24, busting, giving me a two-unit win since I had split and put another unit out. After 20 hands, I finished up seven units. If you’ve never played, start slow. Get familiar with the game and I hope some of these tips help you remember what actions you’d like to take for each hand. Good luck and place your bets!