Although the exact origins of blackjack are unknown, the game was developed in the U.S sometime during the 19th century. It is a variation of the game Twenty-One (or 21), which dates back to 17th-century Europe. The game is believed to have originated in Spain, but it was in France that the game really took off — even the King played it. 

Today, the game is most popular on online sites and in casinos, where you’ll find everything from slots and poker to sports betting and eSports entertainment. It’s also seeped into mainstream pop culture, in films like the James Bond series, 21, and Rain Man.

Getting Started with Blackjack

Blackjack is fairly easy to learn, which makes it a popular choice for casino newcomers. It also comes in many variants to keep things interesting for players. But this doesn’t mean the game is neglected by more skilled players. The game becomes more complex when you focus on its mathematical components, which is a huge draw for those types of players.

In casinos, blackjack typically uses multiple decks (6 or 8 52-card decks) in order to deter card counting. More decks makes it a lot harder — but not impossible — to count the cards. Dealers are also trained to spot card counters. But when playing the game online, card counting is basically impossible because of the number of decks used and computer-generated shuffling.

Additionally, in casinos, the game is played on a semi-circular table, which can usually fit anywhere from five to seven players. There is also one dealer. The object of the game is fairly simple, too: To beat the dealer. This can be accomplished by getting as close to 21 as possible without going over (when the dealer does) or by acquiring a total larger than the dealer’s total.

Variations of Blackjack

There are many variants of blackjack, or games that can be grouped together as being a part of the blackjack family. In most land-based casinos you’ll usually find classic blackjack. On online sites, blackjack comes in a host of versions from the classic version to themed versions like Deal Or No Deal. But there are even more variations than that online and offline, such as Spanish 21, Blackjack Switch, Pontoon, Double Attack Blackjack, and Double Exposure Blackjack.

There are also many different ways to play blackjack. In a casino, you can typically play it at a table or at a machine, where it’s referred to as video blackjack. On online sites there are VIP, premium, live, single player, and multi-player versions, offering you even more ways to play the game.

How to Play Classic Blackjack

To play, you’ll need to make a minimum bet. In a casino, you can do this by purchasing chips before the start of a round. You’ll have other opportunities to bet throughout the game, too. Players can also typically play more than one hand per round as long as a table isn’t full. When hitting, or being dealt another card, you’ll beckon with your fingers or tap the table.

In classic blackjack, cards 2 through 10 count at face value. Face cards — i.e. Jacks, Kings, and Queens — count as 10. An ace can be either a 1 or an 11. For example, if a player is dealt a Jack and a 9, the total would be 19. If they’re dealt a third card that brings their total over 21, that’s referred to as a “bust.” So if they’re dealt a 5 next, then J (10) + 9 + 5 = 24.

There are soft hands and hard hands in the game. A soft hand is any hand with an ace that values 11. A hard hand is a hand that has an ace that values 1 or else any hand without an ace. If you get an ace as one of your first two cards, it’ll count as an 11, making it a soft hand. If you have an ace and draw a third card that would make your total over 21, this ace will switch from a value of 11 to a value of 1, turning your hand into a hard hand.

Now that you know the basics, you can get started!