American Blackjack is one of the most common variations of blackjack across many land-based and online casinos. However, despite its popularity, there are many misconceptions about the game rules and how they work. While the gameplay surrounding all blackjacks is mostly the same, there are usually slight variations, even for the same American Blackjack in different casinos, whether online or land-based.
It means you can have an American Blackjack with a slightly different rule depending on the game provider and the casino offering the game. That being said, prior knowledge about the type of blackjack you play is crucial to your success.
In the following sections, this review extensively covers all the vital things you need to know about American Blackjack, including the subtle details that can affect your gameplay and the key strategies to help you succeed the next time you find yourself in Las Vegas or Macau or playing from your PC. So, read on to find out more.
What is American Blackjack?
American Blackjack is also referred to as traditional blackjack or classic blackjack. In some casinos, you might find it under other names like Vegas Single Hand Blackjack, Atlantic City Blackjack, Vegas strip, and Vegas Downtown Blackjack. So, there is no need to panic if you see any of these names being used on any site because they are almost the same thing. The keyword here is “almost” because there might be some variations depending on where you choose to play.
American Blackjack is a multiplayer card game wherein players compete independently against a dealer who deals cards to every player with the same goal: to win the dealer. So, the question is, how do you play this game? How do you beat the dealer to win? While this game can be fun, it combines more strategy than luck. What you do with the cards after it has been dealt determines the game’s outcome. Sounds interesting, right? Let’s get you started with how to play American Blackjack right away.
How to Play American Blackjack
American Blackjack is easy and fun to play, like every other table game. However, if you play for more than just fun, you must understand how the game works. To start playing, use the chip to select your minimum and maximum bets for every hand. Once ready, click on the deal button to start the hand if you are playing online or notify the croupier if you are playing in a regular land-based casino.
In typical gameplay, the dealer and players are dealt two cards. However, a major talking point for American Blackjack is how the cards are dealt. For the dealer, one card is dealt face up and the other face down, known as the hole card. This is not the same for the players. Instead, both cards are dealt face up to the player alone. This difference in how they are dealt is one of the significant features distinguishing American Blackjack from its European counterpart.
Upon receiving the two cards, the next step is to check and decide your next move based on your information. While you have seen your cards, you also see one of the dealers’ cards (dealt face up). Afterwards, you can decide on what to do based on your card value as well as that of the dealer. Remember, the goal is to beat the dealer, and to do so, the player must get 21 points or be the closest to the number to be declared the winner. What other players have does not matter. The game focuses on the dealer because that is the reference point to determine whether you win or lose the round.
Indeed, this looks easy. However, there are rules to follow which determine how you play and what you can or cannot do. Likewise, every card has a value that can affect your gameplay. Let’s see what the card values in American Blackjack look like so you can have a picture of what it means to hit 21 or as close as possible.
Blackjack Card Value
An essential aspect of playing American Blackjack is knowing each card’s value. Since the game’s goal is to get a blackjack (21 points) or a combination of cards that will put you closest to 21, it is crucial to understand the value of each card. Below are the cards used in American Blackjack and their face value.
- Ace: This can be a 1 or an 11, depending on the other cards that currently make the player’s hand.
- Jack, King, and Queen: Each of these cards has a value of 10 points.
- 2-10: These cards numbered 2 to 10 have a value corresponding to their face value.
American Blackjack Rules
While the game’s goal is the same across all the blackjack variants, there is a subtle difference in the rules. At the start of the game, each player has the time to decide on how much they want to stake. Once the bet is placed, the dealer shuffles and deals the card. Two cards are dealt from a deck that varies from 2 to 8, depending on the casino. Each deck contains 52 cards, and the more decks in use, the more difficult in counting the cards. Once the cards are dealt, the hand begins when the player clicks on “deal”; after this option, the bet can no longer be modified. However, the player can place extra bets by using any available game features such as splits, double down, and insurance to make additional bets. While the game is in play, here are some standard rules to remember:
- Whoever busts first automatically loses the round.
- The player loses the round if the dealer hits a blackjack
- The player wins with a 1:1 payout if the points are close to 21 more than the dealer.
- The bets are returned if there is a tie in the game. This happens when the dealer and the player have a blackjack. However, the player earns 1:1 the bet value if the tie comes from having the same points and not a blackjack.
- When a player splits his cards, the hand changes from a single two-card combination to two different single cards. Before splitting, the player must bet on each of these combinations with the same amount as the original bet. Once that happens, the second card is dealt automatically after the layer has finished with the first hand.
Undoubtedly, these are straightforward rules to follow. However, more can be considered a part of the game itself. Let’s get you started with the key features of American Blackjack.
Key Features of American Blackjack
These features will help you understand how the game works in line with the rules of the game. Remember that the dealer has two cards. If the first card dealt face up can be used to make a blackjack (10 or an ace), the dealer checks the second card dealt face down to decide the next move. Let’s move our focus away from the dealer to the player. If the player checks his card and has a blackjack, the dealer turns in the second card to determine the game’s outcome for all the layers. Many things can happen during this period, and it is vital to understand the available features and betting options. Below are some of the betting decisions you can make:
As the name implies, this betting option allows players to set up an insurance bet to protect the original wager. At the start of the gameplay, remember that the dealer gets one card face up. If that card is an ace, then the player or any other player can decide to go for an insurance bet, and that’s because the player has a feeling that the dealer will likely win that round.
The insurance bet must be half the initial bet amount. Once the insurance bet is active, if the dealer opens the second card and eventually hits a blackjack (21), the player wins with a payout of 2:1 on the insurance bet. However, the player loses the insurance bet if the dealer does not hit blackjack with the second card initially dealt face down from the start of the game.
Another exciting feature or betting option that is available for American Blackjack is splitting. This feature allows the player to split the bet into two to create an extra hand. For example, cards like QQ, 99, and 66 can be split into two separate hands. The additional wager has to be the same bet amount as the first, and some conditions must be followed to split.
Players can split their cards a maximum of two times for three hands. The only exemption is when the dealt card is a pair of aces. A particular type of insurance bet is Even Money which is allowed when the player has been dealt blackjack, but the dealer has an ace face up. With an Even Bet type of insurance, the player wins with a payout of 1:1, irrespective of whether the dealer hits a blackjack or not.
Meanwhile, when a player splits a pair of aces, only one additional card is allowed afterwards.
The player is no longer eligible for an instant blackjack payout on either hand when the original pair is an ace.
In splitting aces, the player will be declared the loser if the dealer gets a blackjack from combining a 10 or face card with an Ace, even if the player gets a blackjack on any or both hands.
Hit means asking for more cards to continue the gameplay. This decision does not affect the total bet but could affect the outcome of subsequent events. So, when are you supposed to go for a hit? That’s a strategy we will talk about as you read on.
More or less the opposite of hit, this time, you continue to play with the cards you have without asking for more. The decision to Hit or Stand is another critical strategy to play American Blackjack successfully.
This risky option allows players to increase their payout in the middle of a hand. Players often double down after viewing the first two cards initially dealt and seeing they have a high chance of winning. When that happens, the player gets one more card face up, after which the player must stand to determine the game’s outcome. The double-down feature can also be applied to a split, and in that case, it applies to both hands.
As the name suggests, this option allows players to fold their hands once they feel the chances of hitting a blackjack are slim. Usually, this decision can be made immediately after the first two cards are dealt before the dealer check for blackjack.
Making the decision early enough in the game is called “early surrender”, which will only cost half the ante bet. However, late surrender is a bit tricky because the decision comes after the dealer checks for a natural blackjack. You can’t surrender if the dealer hits a blackjack, which means you lose the entire bet.
When a player has an Ace with a value of 1 or no Ace at all, it is considered a hard hand in American Blackjack. In this case, an 8 with a queen is considered a hard 18.
If a player is dealt two cards and one turns out to be an Ace and the other a 6, it is considered a soft 17, and that’s because the ace has a value of 11.
American Blackjack Payout System
Depending on the option in play, there are three possible outcomes when playing American blackjack.
- Natural win (Blackjack payout)
- Insurance payout
- Other wins
A natural win is hitting a blackjack without using any available lifelines. When that happens, the payout is 3:2 of your bet. Meanwhile, if you decide to make an insurance bet during gameplay, the payout changes to 2:1, and when you use other options, you could get a 1:1 payout when you win.
American Blackjack Strategies
Just like every other variation of blackjack, you need more than just luck to win the dealer. As already discussed, you need to know the game rules and betting options. Based on this, players can create strategies to help increase their chances of success. For example, when should you hit or stand? Should you split or double down? When is considered the best moment to take any of these decisions? What is the best action to take if the dealers’ card is an Ace? Answering these questions is crucial to your success when playing American Blackjack.
So far, many strategies and tips have been published across different sites. However, we will share some that you can try. Feel free to use these tips in demo games or when you have bonuses to enjoy.
The Martingale Strategy
The Martingale Strategy is one of the most popular in the gambling world, and that’s because many players adopt the tactic even without knowing it. The principle is based on doubling your bet each time you lose until you win. Now, that sounds a little strange, right? For example, you start with £10 and lose your first hand. Then you bet £20, followed by £40, £80, and £160. £320 and so on until you eventually land a win. So, what if you never win until you ultimately give up?
This Martingale strategy is considered an aggressive approach and is an excellent option for players who fit into the description below:
- Players that are looking to land huge wins while playing blackjack
- Players that are willing to lose a colossal amount while playing blackjack
- Players that have what it takes to bear the swing of significant losses
So, let’s say you finally get a win when you bet £740. Adding up all the previous bets sums up to £630, which means that you risked £740 to make a profit of £110 in the final bet. This can continue for as long as you want, but it is always important to know when you are having a bad day to quit without damaging your finances.
Meanwhile, there are many twists to this; for example, you can try out other variations as follows:
- Reverse martingale
- Grand Martingale
- Mini martingale
In Reverse Martingale, you don’t have to double your bet after every loss. Instead, you can double after each win.
Likewise, in the Grand martingale system, the player adds an additional hand after every loss. The extra hand will help recoup your losses if you win the bet. However, like the standard Martingale system, the risk is always very high, and knowing when you’ve had enough is crucial.
Finally, the Mini Martingale System is the most conservative of all the Martingale variations. It allows players to limit the number of double-down options they can use in each bet to prevent huge losses. While this strategy has low risk, the reward system is also low.
When to Hit or Stand/Stay
Knowing when to hit or stand is a fundamental and essential strategy for every player. Remember, to hit is to request an extra card, while to stand or stay is to end your current hand.
So, the question is, when is the right time to make any of these calls? It depends on the dealer’s hand and yours. Since one of the cards is dealt face up in American Blackjack, this gives the player an idea of the next move. If the dealer’s card is an Ace or a 10-value card, the likelihood of hitting a blackjack or close to 21 is very high, and you need a solid hand to beat the dealer. In this situation, if you are holding a 10 or your total card value is between 12-16, then the best call is to hit. However, you can decide to stand if you have anything between 17 and above. Of course, this is not a guarantee. Sometimes, it might work in your favour, and you might be busted in other situations.
Similarly, if the dealers’ card that is dealt face up is less than a 10, maybe 4, 5 or 6, the chances of hitting a blackjack with the remaining card is slim. In this case, you can stand if your card value is above 13 and call for a hit if it is below 12. The face value of the dealers’ card and how low it is will go a long way to determine your next move.
When to Double Down or Split
It only makes sense to double when you have seen your cards and feel confident that you have a very good hand. Now, how you choose to define a strong hand is entirely up to you. For some players, having a hand value of 10 or 11 is the ideal time to double down. That’s because there is a 30.7% chance that the next card drawn will be a 10 or something close, offering the possibility of hitting a blackjack or something very close. Now, this is a straightforward strategy based on personal intuition.
Likewise, if your first two cards turn out to be a pair, you can immediately decide to split. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to split when you have a low-value pair. Your chances of hitting a blackjack when the next card is drawn are low. However, if you have a pair of Aces, for example, it is a good call if you decide to split but bear in mind that it does not guarantee a win.
Another good time to split is when you have a pair of 8s. Playing it as a single hand leaves you with a total hand value of 16. But, if you look at the dealer’s hand and the card is as low as 2, you can decide to stay and possibly win the game. However, splitting is a good call if that is not the case. Ultimately, your decision is also based on the dealers’ hands.
How to Read Strategy Charts for American Blackjack
Regarding strategy charts, there are many versions for different variations of blackjack. However, once you understand the game’s rules, it is easier to sift these charts and select the ones relevant to the type of blackjack you want to play. The table below is a typical example of a blackjack strategy chart that gives you an idea of your next possible move depending on your hand value, and the dealers’ card dealt face up.
American Blackjack is a fun game based on luck and skill to determine the outcome of events. It is based on chance in that you do not decide how the cards are dealt. This is done through a Random Number Generator for all online casinos. However, if you are playing in a land-based casino somewhere in Monte Carlo or Las Vegas, the cards are dealt by a live croupier. But if you prefer online gambling, it is vital that you only play at a top-rated and licensed online casino.
Meanwhile, there is more to come after the cards have been randomly dealt. What you do with the cards is entirely up to you, and this is where strategy and skills come in—knowing what to do and when is vital to your success. More importantly, American Blackjack has a set of rules, and you must do well to follow them each time you play at any online casino.
What is American Blackjack?
It is a simple variation of blackjack that only differs from the others in how the cards are dealt during gameplay. Usually, the dealer gets one card face up and the other (hole card) face down.
Does the Blackjack strategy work?
Well, it works, but it does not guarantee you success always. The idea is to go into the game prepared for your next move, depending on the dealer’s card and your hand value. With a strategy, you increase your chances of winning.
Is there any difference between American Blackjack and European Blackjack?
Yes, there is a difference in the way the cards are dealt. In American Blackjack, one of the dealers’ cards is dealt face up, and the hold card (second card) face down, but in European Blackjack, only one card is dealt at a time. The dealer gets the second card after the player has made his move.
How many decks does American Blackjack have?
The number of decks varies from 2 to 8 depending on the online casino. It is essential to note the number of decks as it significantly impacts the house edge. The more the decks, the higher the house edge and, thus, the lower your chances of winning.