Blackjack is the most popular casino table game. The game is available at nearly all online casinos. Blackjack's low house edge and acceptable variance make it an excellent choice for playing through bonuses when allowed.
Rules and Play
Blackjack hands are scored according to the sum of card values. For example, a hand composed of a 4, 5, and 6 is scored as 4+5+6=15. Face cards each have a value of 10. Aces can be valued as either 1 or 11, so an ace and 7 could be scored as either a 8 or a 18. The objective in blackjack is to have the highest card sum that does not exceed 21. A sum of greater than 21 is called a bust. If the player busts, he loses his bet, regardless of the dealer hand. A 2-card 21 is known as a "blackjack" and is the highest ranking hand. The player receives a bonus for having a blackjack. Blackjacks pay 3:2, while other wins pay 1:1.
After placing a bet, the player and dealer are each given two cards. One of the dealer's two cards is face up and visible to the player. Under standard rules, if the dealer has an ace or 10-point card showing, he will peek for a possible blackjack. If the dealer has an ace showing, the player has the opportunity to buy "insurance" against the blackjack. Insurance pays 2:1 if the dealer's remaining card is a 10 or face card to form a blackjack. With single-hand play, the house edge on the insurance bet of is 2-15%, depending on decks and cards played. So it is not to the player's advantage to buy insurance, excluding special situations in which the deck is known to be tens rich (multi-hand with 1-2 decks and few tens drawn, or card counting). See the insurance exceptions page for more detail. If the dealer does have a blackjack, the hand will end. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, then the player must decide how to play his hand. Possible options are listed below:
Stand -- The player can keep his cards and end the hand.
Hit -- The player can take another card. The player can continue hitting until reaching 21 or busting.
Double -- The player can double his bet and take another card. The hand ends after this 3rd card is drawn. The player is not able to hit after a double and may only double on a 2-card hand.
Split -- If the player has two cards of equal value, he can split the cards into two separate hands. The player's bet is doubled to make one bet for each of the two hands. After the split, the player is given another card in each hand to form two 2-card hands. If the player splits a pair of aces, the hand ends after the 2nd card is drawn. If the player splits any other card, he can choose to hit, stand, or double on each of the remaining hands. A 2nd split may be allowed as well.
With such complicated rules, optimal strategy for baccarat is surprisingly simple. There are no strategy choices among which cards to take or whether to hit/stand. Place a bet on banker or player, then wait for the dealer to flip the cards, and see if you have won or not. Banker bets have a slightly lower house edge than player bets under typical circumstances, as explained below. Optimal strategy is to simply bet on banker.