Understanding Blackjack: Concepts, Gameplay & Mechanics

Blackjack or 21 is perhaps the most compelling form of gambling to date. It has very simple mechanics that are easy-to-follow yet could be very tricky and complicated if not formally grapsed. Based on its name alone, one can infer that the game revolves around the idea that one should get a hand that is worth 21 or somewhere close to the said value. Having cards that are way to far from the standard value will ultimately lead to a loss. With this kind of mechanics, players could not help but get hooked up with the fast pacing and thrilling gameplay. For beginners however, it is important that they fully understand what blackjack is all about before even landing on their first gaming bet.


Humble Beginnings: The History of Blackjack
While many would claim that it was Edward O Thorp who established this famous gambling diversion, credible texts and ancient documents prove that the game was already in existence centuries before Thorp wrote ‘Beat the Dealer,’ the alleged source of the game. Moreover, historians and modern-day professionals point out that Thorp’s creation was nothing but a refined textbook on blackjack that presents the most comprehensive details of its rules, instructions, mechanics, and betting system. Therefore, it is not surprising that this book has become the standard when it comes to playing blackjack. Consequently, this paved the way to the inevitable success of blackjack both as a gambling form and as a favourite pastime. However, the game is gaining a controversial reputation lately because statisticians and mathematicians opine that they already have devised a way to conquer the game. Despite this inadequacies and frivolous speculations about the game’s mechanics, blackjack continues to win the hearts of many.


Blackjack Classification
Perhaps unknown to many beginners in the game, blackjack actually has two major classifications based on the shuffling mechanism of the cards as well as the manner of how they are stacked. Generally speaking, the number of decks used in a round or two may vary; many casinos utilize at least two decks while others go for at least six or eight decks to cater to larger number of players. This does not affect the classification of blackjack. There are two types of blackjack: manual and shoe game. The manual type – like what its name says – is where a dealer manually shuffles all the decks of cards. Moreover, the cards are laid down face-down for private viewing of each player. On the other hand, shoe game makes use of a shuffling device referred to as ‘shoe.’ Then, the cards are placed face-up for public viewing plus players are not allowed to touch them anymore.


How to Play
Blackjack is played by the dealer dealing two cards to the player(s) and dealer. Both of the cards dealt to the player are dealt face up, while the second card that the dealer receives is placed face up. Betting is done before the round begins.After the cards are dealt, the player will decide if they will stand, hit, double down or split. The options for each hand are below:


  • Hit: the player or dealer receives another card from the dealer
  • Stand: the dealer or player agrees to keep the amount of cards they currently have
  • Double down: this strategy can only be made after the deal and no later in the hand. The player is able to double their initial bet and only receives one additional card.
  • The Split: this strategy is also only available immediately after the deal. If the player’s hand has two cards of equal value, they are able to split their hand in to two hands. Two cards are then dealt to the player, with one card placed on each hand.


Gaming Mechanics – Playing with the Cards
The game itself may be played by many people; however, it’s a duel between two parties only: the house which is represented by the dealer and the players, themselves. Every player has equal opportunity of winning since each should focus solely on beating the hands of the dealer. To do this, je should at least get a pair of cards having a value worth 21 or somewhere close to it, but not merely above it. Exceeding the standard value will automatically lead to a loss. When this happens, the player is referred to as having a bust regardless of whether the house also has a bust or not. Therefore, the key to winning a round or two is by going for cards that are lower or equal to the standard value.


Value System
Despite having certain complexities in terms of its classifications and whatnot, blackjack is governed by a standard set of values.

Cards from 2 to 10 have the same value like what their figures say
Face cards are considered to have the value of ten only regardless of their rank
If in case, the player does not have any ace in his hands, then he is considered to have a ‘hard hand’ and the value of his cards will be taken as is.

On the other hand, if the player has an ace, he has a ‘soft hand’ and his total value will depend on the value of the number cards plus the value of the ace, which could either be 1 or 11. An ace card will be taken as 11 if it will total to 21. Players who have this hand will most likely win the round. However, the said card will be taken as 1 if the hand will not total to a value of 21. Contrariwise, if the player pushes to take the ace card as 11 although the total value will exceed 21, his has a bust in his hands and he will lose the round.


Wagering Modes and Other Options
When the dealer has an ace for his showing card in a certain round, players are given the option to wager an insurance. This refers to the capacity of the player to side bet half of his bet, considering the strong chance of the house to have a 21. If indeed the dealer has a 21 value, the insurance bet will ensure players with a 2-1 odss payout. On the contrary, if the dealer does not have a 21, the player loses his insurance.

Players are also provided with the option to surrender prior to revealing his hand. Automatically, the player will lose half of his bet to the house. In addition, there is also the option of early surrender. In this case, the player surrenders his hand before the dealer even views his cards. There is also the option of late surrender wherein the player only announces his surrender after the dealer has seen his cards. If it’s a 21, the surrender is withdrawn and the player loses the round.

Even money is a betting option that allows players to cash out a 1:1 ratio of his bet due to his hunch that the dealer has a 21 after finding out that the latter’s showing card is an ace

Split hand is an option where the player divides his two cards and bets on them separately. This is done when a player has received two identical cards and this option enables players to win two separate winnings for a single round.

Double down is an option where players can double his wager on his cards, believing that he is to win despite only seeing his first card. This also increases the chances of winning more in a certain round.

Paroli system
In the Paroli system, you make an initial bet of $5. If that bet wins, the player would then take the initial bet plus the winnings and bet that on the next hand. After three cycles completes, the player would then set the winnings aside, and start the system over.

The Martingale system
One of the more popular, or well-known system is known as the Martingale system. This strategy involves increasing a bet after every loss. Bets are doubled after every loss to compensate for the previous losses endured. The second part of the system states that every time a player wins, the money is pocketed, or set aside. This system seems to reinforce the questionable strategy of chasing a loss, or sending good money after bad by attempting to compensate for previous losses by upping the amount bet instead of cutting losses or staying consistent with a betting strategy. This strategy is favoured and most likely best suited for players with large banks or large amounts of money to risk.

d’Alembert System
This system is named after Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, a French mathematician and scholar. With D’ Alembert method, a bet is decreased by one unit after a win, and increased by one after a loss. d’Alembert wrote a paper on dynamics and that expanded on Newton’s third law. This could have come into the application of the system that has his name.


Hints & Tips
The tip for Blackjack in the online and physical realm is to find reputable casinos and sites. Learn the game and understand that there is no certainty you will win and play smart.

Always have fun and if you are losing consistently, pull away from the computer or table and take a breather, and never spend more money than you have.

Study the game and learn from other more experienced players.

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