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How to play blackjack

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Looking for a card game to play at Wildz Casino? Look no further than the classic game of blackjack. This centuries-old game, also known as ‘21’ and ‘Pontoon’, is one of the easiest games to grasp at an online casino. Crucially, if you play the right way, it’s also possible to drastically cut the house edge of the game to elongate your bankroll, giving you more time to play and have fun.

A quick overview of the blackjack rules

If you’re a Kiwi that’s yet to experience the enjoyment of blackjack action, we’ve put together a quick overview of the rules of the game to get you started.

  • Values of blackjack hands are determined by calculating the value of all cards. Each card is counted at face value – face cards count as ten, and aces can either be one or 11 (whichever one improves your hand most).
  • The aim of the game is to build a hand that’s worth more than the dealer’s hand – and valued 21 or less. Hands worth 22 or greater are deemed ‘bust’.
  • The game starts with players placing a bet in front of them. The dealer deals two cards to each player and two to themselves – one of which is face up and one face down.
  • At this point, players must decide to either stand, hit, surrender, double down or split. Standing means you’re happy with your hand and don’t want another card. Hitting means taking an additional card from the dealer. Surrendering means giving up your hand after the first two cards and receiving half of your stake back. Doubling down means doubling the size of your initial bet and taking just one additional card to improve your hand. Splitting means turning a hand like a pair of eights or a pair of nines into two separate hands, with each hand given one additional card.
  • The dealer acts after all players at the table. They must continue hitting their hand until it’s worth at least 16. They then stand when their hand is worth 17 through to 21.
  • Players win if their hand is valued greater than the dealer’s hand without going bust. If your hand is worth the same as the dealer’s, the hand is tied or ‘pushed’, with your initial stake refunded to you. In blackjack odds, it’s believed that just 8.48% of games end in a push.

Some basic blackjack strategy for beginners

We know plenty of Kiwis looking for beginner tips on blackjack strategy. That’s why we’ve put together a master list of basic pointers to give you a head start when you fire up our online blackjack tables at Wildz Casino:

  • Wherever possible, try to play blackjack games that pay out 3:2 for blackjack. Some tables prefer to pay 6:5 for blackjack, giving you less bang for your buck when you land that perfect hand.
  • Don’t accept insurance whenever offered to you. Only four out of 13 potential cards will create a blackjack for the dealer beneath the ace – a probability of 30.8%. Given that you only receive 2:1 for winning insurance bets, this return doesn’t equate to the likelihood of it happening.
  • Steer clear of blackjack betting systems. These systems may sound like they give you more control over your betting, but the reality is that the house edge will always get you in the end. Ed Thorp’s basic blackjack strategy charts are a great alternative to steer you in the right direction by acting on hands based on the dealer’s cards.
  • Make sure you only split certain pairs. Aces and eights are the most beneficial pairs to split. Splitting aces gives you two chances to land a blackjack. A pair of eights is worth 16, which is a poor hand in blackjack. By splitting them, you have an opportunity to build two hands worth more than 16.
  • Don’t split pairs of tens. You already have a great hand worth 20; there’s no need to take the risk and potentially go bust on two hands!
  • Never stand on ‘soft 17’ – this is a hand of A-6. It’s either worth seven or 17. Don’t accept 17. You effectively have a free card, as even if you hit a face card your hand would be worth 18 (A-6-10).

The casino house edge depends on how well you play blackjack

In general, the house edge of most conventional online blackjack games sits at around 2%. This means that for every NZ$100 you bet, you’re statistically likely to generate a return of NZ$98 over the long-term – a loss of NZ$2.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t get lucky with short-term variance and experience a brief winning run. On the other hand, it’s equally possible to experience a heavy losing run too.

The house edge also increases when more decks are used in the dealer’s shoe. Single-deck blackjack carries the lowest house edge as there are fewer permutations in the deck for players to consider. At our online live casino, most of our live blackjack tables are operated using continuous shuffling machines that help to fully randomise every game’s outcome.

However, just by adopting the basic strategy devised by Edward O. Thorp, it’s possible to slash the house edge from 2% to as low as 0.5%. That’s because you’ll make more in-game decisions based on statistical probabilities rather than emotion.


What are the basic rules in Blackjack?

Once all cards are drawn, whoever has a total closer to 21 than the dealer wins. The hand with the highest total wins as long as it doesn't exceed 21; a hand with a higher total than 21 is said to bust.

What is the house edge in Blackjack?

It depends on how you play; the more efficiently you play, the lower this can become. You can bring the house edge down to just 0.5-1% if done correctly.

How is the score calculated?

Blackjack hands are scored by their point total. Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, and face cards (jack, queen, king) are worth 10. Ace is worth 1 or 11.

Can I use strategy to increase my edge in Blackjack?

You can get a good return by slowing down your play and reducing the house edge to the bare minimum using the basic playing strategy.

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