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An In-Depth Guide to Playing Blackjack

Blackjack guide

What Is Blackjack?

Blackjack is one of the most popular card games in the world, and remains a top-rated card game at our online casino as well as at land-based establishments today. In order to play blackjack, you'll require some basic skills, which is why most new casino players choose this table game option first before diving into other card game possibilities. 

In this guide, we'll provide you with all the blackjack information required while focusing on the following points:

  • The Origins of Blackjack
  • How to Play Blackjack
  • Blackjack Card Counting
  • Blackjack Strategies
  • Tips for Playing Blackjack

The Origins of Blackjack

While no one can be 100% sure where blackjack originated, there are quite a few theories as to where and how it all started. Games similar to blackjack have been played all over the world, and the most likely scenario is that they all influenced each other in one way or another, eventually leading to blackjack as we know it today.

As is obvious from the rules of the game, the number 21 plays quite a big role. The first mention of the concept of the number 21 was in the 1600s in a book written by Miguel de Cervantes. The book mentions a game called Veintiuna, the Spanish word for twenty-one. According to the author, the game was played without 10s, and Aces were versatile, meaning they could carry either a value of 1 or 11.

Furthermore, a game similar to this concept was birthed in France during the 1700s known as Vingt-et-Un, which if directly translated in French means twenty-one. Interestingly, in Spain, another similar game came about based on this theory, but instead of reaching 21, the goal was to reach a total hand of 31 by using three or more cards. Some players and historians also believe that something similar to blackjack was played during the Roman Empire; allegedly the wooden blocks that had numbers on them.

How to Play Blackjack?

Rules of Blackjack


There are many options when it comes to playing blackjack. Many variations of the game are available at STS website, making it easily accessible for everyone. In fact, our casino also supports mobile browser based gaming to allow you to play on the go. 

Furthermore, the blackjack rules are simple, and don’t include any special requirements. Even as a modern variation of the game, it remains easy to play as there are only minor changes to each type of blackjack game. 

When it comes to the online version, blackjack has become extremely popular over the years as software developers have created the best variations.

How to Get Started

All you need to do is select the blackjack game that appeals to you most. Then simply place your bet on the table and select the 'deal 'option. The game provides 2 face-up cards for your hand, and the dealer hand consists of 1 face down, and 1 face up card. As mentioned above, the objective is to get a higher value than the dealer without exceeding the value of 21. Naturally, the best value is 21, which can be reached with an Ace and picture card, which is known as blackjack.  

Card Values

When it comes to card values, there are only a few rules to remember. Ace cards can be used as 1 or 11, 2 of the same cards can be split into 2 hands, and finally, all face cards count as 10. 

The cards each have different numeric values, the numbered cards are the value of their number, for instance, a four of spades is simply a 4. Royal cards or face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) are worth 10 each. Aces can either have the value of 1 or 11, which makes it the most anticipated card in the deck.

How it Works in Action

The dealer first hands out two cards, one of the dealer’s cards remain upside down until you are ready to “stand”, in other words, you are happy with your hand. At the end of the round, the dealer’s other card is revealed to see who was closer to 21. The dealer adds to his hand until he has a total of 17 or higher. 

Some Common Terms While Playing Blackjack

The terms commonly used are “hit” and “stand”. 

Hit: To request a hit is to ask for another card. 

Stand: This action is used when you require no more cards. 

The best result is to be dealt an Ace and 10 as this is an instant win. If you score a blackjack (21), it typically means that you win 1.5 times your bet amount. This can vary depending on the type of blackjack game you're playing in terms of payout ratios.  

Blackjack Card Counting Explained

Card counting in blackjack

What Is Card Counting?

Card counting is a strategy used to determine whether or not you will be dealt a good hand, which will then give you an advantage over the dealer. Getting an advantage over the croupier is the main objective of playing blackjack, as you are essentially playing against the dealer and not against other players at the table.

Card counting can also allow you to predict the value of the cards that are still left in the deck, based on all the high and low valued cards that were dealt on the table. 

How to Count Cards

Counting cards can be broken down into 4 steps:

1: Assigning a value to every card.

2: Keeping a running count based on the values of the cards dealt.

3: Using this information to calculate the true count.

4: Changing your bets according to the true count.

It might sound very simple, but this strategy can take quite a while to master. 

Step 1: Counting cards has nothing to do with memorising, contrary to popular belief. The odds are better for a blackjack player if there are more Aces and 10 value cards (Kings, Queens, Jacks and 10’s) remaining in the deck. Card counting is all about keeping track of the ratio of low to high valued cards.

When using the high-low counting system, the following card values are used:

•    2 - 6 = +1

•    10 - Ace= -1

•    7 - 9 = 0

Now what does this mean?

If a card with a value from 2 to 6 is dealt, you will add 1, if a card valued from 7 to 9 is dealt you will do nothing, and if a card from 10 to Ace is dealt, you will subtract 1.

Step 2: A running count is kept by simply adding or subtracting every card that is dealt. The running count will be updated with each new card dealt. The player counts card after card and round after round until the cards are shuffled again. An increasing running count is in the player’s favour. If the running count is in the negative, the casino has the upper hand. Back when casinos used to use only one deck of cards, this information would have been enough to adjust your bets accordingly. But nowadays casinos use more than one deck to prevent card counting.

Step 3: This step is used when casinos deal with more than one deck. The true count is calculated when we do a count per deck. A 5+ count can mean two very different things when there are 6 decks remaining, vs. when there is only one more deck remaining. A 5+ running count with 6 decks remaining means that there are less than one high value card in each deck. If you had a running count of 5+ with only one deck remaining, there would be 5 high valued cards in that deck, which significantly increases your chances of winning.

Step 4: The only thing left to do now is change your bets accordingly.

Counting cards used to be a major way to win big at casinos as players who practised this method knew what cards were still available, giving them an advantage when it comes to predicting the dealer's other cards. 

However, casino software developers have found a way to avoid players using the system by using 6 to 8 decks of cards at a time. For this reason, it’s almost impossible to count cards with modern variations of blackjack. Even online single deck blackjack games have managed to avoid the practice as there is no way in knowing when a new deck is shuffled.

Blackjack Strategies – The Key to Winning Online

Blackjack - How to win?

To achieve solid wins with an even money game such as blackjack, an effective betting strategy is required. And there are many to choose from that provide huge potential for big gains after spending some time at the table. 

The Martingale Strategy

The Martingale strategy is essentially a basic progressive betting system that allows you to win back the losses from previous hands and still score a profit. 

The system is easy to use, but keep an eye on your bank balance as each losing round requires the bet to be doubled until you win. While you are learning to use the system, choose a table that offers low betting values and keep to a minimum bet and double up on each consecutive hand you lose. Once a winning round comes along, you’ll win back all the cash you’ve lost, and win a profit that is equal to the original bet. 

The Oscar’s System

This system was proposed by Dr. Allan Wilson, a genius mathematician in the 1960s. Its goal is to win one unit per series. You start a series by placing a bet of one unit. If you win, add a unit; if you lose, your next bet must stay the same. Believe it or not, that’s it for this one – straightforward enough.

2-1-2 (Manhattan) Strategy

What's important to know with this strategy is that there is no mathematical basis for streaks (hot or cold) at blackjack. Mathematicians themselves believe in no such thing as a streak, whereas players will swear otherwise. 

This unit based strategy is very similar to Oscar’s system, however, instead of maintaining the same bet if you lose a series, the 2-1-2 strategy says to go back to your original bet (not the previous series, but the very beginning). This strategy is best used when you experience a dip in your “streak” as the aim here is to avoid big losses. This is capitalizing on a good run of cards. This strategy is low risk, low reward (unless you are on a winning streak). 

The Double Down Strategy 

This blackjack strategy is often overlooked; however, it may be simple, but it is extremely effective in improving your odds of winning. Another perk of this strategy is that it gives you a chance to one-up the house edge. Once you’ve received your two-card hand, this strategy kicks into play. Knowing when and how to use this strategy is half that battle. 

This strategy involves “buying” another card which will cost another wager, the same as your original bet. This brings your total stake to double its original value. Remember not to confuse doubling down with “hitting” which is when you ask for more cards to try and get closer to 21. Whereas, doubling down adds to your bet and hitting does not. This difference is why most players consider doubling down a strategy rather than just another aspect of gameplay. Before doubling down, be sure of the strength of your hand because losing a hand will cost you double. Depending on the variation of blackjack that you’re playing, you will either be allowed to double down on your initial hand of cards while or only when your cards total nine, ten, and eleven. You can also double down after you’ve chosen to split your initial two card hand. 

The 1-3-2-6 Blackjack Betting System

This strategy might sound like a mouthful, but it isn’t quite as complicated. The 1-3-2-6 Betting system is rather easy to get the hang of and apply to your gameplay. This betting strategy is a positive progression system which is perfect if you’re in the middle of a winning streak. Effectively, you are required to add to your bet after each win.

The entire system is dictated by a cycle that has a starting and finishing point. This blackjack strategy is rather popular among veteran players as well as some skilled intermediate players. Don’t let this deter you if you’re a beginner or a casual player as the 1-3-2-6 betting system can be used to great effect if you know how to use it. 

Aim to start off this strategy with one unit. If your stake wins, then your following bet reaches up to three units. Then if that wager is also successful, you must increase your bet by two. If this proves to be yet another win then it’s time for your last increase of six, which marks the finishing point of the cycle and means that you must go back to the starting point of one. This is the cycle of a successful streak, if you lose somewhere along the way then you must go back to the starting point until your bet wins. 

The Paroli Betting System

This betting system has been around for some time and is one of the older blackjack systems on this list. Interestingly, this is a system that can be applied to a bunch of casino games and not just blackjack. This strategy, like the 1-3-2-6 system, is based on a positive progression betting system. This means that you add to your wager by a specific number after each win. When it comes to this type of strategy, the wager cycle begins with a single unit bet of your choosing. A recommended start is the table minimum or whatever percentage that your budget is suited to.

The Paroli betting system is a hit with new players and experienced players (and every player between) alike because of its simplicity. To begin a new cycle, start with one unit and if your wager wins, double the next wager. Then the positive progression of the Paroli system will continue to double up until the betting cycle starts again at the initial single unit wager. What makes this betting system unique is that the cycle only goes on for three winning hands that are consecutive. Along with this, the Paroli system has a lower risk than other strategies. 

This is how a Paroli would look during an actual game of blackjack:

  • 1st round – 1 unit bet – Result: win
  • 2nd round – 2 unit bet – Result: win
  • 3rd round – 4 unit bet – Result: win
  • 4th round – 1 unit bet to return to the start
  • If you experience a loss within the three-bet cycle, return to a single unit bet

The Hi-Lo System: Card Counting in Blackjack

The practise of card counting is a controversial one as many don’t understand it. This strategy is usually accompanied with the misconception that to count cards you need to have memorised the entire deck that is in play. This is a myth as it’s nearly impossible for any player to be able to know what cards are in the deck minus the cards in play. 

The facts surrounding this practise include the player having a basic idea of when the deck has a lot of high value cards and when it mostly contains low value cards. In essence, this strategy is meant to guide players in their decision of when to wager lightly or more aggressively. There is more than one card counting system, but the most popular is the Hi-Lo System. 

This is how the system would look when applied:

  • A +1 for 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 cards
  • A -1 for 10, J, Q, K and Ace cards
  • A 0 for 7, 8 and 9 cards

Then this is how you use the information:

  • Cards that have a +1 rating are low value
  • Cards that have a -1 rating are high value
  • Cards that have a 0 rating are middle value

Hopefully, this has cleared up the mystery that shrouded the misunderstood counting strategy. It is actually a simple and convenient way to plan your bets.

The Parlay Betting Strategy

This strategy can be used in a range of games and betting applications like horse racing and sports betting. The Parlay betting strategy can just as easily be adapted to blackjack. This strategy is created to use profits from wins instead of your bankroll. This is where the term comes from; you “parlay” the casino’s money to increase your profits. This is, therefore, playing with money earned while keeping your original bankroll intact. 

Advantages of using the Parlay strategy:

  • Profits made from previous wins are used and not your bankroll
  • Easy to learn and use, even for complete beginners
  • Perfect for blackjack
  • Progressive betting system

“Parlay” is an old term that means taking a winning bet and using it on another wager by adding your initial bet to the profit earned from the first winning bet. This strategy is less aggressive than others which means that players have better odds of sustainable cycles. The main goal of this system is to keep your bankroll intact and save your money by playing only with winnings. 

This is a fundamental scenario that shows how this strategy differs from other typical progressive systems and the way it saves you money in the long-term.

The betting system in play:

·      1st bet – 1 unit bet – result - win

·      2nd bet - 2 unit bet – result - win

·      3rd bet - 4 unit bet – result – win

·      4th bet – 8 unit bet – result – loss

In this scenario, the last bet was a loss of eight units which is quite costly. Compare this to the following Parlay system that ends up saving players more:

  • 1st bet - 1 unit bet – result – win
  • 2nd bet – 2 unit bet – result – win
  • 3rd bet – 3 unit bet – result – win
  • 4th bet - 4 unit bet – result – loss

Then, aim to use profits from previous wins and add them together to form your next bet. This betting strategy could very well be the easiest and safest of all betting strategies used in blackjack.

Blackjack Tips

Tips for the Blackjack Players!

Playing real money blackjack comes with a few rules you need to follow as there’s real stakes on the line. Risk is one of the main elements that you need to consider, as it acts as a tool with regards to when to stand and when to hit and add another card to your total. 

It is a known fact that professional blackjack players don’t always try to get to the highest value, instead, they pay attention to the face up card in the dealer’s hand as the player still wins if the dealer busts. 


Always split a hand of two aces to increase your chance of landing a solid win. 

Instead of splitting a hand of two 5’s, your better bet would be to double down instead. If you split a hand of two 5’s, you end up doubling your chances of getting a hand of 10’s each – which you can’t do much with. By doubling down, you have a more average hand which you can do more with. 

If your dealer has a hand with card values between 3 and 6, be sure to split a hand of two 6’s. If you see your croupier has a hand with card values between 3 and 7, always split a hand of two 7’s. 

Do split a hand of two eights. Your chances of drawing a low value card are unlikely. By splitting, you are more likely to get a 10 value with at least one hand.

Try your best not to split a hand of two 10’s, as the total hand value is 20 – the closest you can get to the winning 21. When holding this hand, you put the dealer in a position of needing to hit a 21 to be able to win, which is unlikely to happen each time. 

Soft hands

Consider the following strategies when you have a soft hand: 

  • If your hand is a soft 17 (a hand comprising of a 6 and an Ace) you should hit it, as it will increase your chances of increasing the value of your hand.
  • If your hand value is lower than the value of 17, be sure to hit it too, to increase your hand value.

Begin by testing the above methods and when you’re comfortable, learn more. Strategy will help your chances of winning, because as fun as blackjack is to play – a win just makes it that much more fun. 


Blackjack - questions

How do you place bets in blackjack?

Blackjack tables provide a circle or square where bets can be placed. Some tables allow players to play up to 5 hands at the same time. 

Is it illegal to count cards?

Yes, counting cards is not allowed whatsoever. Besides, with new multi-deck games, it’s impossible. 

Do I need to download software to play blackjack?

No, our blackjack games can be accessed via your browser at our online casino. There are also mobile versions of the game to play on the go.  

Can I play blackjack online?

Casino game developers have managed to perfect online blackjack by offering easy to use options that include all the latest features and graphics. You can select a blackjack game right here at STS website that suits your needs. 



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