Blackjack is a great game. And it is a relatively simple one to play, once you have learned about the basic decisions that you have to make at the table. It is a more difficult game to play well, but that can actually be done by memorizing and mastering a set of strategy rules.
Blackjack, as it is played on the internet, can come in a number of different forms. You are essentially playing head-up against the house, and you may find yourself in a single-hand or multi-hand game. There are many other variations, which include Double Exposure, Blackjack Switch, Spanish 21, Pontoon Blackjack, Blackjack Surrender, and other variations that are "regional," like the Vegas Strip, Vegas Downtown, Atlantic City and European variations. Needless to say, there are a lot of blackjack games to choose from.
The objective in the game of blackjack is to beat the dealer. You can do that by achieving a total that is closer to 21 than that of the house, or to stay below 21 while the dealer breaks. When you sit down to play blackjack, you are dealt two cards, while the dealer (in the "standard" version) has one card showing and the other card "in the hole." The way the game proceeds, you get a chance to make a decision to improve your situation. You can HIT, whereby you'll get one card, with the option to add more; you can STAND with the hands you have. You can also SPLIT, if you have a pair, putting more money on the table and creating, in effect, two different hands, and you can DOUBLE, in which you double your bet, expecting a favorable outcome, and receive one card. Doubling down after splitting is also offered in most casinos.
When the dealer has an Ace showing, you can also choose to take INSURANCE, where you will put up half your bet, with the opportunity to get paid double that insurance bet if the dealer has a two-card 21, which is known as a "blackjack." By the way, if YOU get a blackjack, you are paid 3-to-2.
Speaking of Aces, a hand that contains an Ace is called a "soft hand," because the Ace can be counted as one or eleven, depending on what is better for you.
There are variations on some of this, but we don't have the space to cover them all. Let's deal with the closest thing we can identify to a "standard" game.
We are going to give you a short, succinct Basic Strategy for blackjack that will dictate the best mathematical decision to be made for any combination of what you have been dealt and what the dealer is showing.
When you have:
5 through 8 - Always hit
9 - Double against a dealer's 3-6, otherwise hit the hand
10 - Double against a dealer's 2 through 9, otherwise hit the hand
11 - Double against a dealer's 2 through 10, otherwise hit the hand
12 - Stand against a dealer's 4 through 6, otherwise hit the hand
13 through 16 - Stand against a dealer's 2 through 6, otherwise hit the hand
17 through 21 - Always stand
A2 and A3 - Double against a dealer's 5 or 6, otherwise hit the hand
A4 and A5 - Double against a dealer's 4 through 6, otherwise hit the hand
A6 - Double against a dealer's 3 through 6, otherwise hit the hand
A& - Double against a dealer's 3 through 6, stand against a dealer's 2, 7 or 8, otherwise hit the hand
A8 through A10 - Always stand (A10 is a blackjack)
2,2 and 3,3 - Split against a dealer's 2 through 7, otherwise hit the hand
4,4 - Split against a dealer's 5 or 6, otherwise hit the hand
5,5 - Double against a dealer's 2 through 9, otherwise hit the hand
6,6 - Split against a dealer's 2 through 6, otherwise hit the hand
7,7 - Split against a dealer's 2 through 7, otherwise hit the hand
8,8 - Always Split
9,9 - Split Against a dealer's 2 through 9, otherwise stand
10,10 - Always Stand
A,A - Always Split
Another component of this "Basic Strategy" is not to take insurance. That bet pays 2-to-1, but the odds against it paying are 2.18-to-1.