Before any cards are dealt, each player involved in the game bets something between the minimum and maximum values as stipulated by the table and then you are dealt your cards! If the dealer is showing an Ace, you're given the option of buying insurance. This protects you from the possibility that the dealer has an unbeatable ‘blackjack’ hand (a score of 21) by refunding your stake if this happens.
So, once you've been dealt your two cards, what next? You can either hit - ask for another card - or stand, which means you're happy with your cards because you're as close to 21 as you dare get. Online Blackjack is a unique game, because unlike other games where you play against the house, there is an element of player choice - allowing the wily player (that's you) to reduce the casino's advantage to a small percentage by following what's known as ‘basic strategy’ - a guide that tells you when to hit and when to stand, and also detailing when it's prudent to double down or split. Whilst on the face of it Online Blackjack can appear to be primarily a game of luck, there is a large strategic element to the game and with skill you can do well.
Besides hitting and standing, you have a few other options. If you have two cards of the same value, you can ‘split', creating two separate hands, So if your initial bet was £10, you need to add a further £10 to split the hand. The split hands are then played in turn, and are considered to be two completely separate entities. The other option open to you is to double down. This requires you to double the initial amount wagered, and in return one card is added to your hand. You can usually only double down your opening hand, although there are games that will extend this to cover splits as well. Note that some variations of the game only allow doubling down on hands totaling 9, 10 and II, so read the house rules to see what their own particular rules are before playing.
With internet blackjack you have a distinct advantage over bricks and mortar casino players. In a real life casino you can't access strategies that explain the best way of playing a hand, Play tables need to be memorized and you generally have to be extremely focused in order to do well at the game. Play from the comfort of your home however, and you can have any number of tables, play guides, and lucky charms dangling from your monitor as your sit cracking your knuckles at the virtual baize.
The advantage that this brings to the game shouldn't be underestimated, especially as blackjack does subtly favour the house due to the fact that the dealer acts last. It depends on the variation being played, but the house usually has a 5% advantage over the player. However, by employing odds tables, you call drop this to a much more reasonable 0-5% - giving you a fighting chance of walking away a winner. Plus, keep an eye peeled for blackjack promotions - sometimes, casinos offering special rules like surrender and double-after split may actually be offering a positive expectation to basic strategy players; they are counting on players making mistakes to make money. Usually though, in common with all casino games, the house does have a slight statistical advantage that will bite home in the long run. There are other variations that give you an advantage. Look out for doubles permitted after splitting, doubles permitted on any two card hand, resplitting aces, late surrender, ‘Charlies’ - where five or more cards with a total under 21 automatically win - and early surrender, where you can forfeit half your bet when the dealer draws a face card.
Blackjack online is one of the online casino's most popular card games, because it's a fast game that's easy to pick up, but there is one downside to online blackjack - and that is that you can't card count. Unlike casino-based games, the decks for online blackjack are shuffled after every hand. This means that you can't sit there writing down every card that comes out of the shoe and turn this to your advantage. Many players, enthused by books like Edward O'Thorpe's ‘Beat The Dealer', don't realise this. Card counting would, of course, be very easy to do in the privacy of your own home, which is exactly why the cards are shuffled. This also means that online casinos don't need to play with six decks of cards - two is usually sufficient.