Blackjack, or 21, is a favorite casino game everywhere, including in North Carolina. It’s a favorite in casinos and online. It’s easy to learn and fun to play. Best of all, blackjack has some of the best odds for the player of all the casino games.
If you have never played before, are still learning the game, or have not played in a while and need a quick refresher, this is the place for you. We’ll take you through the basics of one of the most popular and easy-to-play online and table games.
We will cover the basic rules and betting tips and give you strategies to edge the odds more in your favor.
Is blackjack legal in North Carolina?
Blackjack is legal in the Tar Heel state. North Carolina law allows brick-and-mortar casinos to offer real money blackjack. There are three casinos in North Carolina—all of which offer blackjack:
- Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.
- Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River.
- Catawba Two Kings Casino.
Harrah’s Cherokee offers 35 to 40 blackjack tables on the main casino floor and eight tables in the high-limit room. Additionally, you can play at an electronic terminal against a live dealer or the machine. The minimum bet is $15 on the main floor and $50 in the high-limit salon.
Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River
Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River offers about 25 tables on the main floor and six in the high-limit room. You will also find electronic blackjack games. The minimum bet starts at $15 on the main floor and $100 in the high-limit salon.
Catawba Two Kings Casino
Catawba Two Kings Casino only offers electronic table games at the moment. A new casino is under construction and will have real money blackjack tables when completed.
Online blackjack in NC
While real-money online blackjack is not allowed, social or sweepstakes-type online casinos offer blackjack just for fun. Online social casinos are a great way to learn how to play blackjack and perfect your game risk-free before you play for real money at a retail casino.
How does blackjack work?
The goal in blackjack is for all the cards in your hand to add up to more than those in the dealer’s hand. However, the total cannot exceed 21.
Card points are the value shown on each card. Face cards are worth 10, and aces are worth one or 11 points. You decide how much the ace is worth.
You play against the dealer; the total in the other player’s hands is irrelevant. If the dealer exceeds 21, called a ‘bust,’ every player can win. If the cards in your hand exceed 21, you bust and lose the hand.
The flow of play
Once you join a table and place a bet, the dealer deals two cards to each player and him or herself. You see only one of the dealer’s cards.
After you receive your cards, you have the option to take more cards. If your first two cards add up to a low number, you want to ‘hit,’ which is to take another card, increasing your chances of beating the dealer’s cards. You can hit as many times as you want, but you will bust if your hand exceeds 21. If a player busts, the dealer immediately removes the cards and collects the busted player’s bet.
If the first two cards dealt to you are close to 21, you will want to ‘stand,’ or not take another card. If your first two cards are an ace and a card valued at 10, this is blackjack. You automatically win and are paid immediately.
After each player completes their turn, the dealer reveals their second card. Based on the rules, the dealer must either stand or hit. The dealer follows strict rules to either hit or stand. You, the player, are not bound by those rules. This is where you can increase your odds of winning. More on that later.
If the dealer busts, all the remaining players win. If the dealer has between 17 and 21, players with a higher number win, those with a lower number lose, and those with the same amount ‘push,’ neither win nor lose, and keep their bet.
How to play blackjack for beginners
If you are a beginner, keep things simple. All you need to do is decide to hit or stand after receiving the first two cards. An easy way to make this decision is if your cards add up to 16 or less, you hit. Stand if you have 17 or more. This simple rule is mathematically the best odds for you.
This rule has a minor exception because an ace can count as one or 11. If you have an ace and a six, you have either 7 or 17, called a ‘soft’ 17. In this case, you would hit the soft 17.
Once this is down, you can add one more play, splitting. You can split any two cards of the same value. When you split, you turn your hand into two hands that play separately. Playing two hands gives you an extra chance to beat the dealer.
All the blackjack rules
- A win is when the value of your cards is closer to 21 than the dealer’s. This win pays 1:1.
- Cards from two to 10 are worth their face value.
- Face cards are worth 10.
- Aces are worth 11 or one, depending on which hand is best. Hands with an ace are called ‘soft.’ An ace and a seven make a ‘soft 17.’
- Hands over 21 are a ‘bust’ or ‘break,’ and the bet is lost.
- A blackjack is when your first two cards are an ace and a 10 (a 10-value or face card). Blackjack pays 3:2.
- If the dealer’s first card is an ace, the dealer will look at the second card, the ‘hole’ card. If it is a ten, and hence a blackjack, the dealer immediately wins, and bets are collected. Players with 21 ‘push’ and do not lose their bets.
- When the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, you can place a side bet of half the original bet. This side bet is called ‘insurance.’ If the dealer’s hole card is a ten-card, blackjack, the insurance bets pay double the amount of their half-bet. You won’t make a profit with this bet because you will lose your original bet, but it ‘insures’ against a dealer blackjack and automatic win.
- The dealer must hit their hand if it is 16 or below and soft 17. The dealer must stand on 17 or above.
- Players have the choice of hitting or standing on any hand.
- Players can split two of the same cards. A split turns your hand into two separate hands for an extra chance to beat the dealer. You can split if you have two cards of equal value, e.g., a ten and a face card or two different face cards.
- You can double your bet on the first two cards, called ‘doubling down.’ You receive only one card and cannot take another. Some casinos allow you to double down on any two cards. Other casinos limit doubling down only when your cards total ten or eleven.
- Some casinos allow you to ‘surrender’ half of your bet. Surrender allows you to end play and lose half of your bet. Thus, if the dealer wins, you lose only half. This strategy is not recommended.
- If you are dealt blackjack and the dealer shows an ace, some casinos will allow you to take ‘even money’ before the dealer reveals the hole card. If you opt for even money, you will receive a 1:1 payout rather than a 3:2 payout. However, if the dealer also has blackjack, you will not push.
The house advantage in blackjack
The dealer must play by strict rules. You might think the odds would be even if you play by the same rules, but this is not the case.
The house has three advantages. First, because players complete their hands before the dealer, players can bust and lose their bets even if the dealer busts.
Secondly, the second card is flipped if the dealer has an ace. If the dealer has a blackjack, the dealer wins immediately. Players do not have a chance to get their cards to 21 for a push.
Thirdly, many players make mistakes or need to learn to play optimally. The lack of player sophistication is the casino’s greatest advantage.
Blackjack has existed for about 500 years. It was popular in southern Europe, particularly Spain, France and Italy. Given its long history and play in multiple cultures, it’s not surprising that there are more than 100 game variations.
Top 10 blackjack games
The most popular blackjack games are:
- Vegas Strip.
- Atlantic City Blackjack.
- European Blackjack.
- Double Exposure.
- Blackjack Switch.
- Progressive Blackjack.
- Spanish 21.
- Multi-Hand Blackjack.
- Bonus Blackjack.
- California Blackjack.
- Chinese Blackjack.
The variations cover differing rules on the number of decks, splits, double down, surrender, when the dealer looks at the hole card, when blackjack is a push, if the dealer’s and player’s cards are face up or face down, payout percentage, switching cards, if the dealer hits a soft 17, the removal of 10s from the deck, the number of hands you can play, different ways to win, and who deals.
Basic strategies to improve your chances of winning blackjack
Use these three strategies to improve your odds:
- Always hit when you have 16 or lower or soft 17, and stay with 17 and above.
- Always split eights and aces. Never split tens.
- Always double down when you have 11.
Advanced strategies to improve your chances of winning blackjack
Using a basic strategy helps you to even the odds. Basic strategy is the mathematically best play to make on every hand. It is too complex to detail here, but there are many sites from which you can learn it.
You need to use a basic strategy and count cards to put the odds in your favor. Card counting does not work for online games because the deck gets reshuffled after each hand. Counting cards is not illegal, but brick-and-mortar casinos can ask you to stop play or leave the casino if they suspect you of counting cards.
Where to play blackjack in North Carolina
You can play blackjack at any of North Carolina’s three brick-and-mortar casinos:
- Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort—Blackjack tables and machines.
- Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River—Blackjack tables and machines.
- Catawba Two Kings Casino—Only machines. Catawba’s new casino, currently under construction, will offer blackjack tables.
Online blackjack is available only on social casinos and includes:
- Pulsz Casino
- Chumba Casino.
- LuckyLand Slots.
- High 5 Casino.
- Fortune Coins.
- Wow Vegas.
Real-money online blackjack is illegal in North Carolina.