What is Single Deck Blackjack and How Do You Play It?

9 min read
Single Deck Blackjack

Second only to poker, blackjack is one of the most popular card games in the world today. There are many reasons for this but one of the main ones is that it’s very simple to play and that’s why you’ll find versions of it all around the world, sometimes given different names like vingt-et-un and, in Britain after the first world war, Pontoon. Incidentally, the name “blackjack” is a relatively recent one compared with these variations. It came about when casinos in America were thinking of ways to make the game more appealing. So a new rule was introduced that when a black jack, i.e. a jack of spades or clubs, was dealt with the ace of spades, the player would receive an extra payout. Unfortunately, this rule’s no longer applied, but the name has stuck.

As the title of this particular variation suggests, it’s played with just a single, standard deck of 52 cards. This is unlike many blackjack games played in casinos which can use up to eight decks. If you like to play online you’ll be able to find a wise choice of single deck blackjack sites and, as writer Edward Wright explains writers Edward Wright explains, the game has some particular characteristics and advantages all of its own. Perhaps the most significant  of these is that it has a very low house edge putting you, the player, in a very good position indeed.

How to play

If you’ve ever vacationed in America and paid a visit to any of the fabulous casinos in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, chances are that you’ve seen blackjack being played. If so, it will have been very similar, if not identical, to single deck blackjack as in all versions your aim is to score as close as possible to 21 without going over – and certainly not playing like Austin Powers did in the 1997 movie when the character completely fails to understand the rules.


It’s a game that you play directly against the dealer and it begins when they deal you two cards face down with one face up and one face down card for themselves. Aces can be counted as either a one or an eleven, called a “hard” and a “soft” respectively.

Using your judgment you then have to decide whether you’re going to stick with the two cards you have or ask for another one to be dealt. This goes on until you either decide to stick or have busted – that is, have cards in your hand that add up to over 21. Then it’s the dealer’s turn to see if they can beat you, and you have to hope that they get more than 21.

While these are the basic rules, others also apply. For example, if the dealer hits on a “soft 17” – that is, one made up from a soft ace and one or more other cards, you are allowed to split your hand up to three times creating up to four hands. Different casinos offer different paybacks when you win so look for the best options you can find. They generally reward you at the rate of 1:1 for a straight wing and, in the single-deck version, 6:5 for blackjack.


The tactics are very similar to those used in all kinds of blackjack. Many of these are dictated by the so-called “basic strategy”. This is a tried and tested system that, once memorized, will teach you what to do in any given situation. You can rely on it because it’s been tested on computers which have gone through thousands of possible permutations to see which choices will be the most effective. It’s particularly accurate when you’re playing the single deck version of the game as there is a lower number of possible cards to be dealt when compared with the multideck game.

Why play the single deck version?

There’s no doubt that people love playing casino games online. This is one of the reasons why, with fans waiting in vain for the arrival of GTA 6, in July 2019 Rockstar Games decided to “open” the casino in GTA 5 for the first time. It’s turned out that single deck blackjack is one of the most popular games to play there and there are even more reasons to play it for real. As well as being simple to play, it also has what’s known as a very low “house edge”. This, in its most basic form, is the potential profit that the casino makes from a game – and, the lower the house edge, the better it is for the player.

But, above all, the long and the short of it is that single pack blackjack’s a winner because it’s quick to play and always a whole lot of fun too.

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