Blackjack is the king of casino table games, offering both fast action and some of the best odds in the casino. Not surprisingly, then, blackjack is also one of the biggest draws in online casinos. In fact, not only can you play blackjack for real money online, you can usually choose from a number of different blackjack variants at any given casino, almost all of which offer great odds to players.
Where to Play Blackjack Online
Blackjack can be played at any online casino – we’ve yet to see one that doesn’t offer the game. But it’s not as simple as just saying that online casinos all offer blackjack; most casinos offer several different blackjack variants. For instance, a typical selection at an online casino would allow you to play Las Vegas style blackjack, but would also include European Blackjack, a single-deck blackjack game, and more. In addition, most casinos also spread several variants that allow you to play online blackjack with a few added twists. Some of the most popular variants include Pontoon, Super Fun 21, and Blackjack Switch.
Choosing an online casino to play blackjack online for money comes down to finding a casino that offers a variety of games you enjoy playing, along with the best possible odds. Of course, since not everyone enjoys playing the same blackjack games and variants, no one online casino can truly be said to be the best online casino to play blackjack.
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How to Play
Playing blackjack for real money is quite simple. Most online casinos prominently display their blackjack games in their software, often under a wider group listed as “table games.” Simply log into your casino software, join a real money game, and you’re ready to go! If you need a refresher on the rules of blackjack, keep reading.
Blackjack is a game played with a shoe made up of 1-8 standard decks of playing cards. The object of the game is to beat the dealer by making a hand worth as close to 21 points as possible without going over. Hands are scored based on the cards they are made up of; numbered cards are worth their number, face cards are worth ten, and aces may be counted as either one or 11.
A hand begins with each player making a bet and being dealt two cards, normally face up. The dealer is also dealt two cards: one face up (the up card) and one face down (the hole card).
The best possible hand in blackjack is an ace and a 10-point card – known as a blackjack. If the dealer is showing either an ace or a ten, the dealer will check for blackjack. If the dealer is showing an ace, the players will first be offered insurance. This bet costs half the amount of the player’s initial bet, and pays 2-1 if the dealer does indeed have a blackjack; the net result being that the player “saves” their initial bet and breaks even for the hand. A player who has a blackjack will be offered even money on their blackjack, but this is mathematically the same as being offered insurance.
If the dealer does have a blackjack, all players lose immediately, with the exception of players who also have a blackjack; those players push. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, player blackjacks immediately win at odds of 3-2.
Assuming neither the dealer nor the player has a blackjack, the player can then play their hand. Players have several options for attempting to improve their hand. At any time, the player may hit, taking an additional card for their hand. The player may also choose to stand, which ends their turn.
Players have two other options available to them only at the start of the hand, when they hold just two cards. The first is known as doubling down. If a player chooses to double down, they must make a second bet equal in size to their initial bet. After doing so, the player will receive one additional card; they must then stand. This is typically done when the player has a significant advantage, and wishes to wager additional money.
If the player’s first two cards are of the same rank, the player may split their hand into two, playing each for a bet of the same size as their original wager. Depending on the rules used in each blackjack game, players may be able to split additional times if they receive more cards of the same rank; rules will also vary as to whether or not the player may double down after splitting, and how the player can handle splitting aces.
If at any time a player’s hand goes over 21 points, the player is said to have busted. That hand is collected by the dealer, and any bets associated with that hand are immediately lost.
After all players have either chosen to stand or have busted, the dealer will reveal their down card. The dealer will then follow a set of rules that determine how the dealer must play their hand. These rules will typically require the dealer to hit with all hands of 16 or less. At some tables, the dealer will stand with all hands of 17 or more; in some cases, the dealer may instead be instructed to hit with a “soft” 17 – that is, one with an ace that still counts as 11 points.
If the dealer busts, all players remaining in the hand win even money on all bets associated with live hands. If the dealer stands, the dealer’s hand is compared to the player’s hand. If the player hand is higher, the player wins even money on their bets. If the dealer’s hand is higher, the player loses all bets. If the two hands are of the same value, bets on that hand push.
The best strategy to employ in any given blackjack game will depend heavily on the exact rules being utilized. Whether or not the dealer hits on a soft 17, how many times the player can split, and when the dealer checks for blackjack are just a few of the rules that could impact exactly how the player should approach certain situations.
A full, optimal strategy for a given blackjack game is known as the basic strategy. A basic strategy will tell you the mathematically correct play to make given your hand and the dealer’s up card, without considering what other cards have been removed from the shoe.
While basic strategy varies depending on the rules being used, there are simpler strategies that come reasonably close to basic strategy in terms of their returns to the player. The following strategy (inspired by one first developed by Michael Shackleford of The Wizard of Odds) is designed to give the player a fighting chance in any blackjack game – allowing blackjack to remain one of the best games in the casino, but not requiring the player to memorize complex charts.
To use the following strategy, consult the part of the table that corresponds to your hand: a hard hand, a soft hand (one with an ace that still counts as 11 points), or a pair. Then, simply follow the rule that applies to your hand. Also, remember to never take insurance, and if the chart says to double down when you cannot for any reason, hit instead.
- If your hand is 8 or lower, always hit.
- If your hand is 17 or higher, always stand.
- If your hand is 9, double down with against a dealer hand of 3-6; otherwise, hit.
- If your hand is 10 or 11, double down if your hand’s score is higher than the dealer’s up card.
- If your hand is 12-16, hit if the dealer is showing a 7 or higher; stand against 6 or less.
- If your hand is 15 or less, always hit.
- If your hand is 19 or more, always stand.
- If you hand is 16-18, double down against a dealer showing a hand of 3-6; otherwise, hit.
- If you have a pair of aces or eights, always split.
- If you have a pair of fours, fives or tens, never split.
- With any other pair, split only if the dealer’s card is a 6 or lower.
- If you do not split a hand, play it as normal using the charts above.
In addition, if your game allows you to surrender, surrender against a dealer 10 if you’re holding a hard 15 or 16.
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Card counting is an effective strategy in many live blackjack games. This is due to the fact that as cards are removed from the shoe, the remaining distribution of cards is no longer random; by keeping track of what cards are left to be seen, the player can know how the odds of certain outcomes are changing, and adjust their bets and strategies accordingly.
For example, one popular real money blackjack card counting system counts the number of aces and fives that have been removed from the shoe. Aces are the best cards for the player, while fives are the best card for the dealers; thus, as fives leave the shoe, the remaining composition improves for the player, while seeing aces leave the shoe is a bad sign. Thus, players add one to the “count” when a five is seen, and subtract one when an ace appears. Depending on the count (and the specific system being used), the player may raise their bets to take advantage of a favorable shoe.
However, card counting is not a strategy you should try to use when playing online blackjack. Much like casinos that employ continuous shuffling machines, online blackjack “shuffles” the shoe after every hand, meaning that the distribution of cards is truly independent and random. With no discard pile, there’s no true shoe to keep track of; even if you’ve seen aces come out of the deck on the last five hands, there will be just as good a chance as seeing more aces on your next hand.