What is Blackjack?
Blackjack is a casino table game that requires a dealer and a player at a minimum. In land-based casinos, the lion’s share of the casino floor is dominated by blackjack tables. Also, you will find online blackjack games played as live dealer games or virtual tables available for desktop and mobile gameplay.
The idea is to win even odds payouts on your bets by beating the dealer’s hand with a higher total score without your points tally going over 21. You can win 3/2 on your bet if you win with a ‘Blackjack’ hand, which is 2 cards totalling 21.
Depending on the table setup, you can bet from a single seat or bet from multiple seats. The role of the dealer is to control a shoe holding 1 to 8 decks of cards. Your role is to place a bet to initiate a betting round. You then choose from a number of available decisions (‘stand’, ‘hit’, ‘double’, ‘split’, ‘surrender’) until you finally ‘stand’ or your hand is ‘bust’.
When playing real money blackjack online, you will find a vast array of blackjack game variations. Depending on the rules, the house edge a.k.a. Return to Player, can change. On average, online blackjack game titles come with a house edge of 0.05%, which is an RTP of 95.5%. However, you will only manage this percentage if you play the correct ‘Basic Strategy’.
History of Blackjack
Blackjack has been around for quite a while and has now evolved into the popular blackjack online titles we so easily have access to today via the Web.
The Blackjack game itself is the evolution of a game called “twenty-one,” which is believed to have been invented sometime in the 17th century. It should be noted that the 17th century was the first time this game was mentioned in writing by Miguel de Cervantes, the famous Spanish author. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the game hadn’t been around for a while already.
In the 18th century, the term blackjack game was introduced to French casinos where it was known as “Vingt-et-un” or “twenty-one.” It became a very popular game.
At one point, a player would receive a special bonus if they had a black (spade or club) ‘royal Jack’ card and an ace of spades as the other card. This blackjack game style is where the name of the game originates, despite the fact that, over the years, this rule was dropped.
Today, you can play several variants of blackjack, some good, and some not-so-good. An example of not-so-good are tables that pay 6-5 for a Blackjack hand – style of the game you should avoid at all costs. As for the good games, check out games like Free Bet Blackjack that give you free double and split bets.
How to Play Standard or Classic Blackjack
Whether you play online blackjack or in a land-based casino, the key objective is to beat the dealer’s hand with a higher point total without your hand going over 21. You also win if your hand is still in play, and the dealer’s hand total exceeds the 21 points limit thus the dealer’s hand is ‘bust’.
Cards are assigned points based on their number, with suit and colour having no effect. Thus, a 2 of spades is worth 2 points, just as a 2 of hearts is worth 2 points.
Face cards all have a value of 10 points, other than the Ace, which is worth 11 points or 1 point, depending on the other cards you have. A combination of an Ace and a 10-point card is an automatic win and is dubbed a “natural” blackjack.
Standard blackjack starts with you being dealt two cards and the dealer receiving either one face-up card or two cards, one shown and one hidden, depending on the style of the game.
You can then draw another card or wait, which is called standing. If the dealer’s visible card has a value of 10 points and, once you’ve decided to stand, you discover the dealer has blackjack, you will lose unless you also have blackjack. If you both have 21 points, it’s considered a draw and you will receive your bet back.
SPLITTING A HAND
When you split your hand, you create 2 hands with 1 card in each. You will also need to add a bet equal to the amount of your first bet to the new hand. Depending on the rules of the blackjack online variant you are playing, you may only be able to receive one more card for each hand. On other versions of the game, you can play both as if they were normal hands. Furthermore, some variants will allow you split multipler times, while others only allow you to split once.
The rules for doubling down are different from table to table. Some tables will allow you to ‘double’ on any total and others on 9, 10 or 11. When you double, you need to place an amount equal to your original bet on the table. Next, the dealer will add one more card to your hand and your hand will automatically stand.
The rules to double down after a split can also vary. On NDAS tables, this means ‘no doubles after split’ while on DAS tables, this means ‘Doubles after split’.
When the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, you can make an insurance bet worth 50% of your original bet. Therefore, if the dealer wins with 21-blackjack from 2 cards, you get your insurance bet paid back plus 50%, which covers the loss of your main bet. However, this bet is known as the ‘fools’ bet in the world of blackjack because the chance of the dealer missing the 21-blackjack hand is far greater than the dealer hitting it.
In some variations of blackjack, you have the option to surrender after you receive your cards. The house will return 50% of your bet. There are 2 types of surrender ‘early surrender’ and ‘late surrender’. The latter negates your opportunity to ‘surrender’ if the dealer has a natural blackjack hand.
Types of Blackjack
When it comes to online casinos, you have the option of playing live dealer or virtual (RNG) versions of the game.
With virtual (RNG) blackjack, the dealer is a computer, which means the cards are generated randomly using an RNG (Random Number Generator) and there is no time limit between hands.
With live blackjack, there’s a real person (human dealer) dealer shuffling the cards and dealing them manually. As a result, the live blackjack online game tables do not produce computer-generated results. There is also a timer of around 20 to 30 seconds between each betting round. The idea of live dealer games is to give players an authentic land-based casino game experience streamed via webcam to mobile and/or desktop devices. To add to the authenticity, you get to place your virtual chips directly onto the felts of a real-life blackjack table housed within a specially built land-based live casino studio.
You will also see that Blackjack online casinos with live dealer options are also referred to as live dealer blackjack casinos.
European and American Blackjack
In European blackjack, the dealer draws a single card and places it face-up on the table. The dealer draws another card after you complete your hand.
Conversely, in American-style blackjack, the dealer receives 2 cards, one of which is placed face-up, while the other remains face-down. If the card that can be seen is an ace, the dealer checks the second, hidden card. If it has a value of 10, the dealer reveals the card to complete blackjack.
If the card has another value, the gameplay continues, and the dealer reveals the hidden card at the end of the round.
Variations of Blackjack
There are quite a few different types of blackjack variations, with a varying number of dealer and/or player rules. To find the best online blackjack table for you, below there are a few examples of the various table variants available. However, keep in mind that a casino will always ensure the rules used are in their favour.
In Blackjack Switch, you play two hands at the same time. You may swap the second card you receive between your two hands to increase your chance of winning.
If the dealer’s cards add up to 22, the game is considered a draw and you receive your bet back. This is unlike classic blackjack, where you would win.
Also, in this version of the game, the payout is 1:1 rather than 3:2, which is the norm for the standard rules.
In Vegas Strip, four decks of cards are used. You’re allowed to split a pair of aces, but only once. However, you do have the option to double down on any two cards. If you do split, though, you will lose your insurance.
Once you’ve split two cards, you can only double your bet if the split was done between two aces. If you get 21 after splitting, the rules don’t consider it to be blackjack. Furthermore, if you split two aces, you’ll only be dealt one more card, with no option to receive another.
Double Exposure Blackjack
With Double Exposure Blackjack, both dealer cards are placed face-up, making it easier for the player. However, there are other rules involved that make up for this player’s advantage.
Thus, if you tie in with the dealer, you will lose. Furthermore, the pay-out for a natural blackjack is only 1:1. Finally, you only have the option to split a single time.
In Perfect Pairs, the standard rules apply. However, you can also make a perfect pairs side bet. You win only if the first two cards you are dealt create a pair. You will win more money if the pair features the same colour or if the cards are the same suit.
Other Types of Blackjack
Today you will find blackjack sites offering live and virtual versions of the game. Furthermore, there are dozens of other variations of Blackjack games online. Some, like Spanish 21 and Pontoon, are played with six or eight decks of cards, but all the “10” cards are removed, leaving 48 cards per deck.
Others, like Super Fun 21, require a single deck and, though they practice the same rules as standard blackjack, they involve different pay-out structures.
Regardless of the type of blackjack you play, it is a highly enjoyable game with the potential for significant wins. While blackjack does require some skill, which means you will have a better edge over the casino compared to many other casino games, it’s not a game that offers large returns in the same way roulette, video slots or bingo can offer.
As long as you treat it as nothing more than entertainment, though, you’ll find it a fun game that will keep you engaged for far longer than many other casino games.
Top Online Casinos for Online Blackjack
Finding the top online casino to play blackjack online is all about knowing which style of the game you prefer. Playtech and Microgaming casinos are generally the best for virtual blackjack because the brands offer such a wide variety of variants. Atlantic City, Vegas Strips, Blackjack 21-3, Blackjack Suit Em Up, and more. As for live dealer casinos, Pragmatic Play Live, Evolution, and NetEnt have by far the most diverse collection of table variants.
Of course, you may find an online casino with a table from a different software provider that offers you a table with liberal rules and a better house edge. In the end, it’s all about finding the table with rules that suit your style of play.
Free Online Blackjack VS Real Money Blackjack
The obvious difference between free online blackjack and real money blackjack is that on the free version you play using a demo mode. If you play a demo version at an online casino, you are essentially playing the real money version of the game but using ‘play blackjack online money’, which means your chips are play money i.e., they do not convert to cash. It is a great way to practice your blackjack decision-making and learn how to implement/memorise basic strategy charts so you can maximise your winning potential.
During your online casino journey, most virtual blackjack tables offer a demo game, but live dealer blackjack tables generally do not have free play options. For example, Pragmatic Play Live, Evolution, Ezugi, Vivo Gaming, and Playtech Live games do not offer demo game modes. However, one brand does have live free online blackjack game tables you can play using a demo mode, which is TVBet.
How We Rate the Best Casinos Online Blackjack
The best way to rate casino online blackjack portfolios is by using the number of software providers and the variety of tables available. The more software providers the higher the number of blackjack tables and variants available. These casinos will then give you a better chance of finding your preferred game type. We also look for a mix of live dealer blackjack tables Vs virtual (RNG) blackjack tables so you get to play both styles.
Blackjack strategies, rules and tips
The rules are straightforward, and it will take you just a few rounds to nail the procedures used by the dealer and casinos. That said, learning to maximise your winnings is a whole different ball game. Below, you’ll learn how to play and what you need to do to become a winning blackjack player.
Blackjack strategy requires the same bankroll management and bet sizing principles as any other casino game. However, there comes a deeper strategic side to the game in order to maximise your winnings. This requires using ‘basic strategy’ and here is why. When you see a house edge advertised as 0.05%, this means you ‘can’ win 99.5% of the time in the long run. Yet, you will only achieve this percentage if you play perfect ‘basic strategy’.
Basic strategy is a collection of charts that map out whether to make a ‘surrender’, ‘hit’, ‘stand’ or ‘split’ decision based on you the dealer’s face-up card and your hand total. These charts use mathematics to determine the highest percentage of you winning. By following the exact instructions, you will play a perfect game according to the house edge.
Another point worth noting is there are different types of blackjack games out there and you will need the correct basic strategy chart to suit that game. Essentially, the flow of the game is the same on every table, but casinos have flexibility over the rules they can use. For example, there are different charts depending on:
- how many decks are the shoe
- whether the dealer stands or hits on soft 17 (S17 Vs H17)
- whether you can double down after splits (NDAS or DAS)
For more information about blackjack strategies we advise you to read our blackjack strategy charts article.
How to play
To start your betting round, place a bet. The dealer will now deal with 2 face-up cards. The dealer also receives 2 cards, usually 1 face down, but on some blackjack online variants, like ‘Double Exposure’, both dealer cards are face up.
At this stage, the dealer will deal more cards to your hand depending on whether you ‘hit’, ‘double’, or ‘split’. If ‘surrender’ is available and you use it, the hand will end. Alternatively, you can choose to ‘stand’, which means your hand total will remain the same. The idea of using ‘hit’ or ‘double’ is to add more cards to your hand in order to increase your hand total to reach a total closer to 21. More information how to play blackjack can be found in our blackjack guide section.
Card counting is no longer possible in land-based or online casinos. It is especially ineffective on virtual blackjack (RNG) tables. It is a method used to determine how many 10 cards are left in the deck and heavily relies on the dealer not shuffling the shoe. Something all dealers now do regularly specifically to throw off the card counter. And if you then apply this to virtual RNG games, these games use something called a ‘constant shuffle’ mode making it impossible to card count.
- Shoe - the holder for the cards
- Hit – receive another card
- Split – split a pair into 2 separate hands
- Stand – no more cards drawn to your hand
- Double – double your bet & receive 1 more card only
- Surrender – surrender your bet for 50% in return
- Insurance – a bet to insure your hand versus dealer blackjack
- Natural Blackjack – 2 card hand totalling 21
- Live Blackjack – play blackjack via webcam versus a real-life dealer
- Virtual Blackjack – an automated dealer with RNG hand outcomes
- Basic Strategy – a chart that guides you how to make the most profitable decisions
How does blackjack work?
Blackjack tables require a dealer and a shoe of cards. The shoe can hold 1 to 8 decks. You will receive 2 cards that will go up against the dealer’s hand. You then either stick with these 2 cards or ‘hit’ for more cards to reach a total of 21. The idea is to beat the dealer’s hand total without going over 21.
How to play blackjack online?
First, you need to understand how many points each card is worth. Next, learn how to use the different decision-making tools i.e., ‘stand’, ‘hit’, ‘double’, ‘split’ or ‘surrender’. After this, it’s all about playing the game and gaining experience on how to use these decision-making tools effectively.
How to win at blackjack?
Blackjack is largely based on luck. Also, the house edge is slightly weighted in the casino’s favour. Commonly, the house has an edge of 08% to 0.5%. However, you can increase your chances of a winning session by using good bankroll management and bet sizing. More importantly, by mastering how to play the game using the correct basic strategy charts, you will maximise your winnings.
Can I play blackjack online for free?
Yes. Most virtual RNG blackjack tables come with a demo mode that uses play money. In general, live dealer games do not have a demo mode except for TVBet blackjack tables.
How do online blackjack odds work?
When you win a hand, the standard pay-out is even money 1:1. If you draw with the dealer, this is a push bet, so you get your money back. If you win with a natural blackjack, you receive 3:2. Insurance bets pay 2:1, but this bet is not recommended.
Is online blackjack legal?
Yes. As long as online gambling is not illegal in your country, then playing blackjack online is perfectly legal.