For a long time, blackjack has been regarded as a classic casino game all over the world, and part of the reason it’s so universally popular is that, even though a number of local and other variations have sprung up over time, the game is essentially the same no matter where you play.
Although there are some different versions, online blackjack adheres to the game’s long-standing formula — however, the experience of playing online is nevertheless different to taking a seat at a blackjack table in a bricks and mortar casino.
Firstly, most online blackjack games are single player and so the cards you receive aren’t influenced by decisions made by others at the table. In addition, the overall pace of the game is faster because you’re not waiting for others to play out their hands, meaning you can play more hands per hour. You also have the advantage of being able to play with your strategy charts open beside you — something that will get you thrown out of a land-based casino!
There is a further option for those who want the convenience of playing from home but still like interacting with the dealer, and that is to play live casino games. These games are streamed in real time from casino floors or studios and are dealt by real dealers with other players at the table, and so for some this represents the best of both worlds.
Check out our list below of the best online blackjack casinos to play this classic game for yourself.
Rules of online blackjack
Online blackjack has the same fundamental objective as the land-based casino version of the game — to make a hand that’s less than or equal to 21 and which beats the dealer’s hand. A blackjack is when you’re dealt 21, made up of an Ace and 10/picture card. The payout for a blackjack is 3:2 (provided the dealer doesn’t hit blackjack too, when the hand is declared a ‘push’ and you get your stake back), while other wins pay out even money.
The card values are the same in online blackjack i.e., an Ace is worth 1 or 11, picture cards are worth 10, while other cards equal their face value, and each hand begins with a full deck.
Players and the dealer both get one card face up at the start of a hand, and then players receive a second face up card. You can then do one of two things — ‘stick’, which means to get no more cards and stay with what you’ve got, or ‘hit’, which is to get another card. You can keep on receiving cards until you decide to stick, reach 21, or you ‘bust’, which means your hand has gone over 21 so you lose your stake and the hand is over. (If you’re dealt blackjack and the dealer isn’t, you’re immediately paid out and the hand is finished.)
If you decide to stick, the dealer then gets their second face up card and continues to receive cards until they stick (under the House rules at most of our featured casinos, the dealer must stick at 17 or above), hit 21, or bust.
If the your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s, or they bust, then you win; however, the House wins if the dealer has the hand which is closer to 21. A push occurs when both hands are equal — in this situation, you get your bet returned.
While you’re playing a hand, there are also a couple of further options. If you get dealt two cards that are the same, you can ‘split’, which means you separate the cards so that you’re now playing two hands. You have to increase your bet so that both hands carry an equal stake, and then you play out each separate hand, as above.
Also, in most versions of online blackjack, if your first two cards equal 9, 10 or 11 you can ‘double’, which means you can multiply your bet 2x, but can only receive one further card.
Online blackjack odds
Like all casino games, blackjack has an inbuilt advantage to the casino, known as the House Edge. However, this is lower in blackjack than in many other games, and is in the region of 0.25% – 1% (depending on the version of the game). This compares not only very favourably with any blackjack you’ll find in a bricks and mortar casino, but also with the majority of other online casino games. If you play the gamble feature in online slots there is no House Edge, and very small ones on some craps bets and video poker games, but apart from these, the odds in online blackjack stack up pretty well.
Blackjack Basic Strategy
Blackjack is a game of chance, which means you can’t predict what card is going to be dealt next, nor is the probability of a card being dealt in one hand affected by what has happened in previous hands. However, this doesn’t mean that blackjack requires no strategy, nor that you can’t take a reasoned approach to the game that you will help you to make better decisions more often.
Basic Strategy, as it’s known, enables you to make calls based on the probability of your being able to win a hand in any of the many possible scenarios that arise. Usually presented in the form of a chart that shows the variety of card combinations (both player and dealer) that can be dealt at the start of a hand, Basic Strategy enables you to make an informed choice as to what decisions you should make in that situation.
Remember, however, that this is not a ‘system’ that will help you beat the casino, nor is it anything to do with card counting. Instead, it’s a way of helping you to make choices that are based on probability and so give you a better chance of coming out on top. You can learn more about blackjack Basic Strategy in this article.
Top 5 online blackjack tips
Learn to play for free
Our featured online casinos give you the chance to play blackjack for free in practice mode, so this is a great way to learn the game without it costing you.
Choose the right stake
Managing your bankroll is important in blackjack, so you need to play for a stake that you can afford. A useful way to do this is to work out how much you are prepared to lose in a gaming session e.g., £200, and then divide this by twenty hands = £10. This is the stake you should ideally be playing for. If you’re only prepared to risk £20 of your bankroll then, using this formula, you shouldn’t play for more than £1 per hand.
Know when to double and split
Although it can appear tempting, doubling and splitting are not always the right options. You have to take into account not only what you’ve got, but what the dealer has showing as well. As an example, if you’ve been dealt 11 you should always double — unless the dealer is showing Ace. If you’re dealt a pair of nines, you should split if the dealer is showing 6 or less, but not if they’re showing more. Knowing the right time to split or double, and when not to, is something that Basic Strategy teaches you.
Most versions of online blackjack will offer you, if the dealer is dealt an Ace, insurance — this is a side bet that insures you against their hitting blackjack (the max is half your original bet and it pays out 2:1). However, in the long term, probability says that they are consistently more likely not to hit blackjack, and so this is a bet to avoid.
Don’t take the surrender option
In some games, if you’re dealt 16 and the dealer shows A, 10 or 9, you’re offered the chance to ‘surrender’, which means you can fold there and then and get half your bet back. Although you’ll get burnt every now and then and lose a hand, in the long run this works out as a bad bet, and is another one to avoid.
Different varieties of online blackjack
The most common versions of the game you’ll find at our featured sites are Classic, European, Atlantic City and American blackjack. However, there are some other varieties of the game you can play (although they’re not available everywhere):
- Pontoon — the dealer gets two face down cards at the start of the hand; a ‘five card trick’ (where your five cards equal 21 or less) pays 2:1; in a push, the House wins; you can’t stick with 14 or less
- Spanish 21 — if player and dealer both hit 21 or blackjack, the player wins; after splitting, you can double on either or both of your hands
- Double Exposure — the dealer gets two face up cards at the start of the hand; in a push, the House wins; blackjack only pays even money
Online blackjack is a game that allows you to use strategy in a way that a lot of other games don’t, and this for many players is its appeal. It’s a hugely popular game that is played just about everywhere, and is a feature at all of our listed sites.
Visit our recommended online blackjack casinos to try the different versions of the game they have on offer.