When it comes to online gambling, few games surpass blackjack in popularity. This is largely due to the land-based success of the card game, with casinos all over the globe offering players a chance to strike it rich at the 21 table.
For those who are new to the world of Internet gaming, this guide is meant to help familiarize you with the ins and outs of playing blackjack online and what the best blackjack sites are. In addition to discussing the basic rules of the game (which you’re probably already familiar with), we’ll also take a look at the most common variants and spin-offs. To wrap things up, I’ll even pass along some of my tips for winning on a consistent basis.
I make no guarantees that this article is going to help transform you into a winning blackjack player or that you will win at every blackjack site you sign-up for. However, by reading up on the basics of 21 and committing yourself to hours of study and practice hands, you’ll put yourself in the best position to succeed. When it comes to games of chance, that’s about the best you can ask for.
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How to Play Online Blackjack
Just like in the land-based version, Internet blackjack is played with a deck of 52 cards. Aces are worth one or 11 points (player’s choice), while face cards (jack, queen, king) are worth 10 points. All other cards are worth their printed value. The objective of the game is to obtain a higher score than the dealer without exceeding a total of 21.
After making an initial wager, the player receives two cards. The dealer also receives a pair of cards, with the second one being dealt facing down (the “hole card”). If either the dealer or player gets a natural blackjack with their first two cards, then the hand is over. Otherwise, the game continues.
Once the player has examined their cards, they must choose what action to take next. Their options include the following:
- Hit – The player receives another card from the dealer. If the value of the player’s hand becomes greater than 21, then it results in a “bust” and an automatic loss of the wager.
- Stand – The player decides to receive no additional cards, thus ending his turn.
- Double Down – The player doubles their wager and receives just one additional card.
- Split – If the player’s two cards are of the same value, they may split those cards in order to form two hands. An additional card is dealt to each hand, and the gambler can then continue playing their two hands as normal.
- Surrender – The player has the option of giving up on the hand and losing half their initial wager.
If the player stands with a total of 21 or less, then the dealer has a turn to complete their hand. Dealers do not surrender, split, or double down, and they’re usually required to stand once they achieve a total of 17 or higher.
If the dealer busts, then the player wins. If neither the player nor dealer has busted, the higher hand wins. Blackjack pays 3:2 odds, while a regular win for the player pays even money.
Popular Internet Blackjack Variants
Most land-based casinos only provide traditional blackjack, but online blackjack sites aren’t limited in terms of floor space and can therefore include a number of variants. The following are some of the most popular options:
- Five-Hand Blackjack – Allows the player to manage up to five hands at the same time.
- Progressive Blackjack – This variant allows for several side wagers to be made. If you guess correctly, you might find yourself walking away with a progressive jackpot.
- Single Deck Blackjack – Played with a single deck of cards. This game is often sought by card counters, as it gives them a better opportunity to put their skills to the test.
- Caribbean 21 Blackjack – The ace is always worth a single point in this game, and the ultimate objective is to get a hand comprised of an ace and two cards worth 10 points apiece (known as “Caribbean 21”).
- Super Fun 21 Blackjack – A number of different rules are included in this variant, but one of the most popular involves a natural blackjack from the player always defeating the same hand from the dealer. Hands can be split up to four times, and a six-card hand worth 20 is an automatic winner.
- Face Up 21 Blackjack – As you might expect from the name, both of the dealer’s cards are dealt facing up. Also known as Double Exposure or Dealer’s Disclosure.
- Blackjack Switch – Players manage two hands simultaneously, with the option of swapping one card from each.
- Match Play 21 Blackjack – The ten cards have been removed from the deck, but a number of bonuses have been included to compensate.
While there are some great blackjack variants available, keep in mind that the house still has an advantage over the player. Even if the rules appear to provide an advantage to the customer, other rules or the overall odds are adjusted to compensate. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the casino would ever give up its edge.
How Blackjack Casino Bonuses Work
When you make a deposit at a blackjack casino, you’ll often be eligible to receive a matching bonus worth the same amount that was just added to your account. In other cases, it might be 50% of your deposit or some other percentage. These bonuses often apply to all games, while in other cases they’re limited to slots or games of blackjack.
A sticky bonus can never be cashed out. While it provides you with free money to play with, the bonus amount stays (or “sticks”) within the casino. The money won with the bonus, however, can eventually be withdrawn. Less often, the casino may offer a cash bonus that is eligible for withdrawal.
Before you can take out any money associated with the bonus, you’ll have to meet the site’s wagering requirements. This often applies to the combined amount of the deposit and bonus, although the deposit is sometimes left out of the equation at more generous casinos.
For example, let’s look at a standard bonus requirement that applies to both the deposit and free money. If you made a deposit of $100 with a 100% matching bonus, then you would have $200 to play with. If the wagering requirement was 35x, then you would have to wager $7,000 before requesting a withdrawal (200 x 35).
Not all games count equally, however. Slots always count 100% towards meeting a wagering requirement, because their high house edge makes it likely that the customer will lose their bonus money while trying to meet the playthrough amount. Given its low house edge, blackjack is often left off the list of eligible games, or it counts as low as 8%. In this last example, a wager of $100 on blackjack would only count $8 towards satisfying the casino’s requirement.
Tips for Winning at Internet Blackjack
While there’s no guaranteed way to win at Internet blackjack casinos, you should find the following tips and techniques useful.
- Learn basic strategy. This method of play tells you what to do for every possible blackjack scenario. The average player competes against a house edge of about 2%, while those who bother to learn basic strategy only face a 0.5% edge. That might not sound like much of a difference, but it can be huge over hundreds or thousands of hands.
- Always stand when your total is 17 or higher.
- No matter which version of blackjack you’re playing, always make sure you’re familiar with the rules and payout structure.
- Always split aces or eights.
- Forget about card counting at online casinos. That’s because the casino shuffles the decks after every hand, which renders card counting effectively useless. The only exception might be single deck blackjack at a multi-player table.
- If you’re looking for a beginner’s blackjack strategy, try the following: hit on a total of 3 to 11; on a total of 12 to 16, hit if the dealer is showing more than 6 and stand on anything else; always stand on a total of 17 to 20; if you have an ace/seven, hit if the dealer has a total higher than 8, but stand on anything else.
- When you have a total of 10, double down unless the dealer is showing a 10 or ace.
- Manage your bankroll properly. If you only have $100 to spend, don’t sit at a table with $50 minimum wagers. You’re better off at the $1 table, because you’ll get lots more gambling excitement for your money.
- Always stand when you have a splittable pair of face cards or 10s.