Complete Guide to Playing Blackjack Online: 2020 Update
If you're looking for a complete guide to playing blackjack online - from the rules to the best casinos for free blackjack - you've come to the right place! We'll walk you from the basics to advanced strategy, and give you reviews of the best online casinos for blackjack.
Blackjack is the most popular table game in online casinos, and those who love it can tell you why. Experienced players love the high-stakes options available in every hand, as well as options to surrender with a bad hand and come back big on the next. Beginners love the ease of joining in the game and the frequent - even if smaller - wins due to the very low house edge.
Players love the game for its simplicity and its favorable odds. Playing with a basic blackjack strategy can lower the house edge to around 1%, and advanced strategy can reduce that even more.
To play effectively you need to know about the variations in blackjack, the rules, and how to play the game.
- How to Play Blackjack
- Blackjack Terminology and Definitions
- Blackjack Basic Strategy
- Intermediate Blackjack Strategy
- Blackjack Strategy Cards: 2020 Update
- Types of Blackjack Online
- Best NJ Casinos to Play Blackjack Online
- How to Play Blackjack Online Free
- A Brief History of Blackjack
The basic rule of blackjack is: get closer to 21 than the dealer without "busting," or going over 21. There are options you can make to try to increase your winnings, but in the end your primary task is this: beat the dealer.
Like other online casino games, the casino, or house, has a built-in advantage over its players. The key to blackjack is learning that advantage and how to work around it. However, before you can begin to develop your strategies, you must learn how the game works - the rules, the objectives, and what all of your options are.
Everyone in the game begins with two cards, including the dealer. The player's two cards are both facing up, while the dealer has only one card from his/her pair showing. The dealer's face-down card is called the "hole" card.
The cards have different point values based on their numbers. Face cards are worth 10 points each. An ace is worth either 1 point or 11 points depending on whichever is more favorable to the player. In basic modern blackjack, the suits are ignored for the most part. The numbers are what’s important.
The players are playing against the dealer. Everyone wants to have their hand as close to 21 as is safe, but the most important goal is beating the dealer (not the other players). Because players are playing against the dealer and not each other, there can be multiple winners on each round, which adds excitement to the game.
On each turn, the player has the choice of taking an additional card ("hitting" or "taking a hit" or standing on the total they have. If you exceed 21, you bust and lose your money on that round. If you have a better hand than the dealer, meaning the closest to 21, you win and make money on that round.
What is Blackjack?
Blackjack is getting an ace and a 10-valued card. Having cards whose sum is 21 (for example, 10, 7, and 4) is not blackjack, which means it does not pay out as blackjack and will not beat the dealer if they have blackjack.
If you get blackjack and the dealer doesn't, you automatically win. The worst that can happen is the dealer also gets a ‘natural’ and you get your stake back.
Naturals payout at a different rate to the even-money payout you get for ordinarily winning a hand. The winnings depend on the casino, and nearly every online casino pays out at 3:2 for blackjack. (Some land-based casinos only pay 6:5, which tilts the house edge against you in the long-term.)
Hit, Take a Hit, "hit me"
Take another card
Stand, Stay, or Stick
Take no more cards
Dealer's card that's facing down
A total involving an ace. Since an ace can be valued at 1 or 11, an ace and 5 make a Soft 16 (which can also be 6)
A number that does not involve an ace
After being dealt your two upcards, you can double your bet and receive one (and only one) more card.
If you have matching-valued cards, you can split them, place a matching bet on both, and play each of the hands individually. So you may split a pair of 7s and stick when one is dealt a 10 (totaling 17) but hit when another is dealt a 3 (totaling 10)
Blackjack strategy is what you use to win, but you have to use the rules to your advantage. Many players are still left in the dark when it comes to the best strategies of blackjack, despite the popularity of playing blackjack online and on the casino floor. For example, most players don’t know when to call blackjack double down or may need advice on the best sites to play blackjack online.
Whenever someone talks about playing blackjack online, they’ll often mention ‘basic blackjack strategy’. This is the term for how you should best play, according to mathematical probabilities.
A player who plays without this strategy faces a house edge of 4%. Master basic strategy and you can lower that to 1%. Those three percentage points can make all the difference in the long-term.
Once you understand the rules of blackjack, you can start to develop your basic blackjack strategy to win. Blackjack strategy focuses on two key aspects:
- The likelihood of drawing a high-value (8 - ace) card
- Beating the dealer's hand
The only thing you need to do in blackjack is to beat the dealer. Having an idea of how strong your hand is compared to hers is the key to developing a winning blackjack strategy.
When to Hit in Blackjack
Your first important in basic blackjack strategy is deciding whether to hit or not. You need to beat the dealer by getting closer to 21 than she does without going over 21 (i.e., busting).
Here, the likelihood of drawing a good hard is important. There are 52 cards in a deck, and you know what 3 of those cards are: your 2 cards and the dealer's up-facing card. If those 3 cards are low in value, you know that you have a better chance of drawing a card that is high in value.
There are more high-valued cards in a deck than low-valued cards. The chart below shows that 28 out of the 52 cards are high-valued (i.e., between 8 - 11).
The key to blackjack strategy is betting on whether taking an additional card will place you in a winning advantage over the dealer.
Let's look at two dependable rules of basic strategy that are reliable regardless of what the dealer is holding. We'll look at the reason for these principles to better understand basic strategy from this point runs:
- Stay with a hard 17+: If you are holding a hard 17 (hard = a total with no aces), this is a good hand, regardless of what the dealer is showing. Only a 4, 3, or 2 would improve your hand, and you're much more likely to go bust if you take a hit. There's also a very good chance that the dealer would go bust trying to beat your hand, so it's best just to stay.
- If you have a hard 5-8, hit. There are two reasons: 1) 5-8 is a very weak hand and easy to beat. 2) You can only improve your hand (and not go bust) by taking a hit. If you hit and get an ace, you'll have a versatile soft 16-19. If you get a 10, you'll have a 15-18, which is not bad (and 7-18 is quite good).
Beginning Online Blackjack
As you're beginning to play blackjack, it's good to try a few hands with the 2 principles above in mind. Play with low stakes, but you need to get those two rules in your head: "Stay with hard 17+, hit with hard 5-8." See how this plays out for you.
Grab one of the no deposit bonuses offered by our recommended casinos. They're a great way to learn without losing any money. In fact, you can still win with bonus cash.
No blackjack strategy is foolproof, but following those two simple rules gives you the first step toward improving your game. The next step strategy involves more advanced strategy with more options.
Now that you've got the two most important rules of basic strategy, it's time to move into intermediate blackjack strategy. Once you have progressed to a more advanced level of blackjack, you have to make additional calls based on what the dealer is showing, and you also have options regarding splitting, doubling, and surrendering.
As you move into intermediate strategy, it's also best to use NJCasino's Blackjack Strategy Card.
The great thing about playing online blackjack is that you can keep your strategy card right in front of you (unlike in land-based casinos).
Choosing to double down or split is another common scenario in blackjack. Both wagers mean you need to double your bet.
Doubling down means you take one more card and that’s your final total. Most casinos will only let you double down on 9, 10, or 11. But some online blackjack games may allow you to double down with any combination.
Splitting only happens when you receive two cards of the same number. These two cards are split, and you essentially play with two hands.
In some rare scenarios, if you receive another card of the same value you can split again. Some casinos may limit the number of splits at four, but many allow for unlimited splitting. However, this will seldom come into play.
Surrendering in Online Blackjack
Some casinos may allow you to surrender your hand after you’ve received your cards. In this case, you will lose half your stake and receive the other half back.
You might think this sounds like a stupid idea, but there is a small set of circumstances that make this a worthwhile course of action.
For example, if you have a jack and a six you have 16. If the dealer is showing a ten or a face card, it would make sense to surrender.
The reason for this is mathematically you would win this hand less than 50% of the time.
Most online blackjack games don’t usually allow for surrendering, though.
Using the Best Online Blackjack Strategy
The best online blackjack strategy is one that helps you beat this house edge. One thing all blackjack players must learn when developing their strategy is that casinos have an edge.
Online blackjack software is programmed to shuffle the cards each round. The same goes for live dealer blackjack games. With this being said, there are still ways to increase your chances of beating the dealer.
Learn new strategies and elevate your blackjack playing level with the help of our online blackjack experts.
After you have the blackjack strategy basics down, you'll want to move towards intermediate strategy by using these blackjack strategy cards. Our blackjack charts have been fine-tuned for online blackjack games in New Jersey.
Our chart features:
- Dealer Stands on Soft 17 (increases player’s odds)
- Surrender not allowed (decreases odds)
- Double splitting not allowed (decreases odds)
These are the most commonly available options right now in legal online casinos. With these options in mind, you can start to apply the strategy below.
There are plenty of variations of blackjack. The majority of them you’ll only find online. Most of them just involve some slight changes in the rules, but many also have cool twists.
Blackjack Double Exposure
The double exposure variation of blackjack involves the dealer revealing both their cards. So, you can see exactly what the dealer has before you act. In theory, this dramatically increases your chances of winning the game.
However, there are some counters to your advantage. For a start, if there’s a tie the dealer automatically wins. Unlike in normal blackjack, you lose all ties, except when you both have blackjacks.
Naturals are also only paid at even money, so you won’t get anything extra if you hit a natural.
Despite all these changes, the house edge of double exposure is little different from ordinary blackjack.
In Blackjack Switch you’re always playing with two hands. So, there are two stakes at the beginning of each hand.
The gimmick is you can switch a card between each hand. That will allow you to create a stronger starting hand, which gives you another advantage.
Again, blackjacks are only paid out at even money. Also, if the dealer busts on a 22, the game is tied, and you get your stake back. The only exception to the 22 rule is if you happen to hit a blackjack.
Progressive Blackjack is another variant. However, there are no rule changes involved in this game. The rules are exactly the same as an ordinary game of classic blackjack.
The difference is you’ll have the option to place a side bet. If you get an ace as your first card, you win a payout. If you get two aces, the payout is increased. And if those two aces are both of the same suits, you’ll get an even larger payout.
To win the progressive jackpot you need to get four consecutive suited aces. In the event this happens, you’ll win a huge amount of money.
Perfect Pairs is another blackjack game that involves a side bet. The side bet pays out if the player gets dealt a pair of any kind.
The exact payout varies heavily depending on the casino and the ranking of the pair. In general, suited pairs will give you a higher payoff.
There are many NJ online casinos to choose from. Where do you go to find the best online blackjack games? Our experts have this covered. Here is a selection of a few NJ online casinos which offer a variety of online blackjack games.
Borgata's Online Blackjack
Borgata is one of the leading lights in the online casino business throughout New Jersey. They have partnered with MGM; therefore, you’ll sometimes see them operate under the MGM brand as well.
It’s known primarily for offering some of the best online play in the state. They offer both desktop play and a highly advanced mobile app. Their games are known for being smooth and they don’t crash or take long to load.
They use an easy interface, so it’s easy to start playing even if you’re new to playing blackjack online. They’ve taken the best games from their land-based casinos and converted them into their online gaming experience.
They provide a variety of blackjack tables, along with a range of variations for you to enjoy.
- Blackjack (IGT)
- Blackjack Micro Limit
- SP Vegas Blackjack
- Sidebet Blackjack
- Multi-hand Blackjack
- Blackjack Multi-hand Pro
|$ 20 signup bonus + $ 600 bonus.||Borgata Online|
Golden Nugget's Online Blackjack
The Golden Nugget is the dominant force within New Jersey. They consistently generate the highest amount of revenue year after year. There are more than 660 different casino games to choose from when you play with the Golden Nugget.
They also utilize multiple renowned software developers to power their games, including IGT and NetEnt.
Blackjack is well catered for here, and they also include live blackjack if you’re searching for a more realistic gaming experience.
Their platform is extremely simple to get started with. It’s easy to separate different blackjack games based on the variation included and the maximum wagers.
The Golden Nugget is further known for its incredible bonuses. With their deposit bonus, you can potentially earn around $1,000 in bonus funds.
This also comes with relatively low wagering requirements, as you only need to wager the sum of your deposit and the bonus funds 10x to convert it into real cash.
- Blackjack (IGT)
- Blackjack Pro
- Vegas Blackjack
- Sidebet Blackjack
- Blackjack European
- Blackjack Micro Limit
- Live Blackjack
|$ 1,000 bonus.||Golden Nugget|
Playing blackjack online for free is not just great entertainment. It's also the best practice you can find for games where you actually have money down. There are a number of ways you can enjoy free blackjack, and some can even earn you real money. Let's find out how to get the most out of your free online blackjack experience.
There are a number of ways to play free online blackjack. You can play through an app on your smartphone or tablet, or access the website on your computer. The rules are the same, but you'll find that most casinos offer more games on their websites than on their apps.
Regardless of which platform you're using, there are two basic ways you can play free blackjack. Either you can play a kind of demo mode, or you can play under the bonus offers extended by a casino.
If you play a demo mode, you do not have the opportunity to win actual money. You probably will not need to register to do so. This is a good way to try out online blackjack to see if you like it. It also lets you get familiar with the format of the individual games and familiarize yourself with the options.
Demos are also useful in that they allow you to bring your A-game to the table when you start playing online blackjack for real money.
Free Bonus Money and Real Winnings from Online Blackjack
Next, most casinos offer free bonus money that you can use toward playing blackjack. You can keep your winnings after you satisfy the wager requirements.
For example, a casino may offer you $25 in free bonus dollars just for registering. You can apply these bonus dollars to blackjack. Let's say you win big. In order to withdraw those winnings, you'd need to satisfy the wagering requirements, which can be anywhere between 1-30x your bonus dollar amount. Check those terms and conditions, but you can find some great earnings on free blackjack!
We recommend starting out with the demos until you feel confident with the game, then sign up for a bonus deal with the smallest wagering requirement you can find. Treat those bonus dollars like real money. Don't burn through them, because this is part of your training. You only get one chance with new customer offers, so don't blow it on bad bets. At the same time, don't miss a great opportunity because you were just warming up or getting accustomed to the online platform.
Software and Live Blackjack
In the world of online blackjack, there are basically two types: software games and live/streamed gaming. Both of these are offered in online platforms, but there are some important similarities between the games that are perhaps more crucial than their differences.
Software/Digital Blackjack Games
Software apps are programs that involve no human interaction. You can play these games much quicker than you could in a casino or in a streamed setting.
Importantly, software programs are almost always completely random in the hands they deal. There is no deck, no 52 cards for you to count or apply your blackjack strategy card toward. However statistically improbable, conceivably the same hand could be dealt 4 times in a row.
Digital blackjack games provide you with - and critics would say, try to distract you with - many options.
To sum up, options, random hands, and speed: these are the three things to think about with software-based blackjack games.
Live Blackjack Games
Well, if the randomness of digital blackjack works against you, then things work back to your advantage with live blackjack, right?
With live blackjack, you get a dealer in a studio that looks like a casino. However generally the dealer is working with many more decks in online live blackjack: not 1, but 6-8. This gives you two options:
- Seek out a game with fewer decks. There are casinos that occasionally host 1 deck blackjack games.
- Tell yourself, "This is a different game. I have to use a different strategy." Online casinos make money off of players treating digital blackjack as if it were live blackjack. But you can make money if you treat live blackjack as if it were digital blackjack because in certain respects it is.
Whether you have a software randomly generating 2 out of 52 cards, or a physical machine shuffling and rotating through 8 decks of cards, you have the same result: randomness. Don't treat this like a 1 or 2 deck game, and you're already a step ahead of many others at the online live casino table.
Play Both Digital and Live Blackjack
There is a good reason to play digital blackjack even if in your heart of hearts you're a live player, and that reason is ego. One of the great things about playing blackjack online is that you can look back at your history and see the decisions you made. And we're willing to bet that you make better, more calculated decisions when you aren't trying to impress a table or enact revenge on a dealer.
This is a great reason to switch your game up. Play digital blackjack to work on your strategy and hone your humility and objectivity. Then step back to the live online blackjack table, keeping your cool and using your brain. Don't let the visible human qualities of live blackjack distract you from the game beneath it.
Safe Blackjack Through WiFi
If you're playing live blackjack, where you're streaming video data of a live dealer, you'll want to be sure you have a good internet connection, regardless of whether you're using an app or website.
We recommend against using public WiFi if you can avoid it. While data encryption has improved greatly recently, and casinos go to great efforts to protect everyone's bank, there are hackers who thrive on public WiFi.
The safest practice is to download the app and then play using your data. Once downloaded, the app doesn't use a lot of data to play a game. If data usage is a concern for your online blackjack, be sure to close out other apps.
Blackjack has been played for centuries though the history of blackjack is a cloudy one as modern scholars can’t agree on its precise origins.
However, what scholars do agree on is blackjack as we know it was invented in the year 1700, likely within the casinos of France. Originally, the game was called Vingt-et-Un, which means 21 in English. It’s theorized the game was derived from other popular French card games, such as Ferme and Chemin de Fer.
Miguel de Cervantes (yes, the one who wrote Don Quixote) wrote about it in 1613 his story "Rinconete and Cortadillo," which was set in 1569.
There are theories that the forerunner to blackjack came from the Romans, although they would have played using different numbers and with wooden blocks.
The modern version of blackjack may have come from other games being played around Europe, such as Trente-Un in Spain, Sette e Mezzo in Italy, and Quinze in France.
The numbers were different, and the cards had different values, but the principle of all these games was the same.
Today, blackjack is the most popular table game in casinos. It's the perfect example of the adage, "Simple, but not easy." That simplicity makes it easy to understand, even by people who don't regularly play, which is part of the reason why blackjack is so popular in films. Anyone who can count to 21 can understand when the hero goes bust or wins big.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I win real money playing free online blackjack?
Yes! For example, you can sign up for a bonus offer for new customers, have your winnings placed in your bank, and then withdraw all your winnings after you've satisfied the wagering requirement. Check the terms and conditions of your offer to see if it matches with your gambling style. And see our recommendations above.