Online Blackjack In USA
Blackjack is arguably the most popular casino table game with Texas Hold’em Poker being a close second. The game is relatively easy to play considering you’re only competing against the house.
The goal of blackjack is to have cards that have a greater value than the dealers without amounting more than 21. This is why you may hear some people call the game 21 instead of blackjack.
Blackjack is played with 6 to 8 decks and the dealer must hit until the value of their combined cards equal or exceed 17. For example, if a dealer has a king and 6 showings (total 16) then they must hit regardless of the value of your cards.
Although the game seems straightforward, we want to teach you some of the basic rules so you don’t end up looking like Austin Powers at the table.
How to play blackjack
If you go over 21 then it’s a bust and the house wins that hand.
When you’re totaling your cards, the numbers are the value shown and any face card (Jack, Queen and King) has a value of ten each. That means there are 16 cards that have the value of 10 in a single deck.
An ace can either be worth one or 11 depending on your hand at the moment. Let’s say you’re dealt a 4 and an ace by the dealer. That means the value of the cards you’re holding is a soft 15 or 5. This means you’re safe to ask for another card without busting because then your hand will be worth the lower value if your drawn card would bust you.
In our example, if you hit (asked for another card) and drew a 7 then you wouldn’t bust because your hand would revert to 12 instead of making you bust with a 22. Should you have decided to stay (not draw the 7 card) then the value of your cards would have been 15.
Now that you know the values of the cards, this is how they’re dealt. The dealer will deal one card to each player at a time and themselves last. Then a second card to each player and, again, the last one to themselves but the second card for the dealer will remain face down
This is blackjack in its simplest form but there are other bets and strategies you can use to win/lose more money or prevent yourself from losing any money.
No, this does not mean that you should call State Farm to cover your blackjack losses.
Let’s say the dealer has dealt the cards and their face up card is an ace. Before the dealer checks their hand, they will offer insurance to any player who wishes to take it.
No, the casino isn’t going to check your driving and credit record. Insurance is a side bet that is worth half your original bet that pays 2-1 if the dealer does have a blackjack. This will cover your initial bet if the dealer has a blackjack so you don’t lose money.
Let’s use an example where you’re playing a $10 hand. The dealer deals you a 10 and 4 while the dealer is showing an Ace facing up. You decide to take the dealer offer on insurance for $5.
The dealer checks their card if the facedown card has a value of ten and flip it over once they do. Here you’ve lost $10 on your hand but won $10 on your insurance bet because it pays 2 - 1.
In the same scenario where the dealer does not have a card that has a value of 10. In this situation, you lose your insurance bet and play the hand as normal. If you don’t double or split (we’ll explain later) on the hand then you have an opportunity to profit $5 or lose your $10 bet.
You’re probably thinking, “how do I decide when to take the insurance?” We suggest you never do and here’s why. When you’re playing a typical blackjack game (6-8 decks) the house’s edge is 7.5% and 5.8% when you’re playing a single deck.
What this edge means is that for every dollar you bet the casino expects to make 7.5 cents for every dollar you bet on average. Obviously the casino isn’t taking 7.5 cents on every bet you make but in the long run that’s the casino expects to make on the game.
Different player actions that can be taken
We’ve spent a lot of time discussing a possible scenario that statistically would happen once every 21 hands (4.83%). Let’s talk about what you can actions you can take on the other 20 hands that aren’t dealt blackjack to you or the dealer.
When you’re not satisfied with your hand and decide to draw another card increasing the point total in your hand. Be mindful of your point total because if you go over 21, you’re bust!
Stay or Stand
This is when you’re happy with how many points you have and no longer want to draw any more cards. You can do this at any point of the game regardless if you’ve hit or not.
Since we like you, we’ve provided a guide on when to stand or hit based on the dealer's hand. This won’t guarantee a winning result for your every hand but intends to help you make informed decisions.
Stay or Stand
When you hear that someone has doubled down, that means they’ve doubled their bet on the next card being favorable and losing the ability to draw another card. You can only double down as your first action.
Remember once you’ve doubled down then you’re no longer able to take any further actions.
When a dealer deals your cards and you have a pair then it opens the opportunity to split your hand. When you split, you’re essentially separating the two cards you were dealt into two hands. This doubles your bet and you get one more card dealt to each of the split cards.
If the cards you’re dealt on your split cards are pairs again you do have the option to split again. If you have ten’s and split them then dealt aces then you have 21 but it is not considered a blackjack.
If you’re looking to take this action in a brick and mortar casino then you’re going to have a hard time because it’s more common in online casinos.
Surrender is when you decide to throw in your cards and in exchange for only losing half your bet because you’re not confident in your hand relative to what the dealer’s face up card. Typically it’s best to do this when you’re dealt a 16 and the dealer has a 9 or higher showing.
Different types of online blackjack games
You just finished the blackjack 101 course but now it’s time to learn more about other types of blackjack games. This way you’re not surprised when you see the wide variety of blackjack games offered.
We will cover the other variants in separate posts but here is a high-level overview of each
Single deck blackjack
This is the type of blackjack game that gives you the best odds of winning because you’re only using a single deck.
Professional gamblers often consider this type of blackjack the easiest way to beat the casino and win. The rules are described above when you first started reading but I will list them out here.
For starters, the dealer will have to hit (draw another card) until they reach 17. If they have a soft 17 (that would be an Ace and 6) the dealer will have to hit on that hand also. Once they have 17 or more the dealer will sleep (stop drawing cards).
Generally all the same rules we described for traditional 6-8 deck blackjack apply and play the same.
Live dealer blackjack
Live dealer blackjack is all the fun of playing blackjack in a physical casino without having to change out of your pajamas and leave your home.
Live blackjack at online casinos is when a casino has a dealer in a studio dealing cards live as if you were at the casino. The game is streamed live to your computer or mobile device where you can place your bets or take actions..
Since there are overhead costs (dealers, studio, stream, etc.), it’s not available at all casinos and at all times. Some casinos do not offer live blackjack while some only offer it at certain hours when there are enough players to justify the cost.
If you’ve played blackjack at a physical casino before, this is likely the blackjack you’re most familiar with. The general rules follow suit with 6-8 deck blackjack. The difference is there is an opportunity to make side bets on your initial two cards dealt.
Depending on where you are playing, you will either need to make a specific side bet or one side bet has you covered over an array of side bets. Typically if a single bet covers multiple side bets then the payout will be printed on the felt or shown on the table.
If you have to choose a specific side bet to make then the casino will typically tell you what the payout is for that side bet. Each side bet has a different payout because they have different odds of winning. Here are the most typical side bets with their odds.
|Side Bet||House Edge||Min Payout||Max Payout|
|21+3||3.24%||9 to 1||9 to 1|
|Royal Match||3.80%||5 to 2||25 to 1|
|Over/Under 13||6.5% - 10%||Varies greatly||Varies greatly|
|Super 7's||12.60%||3 to 1||5000 to 1|
|Lucky Ladies||17%||4 to 1||1000 to 1|
|Pair Square||10.60%||10 to 1||15 to 1|
21+3 side bet
I like to consider this side bet as blackjack with a hint of poker. It considers your first two cards dealt and the dealers face up card. If the three cards form a poker hand, you win the side bet. Here are the poker hands that could win you on average a 9 to 1 payout:
Flush - Suits of your cards and the dealer cards all match. For example, if you’re dealt a pair of heart suited cards and the dealer is showing a heart card, winner winner chicken dinner.
Straight - When your cards plus the dealer’s face-up card can create a sequential order. An example of this is if you’re dealt a 1 and 2 of any suit while the dealer has a 3 card showing of any suit then you win this bet. It can be any sequential order of cards, not just 1,2 and 3.
3 of a kind - This is when your two dealt cards and the dealers face up card are all the same card independent of suit. An example of this would be you’re dealt with two 8’s and the dealer is showing an 8 on their hand. Those crazy 8’s won you some crazy money.
Straight Flush - This is a combination of both the straight and the flush.
No this doesn’t payout whenever someone from the royal family gets married. This bet has to do with your first two cards dealt matching their suit. Different matches result in different average payouts:
Easy Match - When your first two cards are suited (have the same suit) you win this bet that usually pays out 5 to 2 in 6-8 deck blackjack.
Queen and King Match - This is the namesake of the side bet. When you’re dealt a suited queen and a king. This is the highest average payout with 25 to 1.
Suited Blackjack - When you get dealt a suited blackjack you’re a winner also. The average payout on this is a little better than easy match with 5 to 1 payout and depending on the casino you will also get a 3 to 2 payout for getting blackjack.
Much like the sports betting over/under bets, you’re betting on if you’re going to be dealt over or under 13. A few things to note are, you lose this bet automatically if you’re dealt a total of 13 and aces always have a value of 1 as it relates to the side bet (not the hand itself).
Should you make this side bet you should understand the payout and the edge the casino has. The payout varies widely between casinos but their edge does not. If you’re betting on the over the house has a 6.5% edge on the player and if you bet the under the house has a 10% edge.
Don’t expect this side bet to get its own Avenger movie but if you get lucky then expect a good payout. As you can imagine, this side bet depends on the cards being dealt with the value of 7. Here’s how this 12.6% house edge bet pays out and you’ll see why casino max this bet at $1:
1st card is seven - If the first card you’re dealt is a 7 then you’re going to get paid 3 to 1.
1st & 2nd Cards are seven - When your first card and second cards dealt are 7’s (independent of suit) then on average you can expect to be paid 50 to 1 on your bet.
1st & 2nd Cards are seven suited - When your first and second cards dealt are 7’s and suited, on average you can expect to be paid 100 to 1 on your bet.
3rd card dealt is a 7 - If you’re first two cards are 7’s and your third card dealt is a 7 also, you can start dishing out the high fives. This lucky situation on average pays out 500 to 1!
3rd card dealt is a 7 suited - This is much like the last one but if all 3 of your sevens share the same suit then you need to start dancing for joy. The average payout from casinos on this really lucky bet 5000 to 1!!
Although this name seems to be Beyonce inspired, it is not. The goal is to get 20 points on your first two cards dealt. There are various ways it pays out for giving the house a 17% edge.
Unsuited 20: This is when you’re dealt cards and they total to 20 but are not suited. An example would be getting an ace and a 9 in two different suits would pay 4 to 1 on this bet.
Suited 20: If you get dealt a 20 and the two cards are suited then on average a casino would pay 10 to 1 on the bet.
Matched 20: When you have two cards that are suited and match in rank. For example, if you’re dealt two jacks of diamonds, then you can expect on average to be paid 25 to 1.
Lucky Ladies: This is when you are dealt two queens of hearts on your initial deal. If you get to meet these lucky ladies during this side bet you’re going to be paid 200 to 1 in most casinos.
Luckier Ladies: You place your lucky ladies side bet then soon after the dealer announces they have a blackjack. Everyone at the table is frustrated but you’re smiling because you were dealt a pair of queen of hearts.
Since you made this side bet, you know that although you lost the hand but the Casino will be paying you 1,000 to 1 on your side bet.
One of the most straight forward side bets is the pair square. You are placing a bet on getting a pair of same rank cards in exchange for giving the house a 10.6% edge.
Pair: A pair that isn’t suited will get you a 10 to 1 payout.
Suited pair: A pair with the same suit will get you a payout of 15 to 1.k
Sidebet inventors are constantly dreaming up of side bets and casinos love them for it because as you can see they typically give the casino a double digit edge.
We’ve only covered the most common ones because new side bets typically never make it to the gambling floor or they come and go like 90’s boy bands.