On this page you will find an explanation of the different types of blackjack games, get the chance to play them for free, and learn about the different software platforms and their games.
Blackjack is probably the most popular casino card game in the world. It's also one of the most fabled, with many stories of people who have broken the bank through shrewd play. What makes blackjack so popular is that it is one of the casino games that most lends itself to strategies that help players to negate or overcome the house edge.
The game is played either with one 52 card deck or multiple decks, depending on the type of blackjack variation. The objective of the game is to beat the dealer by creating a hand where the card values are closer to 21 than the dealer's cards.
So here follows a primer on online blackjack that will cover the following:
- Play free blackjack
- An overview of the different blackjack varieties
- The difference between single deck and multi-deck blackjack
- The blackjack house edge
- Instant play vs downloadable online blackjack
- Basic blackjack rules
- A blackjack games Q&A
Play Free Blackjack
Blackjack is a relatively simple game on the surface, but this masks quite a bit of complexity underneath, which mainly stems from the statistics and strategies required to do well at the game. So it's always advisable for players who are new to online blackjack to spend some time getting to know the game, and learning some of the basic strategies. The best way to do this is to play free blackjack. Luckily all online casinos have free play versions of their blackjack games, where you can play as long as you want without having to spend any real money.
Below is a list of free blackjack games to get you started - just click to play:
Blackjack Game Varieties
There are a number of different types of online blackjack that are offered by most casinos. Here's an introduction to the main varieties of blackjack that you will find.
Atlantic City Blackjack
You'll find that Atlantic City Blackjack offers a more favourable house edge. It uses 8 decks of cards and you can play a single hand or multiple hands at the same time. The main feature of this game is that the dealer checks if he has blackjack before the game commences and the game is over if he does have it. This means that you only lose your initial bet and don't risk further exposure, by doubling down or splitting, for example. The dealer must stand on a soft 17. You can double on your first two cards and you can split. You may also double after you have split and can the re-split.
Atlantic City Blackjack can be found at casinos powered by Microgaming.
European Blackjack is played with two decks of cards. The dealer does not look at his cards before it is his turn to play. The dealer must stand on 17. You may double down on your first two cards if they total 9, 10 or 11. You can only split once. Blackjack always beats any other hand totalling 21 and you are paid out at 3:2.
Most casinos offer European Blackjack, including Microgaming powered sites like Crazy Vegas Casino (link).
Bonus Blackjack has the same rules as European Blackjack, except there is an additional bonus feature. If you place the optional bonus side bet then you are paid out at 50:1 if you hit a blackjack that consists of the Jack of Spades and the Ace of Spades. You are paid out at 25:1 if you hit a blackjack with a Jack and any other suited Ace.
Bonus Blackjack can be played at Microgaming casinos.
Double Exposure Blackjack
This game is played with 8 decks. A big difference with this game is that both of the dealer's cards are dealt face-up. The dealer wins on all ties, except on blackjack. The dealer must hit on a soft 17. You may split and resplit to end up with four hands. Doubling is allowed after a split, but you can only double on hard 9, 10 or 11.
This is a very different game to the other forms of blackjack, in that the 10 cards are removed from all the decks - the game is played with 8 decks. The dealer looks at his cards on Face and Ace cards and must hit on soft 17. A player's blackjack and 21 will always beat the dealers - it won't be a tie. You can double down on any cards, with one re-double allowed. You can split 3 times into 4 hands.
Vegas Downtown Blackjack
This game is played with 2 decks of cards. The dealer must hit on a soft 17 and will peek for blackjack. You can double down on your initial cards as well as after a split. You may re-split to end up with 3 hands. The one significant difference with this game is that if you are dealt a 10 card to an Ace after a split, this is not a blackjack, only a 21 hand, so it will be beaten by a dealer's blackjack.
Vegas downtown blackjack is offered by most casinos and is also referred to as classic blackjack.
Vegas Strip Blackjack
This game variation has a lower house edge than the others. It is played with 4 decks. The dealer must stand on soft 17. Like Vegas Downtown Blackjack, if you split cards and are then dealt a 10 to an Ace it does not count as blackjack, so you will be beaten if the dealer hits blackjack.
You can play Vegas Strip Blackjack only at Microgaming casinos.
This is the same as classic Blackjack, but you have the option of placing a side bet to try and win a jackpot. There is a separate jackpot pay table describing the card combinations that qualify for the jackpot. If you hit one of these combinations you win a jackpot payout. The highest payout is for being dealt four consecutive Aces of the same suit.
Microgaming Casinos offer Progressive Blackjack.
Pontoon is played with 8 decks of cards. The hand that is known as Pontoon is an Ace plus any 10 card. The second best hand in Pontoon is a 5-Card Trick, which is a hand of 5 cards that totals 21 or less. A Pontoon always beats a 5-Card Trick. The dealer will always look to see if he has Pontoon and must stand on all hands of 17 or more. You may split twice.
Single deck vs Multi-deck Blackjack
When choosing a blackjack game, the number of decks used s a crucial deciding factor.
The difference between single deck and multi-deck Blackjack is simply the number of decks that the game uses. The dealer deals cards from a shoe, which contains all the cards in the game. A single deck Blackjack game has only one deck in the shoe, whereas multi-deck Blackjack games have anywhere from 2 to 8 decks in the shoe. The main reason for the introduction of multi-deck Blackjack games is that it makes it a lot harder for players to count cards.
This has implications for house edge, hand odds and your strategy. Obviously the more decks there are the more possibilities you have for making a hand, but remember that the dealer has more possibilities too. A general rule of thumb to bear in mind is that the more decks the higher the house edge, except where there is a single deck game. With a single deck game the house normally enjoys a better edge, unless you can find a game that offers a 3:2 payout. An 8 deck Blackjack game usually gives the house the best edge. However, you should also remember that the house edge is also influenced by the other game rules and the payout odds.
Blackjack House Edge
The house edge is the statistical advantage that the casino has over the player in a game of Blackjack. It is expressed as a percentage of the total bets that a player makes vs the return that the player can expect over a long succession of hands played. In Blackjack the house edge varies according to the different game types, depending on the specific rules of each game. Factors that affect the house edge include the number of decks in the game, the payout ratios, whether or not the dealer hits or stands on 17, whether you can double or not and the number of doubles that are allowed, and whether you can split or not and the number of hands that you end up with.
Here are typical house edges for the most common variations of Blackjack:
|Type of Game||House Edge|
|Atlantic City Blackjack||0.35%|
|Double Exposure Blackjack||0.69%|
|Vegas Downtown Blackjack||0.38%|
|Vegas Strip Blackjack||0.34%|
The house edge can be negated to a certain extent by knowing the right strategies to play. This is one of the reasons why Blackjack is such a popular game - it isn't completely a game of chance, as you have the ability to play various strategies which affect the outcomes.
Instant Play vs Downloadable Blackjack
Many online casinos offer instant play Blackjack games. These games allow you to simply click a link in your browser to open the game and start playing, either for free or for real money. You will usually be required to have Flash installed as a browser plug-in, but if you don't the game will typically prompt you to download it.
Downloadable Blackjack games are where you download the casino software to your desktop and install it on your computer. Once installed you simply run the software, choose your game and start playing - once again, either for fun or for real money. Microgaming casinos like Casino-Mate (link) casino be downloaded or you can play almost all their games in instant mode.
There is no difference in the odds or house edge between instant and downloadable Blackjack games - they are simple different methods of accessing the same game.
Basic Blackjack Rules
The rules of Blackjack vary according to the different variations of the game. However, here are the basic rules that apply to most blackjack games, covering how to play. The different variations simply offer variations on certain rules, like whether or not you can double down or not.
The game starts the player placing a bet and then two cards each being dealt face down to the player and to the dealer. The player is usually first to play. The object of the game is to get as close to 21 in the total value of the cards as possible. You win the game by being closer to 21 than the dealer, by hitting blackjack (an Ace with a 10 card), or by the dealer going bust (having a hand value that is over 21). If there is a tie, known as a push, your bet is returned. Note that a blackjack beats a hand of 21 if the latter is made up of more than 2 cards. Typically either player getting a blackjack ends the game immediately.
All face cards have a value of 10 and aces can have a value or 1 or 11.
Once you have your first two cards you must decide if you want to receive any more cards or if you wish to stand. If you want another card this is known as hitting. If you hit, you add the value of your new card to the value of your existing cards and then once again decide whether to hit or stand. Once you have finished your turn and decided to stand - assuming you don't go bust, in which case the dealer automatically wins - it is the dealers turn to follow the same process. The hands are then compared and the hand that is closest to 21 wins.
With online Blackjack the game actions are controlled using buttons in the software interface.To place a bet you click the coin denomination that you wish to bet and then click in the betting area of the table to place your bet. You then click the Deal button. Once you have seen your hand you can click either the Hit or Stand buttons, depending on your decision. In some game variations there will also be a Double or Split button, allowing you to double your bet or split your cards into two separate hands. Once you have finished your turn, the game will automatically play for the dealer and the outcome will be announced.
This is not a straightforward consideration, because the house edge depends on the various in-game rules. However, if you were to compare a single deck and a multi-deck game with exactly the same rules, you will be at a slight disadvantage playing a multi-deck game. Having said that, it is usually easier to find more favourable in-game rules in multi-deck games, so pay close attention to these rules when deciding which to play.
Yes, this is true - although it does depend on the various in-game rules and the player's skill - his ability to play the right strategies. Make sure that the game payout is at 3:2, avoid the more exotic variations like Double Exposure Blackjack and you're usually looking at a house edge of around only 1%, assuming you play correct basic strategy.
The first thing to do is to find a resource (a book or website) that teaches you basic correct strategy. Make sure you are completely conversant in this strategy and you will end up being able to negate the house edge as much as possible.
There are also other approaches like card counting, but with the typical multi-deck set-ups of most online Blackjack games, this has become quite difficult to apply. And don't forget that if you count cards in a land-based casino are you are found out you will be barred from the casino.
The simple answer to this is that if you are playing correct basic strategy you should never take insurance. This is especially true when the payout odds are 3:2, because you are always better off taking those odds than relying on a 1:1 payout.
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