How to Play Blackjack Online – The Key Considerations

While slots may now account for more than 70% of the typical online casino gross gaming yield (GGY), table and card games retain a cult following around the world.

In most mature iGaming markets, table games like blackjack account for around 15% of the yield at online casinos, while the number of blackjack iterations now available to players also has to be seen to be believed.

In this respect, blackjack online is one of the most popular verticals on any standard or live casino platform. In this post, we’ve prepared a brief guide to help you understand the game in more detail and create a viable strategy.

Getting Started - A Blackjack Overview

Blackjack, or ‘21’, is a card game where players compete directly against a live or interactive dealer.

The objective here is to build a hand that has a higher count than that of the dealer, so long as it doesn’t exceed the value of 21. Depending on the precise iteration of blackjack that you choose to play, between one and eight decks of cards may be in play, while bets may also be placed using online chips either before the deal, after one card has been dealt facedown or after two cards have been dealt.

In terms of gameplay, aces count as one or 11 in most iterations of online blackjack, while face cards have a value of 10. So, gaining a pair of aces can create a versatile hand that’s easy to shape and build, which may increase your chances of winning significantly.

Interestingly, games resembling blackjack have been around since the 15th-century, but the main predecessor of contemporary iterations emerged in the 1600s and was known as ‘Venti-Un’.

Blackjack subsequently earned global appeal having migrated stateside in the early 1800s, and it has continued to go from strength to strength throughout the world.

Blackjack Rules

We’ve already touched on some universal blackjack rules including the variable number of decks used and individual card values.

If a player holds an ace and a 10-point card in a two-card hand, they’re said to have a ‘blackjack’ and the game’s best possible hand. This will pay out at 3:2 odds on average, while any other type of win will result in an even-money payout.

Bets may be placed before the first card is drawn in some cases, at which point players can look at their hands and decide whether to ‘hit’ (take an additional card from the deck) or ‘stand’ (receive a no additional card and retain their hand as it is).

We’ll touch on the strategy that will inform your decisions below, but first let’s take a closer look at some of the other key rules to look out for:

  1. The Split: In some blackjack iterations, players are able to split matching cards into two hands. This increases your chances of winning incrementally, so it’s worth looking out for online blackjack games that feature this rule.
  2. Double Down: With this occasional rule, players are able to double their wager before drawing an additional card. This is ideal of you have a low value hand or one or more aces, as you can increase the size of the pot while retaining a good chance of winning.
  3. Surrender: If you have a poor hand and decide you have little chance of winning, some games enable you to exit from the round and lose just half of your initial bet. This is known as the ‘surrender’ rule and available in selected online blackjack iterations.

Most games require the dealer to draw cards until they’ve either reached a total of 17 or gone ‘bust’ (exceeded 21), with this helping to inform the type of basic strategy referenced below.

If the dealer does go bust, all players who remain in the game and have a hand worth 21 or less at this time will be paid even money in relation to their stake.

Understanding Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack is categorised as a game of chance, largely because players are able to deploy numerical ability and strategy to minimise loss and optimise their chances of winning.

There are numerous betting and gameplay strategies that can be used in this respect, although this number excludes the tried-and-trusted method of card counting (which is obsolete given the lightening pace of online blackjack and the ability of casino software to shuffle between hands).

In this section, however, we’re going to focus on so-called “basic blackjack strategy” and some of its core elements listed below. These provide clear and specific parameters for decision making, while affording you the best odds and outcomes in real-time.

  • Always stand on 17 through 20.
  • Hit on a total of five through eight.
  • Hit on a total of nine and double down (if applicable) when the dealer reveals a three or six on their face-up card.
  • Hit on a 10 if the dealer shows a 10 or ace (or double down).
  • When holding an ace and a two or three, double down if the dealer reveals a five or six. Hit on anything else.
  • When holding an ace eight through 10, always stand.
  • If you draw a pair of aces, always split your hand.
  • Always split on a pair of eights too, and a pair of fours (unless the dealer holds a five or a six in their hand).
  • Always stand when you draw a pair of 10s (including face cards).

Play Free Blackjack Games Online

By following the basic set of rules listed above, you can establish a fundamental blackjack strategy that helps you to make the most of your hands and cope with the fast pace of online gameplay.

It certainly minimises the risk of human error, as the majority of your in-game decisions will be made according to fixed criteria and what you know about the dealers’ hand.

In order to access further competitive advantages, we’d also recommend looking out for free blackjack iterations that use a minimal number of decks.

The latter will help you to track hands and deploy basic strategy effectively, which is ideal if you’re a beginner and new to online blackjack gameplay.

The Most Popular Casino Blackjack Variants

Before we go, we thought we’d take a quick look at the best free blackjack games and online iterations. These include:

Blackjack Switch

In this game, players are dealt two hands at the start and are able to ‘switch’ the second card of each one. Players may also be able to make the optional ‘Super Match’ bet which is based on the initial four cards drawn.

Blackjack Surrender

As we’ve touched on, the ‘surrender’ rule lets players fold their blackjack hand before drawing more cards. This sees them lose just half their original bet, and is ideal when drawing a troublesome hand (such as 16).

European Blackjack

European blackjack is a strict iteration of the game, in which players can split just once and only in the case of 10-value or face cards. American rules let players split three times on average, offering a significant advantage overall.

Single Deck Blackjack

While the rules of blackjack are largely the same no matter how many decks are in play, single deck games make it easier to keep track of which cards have been drawn. However, the house edge is also higher on the insurance bet as there are fewer 10-value cards in the deck.

Double Exposure Blackjack

We’ll close with ‘Double Exposure’ blackjack, which sees the dealer receive two face-up cards during the initial deal. This is highly advantageous to players, but while the odds of winning are improved, the house edge is maintained by reducing the blackjack payout from 3:2 to even money. The surrender rule is also ruled out during this iteration.