Playing Blackjack Online For Real Money
Like many casino games, the casino table game of blackjack has a rich history, a game interesting enough that it has been played substantially the same way for hundreds of years. It is pretty amazing that we have been playing essentially the same games since the early days of casinos, and while new games have been created along the way, they can’t touch the tried and true standards, like blackjack.
Blackjack remains the most popular real money casino game out there bar none, and its popularity is on the rise, having overtaken roulette as the world’s favorite casino game now and growing stronger as the years pass. A big part of this is the level of involvement it brings to players, where instead of just placing their bets and waiting for the outcome like roulette, blackjack presents players with several options where you can really help yourself by playing well.
A lot of blackjack players play far less than optimally though, increasing the house edge to the point where it may not be any worse than roulette or slots but well short of where good play ends up. Casinos are happy with players making mistakes at the table because they make more money, but we surely want to play the game more correctly and give ourselves a better chance to walk away with the casino’s money in our pocket rather than the other way around.
Playing blackjack the right way is pretty simple if you can just remember a few things, principles based upon working out the math of your decisions, which we will reveal to you in this article, to make sure that your game is tuned up properly to arm yourself to be able to give the casinos the battle they deserve.
The earliest references to blackjack are found in Spanish writings of the early 18th century of Miguel de Cervantes, of Don Quixote fame, where one of the characters of one of his books was good at cheating at a game called veintiuna, which is Spanish for twenty-one. Players would try to get as close to 21 without going over, and the game we now refer to as blackjack was born.
Later in the 18th century, veintiuna migrated to France, where it was renamed vingt-un, and like the French names roulette and baccarat, the French name stuck, for a time anyway. As the game expanded elsewhere, to Britain and the United States, the name vingt-un stuck, even though the game also started to be referred to the English translation of twenty-one as time passed.
The game of vingt-un was brought to America by French colonists in New Orleans. Later, French immigrant Elanor Dumont moved to Nevada City, Nevada, and opened a gambling parlor there called Vingt-et-Un, which introduced the game to the Nevada frontier. People came from far and wide to play this new game, and it grew to become the most popular gambling game in the country in time.
There is now some dispute about how the name of this game became changed to blackjack, where for years it was claimed that a Nevada gambling hall started the trend by offering ten to one payouts for the ace of spades together with a black jack, leading to the term blackjack being popularized.
We’ve since learned that even prior to that, during the Klondike Gold Rush, gambling halls paid extra for any two card combination of 21, and called this version blackjack from a mineral that is found alongside gold deposits, which had nothing to do with black jacks in a deck of cards.
The two events likely occurred concurrently, in Yukon, Canada, and in Nevada, USA, but in any event, the game of twenty-one has taken on the name of blackjack by most people anyway, even some still refer to it as twenty-one.
Blackjack In Other Countries
Blackjack Is Unique in That It is a Casino Game That Can Be Beaten
Blackjack quickly rose up as a major casino game, even in the casinos of Europe where modern casinos were born. Blackjack is the only major casino game that actually employs a fair bit of strategy and is also the only one that can be beaten without cheating, and the history of the game is rife with sharp players getting an edge by observing the cards dealt, called card counting, to overturn the small edge that the house normally has and actually turn the odds in their favor a bit.
When you play blackjack for real money in a casino, you are playing against the casino itself, and casinos do not like to have the odds in favor of players and not themselves. They simply toss players who have figured out a way to beat them, and call it cheating, even though it is not, other than if this is to be understood as players cheating the casino out of their self-given right to always have the advantage over everyone.
The issue is one of managing information, where decks of cards have a fixed number of cards of various value, and from noting which cards are out of a deck or a series of decks, this tells us at least something about the distribution of cards that remain in the deck or the shoe.
People have studied this in great depth and even the fact that you have a card worth 10 and a 2, for a hand of 12, is played differently than a hand of a value of 12 by way of another combination not involving a 10 or face card. The odds of the dealer busting are very slightly altered by the cards in your hand, and those who seek an advantage do not miss a thing, where they may draw to a 10 and a 2 but not to a three or more card combination of 10.
How Blackjack Strategy is Used For an Advantage
The main way that players use observing cards is to maintain a running count to get a feel for what the distribution of high cards may be in the deck, where if there are more high cards in it, this will cause them to want to bet more, and bet less when the high card count is lighter. The reason why this can be used to a player’s advantage is that the more high cards in the deck, the better your chances to hit blackjack and get paid out 3:2 typically, a 50% bonus over the even money that players win when they beat the dealer.
Players who use card counting, regardless of how good they are at it, are easily spotted due to their patterns of betting. Players who do not count cards may escalate their bets as play goes on, but they do not alter them up and down like card counters do, even betting the maximum on one hand and the table minimum on the next.
There really isn’t a good way to hide this playing by yourself, so these players decided to team up, where they were able to use a division of labor with players assigned to tables as lookouts until favorable circumstances present where the bigger players are called in to lay down bets.
This at least made their game a little less transparent, although casinos are ferocious in their opposition to card counting. New Jersey ended up ruling that their casinos cannot bar card counters, so casinos there were forced to use other tactics such as early shuffling to try to protect themselves against this. Elsewhere, just being suspected of card counting can get you not only barred but put on a blacklist shared with other casinos.
The emergence of real money online blackjack put an end to all this, as it does not use mechanical devices and instead the probabilities of any given card are determined independently by random number generator, although the live dealer play that is available online now does use real decks of cards and also allows players to use external devices, the ones that aren’t allowed at casinos that you actually sit at the blackjack table to play.
How Real Money Blackjack is Played
While optimal real money blackjack play does require at least some strategy, it’s really not all that complicated to learn, although this does require that the strategy is known and remembered by players, in addition to the rules of the game.
The rules themselves are very simple. Players first place a bet on the next hand, and after the betting is concluded, each player gets dealt one card face down and one card face up. There really isn’t any reason to have face down cards since you are playing against the dealer only, whose play is forced, and people’s hole cards get revealed when the hand concludes anyway, with the only potential difference being that hole cards may be less memorable if just revealed briefly rather than sitting in full view throughout the hand.
In American blackjack, the dealer is both dealt an up card and a down card, although European blackjack dispenses with the down card and just has the dealer showing one up card. American blackjack is actually slightly more advantageous to players, because the dealer will first check for blackjack, and if no blackjack is revealed with an ace showing, you know that they don’t have a 10 and have something else.
Some players will try to peek at this card and may catch sight of a corner of it that may not tell them which card it is but may reveal at least some information about what it might not be, or even have third parties trying to shoulder surf dealers and sending signals if they see anything of note, although this is definitely cheating and casinos watch for this sort of thing, and many now use electronic devices to prevent dealers from having to touch the card.
Cards are worth their numbered values, with the ace worth either 1 or 11 at the player’s choice, and face cards all being worth 10. After getting their first two cards, players may draw more until they are satisfied with their hand or bust, when their total exceeds 21.
Once you bust, you are out of the hand and lose your bet, regardless of whether the dealer busts or not. While having the same hand as the dealer results in a push, where your bet is returned, there is no push with bust versus bust and this is where the house gets their advantage.
Playing Real Money Blackjack Optimally
The fact that a dealer wins automatically whenever a player busts is actually a pretty big advantage, where if you play like dealers do and stand on 17 or better and hit everything else, this advantage will play out in full force. Players have the ability to hit or stand whenever they please, as well as use other tactics such as doubling down or splitting cards, and using these tactics properly reduces the house edge very significantly, to 0.60% with a 4 card shoe and 0.68% with an 8 deck shoe.
These relatively small house advantages, much better than the other very popular table game of roulette, is why card counting can turn the odds in a player’s favor since there isn’t that much to make up for. Players who prefer more favorable odds will therefore be attracted more to games like blackjack, craps, and baccarat over roulette, casino poker, video poker, or slots, if this is the most important thing to them.
The key to playing blackjack properly is to account for the dealer’s up card, which gives players valuable information about what they should be hitting on and standing on. If we bust, we lose, but if we do not bust and the dealer busts, we win, so we want to let the dealer bust when the odds are more favorable for that to happen.
Since there are 4 times as many cards worth 10 than other values, certain starting cards, 4,5, and 6, are going to see the dealer busting more often, given that they will be drawing more than one card in these cases. It is correct in these cases to stand on 12 or better, and if the dealer has a 2 or a 3, to stand on 13 or better.
If the dealer has a 7,8,9,10, or ace, players simply stand on 17. These are easy rules to remember, and in themselves will keep the house edge against you nice and small. Players can use other tactics like always doubling down on 11, doubling down on 10 unless the dealer shows a 10 or ace, and doubling down with 9 if the dealer has a 3 to 6.
Players can also split pairs, and you always want to split aces and never split 10s or face cards. 9’s should be split unless the dealer has a 10 or ace. 8’s should always be split, 7’s should be split if the dealer has 2-7, and 6’s are split if the dealer has 2-6. 5’s should be doubled down unless the dealer has a 10 or ace, where you just hit this hand of 10. 4’s are split against a 5 or 6, and 3’s and 2’s are split up against 2-7.
This takes a bit of work to remember but this is not optional if you want to play blackjack well and otherwise you are making decisions that go against mathematics, and mathematics decides.
Playing Real Money Blackjack Online
The exact same strategy applies to both land-based blackjack and when playing online blackjack for real money. You can forget about trying to count cards when playing computer rendered online blackjack, since the cards are determined randomly and not from a physical deck.
While there isn’t a way to gain an advantage playing real money blackjack online, they kick people out of casinos for this anyway and blackjack at a real table or a virtual one is still a lot of fun, even though we need luck on our side to win even with perfect play. This is perfectly consistent with all casino games and we play them to try our luck anyway.
If there were any way to beat online blackjack, they would build bots like they do with online poker, but no bot can overcome mathematical disadvantages. Poker bots are set up to play better than the average poker player, and make money off of weaker players, who may be happy enough to lose, but you can bet that casinos are not so happy and just do not permit such a thing. It can be a challenge to curtail losing the advantage at real casinos but it’s easy to do at virtual casinos where they control everything.
Players need not worry about this if they confine themselves to playing at reputable real money online casinos, those who have had their random number generation and other software programs regularly verified by trusted third parties, where they can be assured that the games are not only fair and random but even more so than with physical implements, due to their being slightly less than perfect in design.
The opportunity to play real money blackjack anytime we want, 24 hours a day, from wherever we happen to be, completely expands the reach of blackjack to everyone. No longer does anyone need to travel anywhere or even need to worry about having a large enough stake to meet the table minimums at land-based blackjack tables, as they can get started playing with as little as a $10 deposit which can go a long way indeed playing for pennies if one wishes or needs to.
Online limits for blackjack range from 10 cents a hand to into the thousands depending on the site, with bets of $10,000 a hand available at some live dealer games and potentially even higher if a player asks. This extremely wide range allows online blackjack to be more accommodative than brick and mortar casinos can offer, where all but the highest of rollers can be served optimally.
Alongside blackjack’s long and rich history, a new day has dawned upon it with the coming of online blackjack, putting the game in anyone’s hands, the rich, those of very modest means, and everyone in between, where we can now enjoy our favorite casino game any time we want now.
- How is the game of blackjack played?
Blackjack pits players against the house, represented by the dealer, where players get dealt two or more cards and seek to have the sum of their cards come closer than the dealer’s hand to 21 without going over. Players are faced with the decision to keep whatever total they have, or try to improve them by taking another card but also risking going over 21 where they lose the hand instantly. This serves to make the game of blackjack more interesting than other casino games.
- Where does the house advantage come from in blackjack?
All of the dealer’s decisions in blackjack are forced, so it’s not as if you are up against an expert blackjack player who can use their own decision making against you. Not being allowed to make decisions places the dealer at a decided disadvantage, but the dealer does have an ace up their sleeve, the fact that the dealer wins whenever players bust, regardless of whether they bust themselves. This conveys a slight advantage to the dealer if players play well, and a bigger one if they do not.
- How can blackjack players reduce this house advantage?
Just like the dealer wins when players bust, players win when the dealer busts but they do not. Depending on what the dealer’s up card is, we know what the odds are of their busting are. The dealer having an up card of 2 through 6 are bad cards for them and we want to always give them the opportunity to bust with these cards, and never want to go bust ourselves in these situations. We have other tools as well to use such as doubling down and splitting which provide further weapons to improve our blackjack results.
- What mistakes do casual blackjack players make?
The big mistake that players who play less than optimally, which a lot of casual blackjack players are guilty of, is to play against the number 21 and not play against the dealer, in a similar way that casual poker players play their own hands instead of taking into account enough what their opponents may have. The dealer’s card is actually the most important card on the table, and determines what we should do even more than our own cards, where we may not even care what we have depending on what the dealer has and may stand on anything and invite them to bust.
- How do card counters gain an advantage over the house?
Land-based casinos use physical decks of cards, and even though they may use multiple decks shuffled together, each card in a shoe reveals information about what the remainder of the deck may contain. Blackjack players are allowed to bet whatever they wish within the table minimums and maximums, and card counters seek situations where there are higher distributions in the deck of the cards needed to make blackjack, and bet more in these cases to better leverage the 3:2 odds that blackjack pays. Casinos watch the betting patterns of players closely, especially if you are up money, and this is therefore very difficult to hide.
- Can card counters gain any advantage apart from altering betting amounts?
No one can read your mind to know if you are counting cards, and there is nothing dishonest about this practice and casinos try to prevent this because they simply do not want players having an edge over them. In order to do this, they need clear evidence that you are doing this, by altering your bets in a manner consistent with the practice. Sharp players can still use card counting to make decisions within a hand though, like giving dealers more rope to bust if the count is running low or hitting some hands you usually would not if the count is running high.
- What are the advantages of playing at multi-player real money blackjack games?
For those who pay attention to the cards that are dealt, the more players that there are at a blackjack table, the more cards you get to see between your hands and the more information you have to work with. This is good information to have even if you are betting the same amount each hand, because knowing what cards have been dealt out of a shoe thus far does provide a little information, a slight edge, but the edge that the house has against us when we play well is very slight as well, and every little thing that we can use for our advantage adds up.
- How do blackjack players count cards?
Everyone playing at a live blackjack game should be doing some sort of card count, and while there are some pretty advanced techniques to do this, something as simple as a hi/lo count can at least give players a good idea of how the deck is running. All you do is add a point to your count every time you see a 2-6, and subtract a point when you see a 10, a face card, or an ace. A 7,8, or 9 counts as zero and these cards are ignored. The higher your count, the more likely you are to hit blackjack, which is what this seeks to decide. Higher or lower counts may also influence your in-hand decisions.
- Are online blackjack real money deals fair and random?
Online virtual blackjack uses computer simulations to represent the game of blackjack and the dealing of blackjack hands, which uses the same kind of random number generator that is used with all online gambling games. These random number generators are truly random, unlike real decks which are mechanically shuffled which diminishes their randomness a bit. Provided that an online blackjack site’s random number generator is independently verified, online blackjack deals are actually fairer and more random than real cards, not less.
- How does live dealer online blackjack differ from virtual blackjack?
Live dealer blackjack online doesn’t just simulate the game of blackjack, it actually allows people to play real blackjack at real tables with real cards and dealers without actually having to sit at these tables. Tables are assigned to players at a real table on a real casino floor and player actions are transmitted to these tables electronically and the action is sent to them through video feeds. Since real decks are used, this allows players sitting at home to use card counting techniques to gain slight advantages if they wish.