Looking for the best blackjack sites involves more than simply finding which online casinos offer the game. Every casino on the internet has real money blackjack, and many have multiple variations of the game. The key to finding the best places to play the game is to take a big picture approach; we want to find casinos that not only offer blackjack but that also display the other important qualities necessary for a positive experience.
What to Look for In a Blackjack Casino
Now, let’s take a closer look at what makes some sites better than others for online blackjack. The main things I like to look for are blackjack variations, the stakes offered, deposit bonuses that are compatible with blackjack, the reputation of the gambling site, banking methods and long term promos for loyal customers.
Blackjack Variations and Stakes
We’ll get into those other qualities in a minute, but let’s start with blackjack itself. Some online casinos go to much greater lengths than others to cater to blackjack players. Standard blackjack is easy to find but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other variations such as Spanish 21, Pontoon, Perfect Pairs, Double Bonus Blackjack and many more. If you like to switch it up, you’ll want to find a casino that spreads these other variants.
Another thing to consider is how much you’d like to bet. Most online blackjack starts will let you get started for as little as $1 per hand. However, maximums vary greatly, ranging from $100 to $5,000. Some casinos make exceptions for high rollers, but you should find out in advance before signing up. You don’t want your money caught up at the wrong casino and having to wait for a withdrawal before you have it in hand again to deposit it elsewhere.
The house advantage is something else to keep in mind. Even minor changes in the rules have a major impact on the house edge. Does the healer hit on soft 17? Is early surrender allowed? Does blackjack even pay 3 to 2? Some gambling sites treat blackjack players with respect while others simply try to extract every penny they can from players.
Deposit Bonuses and Clearing Requirements
There are a couple of things you want to be aware of when it comes to deposit bonuses and blackjack games.
Deposit bonuses and blackjack have a dysfunctional relationship in the world of online gambling. You need to proceed with caution whenever you plan on claiming a new player bonus and intend to clear it with blackjack.
Always take a look at the terms and conditions associated with any deposit bonus. The majority of casinos don’t view blackjack as equal to other casino games. This game has such a low house advantage that most welcome bonuses cannot be cleared by playing blackjack. Or if you can clear the bonus with blackjack, you’re asked to place a much larger sum of wagers before the money is released. In some cases you’ll be asked to roll over your bonus two to four times more than what’s required for other games.
Read through the terms of any offer and understand how that bonus works with blackjack. How many times over do you need to wager the deposit + bonus before you can withdraw any winnings you might have? This can vary from 1 to 50x.
If you deposit $100 with a rollover of 25x, you could very well have to wager $5,000 (($100+$100)*25). Your goal should be to find the lowest rollover required. That’s assuming the bonus even works with blackjack in the first place.
The last thing you should look at is the size of the bonus. That’s because it won’t matter how big your bonus is if you can’t play blackjack to complete it, or if it has some ridiculous clearing requirement like 100x. Also, be aware of the percentages. A 150% bonus is usually going to be better than a 100% bonus since each dollar of yours will go further. That’s assuming all other variables are equal, of course.
Sometimes you’ll find blackjack sites that offer special bonuses designed specifically for blackjack players. These bonuses tend to be smaller and less impressive than those huge offers you see splashed all over the front page of the website, but you can actually clear them within a reasonable amount of time.
Honesty and Fairness
This should go without saying, but there are just too many reputable casinos for you to even consider casinos with questionable reputations. The blackjack casinos recommended at the top of this page are all backed by longstanding reputations for honesty and fairness.
One thing that signals a fair casino is a casino that is regularly audited by an independent testing company. Yes, there are companies out there that specialize in running in-depth audits to make sure the games are indeed truly fair. These companies dig into the casino’s software, algorithms and processes to determine if their games are 100% random.
A license from a reputable licensing jurisdiction also goes a long ways in ensuring a casino is a safe place to play. The world’s most reputable licensing authorities require access to the gambling site’s finances, demand random audits and have the ability to shut down the casino if evidence of unethical behavior is found.
Before signing up to an online casino you’ll want to take a look at the banking options available. After all, it’s not going to do you any good to sign up if you can’t deposit your money. Or worse, if you can’t get the money back off when you’re done gambling.
You might also want to consider banking limits. A $100 minimum does no good if you only have $50 to deposit. On the other hand, a $500 maximum does no good if you want to play $1,000-per-hand blackjack. Each brand will be different regardless if they’re on the same network, use the same processors or software providers. Keep that in mind.
Withdrawals are important too. Ask, what methods are available? How fast can they get my money to me? Established gaming sites are usually pretty good about making quick payments to winners. Some of the more popular options include Neteller, Skrill and instant eCheck.
Promotions and VIP Programs
Promotions and VIP programs add extra value and pad your bottom line over the long term. Things like deposit bonuses, reload bonuses, tournaments and VIP programs all make for a more rewarding blackjack experience. What does the casino do to attract and keep your business?
Bonuses are so hit and miss, especially if you play at a casino that doesn’t allow you to clear bonuses with blackjack. As nice as bonuses may be, I wouldn’t focus too much on deposit or reload bonuses. Look at blackjack bonuses as nice little surprises when they come around.
What’s more useful is to look at the casino’s VIP program. You’re likely to find cash back rewards, free entry to blackjack tournaments (rare), higher-than-standard table limits and free gifts. VIP levels are usually determined by how much betting handle you accrue. The more you wager, the higher your VIP status and the better the rewards and incentives.
Note: Many VIP program operate similarly to deposit bonuses in that playing blackjack will contribute less than other games when it comes to earning VIP points. You’ll have to play more to earn the same number of points that you would playing less slots or keno.
How Online Blackjack Works
Blackjack is played under the same ruleset online as it is in the real world. If you have any experience playing blackjack at a brick-and-mortar casino, you’ll be right at home when you play online. The only major differences are cosmetic things. Instead of playing with a human dealer, you’ll play with an automated dealer that follows the same rules, for example.
There are two reasons why blackjack is the most popular table game in every casino in the world. First, the game is relatively simple to learn. The basic idea is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. Second, blackjack is one of the few games where you can make decisions that actually affect the outcome of each hand. There’s a lot of strategy that can be applied to blackjack to help increase your odds of winning.
But before we get into learning how to beat blackjack, we first need to cover the basic rules. Although blackjack is a fairly simple game, there are some advanced bets that can appear confusing at first. We’ll cover all those later in this article but first, let’s start with the basics.
Objective of the Game
Your goal in blackjack is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. Each card is worth a certain number of points and you can draw as many cards as you wish in order to get as close to 21 as possible. The caveat is that if you draw too many cards and go over 21, you automatically lose the hand.
Blackjack is played at a table with anywhere from 1 to 8 players and a dealer. The players all compete individually against the dealer and don’t actually have any interaction with each other, other than conversation. When you play online, it’s just you and the dealer.
Card Values In Blackjack
Each card in blackjack is worth the following number of points:
- Numbered cards (2-10) are worth the same number of points as the card value. A 7 is worth 7 points, an 8 is worth 8 points and so on.
- Jack, Queen and King are worth 10 points each.
- Aces are worth 1 point or 11, whichever gives the player the best score.
How to Play
The players begin each hand of blackjack by choosing how much they wish to bet and then placing a wager on the table. After the players have all placed their bets, the dealer gives one card face up to each player and one card face down to himself. The dealer then deals a second card face up to each player.
This is where you get to make your first decision. When it comes to your turn, you can signal for the dealer to give you more cards (this is called “hitting”) or you can tell the dealer you don’t need any more cards (“standing”). You can take as many cards as you want but be careful; if you go over 21 (“busting”), you lose your wager.
After all the players make their decisions, the dealer takes another card and reveals his hidden card. The dealer then plays his hand out according to preset rules. At most casinos, the dealer must draw cards with a 16 or lower and he must stand with a 17 or greater.
Winning Hands In Blackjack
There are several ways the hand can turn out:
- You get closer to 21 than the dealer. Your original bet is paid off at 1:1.
- The dealer gets closer to 21 than you do. You lose your bet.
- The dealer goes bust. If you didn’t also bust, your original bet is paid off at 1:1.
- Any time you bust, you lose your bet, even if the dealer also busts.
- You are dealt a natural blackjack in the first two cards. This means you received an Ace and a card worth 10 points for an instant 21. This is an automatic win and you will be paid 3:2 on your money. If the dealer also gets a blackjack, the bet is a tie and you neither win nor lose any money.
Optional Blackjack Casino Side Bets
There are also several other bets players may make while playing blackjack.
- Double Down At Blackjack:You may double down if your first two cards total 9, 10 or 11 without any aces. When you double down, you may double your original wager but after you double down, you must receive exactly one more card and that’s it.
- Splitting Hands In Blackjack: When you receive two cards of the same rank, you may split those cards and play them as two separate hands. You also place a separate bet on your second hand.
- Taking Blackjack Insurance: Insurance is generally considered a bad bet but some players still take insurance if they feel unlucky. If the dealer’s up card is an ace, you may take insurance which costs half the original wager. If the dealer ends up having a blackjack, you will be paid 2:1 on your insurance bet. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, the insurance bet is lost.
- Surrendering Blackjack Hands: Surrender is an option where you may forfeit half your bet and quit the hand early. This is useful if it looks like you’re going to lose the hand. There are two types of surrender: early and late. Early surrender is offered before the dealer checks for blackjack and late surrender is offered after the dealer checks for blackjack.
In many ways, finding the best blackjack casino is no different than finding the best all-around casino. You want to find a casino that is safe, trustworthy, has multiple banking options (especially if you’re American) and that offers rewards.
However, when it comes to qualities that separate one casino from the next in terms of blackjack, you want to keep in mind the variations you want to play, the terms and conditions for the bonus and clearing requirements. These are the things that will make the most difference to blackjack players and separate the best blackjack casino sites from the rest.