Blackjack is the most widely recognized casino card game in the world. The game has two key advantages for players. First, the familiar set-up of beating the dealer without going over 21 is well known and very simple to learn. Second, blackjack offers the lowest house edge in the casino, meaning your bankroll gets you a lot of play. To help you get started playing real money online blackjack, you’ll find a complete guide below.
First of all below you’ll find a brief history of the online game, from its beginnings in the 1990’s through to the present day. Next, some of the many blackjack variations available online are covered. The safety and fairness of internet casinos is looked at next, before information on how you can reduce the house advantage to a minimum. Finally, site bonuses are covered, and you can discover two top-rated casinos for US blackjack players.
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Real Money Blackjack Variations
Brick and mortar casinos have to consider many issues when spreading a game. These include the physical space they have to host a table, the need to pay a dealer and the number of players interested in each game type. These worries do not affect online casinos, and as a result you can discover many interesting blackjack variations that physical casinos would not be able to offer.
Both US and European blackjack are the staples on many sites, along with jackpot side bets like ‘Perfect Pairs’. Many variations play in similar ways, only with slight differences in the rules – for example not having the option to surrender or the ability to place interesting (though usually expensive in terms of house edge) side bets. Some other games change the rules completely while keeping the basic game-play and 21 concept. Examples include Spanish Blackjack (played without 10’s) and Pontoon.
You can also find single and double-deck blackjack games. With fewer decks of cards used than the standard 5+, these games do provide a slightly reduced house edge. In real casinos these games are known to attract card counters. As online sites create a fresh shuffle for each hand, you can forget any ideas of keeping track of the deck. You will find multi-hand and single hand games, and with live dealer blackjack, games which you play alongside other people.
With advances in technology and bandwidth, there is the ability to have fun with different effects. Zappit Blackjack is one game which takes advantage of this, where if your hole cards total a poor 15, 16 or 17 they can be replaced in a bright electrical Zap!
Is Real Money Online Blackjack Safe?
Providing you stick with reputable, licensed casinos, then you will be fine. Even though online casino companies keep their operations offshore, they are licensed by official government bodies in the country where they are based. These ensure the casinos meet certain standards, focused on player safety.
The legal status of online games in the US is a concern for many players. The current laws are focused on banks and the business-to-business side of the transactions, and do not target players at all. At the time of writing no individual has ever been indicted under State or Federal law for simply enjoying real money casino games online.
If you stick with the online casinos covered at this site there should be no issues with the safety of your deposits. We focus on operators with a solid reputation for treating players fairly, and paying out on time.
Is the Deal Fair?
The short answer is ‘yes!’ Casinos use a piece of software called a Random Number Generator (RNG) to determine the outcome of each individual deal. These RNGs are regularly checked by recognized, third party auditors. Such organizations include eCOGRA and Gaming Labs. Licensing authorities often insist these checks are completed, and legitimate casinos proudly display test certifications on their website.
Live dealer blackjack has become increasingly popular. These are real-life games – dealt by a croupier in real time – which are streamed in HD quality directly to your computer or mobile device. No computer program governs the outcome of these games. Instead the deal is completed in front of you – usually by attractive and professional dealers who you can interact with via the chat box and betting buttons.
House Edge in Real Money Blackjack
Blackjack is famous for being the most generous games in the casino. While the house gains a slight advantage on all games (after all – that is how they stay in business), blackjack offers the best deal for players. The house advantage can be less than 0.5%, with 2%+ being typical. This means for every $100 wagered you can expect to lose less than 50c, although exact amount depends on the specific rules of that particular game.
An edge this low does not come automatically. In order keep this as low as possible, you will have to use a solid basic blackjack strategy. This is a set of pre-determined actions, based on the value of your hand and what the dealer is showing for a particular set of rules. Since its invention in the 1950s, basic strategy has remained the optimal way of playing blackjack and is the cornerstone of all blackjack betting systems.
Learning basic strategy involves memorizing the correct actions, or simply using a chart. This can be found in blackjack books, online or even printed on cards at brick and mortar casinos.
Side bets usually have a very high house edge compared to the main game. While many people enjoy the chance of a big win that comes with these bets, you should be aware that you are often giving up 7% (or more) to the house each time you make them.
Bonuses for Real Money Blackjack Players
The competition for players is fierce among online casinos. This is good news for you, as it means many great value bonuses – which can give you a lot more action for your money.
The Welcome Bonus or ‘First Deposit Bonus’ is offered in almost all online casinos. This typically gives new players a match on their first deposit, usually around 100%, with some as high as 400%. While you can play with these funds, you will have to play through the wagering requirements (usually a minimum of 30-40x the deposit), before you can request a cash-out. Be aware that often casinos restrict certain games, sometimes including blackjack, or limit their clearance rate – for example only counting 25% of blackjack wagers. It can pay to check the terms and conditions of each casino bonus before you sign up.
Good casinos also make a big effort to reward their loyal players. Offers to look out for include regular reload bonuses, cashback deals and VIP loyalty programs. You might find specials for blackjack players in the weekly offers of many online casinos too. Choosing the right casino means you should never have to play a hand of real money blackjack without taking advantage of one bonus or another.
Top Blackjack Sites
Now that you have read the history of online blackjack, understood how the games are made safe and fair, learnt how to reduce the house edge and know how to spot a great bonus deal – the final step is to choose somewhere to play!
Reputation is the key factor when it comes to choosing an offshore online casino. There are many great brands which have been looking after US players well for 5 years or more. You should also check for a license and for external testing of the software before signing up.
Here are two suggestions which we rate highly for US based players:
First up is Planet 7 Casino, which uses the RealTime Gaming casino platform. This site hosts regular US Blackjack, Face-Up 21 and Perfect Pairs, in addition to other table games and many slots – including RTG’s popular Random Progressive Jackpots.
Slots.lv is owned by one of the best trusted US-friendly operators as part of the global Bodog family. This site uses a mix of software providing many table games and slot titles, including BetSoft’s impressive 3D slots. The blackjack titles on here include US and European games, along with variations that include ‘Zappit Blackjack’.
Signing up today can get you a $7,777 welcome bonus on Planet 7, along with $5000 on Slots.lv. So there is no reason not to start enjoying real money blackjack right now.
History of Real Money Online Blackjack in the US
Blackjack was the key game in online casinos as soon as they appeared in 1994. The first online casino was developed by MicroGaming. This company has been on the forefront of casino software development ever since, though they no longer operate in the US.
By the start of the 2000s many millions worldwide were enjoying the pastime of online gambling, and large companies were forming in jurisdictions like London. 2006 saw the first of many significant changes in the US. The ‘Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act’ was passed. This made it illegal for US banks to process online gaming transactions, effectively forcing US online casinos to either close or to relocate offshore.
Free from US jurisdiction, many casino sites continued to flourish offshore and millions of players continued to enjoy real money online blackjack games. Despite a crackdown on internet gambling known as ‘Black Friday’ during April 2011, equilibrium has now been reached. Offshore casinos claim they have the right to operate under international free trade agreements – while the government would prefer to see them closed down.
Since 2011 the climate towards internet gambling has relaxed in the US. States such as New Jersey and Nevada are now offering their own online gaming licenses, with more due to follow suit. Casinos have innovated too, providing new experiences including streamed live dealer online blackjack and real money mobile blackjack games.