The Ultimate Guide to Winning at Blackjack Online
Online blackjack is highly popular because it's a skill game that offers great odds. You can lower the house edge to almost zero with the right strategy approach. If you get really obsessed, you could even make long-term profits through land-based card counting. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, we'll start with the fundamentals on how to win at online blackjack. This guide discusses basic blackjack strategy, favorable rules, practicing the game, pursuing bonuses, bankroll management, and, yes, card counting.
Learn Basic Blackjack Tips & Strategy
Basic strategy refers to making the best decisions possible to maximize your chances of winning. Do you hit or stand with a 14 versus a dealer's 6 upcard? Do you split or stand when holding a pair of 9's against the dealer's 7? If you can handle tricky decisions like these and others, you'll be on your way to lowering the house edge. The biggest hurdle to overcome, though, involves knowing which tools to use when learning online blackjack strategy. Here are some common options:
- Articles - Offer helpful blackjack tips and advice
- Blackjack strategy chart - Shows optimal moves in every situation.
- Free blackjack - Play for free at online casinos to hone your skills.
- Online trainer - Free program that points out your mistakes while playing.
A strategy chart is the most helpful resource among this group. It literally lays out every correct decision with regard to lowering the house advantage. Of course, the other three options have their place when you're improving too. But a strategy chart is the best starting point in the beginning. You can find many free charts through a simple Google or Bing image search.
Look for the Best Blackjack Rules
Strategy is only part of the equation because rules also play an important role in blackjack success. Choose the wrong online table and you could be facing a 2% house edge or higher. Pick the right game and you might only face a 0.5% house advantage with optimal strategy. Notable blackjack rules to consider include the following:
Rule / Lowers House Edge by
- 3:2 natural blackjack payout (vs 6:5) / 1.39%
- Single deck (vs 8 decks) / 0.48%
- Early surrender against ace / 0.39%
- Double down on any cards / 0.23%
- Dealer stands on soft 17 (vs hitting) / 0.22%
- Double deck / 0.19%
- Double down after splitting (a.k.a., DAS) / 0.08%
- Four decks / 0.06%
- Six decks / 0.02%
A 3:2 natural blackjack payout is the first priority on this list because it lowers the house edge by 1.39%. Single deck online blackjack is also worthwhile since it drops the house advantage by 0.48% compared to eight decks. However, you must beware of single deck games that only pay 6:5 (increases house edge by 089% combined). These tables aren't so common at online casinos, but they are frequently available in land-based establishments.
Practice with Free Online Blackjack
You might not feel completely confident putting your newfound skills into play on real money tables. If so, you can play free blackjack at online casinos to start improving without risking anything. The first step to playing for free involves signing up for an account. Once registered, you can visit the table games section and fire up free blackjack. You'll be playing the same game as with real money versions, only with no real funds on the line.
Avoid Insurance & Other Side Bets
Blackjack insurance has fooled players into thinking that they're "insuring" something for decades. But the truth is that gamblers are only ensuring they lose more money. Insurance is basically a side bet with an awful 7.4% house edge. You should avoid most, if not all, other blackjack side bets too. No side wager lives up to main play regarding the house advantage. Bets like Over/Under 13 (10.06% house edge) and Wild Aces (7.5%) are best avoided.
Practice Bankroll Management
If you follow all the advice so far, you'll be only be facing around a 0.5% house edge or less. But even with such a small house advantage, you can still go through cold streaks and lose money. The best way to survive these rough points of volatility is to practice bankroll management. A good bankroll plan is to play stakes where you never bet more than 1% of your bankroll (if possible). Here's an example:
- You have a $500 bankroll.
- 500 x 0.01 = 5
- You would bet $5 or less per hand in this case.
Online blackjack is perfect for smaller stakes because it only requires a $1 minimum bet. Some land-based casinos let you bet as little as $5, but most require a $10 or $25 minimum wager. The other element to consider is a stop-loss limit, which refers to a quitting point based on losses. Here's an example:
- Your stop loss limit is 20% of your bankroll.
- 500 x 0.2 = $100
You would quit any session when reaching $100 in losses.
Loss limits are great for convincing you to quit before losing too much money. The result is that you can come back another time and get more enjoyment out of your bankroll.
Go for Blackjack Bonuses
Online casinos offer plenty of promotions to attract and keep players. You can often play blackjack to earn deposit bonuses. For example, you might deposit and qualify for a 100% match bonus up to $500. Casinos require you to meet terms and conditions before letting you withdraw the money. Wagering requirements (a.k.a. playthrough) are notable among terms because they determine how you must wager. Be sure to check what blackjack contributes to playthough (e.g., 20% vs 100%) before pursuing a bonus. You should also thoroughly read any other terms involved with blackjack bonuses to avoid missing out on winnings.
Consider Card Counting if You're Really Serious
The advice covered so far will put you on almost equal footing with casinos. But at the end of the day, you're still at a slight long-term disadvantage. Card counting at land-based casinos can help you overcome this disadvantage and become a profitable player. Believe it or not, learning to count cards is actually easy. Many players use the Hi-Lo system, which can provide up to a 1.5% edge over casinos. You count cards as follows based on which cards come out of the deck:
- A through 10 = +1 on your count (high cards being dealt hurt your chances)
- 9 through 7 = Neutral (non-factor in the Hi-Lo system)
- 6 through 2 = -1 (Low cards being dealt improve your odds and hurt the casino)
Learning how to count cards is only a fraction of the battle. You also must practice keeping count with the dealer's speed and camouflage your play to avoid getting thrown out. Additionally, you need a large bankroll because even a 0.5% to 1.5% edge can lead to plenty of downswings. After all, you must increase your bet significantly when the count is in your favor, which creates more volatility. Card counting requires further study and lots of practice so make sure that you're up for the challenge before starting.
Can You Count Cards at Online Casinos?
Unfortunately, you can't successfully count cards with online blackjack. Online casinos shuffle the deck too frequently for your count to have an impact. You need more deck penetration (number of decks dealt before the shoe is shuffled) to ensure long-term profits. Not even live dealer blackjack tables allow enough deck penetration. But the benefit of online blackjack is that you'll normally find better rules. So if you're not interested in counting, online blackjack gives you the stronger chance to win versus land-based casinos.
Above All-Have Fun
You don't have to be a card counter or use 100% perfect basic strategy to enjoy blackjack. The key to this game is having fun and enjoying yourself in the casino. Of course, winning more money always has a positive effect on your experience. Therefore, you should at least consider basic blackjack strategy to boost your odds. Using a strategy card at the table or during online sessions doesn't require much effort. Additionally, you can find games with favorable rules with minimal research-especially online. That said, you can use good strategy and have fun with blackjack at the same time.