Fans of fast-paced casino action have been in for a treat over the last ten years online. A new generation of incredibly engaging online casino sites have sprung into being which, along with the rise of mobile devices, have led to gamblers being able to play online virtually whenever and wherever they like.
Though online poker often grabs the headlines in terms of media mentions and high-profile tournaments, blackjack is also a huge draw for many players. The opportunity to play online blackjack for real money removes many of the frustrations that lovers of the game previously faced, such as having to travel to find offline casinos or not being able to fit gameplay into their schedule.
In this piece, we’ll take you through everything you need to know to start playing online blackjack for real money these days. We’ll cover preparatory steps you should take, the advantages of taking your play online, account setup and legal issues, blackjack strategy and a whole host of other relevant information. By the time we’re finished, you should have a solid understanding of what’s involved in playing real money blackjack and a good idea of what the next steps are to get out there on the tables.
Let’s kick things off with a quick look at the main advantages of playing online blackjack.
Before we get into the details of actually preparing to play and setting up an account, let’s quickly review the advantages of playing blackjack online.
The primary plus point is simply the enormous convenience it offers. Whether on desktop or mobile, with live dealer or automated options, you can now play blackjack at a time of your choosing from anywhere in the world (assuming you are obeying relevant local gambling laws where you happen to be based).
Compared to even visiting local casinos, this is an enormous improvement in overall ease of use. Many players were also previously forced to travel and incur significant extra costs if they didn’t happen to have a casino local to them. Online blackjack removes pretty much all of these logistical hurdles.
The second main advantage is the very real chance of making some significant extra income from your play. As with poker, blackjack is a game that combines skill and chance and expert players can walk away with eye-watering profits over the course of their playing lifetimes.
You’ll find pot sizes to suit all budgets at most of the major providers so whether you’re a high-roller or just starting off, the opportunity to get a return on your current stake is always there. You also stand to benefit from the generous bonus and reward schemes that online casinos implement to attract players to their sites. It’s a fiercely competitive market, so casinos are doing their absolute best to attract your business.
Let’s move on now to how to prepare for playing for real money.
If you’re approaching the virtual tables for the first time, it’s important to take a few commonsense precautions before diving in.
The very first is to establish your stack. Responsible gambling is all about only betting with money you are actually prepared to lose. Take the extra time to review your overall budget and decide what your weekly or monthly stack will be. Naturally, you may be adding winnings to this pile down the line, but it’s important to establish a baseline you are going to commit to regardless of whether the cards are in your favour or not.
Once you have a clear idea of what your initial budget will be, move on to researching online casinos. What you’re looking for are casinos that have been in business for a number of years (ideally with a verifiable offline presence also) and have a good reputation in the online blackjack community.
Check around on blackjack forums and sites such as this one to get a feel for the main options, and then be sure to carefully check the online casino’s terms and conditions to make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting into prior to signing up.
The final preparatory step is making sure your local hardware setup is up to scratch. Modern online casinos take advantage of latest-generation hardware on both mobile and desktop devices in order to make sure they’re delivering as immersive an experience as possible. You’ll want to make sure your primary playing devices are running on the latest versions of their respective operating systems and that your broadband connection is stable and has high throughput.
Before we get into actual account setup, let’s take a quick detour and cover some of the history of blackjack both offline and online.
The roots of blackjack are lost in the mists of time, but it’s a safe bet that players have been enjoying some version of the game since at least the 1600s. References to a similar-sounding game have been found in early works by Cervantes, and early variants also popped up throughout French and Spanish history thereafter.
The actual name “blackjack” comes from a special ten-to-one bonus payout that was briefly in vogue upon the game’s adoption in the United States. Hands containing both a a black jack and the ace of spades were highly rewarded and, though the bonus fell out of fashion, the name blackjack stuck.
The basics of the game are straightforward and easily grasped. A dealer dishes out cards to up to seven players and the goal of each player is to beat the dealer’s total without going over 21. Players have a relatively limited amount of options available to them on each turn of the card including taking another card (hit), taking no more cards (stick or stay), or doubling down. Naturally, there are many variants available within this overall setup and we’ll cover some of the main ones further on in the article.
Blackjack proved an almost instant success when online casinos arrived on the scene and you’ll find it in the vast majority of providers today. It’s also been a hit with the media as a string of high-profile aficionados such as Ben Affleck and Michael Jordan have kept the game in the headlines over the years.
Once you’ve narrowed down your account choices to a short list of front-runners, it’s time to consider the subject of possible bonuses on offer. Bear in mind, there’s nothing stopping you running more than one account at a time also.
You’ll see attractive sign-up and first deposit bonuses on offer from virtually every reputable online casino. These can range wildly in value but don’t be surprised to see offers of up to 200% of your initial deposit available. There’ll also be ongoing bonus offers and promotions available and a quick review of your casino’s social media accounts and blog is often the best way of finding out how often these are on offer.
There are two quick points to bear in mind here regarding bonuses. Firstly, treat bonuses as just that – a nice added extra. They shouldn’t be the primary motive driving your choice of online blackjack casino. Secondly, every bonus offer comes with strings attached, and you need to consult the relevant terms and conditions to be sure you understand any playthrough requirements that are in play.
Once you’ve decided on a particular blackjack-focused casino to go with, sign-up is generally straightforward. Bear in mind that age restrictions are in place in the vast majority of territories and that you’ll be required to verify your identity more often than not. You should look on these requirements as a plus rather than a negative. Identity verification is a key plank in overall site security and creates a safer environment for all players.
Once you’ve signed up and verified your account, the next step is setting up some payment methods for getting money in and out of your account. Options vary per territory and per casino here but, as a general rule, we recommend having more than one payment method set up to ensure you always have a backup option. A sensible combination for most accounts is to start with associating a credit card and PayPal account with your casino account and then consider setting up wire transfer as a payment option down the line. That should give you a good mix of options in terms of speed of funds transfer, security, and flexibility.
While we’re on the subject of account setup, it’s worth pointing out that the regulatory environment surrounding online gambling varies considerably from territory to territory. Though there is no problem gambling online in the majority of countries worldwide, there are still significant obstacles in some of the world’s largest countries.
European residents enjoy the freedom to gamble online in virtually every member state and the industry is heavily regulated as a result. Many of the largest online casino operators have their headquarters in Europe and the overall legal environment is extremely friendly. Antipodean residents enjoy broadly similar gambling freedom.
The situation in America is sadly substantially more complex. Online gambling is banned in the vast majority of states with notable exceptions such as Nevada and New Jersey. These laws are also actively enforced so you need to take pains to be sure you’re operating on the right side of the law if you are a US citizen or resident.
Asia, by contrast, is something of a mixed bag. Online gambling is officially banned in certain territories such as China and Singapore, but completely legal in other countries such as the Philippines. Be sure to check the legal situation in individual Asian countries when based there or passing through.
You can expect to find a range of blackjack variants available in online casinos including some or all of the following:
- Classic: The original and still the best in many people’s eyes, classic blackjack will be available at every online casino worth its name.
- Double exposure: An interesting variation where the dealer’s initial cards are exposed from the get-go, this is a good one for beginners to get to grips with.
- 5-hand: Once you’re up to speed with the basics of the game, the ability to play up to five hands at once in this variant lets you widen your options.
- Progressive: This variant adds a little more spice to your play by giving you the option of placing bets that can give you a chance of winning a large background jackpot.
In addition to the different variants introduced above, you also have the option of choosing between live dealer and software powered online blackjack for real money. The software powered option has never been more reliable and all reputable online casinos now use independently audited Random Number Generators in their software to ensure all deals are fair.
Though the software-powered versions are demonstrably free of bias, many players still prefer the immediacy of playing with a live dealer via video. In this option you’re interacting with a real live person online and get an experience that much more closely approximates the experience of an offline casino.
In terms of actual gameplay, there is little to choose between the two options but the heightened sense of involvement and sociability you get with live dealer blackjack makes it an intriguing option to at least explore if you’ve never tried it before.
You’ll come across a number of classic blackjack strategies as your knowledge of the game broadens and you start to play blackjack for real money online. Start investigating the following approaches to bring a little more sophistication to your play:
- Basic strategy: Basic strategy gives you a mathematically rigorous way of approaching play based on the total you have in front of you and the dealer’s visible upcard. It’s an excellent strategy to study to give yourself the best possible chance out of the gate.
- Composition-dependent strategy: This is a more advanced strategy that attempts to factor in a wider set of variables in your decision making including the exact cards in your hand rather than just the total. Once you’ve mastered basic strategy, this is a natural further option to explore.
- Advantage play: Advantage play seeks to leverage advanced blackjack techniques such as shuffle tracking, card counting and hole carding to remove the house’s edge. Be aware that most casinos have measures in place to make using these techniques as difficult as possible.
Mastering blackjack is a lifelong journey and you stand to learn a lot by studying some of the greats who’ve gone before you. Here’s a quick run-down of three legendary players who are more than worth looking up:
- Edward O. Thorp: Something of a Renaissance man, Thorp played a key role in early wearable computing and was the creator of the basic blackjack strategy that’s still relied on by a huge percentage of top players today.
- Ken Uston: Ken Uston was a famous blackjack strategy master who gained a certain notoriety back in the 1970s as he won big with a string of million-dollar paydays at casinos worldwide with his mastery of card counting and team play.
- Arnold Snyder: An early inductee into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, Snyder is the editor of Blackjack Forum and author of the classic title Blackbelt in Blackjack.
In addition to studying the lives of influential blackjack players like the ones we’ve introduced above, it’s also well worth your while creating a personal blackjack library to hone your skills over time.
Start with the following four classics and you can expect your time at the table to be substantially more profitable in sooner rather than later:
- Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong: Legendary player Stanford Wong’s guide to the basics of several systems used by professional players is still worth a place on any blackjack player’s bookshelf.
- Beat the Dealer by Edward Thorp: The book that introduced Thorp’s revolutionary point system to the game which has since been relied on by generations of players.
- Blackjack for Blood by Bryce Carlston: If card-counting is your game, Carlston’s modern classic is the tome to turn to. You'll find extensive info on all aspects of strategy and play along with tips for maximising your profit potential.
- The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book by Lance Humble: Humble’s comprehensive guide has you covered on everything from odds calculation and betting strategies to rules of play in classic locations such as Atlantic City.
Blackjack has earned its place in the hearts of gamblers worldwide for good reason. The basics of gameplay are easy to grasp, while the number of fascinating variants available both online and offline keeps things interesting over the long term.
The various levels of blackjack strategy available to explore also make for a lifelong learning experience. Seek to gradually master them over time and you’ll soon find yourself with an excellent chance of making a decent profit when playing online blackjack for real money.
We hope the information on this page has helped you on your way to finding a suitable casino to enjoy blackjack in, and wish you all the best of luck out there on the tables!
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