5 Steps to Your Best Blackjack Game
Of all the games offered at online casinos, blackjack is at the top of the list when it comes to player wins. With a few simple strategies, you can reduce the house edge to one-half of 1 percent. But how to find the best games?
The most you can expect of any online slot game is a payback percentage of about 97 percent, which translates to a 3 percent hold for the house. Those are usually $10 minimums, so you can go through quite a bankroll before breaking even or scratching out a small profit.
Most slot games average between 88 percent and 92 percent, so at the low point, you’re giving the house 12 percent of your bankroll. Not a good thing.
Yes, some video poker games can get you up to around 98 percent if you play them perfectly, which isn’t easy. Even so, you can get by with a smaller bankroll, because the minimums at some favorable video poker games can be as low as a penny. The trick? Finding and them playing them expertly.
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Lower Risk, Higher Chance for Rewards
But one game that’s relatively easy to learn and can be played for as little as 10¢ is blackjack. Here’s the good news: the online game is much more advantageous to the player than the games inside a real casino.
First of all, most casino games aren’t going to have the best rules. If you’re on the Strip in Vegas, or at lots of the casinos in Atlantic City, you’ll be offered games that pay 6 to 5 for blackjack, one of the most egregious rule changes in recent history. Most online casinos offer 3 to 2, with manageable minimums and a menu where you can find them in seconds.
But be forewarned: the less advantageous online games all have something in common: another name along with blackjack. We’re talking Vegas Blackjack, Blazing Blackjack, Blackjack Xchange, Unlimited Blackjack and others.
Most of these have side bets or bonus bets that distract you from the standard rules. They can be fun, but side bets usually have a house edge of 5 percent or more, so it’s best to avoid them, unless you can find a game with decent standard rules and can put blinders on for the side bets.
So, how can you find the best blackjack games without the side-bet or bonus distractions, and the best chance for you to win? Every online casino offers a version of straight blackjack, but there are rules that can give you a better advantage.
One caveat. You may have heard that card-counting can actually give a player an edge over the casino. That’s true, but online casinos have built-in barriers that prevent that. The top one is that it usually shuffles after every hand. Stops a card-counter dead in the water.
5 Steps to Your Best Game
- Blackjack payoff: Make sure the game pays 3-2 on blackjack. Depending on the other rules of the game, a 3-2 game gives the house only a 0.5 percent edge. When you pay 6-5 on blackjack, the house edge explodes by 2 percent.
- Number of decks: Play as few decks a possible. There are some single deck games online, but it can be as many as 8 decks. Since most casinos shuffle after every hand, the fewer decks favors the player because it’s a more natural deal.
- Soft 17 rule: Find a game where the dealer must stand on a soft 17 (Ace and a Six) or any combination of cards that adds up to 17. The advantage goes to the player with this rule because the player can hit a soft 17—a pretty bad hand usually—so see if you can find that rule.
- Splitting policy: Some games have rules against multiple splits. Depending upon what the dealer’s up card is, splitting can be very advantageous for a player, and getting as much money out there as possible when the dealer is in a weak position is best. Some games only allow you to split Aces once. But since Aces are the premier card to split, unlimited splits would be preferable.
- Double down strategy: Just as when you split, doubling down is very important when a dealer is in a vulnerable position. Most casinos will allow you to double down on any two cards, even Aces, which will be considered as 1 for that strategy. Some games limit doubling down to 9, 10 or 11. But those games are usually single deck games. Doubling down on any two cards is more important than a single deck game, so move on if you have a better option.
Lots of online casinos have what are called “demo tables,” where you can play for free. You can experience the game play and get a sense of the touch and feel of the games.
Alternatively, many land-based casinos have social casinos, which have any of the same games you play in real-money online casinos, but you play for “worthless” tokens—worthless in quotes, because in some cases you can convert those tokens do discounts or free play in the brick-and-mortar casino. Some online casinos like Hard Rock and Ocean have social casinos that look and feel just like their real-money cousins.
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Live and Kicking
If you’re jonesing for a live blackjack game, you can get that online too. Five online casinos in New Jersey offer live dealers:
Again, shop around in the casinos that have a wide selection of games, mostly Golden Nugget and Hard Rock. Be aware that the live games usually don’t run 24 hours a day (sorry, night owls, no games at 3 a.m.).
But all games—whether online or “live”—in New Jersey and other states are tested by gaming labs to ensure that they’re fair and above-board.