Like other casino games, online blackjack is ultimately a game of chance. However, blackjack provides the opportunity to learn, develop and implement basic strategy, which enables players to exert a degree of control over the outcome in a way that is unlike many other games. This makes it enduringly popular with Canadians.
Playing blackjack online also very successfully recreates the mechanics and atmosphere of the game as it has always been played. The online version has the added bonus of allowing players to play for free in demo mode. Practice basic strategy and become more confident before playing for real and managing your bankroll.
The online casinos that we recommend all feature a wide variety of Blackjack games, including Live Casino versions and free blackjack. That way, you have many more opportunities to experience the different versions of the game than you would in a land-based casino.
Click on our recommended online casinos below to find the best sites for Canadians to play blackjack.
Rules of Online Blackjack
Blackjack online is played in the same way as traditional blackjack in almost every way. Players receive cards one at a time, with the aim being to get a hand with a value of 21 or under that beats the hand the dealer receives. If you hit 21 exactly, this is known as Blackjack and pays out at 1.5:1, unless the dealer also hits Blackjack, in which case there is no payout.
Stick or hit: At the beginning of each hand players automatically receive two cards (one at a time), and they then can choose to ‘stick’ (stop receiving cards) or ‘hit’ (receive further cards one at a time) until they either decide to stick or the value of their hand exceeds 21 (known as ‘bust’).
Split or double: In online Blackjack, Aces are worth either 1 or 10, all picture cards are worth 10, while all other cards are worth their face value. Beyond choosing whether to hit or stick, players can choose to ‘split’ when they receive two cards of equal value (effectively creating two separate hands), or ‘double’ (under certain conditions), when you double your standing bet in return for only getting one additional card.
The deck: In a land-based casino, blackjack cards are dealt from a show that can contain anywhere between 4 – 8 full decks of cards that are shuffled at a pre-determined point; in contrast, in blackjack online the card that is dealt is determined by a RNG (random number generator), which means each hand begins again anew and that the cards that are dealt in one hand do not influence what cards might be deal in subsequent hands.
Blackjack Card Values
When playing blackjack, the goal is to obtain a hand which is both higher than the dealer’s, and lower than 22. That never changes. What this means is that it’s important to know the value of each card at a glance, so you can make informed decisions at all times.
The number cards are self-explanatory, while face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are worth 10 each. Aces are the unusual one, since they can be worth either 1 point, or 11 points.
Say you are dealt a 7 and an ace: you can either stay on 18, or play more aggressively to try and hit a higher number. If you draw 4+, you can switch the ace to a 1 and play on!*
*But realistically, if you check your blackjack chart, you would definitely stick on 18!
Online Blackjack Odds
House Edge: It’s important to understand the concept of House Edge and the effect this has on your bankroll management. The House Edge is best understood as the advantage the casino has over the player over an extended period of time.
In online blackjack, the House Edge will vary from casino to casino, but it is around 0.25% – 1% on average, which is significantly better than in a bricks and mortar casino and, with the exception of some video poker games and some individual bets in craps, is one of the best (that is, lowest!) House Edges in all online casino games.
Example: As an example of how House Edge works, in an online casino you can expect to play on average about 150 hands per hour. Playing at $10 a hand with a House Edge of 1%, you could therefore, in a worst-case scenario, expect to lose $150 per hour (however, it should be stressed that this is the worst possible outcome and a good understanding and use of Basic Strategy will go some way to mitigating the House Edge).
Stake size: Understanding House Edge is therefore crucial in determining the size stake you play for. If you set yourself a time limit of playing for two hours, for example, and choose to play a game with a minimum $10 bet, you should have a bankroll of at least $300. Alternatively, if you want to set your limits for a session depending on how much you are willing to lose, choose a game with a table limit that enables you to play at least twenty hands e.g., if your bankroll is $300, don’t play at a table with a minimum bet of more than $15, or 5% of your bankroll.
Deciding your actions: Blackjack Basic Strategy can’t influence or predict what card you’re dealt next, but it can help you to understand the chances of winning or losing a hand in any given situation, and so should be used to decide when you hit or stick, depending on the cards you have and what the dealer is showing.
Basic Strategy should also determine other decisions you make in any given hand, such as when to Double Down, Spilt, Surrender or Take Insurance (against the dealer hitting Blackjack).
- Surrender – Surrendering is not always an option, so make sure your game allows early or late surrender before trying to pull this off! Basically, if a player surrenders, they immediately lose half their bet, and retain the rest. This technique is very strategic, and you might get some funny looks from players who think it’s a waste of time. However, it not only helps reduce the house edge, but also helps stabilize your bankroll.Players should surrender when the odds of losing exceed 75%: in the long run, by always surrendering here, you will save money.
- Pair Splitting – A popular play in blackjack is to split pairs. There are various reasons to do this, namely:
- To increase the amount of money you can win (if you’re already favourite to win the hand)
- To try and lose less money (defensive play)
- To try and turn your poor hand into a winning oneFew recreational players understand the power of splitting since it takes a lot of studying to get to that level. We can’t go into details here, but we can give a quick bit of advice: never split 10s. Trust us, it’s a bad move!
- Doubling Down – This means the casino will let you double your initial bet, in exchange for drawing one single card from the decks – no more. As with all blackjack strategies, whether or not you should double down depends on your hand and the dealer’s.That said, you are most likely to double down on the following hands: hard 8, 9, 10, and 11, and soft 13-18 (aka ace + two, ace + three etc). There’s a lot of math behind this one, but doubling down at the right time can really boost your winnings.
Blackjack Card Counting
There’s a very famous blackjack strategy that’s used to “beat the house” in land-based casinos, known as card counting. You’ve probably heard of it before. The basic principle of card counting is that you pay close attention to every card dealt during the game: since you know how many decks of cards are being used, and which specific cards have already been drawn, you can estimate the odds of particular cards appearing next.
There’s a lot of complex calculation involved, but basically you can make informed predictions, play boldly, and beat the dealer regularly without incurring major losses.
Unfortunately, this is impossible with online blackjack. The reason is that in online blackjack, all 6 or 8 decks of cards are shuffled between hands, so it’s impossible to make those crucial “predictions” when drawing any card is equally probable.
Although the essentials of Blackjack are generally the same irrespective of the version of the game you play, there are nevertheless different types of game for Blackjack players to explore.
The common versions: At our online casinos, Classic (sometimes called 21), American, European and Atlantic City are the most common versions of the game; these vary in minor ways, such as whether Surrender is offered, when players can double down, and when you’re able to split. In all of these versions of the game, however, the essentials of Basic Strategy can be employed.
Other Blackjack variations you’ll find in our online casinos include Spanish, HiLo 13 and Big Five, as well as multi-hand and high limit games, Double Exposure and single deck games, as well as Live Dealer Blackjack. The mobile casinos that we list also offer a variety of Blackjack games so you can continue to play on the go at any time.
Live Dealer Blackjack
If you love going to the casino and sitting down at the blackjack table, it makes sense that you might find online blackjack a bit underwhelming: no atmosphere, no chat from the dealer, and that nagging suspicion that the computer is somehow cheating you. You’re not alone in thinking it!
However, we have good news: live dealer blackjack perfectly fills that gap. The way live dealer games work is that you have a professional dealer at the table, complete with the cards, cloth, lighting, and great chat that you’d get in a real casino. You get a virtual seat at this table, and play alongside fellow online gamblers against the dealer.
It’s everything you love about land-based casinos, from the comfort of your own home. Besides, playing against a real dealer is so much more enjoyable than pitting yourself against the computer: everything feels more real and important. In addition, since the game is slower, you can play it a calm, measured pace.
For many players, the crucial element is the ability to chat with either your fellow players or the dealer. You can type your messages, and the dealer simply replies to the camera, back to you. Once you get into live dealer blackjack, you’ll probably discover a favourite dealer, and before you know it, logging in will feel like heading down to the casino with your buddies.
Live dealer blackjack is transforming the world of online casino, and as far as we’re concerned, it’s for the better.
Top 5 Online Blackjack Tips
Play free online blackjack
The best way to get to grips with the game, managing your bankroll and implementing successful wagering strategies is to play free blackjack. Our recommended casinos offer players the chance to try different varieties of the game under real game conditions for free, so that when you come to play real money online blackjack you have greater confidence in your decision making and the types of wagers you make.
Play for the right size stakes and know when to walk away
As discussed above, playing for the right size stake is a vital part of enjoying online blackjack. Always choose a table with a minimum stake that will enable you to play for the amount of time you set yourself or will enable you to play at least twenty hands. Another good rule of thumb is to set yourself a win/loss limit for any gaming session. If you manage to increase your bankroll by anywhere in the region of 30-40%, that represents a successful day and you should walk away.
Know when to double down and when to split
Key parts of basic strategy include knowing when to double down and when to split.
The situations when you should always double down are:
- your cards show 10 and the dealer is showing less
- you have an Ace with a 4, 5 or 6 and the dealer is showing 6 or lower
- you have 5-5 and the dealer shows less than 10
You should always look to split when:
- you’re dealt either A-A or 8-8
- you have 6-6, 7-7 and 9-9 and the dealer shows 6 or lower
Surrender allows you to give up on a hand in return for getting half of your bet back. This is not offered in all casinos but when it is, the only time it should be taken up is when you’ve been dealt 16 and the dealer shows A, 10 or 9.
Insurance is a side bet that is offered when the dealer is showing A and pays 2:1 (the maximum is half of your current bet). However, in terms of the likelihood of the dealer hitting Blackjack, the odds don’t stack up and so there is never good value in taking out Insurance.
Although Blackjack has long been a traditional land-based casino game, many Canadian players prefer the experience of playing online. Aside from the fact that you can find more varieties of the game in one place than you can in a bricks and mortar casino, other significant advantages of playing online Blackjack are that other players’ decisions (which are often terrible!) don’t influence the cards you receive, so you can concentrate solely on your own game.
In addition, the opportunity to play free games means you can refine and develop your skills and use of Basic Strategy, with the added advantage that you can have your charts open in front of you as you play – try doing that the next time you go to Vegas!