Blackjack is a popular gambling game at land-based and online casinos within the UK. Blackjack requires skill; luck alone will not do the trick when it comes to winning. All the top casino software providers have it in their game portfolio and some focus more on blackjack than other table or card games.
Blackjack is thought to have originated in France in the 17th century as Vingt Et Un (which translates to 21). The name came from a unique situation in the game where a hand of a Jack and an Ace of Spades resulted in an extra payment. The game made its way to the USA after the French Revolution and quickly became popular there.
In the 19th century all forms of gambling were banned in the USA but the game continued to be popular. The resurgence came after the legalization of gambling in the State of Nevada in 1931. The birth of the online casino industry took blackjack to new heights as now anyone could play this superb game for money from the comfort of their home. That popularity is bound to rise even more with the advent of mobile casino gambling.
Top Blackjack Casinos
Please note that most online casinos do not allow blackjack play using their bonuses because of the low house edge. The casinos listed below DO allow blackjack play and we indicate the actual percentage of wagers that count towards the play through requirements of the bonus.
Blackjack Odds and House Edge
You need skill to interpret the hands in blackjack and the best course of action to take for each of them. Knowing your strategy and odds is critical as it enables you to play smartly and minimise your losses.
The game itself is very simple, so there is not much for you to go by to figure out the odds. There are two hands - yours and the dealer's. You get to see the dealer's up card, as most games have only the second card as the hole card, i.e. dealt face down. Even though you have something as minimal as that, working out the odds is necessary to be able to plan your game strategy.
The basic assumption is that you are playing with multiple decks of cards, as that is what you find at most online casinos. Using optimal blackjack strategy, the basic house edge works out to about 0.50%, in some games it is 0.58%. In terms of money the equation is simple: for every £10 you bet you will likely lose 5p on average.
The following table lists out the house edge of some of the blackjack games from different software providers.
|Software Provider||Blackjack Game||Number of Decks||House Edge||Casino|
|Microgaming||Multi-hand Blackjack||5||0.59%||Play at 32Red Casino read review|
|Double Exposure Blackjack||8||0.79%|
|Atlantic City Blackjack||8||0.36%|
|NetEnt||Blackjack Pro||4||0.40%||Play at Hello Casino read review|
|Single Deck Blackjack||1||0.48%|
|Playtech||Double Attack Blackjack||8||0.62%||Play at Bet365 Casino read review|
|IGT||European Blackjack||6||0.30%||Play at Kerching Casino read review|
Blackjack Basics - Rules and Strategies
Playing blackjack is simple; the tricky part is in understanding the strategy to adopt for the different hands you are likely to get. The game is played between the player and the dealer using anywhere between 1 and 8 card decks of 52 cards, depending on the game variant.
The objective is to beat the dealer with a hand that is valued at 21 or closest to it. You lose or 'bust' if your hand value is more than 21. In some blackjack games you automatically lose if the dealer's hand is a blackjack of an Ace and any other 10-value card. The game is sent to 'push' mode if both you and the dealer have a blackjack hand. The standard blackjack pays out 3:2, except in some games.
There are values for the different cards in the deck:
- The cards 2 to 9 are valued at face.
- The cards 10, J, Q and K are valued at 10.
- The Ace is valued at 1 or 11, depending on the hand.
Almost every software provider has blackjack on their list of offerings. There are 3 variables that determine the number of variants in blackjack:
- Number of card decks used
- The presence of the face-up card in the dealer's hand
- Whether the dealer hits or stands on 17 (Soft or Hard 17)
For more details on the role these factors play refer to our article on blackjack rules.
The following are some major variants of blackjack:
- Single Deck Blackjack
- European Blackjack
- Hi-Lo Blackjack
- Multi-hand Blackjack
Single Deck Blackjack
Single Deck Blackjack is played with just one deck of 52 cards that is shuffled at the beginning of each game. These are the basic rules:
- Dealer splits on soft 17.
- Splitting a hand is allowed up to 3 times.
- Splitting of aces allowed, though they cannot be re-split. You get just one card after splitting a hand.
- A hand with a split ace and a 10-value card is not considered a blackjack hand.
- Insurance bet available and pays 2:1, while blackjack pays 3:2.
European Blackjack is played using between 2 and 8 card decks. The dealer's first card is dealt face-up, while the second card is the hole card. The dealer is not allowed to check for blackjack if his face-up card is an Ace or a 10-value card. This impacts the player's strategy, because you do not know if the dealer has a blackjack until his hand is over. The basic rules are:
- The dealer must hit up to 16 and stand on 17.
- Only one split is allowed per hand and re-splitting is not allowed.
- Doubling down is allowed on hands of 9, 10 and 11 and on split cards.
- Surrender option is not available if the dealer's first card is an ace.
- The dealer's blackjack hand wins over a player's hand of 21.
- Blackjack hands for both player and dealer send the game to 'push' mode.
- Insurance bet is available and pays 2:1, while blackjack pays 3:2.
Hi-Lo Blackjack is played using 6 decks of cards that are shuffled at the beginning of each game. It is a combination of 2 games - blackjack and Hi-Lo. It has the optional Hi-Lo side bet: you bet on whether your second card will be higher or lower than your first card. The following is the order of value of the cards for the Hi-Lo bet: King, Queen, Jack & 10. The payout for the Hi-Lo side bet is made before the actual game-play. The expected RTP for this game is 99.59%. The following are the basic rules:
- The dealer stands on all 17s.
- Doubling down is allowed once per hand.
- Split allowed; for 10-value cards the split is allowed only for 2 matching cards.
- For split aces only one card is dealt per split hand.
- Insurance bet is available and pays 2:1, while blackjack pays 3:2.
Multi-hand blackjack is played using up to 6 decks of cards that are shuffled before each game. You can play multiple hands simultaneously. Depending on the software provider offering this variant, you can play up to 5 hands simultaneously. Players love it because it allows you to score multiple wins in a single game. The following are the basic rules:
- Dealer draws on 16 and stands on all 17s.
- You can split once per hand; re-splitting is not allowed.
- Split aces you get one extra card per split hand and doubling down on a split ace hand is not allowed.
- Doubling down is allowed on any 2 cards and gives you one additional card.
- Insurance bet is available and pays 2:1 while blackjack pays 3:2.
Apart from these variants there are many more, with extra features added to differentiate them from the rest. Some popular ones are:
- Double Exposure Blackjack
- Blackjack Switch
- Side Bet Blackjack
Double Exposure Blackjack
Both the dealer's cards are dealt face-up in this game. This may seem like a disadvantage for the casino, but other rules make up for it. This game is played using 6 decks of cards and has a payout percentage of more than 96%. The following are the basic rules of the game:
- The dealer draws up to 16 and stands on all 17s.
- The dealer wins a tied hand except if they are blackjack hands.
- Doubling down is allowed on a hard first card of 9, 10 or 11.
- Only one additional card is dealt after doubling down.
- Splitting is allowed and multiple cards can be drawn after a split except for hands with an ace.
- A split hand of 21 is not considered blackjack.
- Blackjack pays out 1:1.
- Insurance bet and surrender option not available.
Blackjack Switch is played with 6 to 8 card decks. You can play 2 hands against a single dealer's hand, and also switch cards between your hands unlike in other multi-hand blackjack games. The switch is available for the second card in a deal.
You must play both hands, unlike other multi-hand games. The following are the basic rules:
- All 4 cards of the player are dealt face-up.
- An additional bet - the Super Match bet - is available for the player.
- The game also offers an additional bet for the player, the Super Match bet.
- To even things out a bit, the dealer is allowed to push on a total of 22 if the player's hand is a non-blackjack 21.
- The player's blackjack hand beats a dealer's 22.
- Doubling down is allowed on any cards, and also after a split hand.
- Re-splitting is allowed up to a maximum of 4 hands.
- Dealer can peek for blackjack if his face card is an ace.
- Dealer hits on soft 17 and stands on hard 17.
- Blackjack win pays 1:1.
SideBet Blackjack comes with some unique payouts. There are 5 side bets that you can use to pocket a very large and handy payout of up to 5000:1! They are:
- Pair Play: This side bet gives you a cool 12:1 payout if the first 2 cards you are dealt form a matching pair.
- Blackjack Attack: You get an 18:1 payout each time you land a blackjack.
- Cash Queens: This side bet ensures there is a payout each time you land a hand valued at 20.
- A regular hand valued at 20 gives you a 2:1 payout.
- A hand of suited pairs gives you a 5:1 payout.
- A pair of Queens gives you a 50:1 payout.
- 777: This side bet revolves around the 7-value card and gives you payouts accordingly. You get a 5:1 payout if the first card in your hand is a 7. If the first 3 cards in your hand are suited 7s you get a payout of 2000:1!
- Mega Match: This side bet has a range of exciting payouts depending on the nature of your hand.
- 2:1 payout if the first 2 cards in your hand are of the same suit.
- 50:1 payout - or the Mega Match - if they are a King and a Queen of the same suit.
- 5000:1 payout if both you and the dealer have a Mega Match!
Progressive Blackjack comes with a progressive side bet. It is played using up to 8 decks of cards. The main game is like a regular blackjack game, with blackjack paying out at 3:2, other winning hands paying even money and insurance paying 2:1.
Progressive Blackjack is available only for single-hand play and the progressive blackjack side bet requires an additional $1 wager to be placed apart from the regular wager on the game. While the regular game's house edge stands at around 0.58%, it can go as high as 40% for the progressive blackjack side bet.
Playing Live Dealer Blackjack
Another very exciting variant of blackjack that has emerged is live dealer blackjack. The game is shot at the live dealer studio of the software provider and streamed over Internet.
The dealer in this game is a live dealer instead of a random number generator (RNG). This is the single biggest difference between this game and other online blackjack games and has a huge impact on player experience: you get to experience the thrill of playing at a land-based casino directly from your home complete with the ability to interact with the dealer (through live chat).
There are other ways in which live dealer blackjack differs from a RNG-driven blackjack game:
- Higher bet levels because of additional overheads like studio maintenance and staff salaries
- Slightly slower game speeds because of a person running the game instead of a RNG, although with ever-increasing internet speeds this is becoming less of an issue, even on mobile devices.
In this section we list out a few FAQs relating to blackjack.
At a very simple level, the odds depend on multiple factors like the number of decks and the number of hands per player. The odds are higher in a multiple deck game compared to a single deck game. There is a lot of math involved in calculating the odds, but roughly, it is 20.7 for a single deck game and about 4.75% for a six-deck game.
There are a number of Blackjack systems and yes, they do work most of the time. However, a betting system that guarantees big wins all the time is most likely not going to work. Like all other casino games, the house always has the edge, which means you are bound to lose some money. There are different betting systems, like the Martingale System, used by players quite effectively, and then there is card counting. You can check out our series of articles on card counting for more information.
There are different ways to do this:
- Choose the right game; a multiple-deck game will give you a higher probability of wins than a single-deck game. There are games that come with exciting side bets that you can use to win.
- Bet the right amount at the right time. You can place bigger bets, but you must have your strategy right to be able to place them at the right time.
Not every online casino offers bonuses for blackjack for a very simple reason: the house edge. Unlike in slots where the house edge is slightly higher, blackjack comes with a low house edge. The ones that give blackjack bonuses have mechanisms in place to counter any potential loss: for instance only a percentage of the amount you bet counts for wagering requirements, unlike for most slots where the contribution to wagering requirements is 100%
There are a large number of software providers offering online blackjack. However, when it comes to figuring out the best of the lot, conventional wisdom dictates that it is likely to be the ones that are at the top of the rung of casino software providers. These include companies like Playtech, Microgaming, NetEnt, Real Time Gaming, Rival Gaming, BetSoft Gaming and others.