Which Is the Best Online Casino for Blackjack?
Blackjack is always well represented in the listings at the online casinos, and to a large extent, this is because the gameplay suits this kind of environment. The basic premise is straightforward. You simply have to have a hand that is closer to 21 than the dealer. If your hand totals more than this, it is bust. This isn’t purely a game of chance though.
There are strategies that can be applied during the rounds, as well as a number of interesting side bets, which all add to the overall appeal. However, the real attraction lies in the fact that you have just one opponent. Even if there are other players at the table, there is only one hand that you need to beat – the dealer’s.
An Overview of the Rules of Blackjack
The number of decks used in the online casino versions of blackjack varies. It is usually between 6 and 8, but some games are played with a single deck. In truth, there isn’t any advantage to this as the cards are automatically shuffled after each round. The values assigned to each of the cards always remain the same. Numbers 1-10 retain their values, aces are either counted as 1 or 11, and face cards count as 10.
At the start of play, four cards are dealt – 2 to the dealer and 2 to the player. Both of the player’s cards are placed face up on the table. The first of the dealer’s cards is displayed in the same way, but the second remains concealed. This is known as the hole card. The dealer can peek at this card if the one being shown is an ace or if it has a value of 10.
The Options After the Cards Are Dealt
In most of the online casino versions of blackjack, once the cards have been dealt, you will be given some options. If you decide to stand, you will keep your hand as it is. If you choose to hit, you will be dealt another card, and these will continue to be dealt until you stand or go bust. If you double down, you can double your wager and receive only one more card.
This is best-suited to certain combinations – for example, when your first two cards total 10 or 11 and the dealer has a 5 or a 6. If you have a pair or two cards that are valued as 10, you will be given the chance to split. In this scenario, the cards are separated and two more are dealt. You will then play on with the two separate hands, betting on them both.
Some Different Versions of Online Casino Blackjack
Once you start to browse through the titles available at the online casinos, you’ll see that there are many different variants of blackjack listed. In NetEnt’s Double Xposure, for instance, all of the cards are dealt face up, and Playtech’s Lucky Lucky has a separate side game. There are live dealer versions too, and these also provide all kinds of gameplay variations. For example, in Evolution Gaming’s Party Blackjack, the dealer is joined by a professional host, and in Playtech’s Lounges, there is the option to bet behind. If you opt for this, you will be wagering on another player’s hand.
The Soft 17 Rule and the House Edge
The house edge in blackjack is generally favorable compared to some of the other games, and this remains the case in the online casino versions. This is, however, very much dependent on which of the rule variations are being applied. The Soft 17 rule is the one that most affects the return to player rates. In a soft hand, the ace is always counted as 11, and so a soft 17 is an ace and a six.
In most games, the dealer must stand on 17 or more, and so if the hand is 16, another card must be drawn. However, if the soft 17 rule is being applied, the dealer must hit when the hand contains an ace. At first glance, this might seem a disadvantage, but it actually shifts the house edge in favor of the dealer.
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Exploring All the Optional Side Bets
The range of side bets being offered will vary, depending on the version of blackjack that is being played, and some unique twists are often added. However, there are some common ones that you are bound to come across when you’re playing at the online casinos.
Surrender – This is the option to throw in the hand if you don’t like the two cards that you’ve been dealt. If you decide to fold, half your bet will be forfeited, but the other half is returned to you. In some circumstances, opting for this is more profitable than continuing with the round.
Insurance – If the dealer has an ace on display, before the hole card is shown, the player has the option of wagering on the possibility of the hand being blackjack. The odds for this are 2 to 1, but it’s worth remembering that the insurance bet always favors the house.Perfect Pairs – This is a separate wager on whether the player’s two cards will be a match. When the cards are different colors and suits, the odds are 5 to 1. For the same color but different suits, it becomes 10 to 1. If they are the same color and suit, the odds are increased to 30 to 1.
21 + 3 – The player’s two cards and the dealer’s first card are combined to form a three-card poker hand. This pays out for a Flush; (three cards of the same suit); a Straight (in sequence but not the same suit); Three of a Kind (three of the same number); or a Straight Flush (same suit in sequence).
Some Final Tips and Strategies
There is always a lot of talk about card counting in blackjack, but this isn’t possible in the online casino versions as the decks are automatically shuffled. Many statisticians have devised playing strategies, and so there are all kinds of complex charts floating around. Although these are best left to the professionals, there are two simple tips that are worth considering. The first is to always split aces and eights, and the second is to give the insurance bet a wide berth. The odds for this might seem tempting, but it is definitely something to be avoided.