How to Choose the Best Blackjack Game

By Ben Hamill - November 23, 2016
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There are many variations of blackjack.  Most have small differences in the rules that govern the main actions you can take as a player.  These actions are standing or hitting, of course, plus doubling down, splitting, insurance, and surrender.  In some blackjack variations, the dealer must stand on soft 17; in others he must hit on soft 17.

Online Beats Brick-and-Mortar Casinos

Let’s put these rules differences aside for the moment; we will come back to them later.  Let’s focus a bit on the game itself.  Before you choose the best blackjack variation, you must choose the best blackjack venue.  It has long been my opinion that gamers ought to play at an online casino.  Now, if you do travel to a land-based casino and can find a blackjack game that meets all of your criteria, then by all means play there.  However, there are so many good reasons to choose an online casino over a land-based casino that the vast majority of your casino gaming ought to be done online.

  • Cost: Land-based casino gaming comes at a not-so-moderate cost for travel, lodging, food, alcohol and other drinks, and all the ancillary expenses of “going on vacation”.
  • Payout: Land-based casinos have higher operating costs so they take them from payouts to players.  The payouts at online casinos are substantially higher than at land-based casinos.
  • No waiting; People wait all the tine eat land-based casinos but not online.
  • No distractions: When you play at home you have none of the side distractions that are everywhere at land-based casinos from sexy women to free drinks to the noise of other players winning or losing.
  • Convenient: Clearly, online gaming is far more convenient than land-based gaming.
  • Far more game choices: Space constraints at a land-based casino mean that they offer fewer games than does an online casino.  We know of no land-based casino with 40 or more variations of blackjack.

Blackjack is an Adventure

Now that you’re sure that you want to play blackjack online, you have the fun and challenging task of deciding which blackjack game to play.  So, are you the adventurous type?  If so, you’ll love Double Exposure, in which you see both of the dealer’s cards.  The rules have been changed to give the house a chance; otherwise they would lose regularly.

Count Cards for Better Odds

The best variation for blackjack plyers is a game with one deck only.  Here it is easier to count cards.  In online blackjack, the cards are electronically “shuffled” after each hand; it’s still easiest to count cards when only one deck is used.  Microgaming has a Classic Blackjack variation that uses only one deck.  Adding to the gamer’s edge, the dealer stands on soft 17.  You can double down only on hands with 9, 10, or 11 points.  This is a disadvantage to players because if the dealer shows a six and you have a low total, you might double down hoping that dealer will bust.  Nevertheless, this Classic Blackjack version is a good jumping off point.

Dealer Should Stand on Soft 17

Microgaming has another variation that has the dealer stand on soft 17 but gives players more flexibility in doubling down.  It’s called Vegas Strip Blackjack.  You can double down on any point count and also after splitting.  Microgaming has a variation called simply Vegas Single Deck that’s played with one deck like the Classic game but where the dealer hits on soft 17.

General Rules of Thumb

There are so many ways to vary the rules slightly that I don’t have space to cover every nuance.  Suffice it to say that doubling down is good; being able to double down after splitting is belter; being able to split more than once is better still; being able to split aces a second or third time is excellent; having dealer stand on soft 17 works in the player’s favor, and surrender can save you from inevitable losses.  However, all the statisticians say that buying insurance is a bad deal and lowers your chances of winning or breaking even dramatically.

Study Your Options

The absolutely best way to learn how blackjack variations differ is to study, not just read, the rules.  You can usually read them in clear English.  Any casino that makes the rules more complicated than necessary or writes in a roundabout manner is probably a casino worth avoiding, for blackjack at least if not for other games as well.

The Main Blackjack Options

Doubling down means you double your bet but then receive only one card.  It’s best to play a game that allows doubling down with any point count as I explained above.  Even if you have a low point count, if the dealer is showing a six, there’s a good chance he’ll bust so doubling down doubles your win.

Splitting

Here you have a pair.  Every variation allows splitting pairs.  Some allow splitting twice and three times.  These variations are good because if it’s good to split a pair once, it will also be good to split more than once.  A game that allows multiple splitting of aces is best.

Soft 17

The statisticians also tell us that when the dealer can hit on soft 17, the house wins more than if dealer stands on soft 17.  So try to play only variations that restrict the dealer and force her to stand on soft 17.

Surrender

This option is good when you have a hand that loses in the overwhelming majority of cases when faced by a strong dealer’s hand.  In order to surrender for your benefit, you must understand the relative strengths of both your hand and the dealer’s hand.  A game that allows late surrender, for example after you’ve received a card, is best.

Insurance

It is universally recognized that insurance in blackjack reduces your chances of coming out ahead after a blackjack session so never take insurance!

Play for Free

One of the big advantages I saved for last when I listed the benefits of online play

is that you can play in free play mode for as long as you want online but not at all at a land-based casino.  When you’re checking out multiple blackjack options, the availability of free play is a wonderful advantage the casino allows you to have.

Blackjack Strengthens the Mind

Psychologists have long told us to play intellectual games to keep our minds alert.  Blackjack is possibly the best online casino game to stimulate the mind and keep it limber.  So, I love to play blackjack online.  When I’m in the mood to try another variation, I read the rules carefully, I play in practice mode, and I determine what’s unusual about this particular variation.  Then I play and have a great time!

 

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