Free blackjack games are blackjack games that don't accept real money wagers or pay out cash prizes.
Blackjack is the world's most popular table game. Both traditional and online casinos all over the world host the game in multiple variants. Entire books have been written about the game's strategy. Blackjack is the coolest game in the casino, carrying with it an unmatched air of skill, sophistication, and luxury.
But it's also a lot of fun, even without the use of real cash bets. Free blackjack games exist for many different reasons. This page examines the pros and cons of playing blackjack without money.
Types of Free Blackjack Games
Because so many different reasons for wanting to play a free game of blackjack exist, many types of exist. We've identified 3 categories of free blackjack games, each of which is designed for a different type of player:
Plenty of online versions of blackjack are designed just for free-play. These are video game versions in which you play with a specific amount of chips. This kind of game can take the form of a handheld, an app on a smartphone or tablet, a downloadable game for a laptop, or even a game designed for use on a console like the Xbox or PlayStation.
It was once common to find a mechanical or electronic version of blackjack at the bar, purely for entertainment. You played for chips. The goal was to keep you sitting at the bar a bit longer so that you might buy an extra drink or two. You still find a version of this at chain restaurants like Chili's, Dave & Buster's, and other casual eateries.
For many of us, our first exposure to blackjack came at home. Free to play home blackjack game sets usually come with a few decks of playing cards, a felt or plastic table (designed in imitation of the real thing in a Vegas casino), a set of chips for betting, and an instruction booklet.
In recent years, these sets have started to ship with legitimate blackjack strategy charts. We think this is among the most useful presentations of free blackjack from a strategy perspective, since learning to act as both a blackjack dealer and player can only improve your understanding of the game's strategy.
All online casinos offer a free-play mode on all their table games, including blackjack. This free-play version is there to coax you into making a deposit and playing with real money. Usually, you'll start with a specific amount of pretend money, and the site will let you keep playing until you've run through your cash or chosen to leave. Of course, if you run out of fake money and want to keep playing the game, you can just refresh and start all over.
The free version of blackjack on this page is an example of blackjack-as-entertainment. We post it here to show you what free blackjack online looks like, and to give you a chance to practice the world's favorite table game without placing real-money bets.
Some free blackjack is designed to be educational. These "trainer" programs aren't necessarily for entertainment. Instead, they're designed to teach some aspect of game rules or strategy, whether it's counting cards, basic strategy, or some other aspect of the game. Free to play, these games aren't worried about graphics and special effects. Instead, their focus is on training you to improve some aspect of your blackjack game.
Dealer schools and casinos offer free blackjack games as marketing and educational tools. Anyone who's lived near Atlantic City or Las Vegas has seen the appeals to "come in and try out" games like blackjack, craps, poker, and other casino classics. While there's always a sales pitch of some kind involved (usually a cut-rate on a six-week dealer training program), the free blackjack you play is legitimately free, and it's often presented in a format that really does prepare you for the way the game is played in a live casino. Use this game to your advantage – but skip the sales pitch, unless you're actually interested in discount dealer school.
You could consider this a form of entertainment blackjack, though we think it represents a whole new style. Social games are not all that different from traditional computer and console games, except that they've got an added social element or connection to a popular social media platform.
The social media giant Facebook has made a major investment in social gaming, including making queries to the US Department of Justice about the legality of certain pay-to-play forms of gaming influenced by real-world gambling. It's an exciting new market, little of which is understood. Blackjack games aren't as popular as games based on the rules of poker, though all forms of social gambling have a big following on the major social entertainment platforms.
Let's start with pros – reasons why free blackjack games are better than blackjack played for real money:
The legality of online gambling for real money is in question, thanks to differences in municipal, state, and national gambling laws around the world. In some US states, any form of online gambling involving real money is illegal. Other states have created regulated markets for games like poker and blackjack.
The differences between gaming laws in European countries and North American countries are vast. The legal situation can be confusing. Thanks to that confusion, and to some backwards laws added to US legal codes a decade ago, many Americans are scared to place online bets.
You don't have to worry about any of that when you choose to play a free blackjack game, especially if it's a game that isn't even designed to accept cash wagers.
Of course, the option of playing for free won't do you any good if your whole purpose is to gamble. Gambling is a legitimate form of entertainment, and it's not surprising that an adult with her own hard-earned money might want to risk a bit of it in exchange for a shot at a big prize. The kind of bettor mainly interested in placing cash bets won't enjoy a free game because it doesn't give her the option of taking a big risk. In short, the legality of the game isn't a problem for this sort of player.
Does this sound like you?
Maybe it's time for a road trip to Vegas or Atlantic City, where the legality of blackjack isn't in question.
That's just our way of saying that when you play for free, you don't have to worry about your bankroll, your budget, or next month's mortgage payment. This isn't to say that all gamblers are degenerates who can't enjoy themselves responsibly. It's an exaggeration for effect.
One of the obvious benefits of choosing a free-to-play game is that you won't be risking anything, and can instead focus on the mindless entertainment or the informative strategy session you're having.
On the other hand, it'd be tough to practice your basic strategy or newfound card-counting skills at a live table, where each deal costs you $5 or $10.
Who can concentrate on proper double down tactics when they're losing money to the casino hand over fist?
By the way, just because you're not betting doesn't mean there isn't something of value on the line. Blackjack video games hand out things like chips, points, and pretend-money, and in some cases these things carry some intrinsic value.
We're thinking here of blackjack games on Facebook where credits can be exchanged for images of things, like medals, rings, jewelry, and other "stickers" for your profile or avatar. This kind of currency may not be as valuable as the green stuff in your wallet, but it does carry a certain value. Where there's value, there's the thrill and appeal of gambling.
If you've ever stayed up an extra two hours to earn a virtual reward on a game like The Sims, you understand the mysterious appeal of in-game incentives. Modern game designers incorporate these incentives to keep players hooked.
Even the most experienced player can benefit from learning a new strategy or some other new trick. It would take a particularly stuck-up player to presume he knows everything there is to know about blackjack. Of course, the same goes for newcomers, who should (and often do) spend hours on every free resource they can get their hands on. Blackjack has complex rules, including several rules that can and do change from game to game. Besides using free blackjack games and trainers to learn the basic conventions of the game, they need to it to test their ability to strategize. Since each alteration in blackjack's rules affects the player's choice of game strategy, newcomers would do well to log long hours practicing hand after hand.
Would you rather do that at $10 per hand, or on a free online trainer or console video game?
Now for cons – reasons why real-money blackjack games have an advantage over free-to-play versions:
What's the point of playing blackjack without any money on the line?
We've read pages where bloggers compared free blackjack to decaffeinated coffee and non-alcoholic beer. That's an apt analogy, because decaf isn't 100% decaffeinated, and near-beer isn't 100% AA-approved, either. Both have a bit of residual stuff in them that make them just close enough to the original to drive you crazy.
The same goes for free blackjack. After all, it is still based on the rules of the real game, and you do have something of value to wager, whether it's pretend-money, virtual chips, or numbers on a digital display. You'd be better off playing against a buddy for a nickel a hand, or finding a low-roller blackjack game online and getting in a couple of hours a week that way.
If you've read this far, you can probably predict the objections to this argument. Yes, some online blackjack games (and some old-school land-based mechanical ones) do reward players in some way.
But anyone would agree that the point of blackjack isn't to improve your social prowess or add a fancy-looking sticker to your profile photo. The point is to turn a small amount of cash into a larger one. Let's face it – men make big bets in blackjack to impress women. Since free blackjack doesn't help you pay the bills in any tangible way, it's not as cool as real-money blackjack, and it never will be.
Don't believe us?
Go try to attract a crowd of gorgeous Bond villains while playing blackjack for virtual chips.
The majority of free blackjack games on the Internet are available with a single set of rules and a limited wagering range. That means that even the old "I'm using this free blackjack game as a training or educational tool" argument is out the window. Unless you can find a blackjack trainer or free game that happens to have been designed to imitate the live game you're training for, time spent playing a free online game won't do you much good beyond teaching you the basic game rules.
But this isn't the only reason we look down on the lack of variety in free blackjack games – let's face it, after a few rounds, a blackjack game set up according to someone else's rules that you can't alter at all is going to get really boring.
One of the benefits of online gambling is supposed to be that you have the option of tailoring games to look and act exactly as you want them to. At the best online casinos, this is pretty much true, no matter if you're playing blackjack, slots, or poker. Free games aren't making anyone any money, so their designers don't waste time creating rule variations or the options to change the way the game looks or behaves. That sort of extra feature is expensive to design and maintain, and it means the game takes up more virtual space.
If you're looking to play free online blackjack, don't expect much in the way of variety. By that same logic, it stands to reason that every aspect of pretend-money online blackjack play would be affected by the fact that free games aren't profitable.
And that's true.
Online casinos that host free-to-play versions of their blackjack and other table games don't spend a lot of time worrying about how those games look, how nice the effects are, or even how well the games themselves work. The free stuff gets the least maintenance, since the people playing them (for the most part) aren't paying customers.
Who do you complain to about a broken feature on a free game, especially if you aren't a member of the casino offering the game?
You can see the problems inherent in the free blackjack concept. This isn't just a problem with free play online casino blackjack games – all free versions of the game have a limited appeal, including the venerable free blackjack and poker boxes on the counter at your local pub
Whether your goal is to learn the basics of the game, to adapt to a new rule you're unfamiliar with, or to test out a new game strategy that's meant to increase your edge, free blackjack trainers, simulators, and social games are the perfect way to improve your blackjack skill without affecting your bankroll.
Though these games have some downsides, the main one being that they don't seem to have much of a point, it's easy to imagine why a person might want to play a gambling game without making real money wagers. If you want to play the world's most popular table game without risking your hard-earned cash, free blackjack was designed with you in mind.