Real Money Online Blackjack
When someone searches for the phrase "real money online blackjack", they're looking for something specific, even though the uninitiated might ask, "As opposed to what?" In fact, that's what happened when we were discussing this page with a friend over lunch today. He didn't realize that you can also play blackjack online for free (or for "play money", as we like to say).
This page begins with some recommended places where you can play real money blackjack online. We've compared a number of casinos and gambling sites that offer this game, and our recommendations are what we consider to be the best options. So if you're looking for somewhere to play right now, please go right ahead and join one of these.
Further down this page you'll find general rules for how to play, some strategy advice, a look at the various platforms on which you can play, and some musings on the pros and cons of playing for real money versus playing for play money.
Why Play Real Money Online Blackjack
The pros of playing for real money might seem obvious at first glance.
For one thing, how could you possibly win real money if you're not risking real money?
The short answer is simple—you can't.
And who wants to gamble without the possibility of a payday?
We've known people who were willing to spend hours playing gambling games for free on the Internet. But we never understood why they were up for that. Then again, we've played a few hundred of hours of solitaire on the computer, too, and we've never won any money doing that.
Here's the thing about any form of gambling.
If you think about that for a minute, you'll probably realize that when you play blackjack (or any other gambling game) for "play money", you're not really gambling at all.
Blackjack can still be fun in such situations. In fact, you can even use some play money blackjack games to practice basic strategy or even card counting techniques.
But you can't lose money and you can't win money doing it.
Blackjack for free is like non-alcoholic beer or decaffeinated coffee. It's just not the same thing. Not even close.
Also, when it comes to online gambling, no other game (except maybe some rare video poker variations) offers anything close to odds as good as you'll find at blackjack. Many online casinos offer games with a house edge of less than 0.3%. Compare that with the house edge at another traditional casino game like roulette (5.26%).
Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because we're talking about percentages that these differences are insignificant. Consider the following for a moment.
That's a huge difference over the course of an hour. And just because roulette is a slower-paced game than blackjack doesn't mean it compensates for the higher house edge. Even if you played only half as many rounds of roulette per hour, you're still losing on average 10 times as much as you would playing blackjack.
And that's the biggest advantage to playing real money blackjack online. It's a good gamble.
Online Casino Blackjack Software
Online casinos offering real money online blackjack lease various software packages from multiple providers. Some also have proprietary software, but those are unusual. Once you know which software a particular casino uses, you can get an idea of what kinds of blackjack games are available and what the appropriate strategies for those games are.
Below we've listed some of the most popular online casino software packages along with which blackjack variations each offers. We've included some details about the house edge for each game, too.
Amaya is one of the biggest casino game providers on the Internet, but they also offer sports betting, poker, and lottery style games. They also recently bought a fantasy sportssite, Victiv, and rebranded it as StarsDraft. 888 Casino is one examples of a betting site using their software.
Amaya offers the following real money blackjack variations. We've listed the house edge alongside each game:
- Atlantic City Blackjack - 0.49%
- Blackjack Micro Limit - 0.46%
- European Blackjack - 0.52%
- Live Blackjack - 0.71%
- Lucky 7 Blackjack - 0.49%
- Perfect Pairs - 0.55%
- Note: Skip the optional side bet. The house edge on that wager is an outrageous 7.72%
- Single Deck Blackjack - 0.26%
- Vegas Blackjack - 0.40%
Of those games, "Single Deck Blackjack" has the lowest house edge. At 0.26%, it's one of the best gambling games online. Of course, to achieve that house edge, you have to play using perfect basic strategy. The game features an "advice" function, but you should be aware that this advice isn't always mathematically correct. Stick with a legitimate basic strategy based on the rules variations.
The worst game at Amaya powered casinos is the "Live Blackjack" game. The house edge for that version is 0.71%, which is still a lot better than almost any other casino game. You might even be willing to pay that much in the extra percentage points if you enjoy looking at pretty women dealing cards.
Compared to other online gambling software providers, Sweden's Boss Media is practically a dinosaur. The company's games have been described as extremely realistic, and they're also well-known for only working with reputable partner casinos. Few properties still work with the company, but a couple of notable names who do still use their software include bet365 and BetFred Casino. None of the casinos powered by Boss Media accept real money players from the United States.
The software offers a six deck blackjack game with a house edge of 0.46%. In the past, the company also offered a single deck version with a 0% house edge, but no casino still makes that available. The reasons are probably obvious.
Cryptologic, like Boss Media, is one of the oldest casino game providers in the business. Also like Boss Media, the casinos using Cryptologic software don't accept real money players from the United States. Some of the more well-known casinos using Cryptologic include Betsafe and Cherry Casino.
Seven variations of blackjack are available via the Cryptologic software, but all of them shuffle the deck on every hand. They also all allow doubling on any two cards.
Here are the games available along with the house edge for each. The house edge assumes that you're playing with perfect basic strategy:
- Atlantic City Blackjack - 0.49%
- Atlantic City Progressive Blackjack - 0.49%
- Euro Double Deck Blackjack - 0.34%
- European Blackjack - 0.52%
- Perfect Pairs - 0.47%
- Single Deck Blackjack - 0.21%
- Vegas Blackjack - 0.34%
The best game available, as measure by the lowest house edge, is the "Single Deck Blackjack" game, with its house edge of 0.21%.
If you play Perfect Pairs or the progressive jackpot game, you should avoid the side bets. The house edge on those is always way too high to be considered remotely fair.
Playtech is one of the largest and best-known companies in the industry. Various casinos run different versions of their software, but Playtech is one of the few software providers in the industry which discloses the theoretical return for their games. So if you're playing at aPlaytech casino, look at the actual numbers they provide.
Also, if you're playing from the United States, you won't be able to even access a Playtech powered casino. They block all U.S. ip addresses, so it's impossible to play there for real money or even for play money.
Some well-known examples of Playtech powered casinos include bet365 and Paddy Power.
Here's a list of the blackjack games they have available along with the house edge for each:
- American Blackjack (aka Perfect Blackjack) - 0.43%
- Blackjack - 0.43%
- Blackjack Pro - 0.44%
- Blackjack Surrender - 0.35%
- Blackjack Switch - 0.14%
- Double Attack Blackjack - 0.62%
- Lucky Blackjack - 3.36%
- Pontoon - 0.32%
- Progressive Blackjack - 0.43%
As you can see, the best game is Blackjack Switch, with a 0.14% house edge. Keep in mind the following two things though.
- You have to play with perfect basic strategy in order to achieve that low house edge.
- Game variations can vary from casino to casino, so check the theoretical return listed at the casino, too.
Microgaming is especially notable as a casino software provider because their software powered the Internet's first casino, the Gaming Club, which launched in 1994. They're especially well-known for their large progressive jackpots and wide variety of progressive jackpot games.
Like many of the software providers on this list, Microgaming doesn't permit real money gambling from players in the United States.
Here's a list of the blackjack games available at Microgaming casinos, along with the house edge for each:
- Atlantic City Blackjack - 0.35%
- Atlantic City Gold Blackjack - 0.38%
- Bonus Blackjack - 0.38%
- Classic Blackjack - 0.40% or 0.13%
- European Gold Blackjack - 0.40%
- European Blackjack Redeal - 0.40%
- Hi-Lo 13 European Blackjack - 0.40%
- Premier High Streak Blackjack - 0.53%
- Vegas Downtown Blackjack - 0.38%
- Vegas Single Deck Blackjack - 0.31%
- Vegas Strip Blackjack - 0.35%
As you can see, the best odds can be found playing the Classic Blackjack variation, but keep in mind that you have to use perfect basic strategy for those rules variations in order to achieve that low house edge of 0.13%.
Also, the 0.13% house edge is for the downloadable version of the game only, which has better rules for the player than the Flash version of the casino. This is a distinct advantage for players using the downloadable client, which is unusual—at most casinos, there's no real advantage or disadvantage to downloading the client versus playing the no download games.
Realtime Gaming used to use the fact that their blackjack software was the fastest on the Internet as a selling point. As a savvy gambler, you probably realize that the more hands you play per hour, the more you can expect to lose. On the other hand, if you're an action junkie, you might not care about that.
One of the other selling points of RTG is that most of their casinos allow real money play from the United States. That makes them unusual in today's online casino environment.
Another drawback to their software is that the rules options for their games can be configured by their clients' casinos. So you might be playing one of their blackjack variations at casino A, and it might have six decks, but the same variation at casino B might have eight decks. This, of course, makes the house edge different for the same game.
Some of the popular casinos powered by Realtime Gaming include Bovada and Slots.lv. Below we've listed the blackjack options available along with their approximate house edge. Keep in mind that the house edge for these games might vary slightly based on the number of decks the casino has configured the games to run on.
- Blackjack - 0.54%
- European Blackjack - 0.60%
- Face Up 21 - 0.75%
- Match Play 21 - 0.73%
- Perfect Pairs - 0.54%
- Pontoon - 0.65%
- Super 21 - 1.06%
The clear winners are the standard blackjack game or the Perfect Pairs variation, but avoid the side bet on Perfect Pairs. As with most games, the side bet is a sucker bet with a huge house edge.
WagerWorks is another software provider that refuses to offer real money games to players from the United States. They're also well-known as being the arm of IGT (International Game Technology) that provides the online versions of the most popular slot machine games in the world. But they also offer blackjack games.
Popular online casinos using WagerWorks software include Caesars, Ladbrokes, and William Hill. Since they focus largely on the huge stable of slot machines IGT makes available to them, they only offer two blackjack variations:
- Blackjack - 0.46%
- Power Blackjack - 0.21%
Power Blackjack is a variation where players have the option of splitting any total of 15 or 16. Players also get the opportunity to take a 2nd chance at doubling down on totals of between 9 and 11. This version of the game is not exclusive to WagerWorks casinos; it's also available in land-based casinos like Paris in Las Vegas. Learning the correct basic strategy for this game involves learning the right "power doubling" strategy.
Live Dealer Blackjack
Multiple online casinos offer live dealer versions of blackjack for real money. Many of these are proprietary versions of the game, offered directly by the casino. They use Webcams to allow players the chance to play with real dealers.
The rules vary on these proprietary games, but they all have certain things in common. One of these is that they all use continuous shuffling machines, which means you can't count cards to get an edge with a live dealer game any more than you could with a software or RNG (random number generator) powered game.
These games also commonly use at least 8 decks, which means that the house edge on them is often relatively high. Live dealer blackjack can be a fun alternative to other kinds of online blackjack, but it's important to analyze the rules variations and use the correct basic strategy.
In fact, if you're not entirely sure about all the rules variations, contact the casino's customer support department and get the specifics. One way to discern between high quality online casinos and less reputable properties is how well their customer service department is able to handle these kinds of information requests.
Real Money Blackjack Strategy Advice
As we pointed out earlier on this page, you can generate an exactly correct basic strategy chart for any set of game variables at multiple sites. But if you're willing to sacrifice a few tenths of a percentage, you can just stick with some of the following tips and still keep the house edge between 0.5% and 1%.
- Always hit any hard total of 8 or less or any soft total of 15 or less.
- Always stand on any hard total of 17 or more or on any soft total of 19 or more.
- Always split aces and 8s.
- Never split 4s, 5s, or 10s.
- Split any other pair if the dealer has a 6 or less.
- Double down on any soft 16-18 if the dealer has a 6 or less. Otherwise hit.
- Double down on any 10 or 11 if the dealer has a lower card showing.
- With a hard total of 12-16, stand if the dealer has a 6 or less. Otherwise hit.
Of course, you already know you should never take insurance, right? It's a side bet that's only worth making if you're counting cards and know when the odds dictate otherwise.
You'll see this mentioned as a common blackjack strategy myth on a pretty consistent basis, but it's not such a bad idea. There are more cards worth 10 in the deck than any other possible score. And even the cards that aren't worth 10 are often close (9,8, or 7). So if you're not sure what to do, it's sometimes helpful to think about what would be the appropriate play if you knew that the dealer had a 10 in the hole.
That's no substitute for memorizing some basic strategy advice, but it can be helpful.
Apps for Phones & Other Mobile Devices
When it comes to playing blackjack for real money or just for fun on a mobile device of some kind, you'll run into two situations.
The first is where you can play a no download version of the site's casino games via your browser. Most online casinos offer a simplified, mobile compatible version of their games that anyone can play from their tablet or cell phone. Often they'll have fewer games available, and the graphics and sound effects are a little more basic.
The second is where you can download an actual app for the casino to your mobile device. These apps tend to offer a broader selection of games and better graphics and sound effects. Serious online blackjack players will probably want to find a casino with an app to download.
In the past, apps were often targeted toward iPhone users or Android users, not both, but that's changed pretty dramatically in recent years. Most online casinos have gotten with the mobile program, so to speak, so they're making their apps available to users of both operating systems.
Online blackjack is still more robust for someone on a laptop or desktop computer, regardless of which of the two above situations you run into. That's just been the major way consumers have digested this kind of gaming for years. But now that mobile use is becoming more the norm, online casinos are adjusting accordingly.
Real money blackjack is distinct from free "play-money" blackjack games. It has multiple advantages over the play-for-free games, but if you're bound and determined to not risk any of your hard-earned cash, those free games are a legitimate option.
Of course, the biggest advantage to real money blackjack is that it offers you the best gambling odds in the casino, especially once you do enough research to figure out which versions of the game offer the best rules variations. The information on this page should help you find those games.
The next step is to memorize the basic strategy for the game you want to play. But failing that, you can memorize thee simplified strategy also listed on this page without giving up much to the casino.
Whether you prefer to play online or in a traditional brick and mortar casino, whether you have a software program on the Internet you like or prefer a live dealer/Webcam casino, you'll find that blackjack is the king of casino games and your best chance to walk away a winner. And even if you don't, you'll likely walk away having lost far less than you would have at almost any other casino game.
For more information on blackjack in general, please take a look at the blackjack guide on this website. It's one of the most comprehensive blackjack resources you'll find, covering every aspect of the game in detail.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: February 2016