While there are many casino card games, blackjack is the most popular.
Wherever casino table games are permitted, you’ll find a selection of blackjack tables. You’ll find small variations in the rules on splitting, doubling and more. Also, there are different side bets available, many with the potential for big jackpot prizes.
This guide discusses the types of blackjack currently available at online casinos.
We also discuss available games at sweepstakes casinos and preview the types of blackjack that will be available in Indiana in the event of future casino regulation.
With sports betting coming online in Indiana soon, many commentators believe that casino gaming, including slots and blackjack, will follow.
First, we cover playing real-money blackjack. The key topics include house edge, rules and optimizing your playing strategy.
After that, we cover the many variations of blackjack you can find online. Live dealer online blackjack, and how to enjoy playing online for free.
How to play blackjack for real money
A big attraction of blackjack is the low house edge.
If you play the correct strategy, many variations have a house edge of 2% or less. Compared to slots, US roulette and other table games, this is very low.
That “if” is crucial.
To enjoy gambling without giving extra money to the house, you can’t make many mistakes. Those can vary from expensive errors (hitting a five against a dealer six), though to more subtle incorrect plays.
Before you play any blackjack game, you need to know the basic strategy of when to hit, stand, double and surrender.
The next step is to find the strategy for the specific mix of the game’s rules.
How to lower the house edge in blackjack
While small things — like being able to double after a split — affect the house edge of real-money blackjack games, there are some significant factors.
Here are the basics of what to look for, whether you play live or online:
- Fewer decks: You can play blackjack with one deck or with up to eight decks. As a rule of thumb, you’ll find the house edge gets lower with the fewest decks.
- Blackjack pays 3:2: If you see a game where blackjack pays 6:5, you’ll pay more to the casino over the long run.
- Dealer stands/hits on soft 17: Games, where the dealer stands on soft 17 (ace + six), have a lower house edge than games where the dealer hits.
- Side games: These certainly add excitement to a real-money blackjack session, keep in mind that side games are also expensive. For some games, the house edge can be up to 10% of your bets.
- Surrender option: The ability to “fold” a bad hand (e.g., a 15 against a dealer picture card), is a positive, reducing the casino house edge.
Can you play blackjack online in Indiana?
While the slow move toward a more open online gambling environment begins, there is a legal option for playing blackjack online and winning real cash prizes.
This option is via sweepstakes casinos, which use state laws that permit sweepstakes contests. These contests include casino games, e.g., slots and blackjack.
Sweepstakes casinos legally accept players in Indiana, allowing them to play blackjack using a virtual currency called “sweeps cash.”
Chumba Casino is a popular sweepstakes casino; here is how it works:
- You register an account at www.ChumbaCasino.com.
- You receive “gold coins” (for entertainment only) and “sweeps cash” (that you can later exchange for US dollars).
- You play blackjack. Each game you play counts as a sweepstakes contest, though you’ll experience the game as a regular blackjack table.
- If you win, you can cash out by exchanging your sweeps cash for US dollars.
- If you don’t, you can get more sweeps cash by purchasing packages of gold coins. Chumba will give you “free” sweeps cash to go with it.
This casino is legal, and regular bank card payments are accepted.
Live blackjack games in Indiana
You can choose from 13 live casinos in Indiana, including the two racetracks and the Indian casino in South Bend.
Depending on the casino, you’ll find blackjack in both live dealer and electronic blackjack machines (where you’ll play against a virtual dealer on a big screen).
The Indiana bill H 1015 was signed into law on May 8 and includes a provision for the expansion of the number of table games in land-based Indiana casinos. There is also an additional land-based casino license. Both of these factors (as well as the potential for future online legislation), you should see more blackjack options.
Variations of blackjack
Most Indiana blackjack lovers will know the standard US rules, though that is one of two types of blackjack. The other uses European rules.
In European blackjack, the dealer does not “peek” when he or she shows an ace or picture card. That means you won’t know if the dealer gets a blackjack before you decide how to play, which changes the strategy a little.
While the games are almost the same in terms of house edge, the US version moves faster. And you won’t have to wait around those times the dealer hits 21.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blackjack variations.
Three significant ways the games are different involve the rules, side bets and what we call “exotic variations.” You will find each, in turn, below.
Variations in rules
Here are some of the ways you’ll find that real-money blackjack games adapt to the rules:
- US or European: The difference is whether the dealer peeks or doesn’t peek, as we described above.
- Surrender: Some games give you the option to discard bad hands for half of your bet, others do not.
- Dealer hit or stand on soft 17: Look for the games where the dealer stands as these have better player odds.
- Splitting: This determines whether identical cards of the same ranked cards can be split. Also, it determines how many splits are permitted, whether you can split aces (or more than one additional card if you do split an ace).
- Doubling: European-rules blackjack only allows doubling down on nine through 11 totals; US-rules blackjack usually allows this for all counts. Look for variations that prevent you from doubling after a split.
Remember, these rules need to be combined with the number of decks in play to find the optimal strategy for each variation.
Variations in side bets
Most casinos have side bets along with the main blackjack games. These offer big payouts for certain combinations (even jackpots in some cases).
While side bets often have a significant edge in favor of the casino, they do add excitement. Blackjack is a lower variance game, which giving side bets an appeal in terms of a potential windfall.
The most popular side bet is “perfect pairs,” which pays prizes if you get a pair in your hand. These can be bigger when your pair is made of cards of the same color or suit.
Other variations work on 7s. If you get 21 with three 7s of the same suit, you could be looking at a huge prize.
Exotic blackjack games
There is a long list of casino games that have been created around the concept of blackjack without being the same. Some of these have developed into popular games in their own right, while others are niche games which are only found at online casinos.
Here are some of the most popular:
- Spanish blackjack: In this game, the 10s are removed from the deck. This might seem like a subtle variation, although it changes the strategy quite a bit.
- Blackjack switch: In this variant, you are dealt two hands. You can switch the up-card between the two, optimizing your hands. There are other rules that claw back some of the advantages, though the extra strategy adds some appeal.
- Free bet blackjack: This live casino game is where you can double down or split with a free bet from the casino in some situations. Again, the rules claw this back (dealer pushes on 22, for example).
- Pontoon: This variation has different terms like “stick” and “twist,” though uses the 21 concept. You get bonus payments for making a five card 21 in this game.
- Multi-hand blackjack: Online, you can find tables that allow you to play two to three hands against the same dealer cards, which adds to the excitement.
Playing live dealer blackjack online
In the past, online blackjack games meant playing against computer software. Outcomes of hands were controlled by random number generator software.
In states that have regulated online casinos, live dealer blackjack games have proven to be extremely popular. If Indiana goes ahead with legal online casinos, live dealer blackjack games should be available, too.
These games work via remote studios inside the major casinos. These are equipped with cameras and audio equipment so you can see and hear the action in real time. A dealer cuts the decks (that is automatically shuffled) and deals the cards.
As a player, you get to bet online. Each table has seven seats, and you can choose your stake, add side bets and decide whether to hit, stand or double depending on what you see.
There are pros and cons to live dealer games.
The biggest benefits include the social aspect. You can chat with the dealers and the players at the table. Also, you can see the cards being shuffled and dealt, which removes any doubt about the casino’s shuffle being fair.
A minor disadvantage of live dealer blackjack to be aware of is timing out. If you don’t act in time, you will stand, whatever your count.
Another con is that the minimum stakes are often higher for live dealer games, though this depends on the individual casinos. Depending on how fast the other players are, you can sometimes find the going to be a little slow, too.
With live dealer games taking off hugely compared to the software titles, it is safe to say that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
Blackjack is not the only game you will find at live dealer online casinos. You can also enjoy roulette, casino poker games and baccarat.
How to play blackjack online for free in Indiana
Blackjack is a casino game where it can pay to practice because making mistakes compared to the right strategy can cost your money over the long run.
Another important reason to play online blackjack for free is to take advantage of free bonus offers at online casinos. Unfortunately, Chumba Casino is the only sweepstakes casino offering free money ($2 in sweeps cash) in Indiana at the moment.
If and when regulation for Indiana online gambling does arrive, you can expect big marketing budgets competing for your business with free cash offers.
Wrapping up: Blackjack games in Indiana
Until recently the only options for blackjack in Indiana required traveling to a riverboat casino or racetrack. While blackjack is always entertaining, it is not always convenient.
With sportsbooks coming online in Indiana, commentators hope state-regulated online casinos will follow. Based on the action in other regulated states, this will bring a significant choice of software-based blackjack games and live dealer options.
Until then, you can enjoy blackjack via sweepstakes casinos. These use “sweeps cash” to allow for legal slot play and blackjack play in many states, including Indiana. You can exchange sweeps cash into dollars.
Blackjack is a game where knowing the perfect strategy is a big advantage. This not only allows you to pay the lowest house edge, but it also gives you knowledge of how to find the best games, whether in a live casino or online.