Play Online Blackjack

Blackjack has always been a popular game in both online and land-based casinos, and although there are some variations that have developed over the years (such as the OBBO rule in some New Zealand land-based casinos), the game is essentially the same no matter where it’s played, which explains its universal popularity.

The list below includes the best blackjack NZ sites, where the game can be played for a range of stakes and for free in practice mode as well.

While blackjack will always be a game of chance, in that you can’t predict or affect what card is to be dealt next, for the discerning player there is nevertheless the opportunity to adopt a strategic approach that can maximise your chances of making the right call at any given time, and for many this is the real appeal of the game.

Online blackjack, while employing the traditional rules that have always applied, nevertheless is different to playing the game in a land-based casino. Because the game is most often played single-handed, the cards you receive are not impacted by the (often poor!) decisions of other players at the table. Also, there are fewer intervals, and less time spent waiting to get your cards, yet at the same time you can also play the game at your own pace and not be rushed into making calls. You can also have your Basic Strategy charts to hand as you play, to help with decision making.

However, if you do enjoy the buzz of a casino floor, but still prefer to play at home, live online blackjack gives you the best of both worlds – play a game dealt by real dealers from a casino or purpose-built studio with other players, while at the same time enjoying all the comforts of home.

Rules of online blackjack

In almost all blackjack games, including the online version, the aim is essentially the same — to create a hand that is equal to or less than 21 that beats the dealer’s hand. Being dealt 21 exactly in two cards (an ace + a 10 or picture card) is known as a blackjack, and this can be hit by both player and dealer. Winning hands pay out at 1:1, while blackjack pays 3:2 (if the dealer also hits blackjack, the hand is a ‘push’ and bets are returned).

Like almost all versions of the game, in online blackjack Aces are worth either 1 or 11, picture cards are worth 10, and the remaining cards in the deck are worth their face value. Each hand in online blackjack starts with a fresh, full deck (i.e., there is no shoe and no discards), with cards being dealt by a random number generator (RNG).

At the start of a hand in online blackjack, you are dealt a card face up, as is the dealer. You then get a second card, also face up, and from here you have two choices: you can either ‘stick’ (which means you’re satisfied with your hand and don’t want to receive any more cards), or ‘hit’ (be dealt another card). You continue to hit until you either decide to stick, you hit 21 exactly, or you ‘bust’ (when the value of your hand exceeds 21), at which time the hand is over.

If you are dealt blackjack, you automatically receive no further cards and, unless the dealer also hits blackjack, you win the hand.

Once you have decided to stick, the dealer then receives a second face up card, and then further cards until the value of their hands reaches 17 or more (at which time, under House rules, they must stick), or they bust.

You win the hand if the dealer busts or, once they stick, your hand is closer to 21. If the dealer’s hand is closer to 21, the House wins. If both hands end up equal in value, a push is declared and your bet is returned.

As a hand is being played, there are several other options that you can take. Depending on the version of the game and the House rules, if your first two cards total 9, 10 or 11, you can ‘double’ — i.e., you are able to double your existing bet, but you can only receive one more card.

If you are dealt two identical cards, you can choose to ‘split’, which means to play each card as a separate hand. You need to match your bet on each hand (effectively doubling your stake), and then each is played out to completion separately.

Online blackjack odds

In blackjack, as in all casino games, the inbuilt statistical advantage that the casino has over the player is known as the House Edge. Online blackjack offers one of the lowest House Edges of all games, and although it can vary from casino to casino and according to which version of the game you’re playing, it’s usually in the region of 0.25% – 1%. This is significantly better than the House Edge you’ll find if you play blackjack in a traditional, land-based casino.

This is also one of the best House Edges when compared to other online casino games as well. There are some bets in craps (e.g., odds bets and come bets that are offered at true odds), some versions of video poker (e.g., a 9/6 JoB game), and playing the gamble feature after a pokies win that have a lower House Edge, but these are about the only ones.

Basic Strategy

Understanding and using Blackjack Strategy is essential if you want to make your decisions on whether to hit, stick, double or split based on a consistent, rational approach rather than in a reactionary way with no thought behind them. Essentially, Basic Strategy is predicated on the probability of your winning a hand from any situation that may arise during a game, and while it offers no guarantees, and cannot help you predict which card is going to be dealt to you next, it does nevertheless mean that you’re making choices based on probability rather than a whim.

A Blackjack Basic Strategy chart shows the variety of card combinations you can be dealt at the start of any hand, and then sets each of these against the potential dealer’s hands. In each case, the chart then helps you to determine what you should do next — for instance, if you have A-7 and the dealer is showing 8, Basic Strategy dictates that you should stick; however if they are showing 9+, you should hit.

It is important to understand, however, that Basic Strategy has nothing to do with card counting and is not any form of ‘system’ to help you beat the casino. Instead, it is a means of distilling into a simple, easy-to-follow format all of the many hand variations that can be dealt and which course of action, based on probability, will give you the best chance of winning.

Top 5 tips for playing online blackjack

1) Play free online blackjack

If you’re new to the game, want to try a different variation, or simply want to get more practice using Basic Strategy, then you should take advantage of the opportunity to play free online blackjack. All of the casinos that we recommend enable you to play a number of different blackjack games for free in practice mode, and in some cases it’s not even necessary to have an account — simply click the game you want to play and get started.

2) Play for the right size stake

In order both to enjoy and to be successful at playing online blackjack games, you need to be playing for a stake that suits the size of your bankroll and how much of it you are prepared to risk. A useful rule of thumb is to work out what it would cost you to lose 20 consecutive hands e.g., at a table with a minimum bet of $1 it would be $20; if the minimum bet is $10, then it would be $200. Decide how much you are prepared to lose in any one gaming session, and then choose your stake size based on this.

3) The right time to double and split

Doubling and splitting are not always the right options to take — it depends not only on which cards you’ve been dealt, but on what the dealer is showing as well. However, understanding what to do in such circumstances will enhance the quality of your play significantly.

  • you should always split when you’ve been dealt A-A or 8-8, regardless of what the the dealer is showing
  • you should always split when you’ve been dealt 6-6, 7-7 or 9-9 when the dealer shows 6 or less
  • you should never split when you’ve been dealt 10-10
  • you should always double when you’ve been dealt 11 unless the dealer shows A (then hit)
  • you should always double when you’ve been dealt 10 and the dealer shows less
  • you should only double when you’ve been dealt 9 and the dealer shows 2 or 7+

4) Don’t take insurance

When the dealer shows A, most online blackjack NZ games give you the option of taking out insurance against them hitting blackjack. This is a side bet (the maximum you can wager is half your original bet size) and pays out 2:1. However, although there will be times when you get caught out and the dealer does hit blackjack, the probability of their so doing is low and this means that in the long run this is not a good value bet and should be avoided.

5) Don’t surrender

In some of the blackjack games that our recommended casinos offer, when you’ve been dealt 16 and the dealer shows A, 10 or 9, you have the option to ‘surrender’ or to fold your bet and get half of your stake returned. However, over the long run this is not a good value choice to take and, while it will no doubt cost you from time to time, detailed analysis of game play over an extended period of time has shown that this is not a bet worth taking.

Different varieties of online blackjack

There are a number of different variations of blackjack that have grown up over the years, and many of these can be played in our recommended online casinos. However, the basic principle of getting a hand that is as close to 21 as possible that beats the dealer’s hand is always at the heart of the game.

The most common versions of the game that you’ll see offered are Classic, European, Atlantic City and American blackjack. These games only vary from each other in terms of when you’re able to split and double, and whether or not the surrender option is offered; otherwise they are all played in exactly the same way.

Some other less common versions of the game can also be played at our listed sites. These include:

  • Double Exposure — the dealer gets two cards face up; pushes go to the House; blackjack pays 1:1 instead of 3:2
  • Pontoon — dealer gets two face down cards; a five-card hand that totals 21 or less (a ‘five card trick’) pays 2 to 1; pushes go to the House; player must hit at 14 or less
  • Spanish 21 — player always wins when hitting 21 (no push); player blackjack beats dealer blackjack; you can double after splitting
  • Multi-hand — play up to five separate hands at the one table

Bottom Line

Online blackjack is undoubtedly one of the most popular casino games at the sites we recommend. This is because it’s a game that offers interesting variations, can be played in individual and multi-hand versions, is generally available to play for free in demo mode and, perhaps most importantly, is a game that successfully manages to combine both chance and strategy.

Visit our recommended blackjack NZ casinos to play the game in its different versions and to put your understanding of Basic Strategy to the test.