Also known as 21, blackjack is a quick-moving casino classic. This simple game involves a little skill, a bit of luck, and most assuredly, a great time. Whether you’re looking to sharpen your knowledge of the game or you’re a total newbie, this Casino Guru guide will help launch you to the next level of blackjack prowess.
Keep reading to find the best online casinos to play blackjack as a Canadian, to learn the rules of the game, to explore a few different versions, and to get your fill of tips and tricks that will help your game.
Top Online Casinos for Blackjack Players in Canada
Check out a few of our recommendations for the best places for Canadians to get started:
[LIST OF TOP BLACKJACK RECOMMENDATIONS]
The Rules of Blackjack: How to Play
It doesn’t matter if you walk into a casino or play blackjack online; the basics of the game are always the same. It’s just you vs. the dealer. The only real difference is that, sometimes, that dealer is a computer program formed of 1’s and 0’s.
To start the game, the dealer will deal a hand to you, any other players, and himself. But don’t worry too much about other players, you aren’t competing with them. Your goal is to get your hand as close to 21 as possible without going over, and the dealer attempts to accomplish the same thing. If you get closer to 21 than the dealer, you win!
If you want a little more detail, we’ll walk you through step by step:
- Place a bet. If you’re playing multi-hand blackjack, you’ll be placing more than one bet, one for each virtual seat you’re playing.
- There may be more decks than you expect. The number of decks used in a typical blackjack game is 6 to 8.
- You start with 2 cards, facing up. Next, you add the values of the cards in your hand to see how close to 21 you’re starting. Numbered cards (2-10), have a value equal to their number. Face cards are equal to 10 points. Aces act as a wildcard of sorts, and can equal 1 or 11, whichever is more beneficial to you. For example, if you’re holding a Queen and an Ace, you’ve got 21!
- The dealer also starts the game with 2 cards. However, one of the dealer’s cards will be facing down.
- Depending on the value of your 2 cards, you have a choice to make. You can hit, split, double down, or surrender. If you stand, that’s it, you don’t get any more cards. It’s the dealer’s hand against the first 2 cards that you got. If you hit, you get another card. You can keeping hitting until you reach 21, bust (go over 21), or decide to stand. More on splitting, doubling down, and surrendering below.
- The dealer will play her hand only after everyone at the table has played. The dealer must hit until they reach a certain number of points (usually 17) or they bust.
- If you’re points are closer to 21 than the dealer, congrats! You win. If you go over, you automatically lose. Or, if the dealer busts (and you don’t) you win. If you both bust, the dealer wins. If it’s any other tie, including a blackjack (you both get 21), it’s a push. In this case, the bet is returned.
There are quite a few terms you can learn to look like a pro at the virtual blackjack table.
Take a look at our list of common terms to upgrade your blackjack knowledge:
Bust – When the value of your (or the dealer’s) cards goes above 21, it is a bust. If you bust, it doesn’t matter what the dealer has, it is an automatic loss.
Double Down – Once you see your hand, you have the option to place a second bet. Although, some online casinos will restrict when you can double down to certain initial hand values. But these days, most casinos will let you double down on just about anything, including a blackjack.
Even Money – This is a rare side bet on whether the dealer has blackjack (you’re betting the affirmative), and is available when you have blackjack and the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace. The new stake can be up to half the amount of the original bet. If you take this option and the dealer has blackjack, you take a push on the original bet and receive a 2:1 payout on the side bet. If the dealer does not have blackjack, the original bet is treated normally, and the side bet is forfeited to the house. You can make this same bet when you don’t have blackjack and the dealer has an Ace, but in this case, it’s called insurance.
Insurance – When the dealer’s face up card is an Ace, and you don’t have blackjack, you can place a side bet called ‘insurance’. This bet can be up to half the value of the original bet. The purpose of the bet is to predict whether the dealer has blackjack. If the dealer does have blackjack, you win at 2:1 odds. However, this is generally considered a bad bet, but we’ll discuss that further in our tip section.
Face Down Game – A variation of blackjack where your cards are dealt face down.
Flat Bet – When you stake the same bet on multiple successive rounds.
Hard Hand – Any hand that does not contain an Ace (the card that can be valued either 1 or 11).
Heads Up – A situation where there is only one player at the table, competing against the dealer.
Hit – Each time you add an additional card to your hand, this is called a ‘hit’.
Hole Card – The dealer’s face down card that isn’t revealed until the end of the game.
Natural – When the first 2 cards you’re dealt equal 21, this is called a ‘natural 21’ or a ‘natural’.
Pitch Game – A variation of blackjack where 1 or 2 decks are used (instead of the usual 6 to 8). And in live games, the dealer will deal out of their hands using a pitching motion, rather than dealing out of a box. This type of game is usually reserved for high rollers (i.e. a person who bets large sums of money).
Push – When you and the dealer have hands of equal value, this is called a ‘push’. In this case, your bet is returned. It can happen in any tie – including blackjack – except for a bust. If you and the dealer both bust, the dealer wins.
Soft – Any hand that contains an Ace (the card that can be valued either 1 or 11).
Split – When your first two cards are the same value, you have the option to split. This means playing each card as its own hand at the same initial bet. For example, if you’re given 2 Aces, with an initial bet of $20, you can split. Then, you separate the Aces and place another $20 on the table, playing each hand individually. American rules allow you to do this up to 3 times to make 4 hands.
Stand – If you’re as close to 21 as you dare to get, you have the option to stand. This means you’ve decided to keep your hand as it is and not add any more cards.
Stiff – A hand that is under 17, but likely to bust if another card is dealt, usually 12 to 16.
Third Base – The player to the dealer’s immediate right. This is the last player at the table to be dealt their cards and play their hand. Third base isn’t usually relevant in online casinos, but it may be helpful to know if it ever becomes relevant to you. Some players maintain that the last player to be dealt their cards is in a unique position to influence the entire game.
Upcard – The dealer’s card that is dealt facing in up.
The Best Strategy for Online Blackjack
Test your skills with free play. Before laying any money on the line, test your luck and knowledge of the game by taking advantage of free play. You can build your confidence before diving into the real thing. You can also fine-tune your awareness of what’s on the table to supercharge your blackjack game.
Don’t bother with insurance or even money bets. If you’re a card counting genius, you may be confident placing this kind of bet, but in the long run, players always lose. And the number of decks makes it virtually impossible to calculate. This is especially true online. About that…
Most online casinos shuffle their digital decks after every hand, so even the most confident among us shouldn’t get caught up trying to count cards.
Split your hand when the cards are right. If you’re dealt a pair of of 8’s or Aces, splitting is a good bet. In both cases, you’re most likely better off splitting your cards into 2 hands.
In online blackjack, the house always has an edge. The risk of the game is what makes it exciting, but when the lights of the online casino dim, that risk is on you. Don’t go chasing losses. Enjoy the game without getting carried away.
Variations of Online Blackjack Available in Canada
Although the exact origin of blackjack is unknown, centuries of play – spanning several continents – has spawned several variations of blackjack. While the main components of the game remain the same, the payout structure, and number of decks used by the dealer differ.
We’ll walk you through some of the variations available:
European Blackjack – This variation uses fewer decks. The dealer starts with 2 decks and deals her first card face up, but does not deal herself another card. Once you (and any other players) have completed your hands, the dealer finally gets a second card. Splitting a hand is also different in European blackjack. The European rules allow you to split cards of any value (i.e. 10, Jack, Queen), but only once. The American rules allow you to split up to 3 times, but the cards must be the same rank (i.e. a pair of Queens or a pair of Jacks).
Double Exposure – Like the name suggests, this variation has more exposure. All cards are dealt face up, rather than one of the dealers cards being face down. You, as a player, can now make an informed decision about your next move based on the dealer’s full hand. But, the stakes are a little different: any tie is an automatic win for the dealer.
Pontoon Blackjack – Similar to European blackjack, the dealer does not get a face down card until the end of the round. Because of this, it’s possible to draw 21 and win against a dealer natural. But, it is also possible to double or split and lose multiple bets to a dealer natural. The rules around Aces also change. If you double down on a hand containing an Ace, the Ace must count as a value of 1. Or, if you split a pair of Aces, you can only draw once. These regulations may actually benefit you, because if your hand contains an Ace, a 10, or a face card, you get a higher payout for your ‘Pontoon’.
Spanish 21 – In this variation, it’s not just the number of decks that changes, it’s the deck itself. A Spanish 21 deck contains 48 cards valued 2 to 9, with Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces. There are no ‘10’ cards. There are also a number of bonuses in this version for several hand combinations, like three 7s.
Blackjack Switch – This variation allows you to play 2 hands simultaneously, meaning you can play more games in a shorter amount of time.
Blackjack Surrender – This variation gives you the option to ‘surrender’. It is a rare option, so make sure to read the rules to make sure it’s available to you. Surrendering is not an advisable long-term strategy, but it may help you out of certain situations. After you, any other players, and the dealer all have your first 2 cards, you can choose to surrender instead of hit, stand, double down, or split. When you surrender, you automatically give up half of your wager, but you get the other half back. You can only do this as your first action if the table allows it.
Progressive Blackjack – This variation is pretty close to the standard American version. The only difference is that you have an option to place a side bet. The side bet is for a jackpot accumulation of all of the side bets of other players in the network. You win part of the jackpot by being dealt an Ace. If you get more than one Ace, you get a bigger piece of the jackpot. To win the entire jackpot, you need to draw 4 Aces in a single hand.
Live Casino Blackjack – Many online casinos offer a live version of blackjack. Instead of playing in isolation, this option adds a social element with the presence of a live dealer you can see through a live webcam feed.
Mobile Online Blackjack – If your dream is to play blackjack on the train home after a long day at work, your wish is granted. Most online casinos offer their blackjack casino games on mobile.
Blackjack or Bust
There is a real elegance in simplicity. And that makes blackjack a card game with elegance in spades. At Casino Guru, we have no doubt that you’ll love testing out blackjack strategies and finding new versions of the game to try. It doesn’t matter if you’re a high roller or stick to the minimum bet, blackjack is a wonderful way to pass the time.