Q1: What are the rules in online blackjack games?
A: As in land casinos, they vary. Online help files are notoriously badly written and incomplete. The Wizard of Odds, we try hard to keep an accurate listing of rules for every brand of software and live dealers. You may find such rules, for every game, in our Software Review section.
Q2: Generally speaking, are the rules better in land or online casinos?
A: All things considered, I would say they are better online. For one thing, you almost never see a blackjack (ace and 10) pay 6 to 5 only online, while this is becoming the norm in land casinos in the United States.
Q3: What are the typical rules at live dealer casinos online?
A: Live dealer rules are very similar to what you would see in a land casino. The typical rules are:
* Eight decks
* Dealer stands on soft 17
* Dealer does NOT peek for blackjack
* No surrender
* Player may double on any two cards
* Player may double after a split
* No re-splitting
Be careful double or splitting if the dealer has a ten or ace showing. At most live dealer brands, you will lose everything if the dealer gets a blackjack. Under this “no peek” rule, the only time you should put more money out on the table against a potential dealer blackjack is to split two aces against a dealer 10.
The house edge under the rules above is 0.61%.
Q4: When are the cards shuffled in online blackjack?
A: In a fully electronic game, they are probably shuffled after every hand. In a live dealer game, they are usually shuffled about half way through the shoe.
Q5: Oh really?! Even with only 50% penetration, what is to prevent me from counting cards against a live dealer?
A: I’ve asked this question of some people in the business. Nobody would tell me exactly how they protect their game against counters, but they assured me that they do. If I ran a live dealer casino, I would run a test of every player to see how their bet size is correlated to the true count. Then I would carefully examine the play of such players with a strong correlation.
Q6: How do “probably fair” casinos accomplish so-called in blackjack?
A: It is rather involved, but here is typically how it is done:
1. The casino will generate a random long string of characters, called a Server Seed, hash it, and give the hashed result to the player BEFORE he makes a bet.
2. The player chooses a string of characters himself, called the Client Seed, or accepts a random default provided by the casino.
3. The client and server seed are combined and hashed.
4. The hashed result from step 3 will be parsed somehow, with the hexadecimal characters converted to base 10 and then mapped to specific cards if in a desired range.
5. The game will deal cards according to their order in the hash from step 3. This hash should be long enough that running out of cards would be almost impossible.
6. After the hand, the casino should reveal the Client Seed, which the player may verify hashes to the result provided before the bet. It is then a tedious process above to do all the math to convert the hash to actual cards, but the player may do that if he wishes.
I go into this in greater depth for a particular brand in my page on Blackjack (Encrypted Version).
Q7: I don’t want to bother jumping through all those hoops to verify fairness in an encrypted game. Do you think that just the ability to verify fairness is enough to keep the casinos honest?
A: No. Encrypted or not, a casino could cheat the player in any game, except sports betting, any time they wished. In the case of an encrypted casino, the operator could choose a Server Seed that causes the player to lose after the bet is made. If the player catches them in a hash mismatch, which I think very few players bother to check, the casino can simply ignore the accusation or deny it without comment. This is exactly what happened to me at Wixiplay.
Q8: Your story aside, how common is cheating at blackjack, or any game, online?
A: In my opinion, it is quite rare.
Q9: How can I improve my odds of not being cheated?
A: There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Internet casinos out there. In the absence of any serious government regulation, the industry has done a pretty good job of regulating itself. Between legitimate watchdog affiliate sites and some common sense, here are some ways to choose a reputable brand to trust with your hard-earned dollar:
* Read the fine print. Most casinos have a good looking main page, but dig around the more obscure pages like terms & conditions. If you see a lot of spelling and grammatical mistakes, that should set off a red flag.
* Ping customer support. If you can’t think of your own question, ask anything, for example, “Do you accept players from Kyrgyzstan?”See how long it takes for them to reply and measure their professionalism and courtesy of their reply.
* Check reputable affiliate sites. Many affiliate sites promote whoever pays the most, but the good ones are picky about who they promote and will intervene in the unlikely event of a player dispute. We would like to think of ourselves as one of the good ones. A good way to avoid the worst of casinos is to check the blacklists of reputable affiliates.
* Smart small. Players should always bet in moderation anywhere, but especially when opening a new account online with an unfamiliar brand. Dink around with a small deposit and small bets until you have built up some trust.
Q10: Any other words of advice before playing blackjack online?
A: Whether playing online or in a land casino, use the appropriate basic strategy for the rules offered. The Wizard of Odds blackjack strategy calculatorwill give the correct basic strategy for almost any set of rules.
A much greater problem than outright cheating is online casinos faulting players on a technicality in the rules and seizing whatever funds they deem appropriate. This is a particularly a problem with bonuses. The terms and conditions for bonuses can be pages long and very restrictive in terms of allowed games, bet sizes, and types of bets. If the player loses, nobody ever checks, but after a win and withdrawal request, suddenly the play may be subject to careful review for compliance. Never assume that because you were invited to play a bonus via Email that you’re eligible for it. Casinos typically blast everybody in their list. An easy rule to overlook is when a bonus is eligible for “new money” only. Don’t expect the casino to enforce this rule when entering a couple code, but do expect it when you actually make a withdrawal and they look for any reason to deny it.
While bonuses can make your money last much longer and increase your chances of winning, they are a minefield in terms of compliance. Read the rules carefully. If in doubt the way you play is compliant, then don’t ask for the bonus in the first place.