Blackjack is far and away the most popular casino game in the world. This is true at Pennsylvania’s brick and mortar casinos and should remain true when most PA online casinos begin going live starting on July 15.
In fact, as long as PA online casinos offer blackjack under the same rules mandated at PA brick and mortar casinos, there will be as much action on the online tables as any live PA casino. While most games will be video, some sites are expected to offer online wagering with a live dealer streaming.
The reason for blackjack’s popularity has always been the fact it offers casino players the best chance to beat the house. The game has one of the lowest house edges players can find.
However, that’s especially true in PA where the rules for the game mandated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) lower that house edge even further.
The house edge for PA casino blackjack under PGCB rules is around .40 percent, giving the game a theoretical return to player rate (RTP) of 96.6 percent.
That means PA casinos return $96.60 of every $100 bet on blackjack back to players.
PA blackjack rules
Every PA brick and mortar casino employs the same blackjack rules mandated by the PGCB, including:
- Blackjack pays 3:2
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Double down on any two cards
- Split up to three hands (except aces)
- Double down after splits
- Late surrender, allowing players to give up half the bet when the dealer doesn’t have blackjack
These rules combine to lower the house edge on PA blackjack, starting with the 3:2 payout on blackjack, which is decidedly better than the 6:5 paid at many casinos across the country. The difference on a $10 bet is $3 in winnings and that can add up fast.
Dealers standing rather than hitting on soft 17 (17 with an ace) also has an impact on the house edge. It may not happen all that often in a single session, but it is in the player’s favor when it does.
The rules allowing players to double down on any two cards and double after splitting up to three hands is an invitation to increase profits when you’re on a winning streak. Blackjack is such a streaky game and rules like this let you take advantage of that.
Finally, the late surrender rule employed in PA can be used to players’ advantages as well. It’s not the kind of rule that should be invoked too often. However, the ability to give up half a bet rather than hit or stand with bad cards when you are facing almost insurmountable odds reduces the house edge.
Alternative PA online blackjack games
The PGCB may allow PA online casinos to run online blackjack games with different rules than the ones it mandates at PA casinos.
Players need to be aware that even the smallest change in rules can have a dramatic effect on the game’s house edge, and adjust accordingly.
Possible alternative PA online blackjack games may include:
- Vegas Blackjack (Only one card each on split aces)
- Downtown Las Vegas Blackjack (Dealer draws on soft 17)
- Atlantic City Blackjack (No re-splitting)
- Single-Deck Blackjack (Uses only a single deck rather than a traditional eight-deck shoe)
Where to play Blackjack online in PA
All of the PA online casino sites planning to launch in 2020 should offer Blackjack. Here’s a list of PA online casino operations already approved by the PGCB:
- Mount Airy/PokerStars
- Sands Bethlehem
- Valley Forge
- Presque Isle Downs
- Mohegan Sun Pocono
Is blackjack better online?
When it comes to gameplay, there really isn’t that much difference between playing online or live blackjack. However, there are several reasons why playing blackjack at a PA online casino might be even better than doing it in person at a PA casino.
Firstly, it takes a lot less time to go online than it does to travel to a casino. Plus, changing seats and tables is a lot faster when all you have to do is click buttons. All that adds up to less time between hands and more hands played per hour online versus live play.
In fact, computer dealers are so much faster and more efficient than human beings there’s no doubt you’ll play more blackjack hands in an online session than you ever will live.
Is online blackjack rigged?
Since they can’t cut the cards or hold them in their hands the same way they do inside a brick and mortar casino, there are players who might think online blackjack in PA is somehow rigged. This is a complete fallacy.
The online casino blackjack games in PA are subject to rigorous testing by the PGCB, making them as safe and fair as any you’ll find at a PA casino.
The PGCB licenses and regulates PA online casinos. These operators aren’t about to risk fines, suspensions, or the loss of a license by rigging online blackjack games.
Plus, all PA online casinos are affiliated with brick and mortar casinos across the state or major US casino companies, ensuring a certain level of integrity. The names and reputations of some of the biggest players in the US gambling industry are riding on these online blackjack games and none are willing to risk that.
PA online casinos will use computerized random number generators to determine the outcome of each blackjack hand and these are subject to PGCB testing as well.
A random number generator essentially acts as a computer-based card shuffler. Security is in place at PA online casino sites to make sure the tech cannot be tampered with.
PA online blackjack strategy and counting cards
In order to take advantage of the low house edge offered by PA blackjack games, players need to learn and employ basic blackjack strategy.
Players can find cheat sheets online that can help anyone perfect a basic blackjack strategy. Essentially, it’s about making the best odds play. You hit when the timing is right and stand when it’s not.
Cheat sheets provide information regarding every player holding and dealer up card. Players that study and use this information will ensure the true house edge for blackjack is realized. Making mistakes or deviating from basic strategy gives the house its edge back.
Card counting has long been the most effective way to win at Blackjack. Plus, it is a good way to get barred by casinos across the country. It’s not illegal, but casinos don’t want you to do it.
In fact, many now employ continuous shuffle machines at Blackjack games to prevent card counting.
The random number generators that determine the outcome of blackjack games act the same way as continuous shuffle machines. Each card dealt is independent of the one before it. It’s all random, making it impossible to keep a count and rendering card counting methods useless.