USA Online Blackjack
USA blackjack is different in some ways from the game in other countries, but in other ways, it's exactly the same. One of the aspects of blackjack in the United States is its legality. Since there are 50 different states, each with its own laws regarding gambling, the legal status of the game is a patchwork quilt.
That patchwork quilt becomes even more elaborate when you start thinking about the differences in laws related to playing for real money online. Some states have strict laws forbidding blackjack online for real money, some have ambiguous or non-existent laws related to the Internet game, while still others have detailed, legal, regulated online blackjack games available.
This page provides a broad overview of the issues related to how the game is played in the United States versus other countries. (Yes, the rules vary—even from one coast to the other, but also in contrast to other countries.)
We also offer insights into an important question:
We provide a detailed answer that looks at both state and federal laws that apply. We think it's the most comprehensive coverage of the subject on the Internet.
Finally, we offer information about traditional blackjack as it's being played in traditional casinos throughout the country. Some states have no casinos offering blackjack, while others have more than you can shake a stick at. We cover all the states in this section.
Traditional Rules in the US versus Other Countries
Specific United States blackjack rules are decided by the casino in accordance with local state laws regulating the casinos. You could easily find dozens of different sets of rules throughout the country, but many of these rules are consistent from state to state and casino to casino.
Almost all blackjack games have some rules in common, regardless of whether the game is being played in the United States, Europe, or elsewhere. Here are some examples.
- The target number is almost always 21
- A hand with a total of 22 or higher is a "bust" (a losing hand).
- Players always start with 2 cards
- They have the same options:
- Double Down
- Surrender (sometimes)
The variations have to do with the details. The dealer, for example, has to play her hand according to a prescribed strategy. She doesn't get to make judgment calls based on the information she has available to her. In some games, she's required to hit on a soft 17, while in others, she's required to stand.
The number of decks in play also varies from casino to casino. Surrender is sometimes not allowed. Splitting is almost always allowed, but different casinos have different rules about whether you can resplit your new hand if it turns out to also be a pair.
In the USA, the dealer checks her hole card for a blackjack before the players make their decisions. If the dealer has a blackjack, the players don't have an opportunity to double down or split their hands. They've already lost their bet (unless there was a push).
But in European games, the dealer doesn't check her hole card until after the players have made their decisions. This means that if the dealer is showing an ace or a 10 as her up card, you should never split or double down. There's too great a likelihood that the dealer will have a blackjack, meaning you've put more money into play on a hand that's almost bound to lose or push.
Also, while not all United States casinos offer surrender, NO European casinos offer this option. It's a minor detail, but it's still worth pointing out.
Also, in the United States, the rules for doubling down vary from casino to casino. But it's not uncommon for a casino to allow a player to double down on any 2 cards. But that's unheard of in European blackjack games. Almost without exception, in European casinos, the only totals you can double down on are 9, 10, or 11.
Las Vegas offers some of the widest variations in rules of any city in the country. You can just as easily find a single deck blackjack game there as one dealt from 8 decks out of a shoe. You can find casinos offering blackjack games where you can double down on any total or casinos where you're only allowed to double down on 10 or 11. You can find casinos which offer the surrender option and casinos which don't.
One thing to keep in mind is that any time the casino implements a rule that's beneficial to the player, there's almost always another rules variation which increases the house edge. Some of these rules variations are more dramatic than others. An extreme example would be a casino which decides to offer a single deck blackjack game, which has an extremely low house edge (around 0.17%), but then also decides that a natural only pays out at 6 to 5 instead of 3 to 2. This change adds 1.4% to the casino's house edge.
You'll even occasionally find Las Vegas blackjack games where a blackjack only pays even money. (This is especially true in video blackjack games found on the casino floor.) In that event, the house edge increases by over 2%.
Our advice is to avoid all blackjack games which don't offer at least the traditional 3 to 2 payout for blackjack. Almost no combination of rules variations makes up for the huge chuck of the percentage that's lost by this change in rules.
Atlantic City has some major differences regarding how blackjack is played when compared to Las Vegas. Some of this is because of laws related to counting cards. In Las Vegas, it's perfectly legal and acceptable for a casino to refuse a customer if she's suspected of counting cards.
But a lawsuit in New Jersey made it effectively illegal for Atlantic City casinos to bar card counters. The court's decision is based on the premise that counting cards isn't really cheating, as it's just a matter of thinking about the game and the cards while you're playing.
And how could thinking about the game you're playing be considered cheating?
But the easiest way to thwart attempts at counting cards in blackjack is to increase the number of decks in play. You'll find plenty of 8 deck games being dealt from shoes and automatic shufflers in Las Vegas, sure, but in Atlantic City, that's all you'll find. You won't see single deck blackjack games there at all.
Online Blackjack for United States Player
The game of blackjack as played online for real money is another interesting topic for United States players. We discussed in the introduction of this page how the legal landscape for online gambling in the USA is best described as a patchwork quilt of laws that vary from state to state. Below we look at some specific laws, starting at the federal level and working our way down to the state level.
For years, the Department of Justice maintained that any kind of gambling activity on the Internet was, in fact, prohibited by the Wire Act. That opinion has changed in recent years, and the best legal interpretation now seems to be that the Wire Act only applies to betting on sports. Casino games would not follow under the purview of this piece of legislation. The Supreme Court has yet to hear a case related to online casino games and the Wire Act, so in that sense, the jury's still out.
The full name for this law is "The Interstate Wire Act of 1961". It was passed when Robert Kennedy was the attorney general, and its aim was to end organized crime.
Enforcement of this law has always focused on the individuals running the betting enterprise, not the players placing the bets. Until the Internet, this law mainly made it illegal to be a bookmaker, but it hasn't done much to end the practice.
"UIGEA" is an acronym for "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006", which is a law that was tacked onto the Safe Ports Act at the last minute. In spite of its scary-sounding name, UIGEA does not outlaw gambling. It does, however, make it a federal crime to process funds for the purposes of "illegal gambling".
How does this apply to online blackjack?
Since many (if not most) states have laws prohibiting at least some form of Internet gambling, this law makes it a crime in those states to process those transactions. As a result, it's hard for an American to transfer funds to and from an online casino. Sometimes credit card transactions get through, but it's become increasingly hard over the years to get your money to and from a casino.
This law, at least in the opinion of the writers of this page, does not make it illegal for an individual to use a credit to make a deposit at an online casino for the purposes of playing blackjack. It does, however, make it illegal for the processor to actually process that transaction.
Since the passage of UIGEA in 2006, 3 states have legalized online gambling:
In each of these states, land-based casinos are allowed to operate an Internet site where players can legally make wagers on games of chance (like blackjack, for example). This requires a specific license, which is expensive, and it also involves significant marketing expenses.
The most important thing to remember is that wagering can't take place across state lines. If you want to play blackjack at an online casino in New Jersey, you have to do some while being physically located in the state. You can't even access the games across state lines.
Traditional Land Based Blackjack Casinos in the US
Of course, the largest and most popular gambling destinations have casinos spreading blackjack constantly. You'll find these in the towns you associate with gambling—Las Vegas, Reno, and Atlantic City.
But other states also have blackjack available. This section of the page takes a look at which states have traditional, legal, land-based blackjack games.
Arizona is a surprisingly popular casino destination with over 3 dozen casinos. Slot machines are, of course, the bulk of the action in the state, but they do have blackjack in some casinos in Arizona.
Most of the action takes place in the cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson. The Desert Diamond Casino offers some of the best odds in the state with their 3 and 6 deck games. Those games have a $25 minimum and a $500 maximum bet. The lowest stakes games to be found anywhere in the state are played for $5 per hand.
You'll only find 2 casinos in the entire state, and you won't find AN Y traditional blackjack games in either of them. But they do offer electronic blackjack. We don't recommend electronic blackjack for various reasons, but the main one is that they usually offer a reduced payout (often even odds) on a natural, which makes the game FAR less attractive.
You'll find plenty of casinos and gambling in the state of California. Blackjack is available at many of the 160+ casinos in the state, too. Poker is also very popular in California.
California used to be one of the states that charged 50 cents or a dollar per hand for their blackjack games, which made them a pretty bad bet mathematically. (Oklahoma casinos still do this, by the way.) But a couple of years ago, California changed their minds about that troubling aspect of play.
The Barona in San Diego offers excellent game rules and odds.
Most of the casino gambling in Colorado is for relatively low stakes, but they do have over 40 casinos in the state, many of which do offer blackjack games. Be careful of casinos offering 6 to 5 payouts on a natural in this state. It's common here, but the effect it has on the player's odds of winning is devastating.
Blackjack is popular in Connecticut and available at many of the casinos there. Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun are the 2 most popular casinos for blackjack players in Connecticut.
The Mohegan Sun has games where the dealer stands on soft 17 and games where the dealer hits a soft 17. The better of those 2 versions is where the dealer has to stand on a soft 17.
You'll only find 3 casinos in the state, Delaware Park and Casino, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, and Harrington Raceway & Casino. They do offer blackjack games in Delaware casinos. Most people interested in the game spend their time at Delaware Park and Casino.
Almost all the casino gambling you'll find in Florida takes place on cruise ships, but they do offer blackjack games on these cruise ships.
No one will ever accuse Georgia of being a popular casino gambling destination, but they do have a single casino cruise operating there. And you will find blackjack games on the Emerald Princess II Casino Cruise (as it's called).
Gamblers only have 16 casinos to choose from in Idaho, and the bulk of the gambling there is made up of slot machines. They do offer electronic blackjack, though. We'll repeat our warning about avoiding electronic blackjack again, though—the odds are usually lousy.
17 casinos operate in Illinois, and some of them do have blackjack. They generally don't offer very good rules, though, and the house edge is higher than you'll see in many states. One thing you'll see a lot of in Illinois casinos is 6/5 blackjack, which offers lousy odds to players.
Blackjack players will be happy to know that Indiana has 13 casinos, but many of them do offer blackjack games.
One of the most popular gambling destinations in the Midwest, especially for people from Nebraska, Iowa is home to 2 dozen casinos, most of which offer blackjack. The games there are nothing special, rules-wise, but the other patrons and the dealers are known for being friendly and pleasant.
The state is home to 9 casinos, many of which do offer blackjack games.
The state has several nice casinos and casino hotels, and blackjack is commonly played at them.
Most people don't think of Maine as a gambling or casino destination, but the state does have 5 casinos in operation, and you can find blackjack games in them.
The gambling games in Maryland consists almost entirely of machine based games (mostly slots). Among those, you'll find electronic blackjack available. Maryland has no casinos offering traditional dealer-dealt blackjack games, though.
Casinos in Massachusetts are associated with the horseracing industry there. They do offer blackjack games, though, so if you're not having any luck betting on the ponies, you can get some more money into action playing 21 there. One aspect of gambling in Massachusetts casinos that might appeal to a certain breed of players—the properties are all smoke-free.
Another state that we don't normally think of as a gambling destination, Michigan actually has almost 3 dozen casinos in operation, and blackjack is available there. Many casinos there use continuous shuffling machines, but you can also find games being dealt from a shoe.
Almost 2 dozen casinos call Minnesota home, and most (if not all) of them offer blackjack games. Some of the games there are the best in the Midwest, because they have decent penetration and generous rules.
Almost 3 dozen casinos operate in Mississippi, and they do offer blackjack as well as most other traditional casino games. Biloxi is probably the most popular gambling destination there. Of the casinos there, Treasure Bay offers the most generous rules and the game with the lowest house edge (less than 0.2%). Many of the casinos in town offer single deck blackjack, but even those that don't usually offer a 2 deck game.
The state has a surprisingly vibrant gambling scene, with 13 casinos, many of which do offer blackjack games. Missouri has this in common with New Jersey—it's illegal to ban a card counter from the casinos there for counting cards. The casinos do have other countermeasures in place to prevent counters from getting an edge, though. (This is also true in Atlantic City, New Jersey.)
An alphabetical list of the casinos in Montana begins with "Allard's General Store". Luckily, that's not indicative of the entire gambling scene there, as there are some robust casino properties which do offer blackjack in Montana. The game was legalized in the state in 2011.
Of course there's blackjack in Nevada. The state is home to Las Vegas and to Reno, after all. We'll publish an entire page about blackjack conditions in specific cities and throughout the state there.
Of course there's blackjack in New Jersey, too. After all, the state is home to Atlantic City, which is one of the country's premier gambling destinations. One interesting aspect to the game as it's played in Atlantic City—it's illegal for the casinos to ban card counters, so they use other countermeasures against counting. For example, most (if not all) games are dealt from a continuous shuffling machine. Even in games which aren't, you can count on there being a lot of decks in the shoe.
The state has over 2 dozen gambling casinos available, and there is blackjack available at some of these New Mexico casinos. This is one of those states where all the casinos are owned by a Native American tribe.
A lot of the casinos in New York are tied to racetracks, but they have some more traditional casinos available there, too. Blackjack players can definitely find a game in New York.
You won't find a lot of casinos in North Carolina—there are only 6 of them in the entire state. But they do offer video blackjack as well as video game versions of other traditional gambling games. These are inferior to actual table games dealt by real people, but that's all they have in North Carolina. It's a tightly-regulated gambling market.
We were surprised at how many casinos are available in North Dakota (32). They do have blackjack in North Dakota. The rules are surprisingly good. Many casinos offer games dealt from only 4 decks, and they offer penetration of up to 75%, which is excellent for counters.
Many, but not all, of the casinos in Ohio are tied into the horse racing industry. But they do offer blackjack at some of them. Table limits are generally low compared with some other states. One aspect of the games there that is a little different than most states is the use of preshuffled stacks of cards.
All of the casinos in Oklahoma are owned by Native American tribes, but many of them do offer blackjack. Unfortunately, all the blackjack games there charge players a 50 cent or 1 dollar ante on top of their bet, making the house edge much higher than it needs to be. They also shuffle pretty often, especially if they detect even a hint of card counting.
Yes, Oregon casinos do offer blackjack games. We've seen reports that Chinook Winds offers a single deck game. You might be able to find additional single deck games in the state if you look.
The state is a vibrant gambling destination with over 2 dozen casinos and over 30,000 slot machines. They also have over 1000 table games spread throughout the casinos there, some of which are blackjack. We've seen some online gambling writers refer to the games in Pennsylvania as the best in the country, rules-wise. The house edge on many of the games being spread there, if you're using perfect basic strategy, is between 0.3% and 0.4%.
Even though it's the smallest state in the country, Rhode Island does have casinos, both of which offer blackjack. The casinos are Newport Grand Casino and Twin River Casino. The games here are comparable to the games available in Connecticut, rules-wise.
The state is home to 2 casino cruises, both of which offer blackjack. The minimum bets on blackjack are $5 at these casinos, but they are surprisingly generous with high rollers, offering a table maximum of $1500 in some instances.
The state hosts quite a few casinos, but only a few of them offer blackjack.
The state is huge, and there are only a couple of true casinos in the entire state. One is a cruise ship out of Port Aransas, and the other is the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass. Most people in Texas just drive to Oklahoma or Louisiana to play blackjack. The state is also home to quite a few racetracks now.
The state is home to over 100 casinos of all sizes. Many of them do offer blackjack games, too. They are not known for having generous rules, though—the game conditions are generally poor, especially from a house edge perspective.
The state has a handful of casinos (fewer than 10). Some of them are more bingo halls than casinos, but some of them do offer traditional gambling games like blackjack. They do not offer single deck blackjack games at any of the casinos in the state, but you can find 6 deck games dealt from a shoe at just about any of the casinos offering the game.
The state is home to a couple of dozen casinos, some of which offer blackjack. (Some of them are just big bingo halls, though.)
You'll find 18 casinos in the state, but many of them are just bingo halls. You can find the rare blackjack game here, but it's not common.
You can find some casinos in Alabama, but none of them offer blackjack. Gambling games there are limited to bingo, dog races, and slot machines.
The only gambling available in Alaska casinos consists of bingo and pull tab machines. None of the casinos in Alaska offer blackjack.
You won't find any casinos or blackjack in Hawaii at all. It's a cultural thing. They just don't go in for gambling in Hawaii.
Most of the gambling in Kentucky is focused on horseracing. Casino directories list 8 casinos in the state, but they don't really offer what most of us would consider casino games (including blackjack.)
Gambling in Nebraska is largely restricted to horse betting and electronic slot machines. Most Nebraska residents who want to play blackjack travel to the casinos in Iowa.
Another state without blackjack, New Hampshire limits their residents' gambling activities (at least within the state) to horse betting.
Gamblers in Tennessee are forced to visit neighboring states to get into action. The state has no casinos and no blackjack games.
You're lucky to be able to find a cup of coffee in Utah, much less a casino where you can play blackjack. We think they have a bingo hall there if you're into that sort of thing.
It's a beautiful state, but they have little or no interest in allowing casinos or gambling there. You'll find no blackjack in Vermont unless you play at someone's kitchen table.
You've heard the expression, "Virginia is for lovers."? It's not "Virginia is for blackjack players." You'll find no casinos or blackjack in the entire state.