Blackjack is a game that has been played in live casinos every since there was such a thing. It remains one of the most popular table games that is offered in casinos from Las Vegas to Atlantic City to the riverboats of Louisiana. In recent years we have also seen the rise of online blackjack for real money. The United States is getting in on the action, with more states legalizing online blackjack. At the forefront of this movement is Pennsylvania (as we mentioned in the past). It could soon be that Pennsylvania will change the way individuals in the US play blackjack.
Online Blackjack Coming Soon to Pennsylvania
In just a few months the very first online casino licenses will be awarded to gaming companies that will provide online casinos, online blackjack, and online poker to the state’s residents. Those who live in those states could see venues appear as soon as January 1, 2019. The state will join other states like Nevada and New Jersey which have previously made it legal to gamble online.
What the gaming companies in these jurisdictions are hoping is that having access to online blackjack will change the way that people play the game. They are banking on things like convenience to be a big factor. It is much easier for someone to sit at home in their favorite chair and play a game of blackjack on the computer, a phone, or a tablet than it is to travel to a casino for live gaming action. There is less expense, and players don’t have to deal with other players at the table.
One reason that blackjack is sure to be popular in Pennsylvania is that the game remains one of the best options for casino players. The house edge in blackjack is very small. By using basic strategy a player can expect a 99.6 percent return. That means that the casino will theoretically earn about $0.40 for every 100 hand played. In online blackjack there is the possibility to deal far more hands each hour than can be dealt at a live table. This means that the online casinos stand to make a greater amount of profit than their live counterparts, and they are going to need it. The cost of an online casino license in the state is very high, and slot machine revenues are taxed at a whopping 54%. Obviously, the online casino wants you to play blackjack instead of the other table games that are available.
But, the problem that online casino operators in the state will face is how to convince players that playing blackjack online is a better choice than playing in the live casino. That may prove difficult to do because the live casino games in Pennsylvania offers some player-friendly rules that work to the player’s overall advantage.
The Live Pennsylvania Casinos Fight Back
Live casinos in Pennsylvania know that they have a fight on their hands. Many of them are already taking measures to prevent what they believe could be a mass exodus to an online gaming venue. They are creating new promotions, new variations of blackjack, and more wagering opportunities in the form of blackjack side bets that can pay upwards of $250,000.
It’s the blackjack rules, however, that may keep players at the live tables. According to a blackjack article at Play Pennsylvania, the rules for gambling at blackjack in a live casino and the rules for gaming at an online venue may not be the same. Online gaming operators will have an opportunity to set their own blackjack rules. They will need to have the rules reviewed and approved by the Pennsylvania gaming commission.
In Pennsylvania live casinos it is allowed for players to make a late surrender of their cards. This raises the player’s advantage significantly. Blackjacks also pay 3/2, just as they do at most live casinos. The thing here is that the online casinos are not specifically bound by the rules which apply to live casinos. In other words, the online gaming venue might not choose to offer surrender, and they might choose to only pay even money on a blackjack for some variations of the game.
They would need to request the rule changes from the gaming commission before they could make them a part of their games, but the commission is almost sure to agree as long as the online blackjack games remain provably fair to all players.
What This Means for Blackjack Players in Pennsylvania
This distinction between the rules for online and offline casinos might not seem like that big of a deal to most players. On closer inspection, how the rules of the game are administered by the online casinos could change the way you play the game if you live in the state. It is obviously to your advantage to seek out a venue where you have the best chance of winning money. That could mean playing online or it could mean making the trip to a live casino.
What you have to weigh out is not just how the rule changes affect the profitability of the game. You also have to consider how the advantages of being able to play online blackjack at home might outclass the disadvantages we mentioned of traveling to a live casino. Giving up surrender might not be that big of a deal when you factor in that you will not have to spend money to get to the casino and can play in your living room. The same can be said for getting paid even money, which the online casino believes that you will willingly give up if you have the chance to win a large jackpot. Hence, the arrival of blackjack progressives online in Pennsylvania.
Playing Online Blackjack for a Life Changing Jackpot
It is certain that if the online casinos in Pennsylvania decide to offer even money on their blackjack games, they will offset this by providing interesting side bets. One of the most popular side bets in online blackjack right now is the progressive jackpot. This variation involves the player making a separate side wager to qualify for a large bonus payout. It is also being offered in some live casinos, and one player in Canada recently claimed $250,000.
The way that most of the progressive jackpots work in online blackjack is that you will win the jackpot when your two cards and the dealer’s upcard combine to make a specific combination. In the example we mentioned from Canada, the player and dealer combined to have an A, K, and Q of diamonds. This was the hand that paid out the jackpot prize.
When players make a wager on the side bet and do not win, a portion of the side bet is added to the progressive jackpot. The jackpot continues to grow until someone takes home the big prize. Playing the side bet can be expensive. In some games it will cost $5 per hand or more just to make the side wager.
Is playing the side bet for a huge jackpot a good trade off if you do not have the option to surrender your hand or get paid 3/2 on a blackjack. At Counting Edge our opinion is no. The fact remains that these large progressive jackpots are very difficult to win. Over time you are going to lose far more money on them that the risk merits. You are better off sticking to regular online blackjack and accepting the rule variations in the game. Besides, you will still probably be paid 3/2 on a blackjack when you play a version of the game that does not have a side bet.