Blackjack FAQ (Is Card Counting Legal and More)

With all the glamorized blackjack scenes depicted in movies, it can be challenging to know what’s fact and what’s fiction. Eleven questions, in particular, are asked time and time again by casino players curious about the game of 21 and eager for blackjack tips. Join us as we work to demystify this table game one question at a time, so you can decide if blackjack is right for you.

Counting Cards Legal? Blackjack Beatable? Read our Blackjack FAQ

Blackjack FAQ  

1. Is Counting Cards legal?


Although many casinos would like to have you believing card counting is illegal, in reality, it’s not. Card counting involves using your mind to gain an advantage, and although casinos don’t like it, they’re not going to rough you up in the alleyway if you do it. It’s only illegal if you use a device or the aid of another person. The most a casino can do to deter card counters is tell them to leave, at which point, you should comply and go play blackjack online at Ignition.

2. Do You Need a Good Memory for Card Counting?


Card counters do not memorize the cards played. This technique doesn’t require memorization skills at all – it simply involves adding and subtracting small numbers. Card counting for beginners divides the deck into three sections, and cards from each section are assigned tags. For example, cards 2-6 have +1 tags. Cards 7-9 have 0 tags. Cards in the 10-value/Ace group have –1 tags. As the counter sees cards face up on the table, the counter adds and subtracts the tag for each card, creating a running count. The counter is able to use the running count to determine if the shoe is rich with high-value cards (10’s, Aces), medium value cards (7-9) or low-value cards (2-6) and bet accordingly.

3. Is Blackjack Beatable?


Ever since Edward Thorp, an American math professor, published the book Beat the Dealer in 1962, players have been systematically winning money playing blackjack in casinos all over the world. Combining optimal blackjack strategy with card counting gives players a slight edge through increased bet sizes when the deck is hot vs. decreased bet sizes when the deck is full of undesirable cards. Casinos responded by switching from Single Deck Blackjack to Multi-Deck versions and using continuous shuffling machines. The newest move to deter advantage players is a decrease in the payouts for landing a Blackjack. The payouts used to be 3-to-2, and many casinos have changed them to 6-to-5.

4. Are single-deck Games Better than Multi-deck Games?


When all else is equal, fewer decks mean lower house edge. Multi-Deck games were created to thwart card counters in the ‘60s because counters have better accuracy when counting in Single Deck Blackjack games. For example, if you see two Aces on the felt in a round of Single Deck Blackjack, that means there are only two Aces remaining in the shoe. When playing with six decks, there are 22 Aces remaining, which is less impactful. 

Because of the advantages offered in Single Deck Blackjack games, many have lower betting maximums. In our casino, you can bet up to $500 a round playing our standard blackjack and up to $300 a round playing our Single Deck Blackjack.

5. What is the Worst Play in Blackjack?


This is a tough question, but seeing someone stand on a hand of two Eights always makes us cringe. Even if you’re not bothering with basic blackjack strategy, a score of 16 is weak – it’s often too risky to hit, but is also not high enough to be competitive. Splitting Eights gives you a chance to turn a 16-point hand into two 18-point hands, which vastly improve your chance of winning. The 16-point hand stirred up enough dread among players that Zappit Blackjack was invented to “Zap” away hands of 16 – as well as 15 and 17. 

Another bad play is taking Insurance when the Dealer shows an Ace. Two-thirds of the time the Dealer won’t have Blackjack, which doesn’t line up with the 2-to-1 payout awarded through Insurance. When asked if you want Insurance in a live casino, just politely say no. An exception to the Insurance rule is when the player is counting cards and has determined that the shoe has a lot of 10-value cards remaining.

6. What are the House Odds in Blackjack?


There’s no set house edge in blackjack. The house edge depends on a number of variables, like the number of decks in the game, whether or not the Dealer hits on soft 17, the player’s ability to double in different scenarios, the number of hands that can be split, including re-splitting of Aces, and restrictions on what you can do with the split Aces. The possibility of surrender and the blackjack bonus payout also affect the game’s house edge. 

Liberal Vegas Strip rules have the Dealer standing on soft 17, a late surrender option, the ability to double on any two cards (even after splitting), and you can re-split Aces. With these rules, the house edge is 0.28% with optimal strategy.

When using basic strategy while playing our Single Deck Blackjack, the house edge is approximately 0.076%. The house edge for our Classic Blackjack on basic strategy is approximately 0.53%, and the edge for our Double Deck version using basic strategy is roughly 0.23%.

7. Which Casino Games Have the Best Odds for the Player?


For the best casino odds, stick to the Table Games and Video Poker sections of a casino. Craps, blackjack, baccarat, and Jacks or Better (must be full pay) all offer a house edge of under 2% when played correctly. A full pay Jacks or Better is the version that pays 800 for a royal flush, 50 for a straight flush, 25 for a four of a kind, 9 for a full house, 6 for a flush, 4 for a straight, 3 for a three of a kind, 2 for two pair, and 1 for a pair (must be Jacks or higher).

8. How can I increase my odds of winning in Blackjack?


You can increase your chance of winning by picking one game and getting really good at it. For certain games, such as blackjack, there are many levels of strategy. You typically start with basic strategy and move your way up to optimal strategy. This requires patience because you want to do a fair amount of practicing on Practice Play mode before playing for real money, and for that reason, you want to make sure you pick a game that interests you.

9. Are the Rules for Online Blackjack the Same for Live Blackjack in a Casino?


There isn’t one set of rules for online blackjack and one set of rules for live blackjack. Blackjack rules vary casino to casino, and game to game, but it’s not dependent on live or online play. For example, some games have the Dealer hitting on soft 17, while others have the Dealer standing on soft 17 – this is the case with both online blackjack and live blackjack. Even within our online casino, we offer several versions of blackjack, and there are slight rule variations between them, ensuring there’s a game that suits everyone’s preferences.

10. Do other players’ Actions Affect You?


Sitting down at a packed blackjack table will decrease the number of hands you get to play per hour, but it won’t affect your success at the table. When you play blackjack online, you dictate the speed of the game.

11. What is the No. 1 Tip You’d Give a Beginner Blackjack Player?


Don’t play 6-to-5 blackjack; that's our top blackjack tip. Find games that offer 3-to-2 payouts for landing a Blackjack hand (a perfect score of 21). In 3-to-2 blackjack, you get paid $7.50 on a $5 bet, whereas with 6-to-5 blackjack you get paid $6 on a $5 bet, which increases the house edge by 1.39%.