Is Online Blackjack Rigged?
The question “is online blackjack rigged” is a loaded one. It doesn’t mean exactly what you might think it means. In this post, I look at whether blackjack is rigged or not, and what most people mean versus what really matters.
Online blackjack is (for the most part) NOT rigged, by the way – at least not in the way most people mean. People who are asking if online casinos are cheating at blackjack generally mean that the casino is stacking the deck and adjusting the probability in the casino’s favor.
That’s NOT what’s happening. When you play online blackjack, you face the same probabilities as you would in a land-based casino.
What’s more, online casinos have little incentive to cheat at blackjack. After all, blackjack – like all casino games – has a mathematical edge in favor of the house based on the payout odds versus the odds of winning.
Why the Casino Doesn’t Have to Rig Their Online Blackjack Games
Here’s an example of what the average person thinks online casinos are doing when they say they’re rigging their games:
The player goes on a winning streak. So, to make sure that the player doesn’t get away with the money, the casino starts dealing the player losing hands.
That’s how most people think the casino is rigging their blackjack game – by outright manipulating the hands the players are getting.
But that doesn’t make sense, and here’s why:
The casino has no idea how and when the player is going to quit. They have no idea of how long to let a winning or losing streak continue before “flipping the switch,” so to speak.
The only way they could cheat would be to eliminate the possibility of you ever winning a hand.
And how many hands of blackjack would you play if every hand was a loser?
How the Casino Actually Gets Its Edge in Blackjack
If you and the dealer faced identical game conditions, blackjack would be a break-even game. After all, you both are using the same deck of cards. You both have the same probability of being dealt a natural.
In fact, since you get a 3/2 payout for a natural, you’d think you would have an edge over the casino.
And, you also get to decide what to do with your cards. The dealer doesn’t. The casino has to follow the game rules of hitting on a 16 and standing on a 17, regardless of what cards you have.
But, as we both know, the casino DOES have an edge over the player?
Where does the casino get this edge?
As with most casino games, it’s a simple condition of the rules that creates the house edge:
You must play your hand first – before the dealer plays her hand.
And, if you bust, the casino wins – even if the dealer busts later in the hand.
If blackjack was a fair game, you’d push if the dealer and you both busted.
That single fact – the requirement that you risk busting before the dealer plays her hand – makes up for the 3/2 payout and for the increased flexibility that you have playing your hand.
Even if you make the mathematically optimal decision in EVERY situation at the blackjack table, the house has a mathematical edge of between 0.25% and 1% — depending on the other game rules in place.
And this house edge chips away at your bankroll over time as surely as the annual interest rate on a loan. If you play long enough, the casino will win all your money.
So, in a sense, blackjack is rigged regardless of whether you play online or in a brick-and-mortar casino.
But that’s not what you meant, is it?
Doesn’t the Casino Have to Rig the Game to Counteract Card Counting Online?
Most people know that blackjack players who know how to count cards can flip the mathematical advantage to their favor. All they must do is track the ratio of high cards to low cards in the deck. When there are a lot of high cards, the odds are in the player’s favor. The counter raises the size of his bets to take advantage of the increased probability of a 3/2 payout.
Brick-and-mortar casinos go to great lengths to prevent card counters from getting away with all their money. Most of their attempts to thwart card counters involve shuffling the deck more often.
But if they’re aggressively anti-card-counter, they’ll ban you from their blackjack tables. They might even ban you from the casino altogether.
Online casinos don’t have to worry about this for one simple reason:
They shuffle the deck after every hand.
This eliminates any inequity in the ratio of high to low cards after every hand. You don’t know what the ratio of high cards to low cards is when you bet, so you can’t get an edge. (Check our our article about differences between live vs internet blackjack).
Are Other Casino Games Rigged?
Not only is online blackjack not rigged – at least, not in the colloquial sense of the word – other online casino games aren’t rigged, either.
All casino games have payouts that aren’t commensurate with the odds of winning.
Roulette is another example:
You can bet on red, for example, and you’d think you’d have a 50/50 probability of winning – making roulette a break-even game in the long run.
But a roulette wheel has 38 numbers on it. 18 of them are red, 18 of them are black, and 2 of them are green.
You lose a bet on red if the ball lands on any blackjack OR green number.
Those 2 green numbers are where the casino gets its edge in roulette, and that edge applies to every bet on the wheel, including the single number bets that pay off 35 to 1.
I point this out to demonstrate why the casino doesn’t need to rig their games. The math behind the game is how the game is rigged.
Are There Any Exceptions? Is Every Online Blackjack Game Fair?
Years ago, I read an account of a video poker game run by a rogue casino operator where the player literally played 100s of hands without seeing a single payout. The probability of that happening in a fair game is almost nil.
The casino isn’t in business any longer, and it’s hard to not wonder what they were thinking. After all, it’s impossible to make money if you have no customers.
And in this case, they weren’t even trying to pretend that they were offering a fair game.
So, yes, there are exceptions, but they’re the exceptions that prove the rule.
Is online blackjack rigged?
ALMOST certainly not.
All you need to do is avoid any strange, unknown brands and stick to reputable and high payout online casinos.
By Randy Ray