Playing Blackjack in the United States
The United States is a hotbed of activity for blackjack players with casinos in many states and the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas.
For a country with thousands of blackjack tables, the online landscape is murky at best. A few states have legalized online casinos and a few specifically outlaw online gambling, but most states don’t have any specific laws covering online play.
What does this mean for blackjack players?
If you want to play live legal blackjack in the US all you have to do is travel to the closest casino. Depending on where you live this could be a few minutes or a few hours away. You can jump on a plane and be in Las Vegas in a few hours even if your state doesn’t have any blackjack tables.
Playing live blackjack in the United States really boils down to finding tables offering the stakes you want to play and the rules you’re interested in. If you don’t worry too much about finding a certain set of table rules you only need to find suitable table limits.
If you play from $25 to $200 a hand you should be able to walk into almost any casino in the country and be able to start playing right away.
Surprisingly, if you want to play for less or more per hand you may have to look a little harder to find games. I say surprisingly because it’s usually a case of too high or too low, not both, but depending on where you play you might not have many options.
To find higher stakes games you usually have to play in bigger casinos. In Las Vegas you won’t have any problem finding blackjack games where you can wager thousands per hand, but in smaller casinos elsewhere you might not be able to use anything larger than black chips ($100).
On the other end, low stakes games are usually tied directly to how busy the tables are. $5 tables used to be easily found, but many casinos have raised the minimum table limits to do away with these tables.
In many casinos if they aren’t busy you can ask for the table limits to be lowered. Many of them will say no, but some pit bosses will let you play for lower stakes until they get busy to keep a table open. $5 is the lowest I’ve seen offered, so I wouldn’t ask for anything less than that.
The biggest problem with playing the lowest limit tables is the rules. Most low limit tables have the worst rules for the players, creating a larger house edge for the casino. Some casinos are even converting their low limit tables to only pay 6 to 5 on blackjack instead or the traditional 3 to 2.
Only you can decide how much edge you’re willing to give the casino to play blackjack, but I’d never play on a 6 to 5 table. The housed edge is so big that you’ll run through your bankroll much faster and almost never have a winning session. You’ll be better off either playing a slightly higher limit with better rules or not playing at all.
Here’s a simple example. Playing $5 a hand at a table with a 2% house edge at 50 hands per hour makes your expected loss per hour $5. Playing the same 50 hands per hour at $20 a hand with a half percent house edge has the exact same expected loss of $5 per hour.
Most casinos have multiple blackjack tables and many offer different rules at different tables. Take a few minutes to look at the blackjack tables before sitting down to play.
Online blackjack players who live in the United States have a wide selection of playing limits and table rules, but need to wade through the legal ramifications of playing.
Depending on which online casinos you use, you shouldn’t have too much trouble placing bets as low as $1 per hand. $5 per hand is offered just about everywhere.
Medium limit games are also widely available. At the upper limits you may have to look around more to find an online casino willing to take your action. However, just like in live play, if you want to play you can find someone to take the action.
The real issue in the US is getting your money into and out of the online casinos. While the government in the states hasn’t made most online gambling illegal, they try to restrict the flow of money. You can find laws that make it illegal for the banking industry to fund gambling transactions, so your deposit and withdrawal options may be limited.
Most online gaming businesses have ways to get money in an out so all you have to do is contact the support department to find out how.
Most US citizens have been able to play blackjack online without too much trouble for years. The media likes to spout off about it being illegal, but that’s only true in a few areas. Even people who live in these areas can play online, they just have fewer choices.
In the states that have legalized online blackjack play your choices are also limited, but you can get money in and out much easier.
People living everywhere else have plenty of options if they’re comfortable playing. I’ve never seen anything about an online blackjack player getting arrested or charged with a crime from their play, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future.
I just want to make it clear that I’m not a lawyer and I don’t offer legal advice. Nothing on this page can be used as legal advice. You need to seek the advice of a local attorney to answer any legal questions you have.
Hundreds of thousands of US citizens play blackjack in local casinos and online every year. While it would be nice if the online laws were less confusing, players still have a wide range of options when they want to play.