When the cards go against you hand after hand, it is natural to wonder whether online blackjack is rigged. The answer is no, online blackjack is not rigged, although it may seem like it sometimes.
While it seems that casinos have a financial incentive to cheat, reputable companies such as Caesars and DraftKings have a far bigger incentive to play fair. Technical challenges aside, their games are audited. Gambling licenses and reputations depend on game fairness.
Blackjack has a built-in house edge that will make casinos money over time. Add player mistakes, expensive side bets, and blackjack variations with bigger edges for the house, and real money online casinos have a cash cow too valuable to risk.
This page explains why blackjack might seem rigged, then breaks down the psychological, technical, and regulatory reasons why this is unlikely to be the case.
House edge: How blackjack makes money for casinos
Even if you use perfect blackjack strategy, the casino will win in the long run.
All casino games have a built-in house edge. Compared to many other casino games, the typical house edge for blackjack is low. Depending on the specific rules, it can range from 0.5% to 4%. Side bets like perfect pairs have a larger house edge.
For example, a 2% house edge means that over millions of hands, you would lose 20 cents for every $10 you wagered.
If you make mistakes by varying your play from optimal blackjack strategy, the house edge increases dramatically. Even errors like failing to split eights will quickly boost the expected win rate for the casino.
The house edge in blackjack comes from the fact that you need to act before knowing the dealer’s hand. If you could see both dealer cards, it would be easy to choose the mathematically correct action. Without this information, there are spots where you need to take the worst of it because the dealer has a high probability of making a strong hand.
A lucky streak can see you beat the house edge for an extended period. The more hands you play, however, the closer to this true mathematical edge you get.
Is online blackjack rigged on top of the house edge?
While a legitimate online casino rigging its blackjack games is technically possible, the weight of evidence against it is overwhelming. It’s just hard to win at blackjack in the face of the house edge.
Regulated casinos, like DraftKings online casino and BetMGM online casino, undergo audits to ensure fairness. The outcome of each shuffle depends on a random number generator, or RNG software. Third-party auditors like Gaming Laboratories International and eCOGRA run millions of hands, slot spins and dice rolls. They then certify that the outcomes are truly random.
A stronger argument against additional rigging of blackjack games is the business model of the online casinos themselves.
They make money from the house edge, and even more from blackjack side bets and mistakes that inexperienced players make. If the authorities were to catch an online casino rigging its games, that casino would lose its license. The damage to its reputation would be irreparable, effectively handing players to its rivals.
This provides an overwhelming incentive to keep games fair.
Is online blackjack rigged – reality or human psychology?
It is easy to see why players may have doubts about the fairness of online blackjack software. Hand after hand, you may see low cards when you need a 10, or the dealer may get blackjack for the third time in the last few minutes.
Our brains are wired to create stories, narratives that we base on the recent past. Over a few hundred or even a few thousand hands, variance plays a far more significant role than you’d imagine.
The natural ebb and flow of outcomes provides winning gambling sessions as well as losing ones. It is those losing sessions that stick in your mind, providing “evidence” to back your suspicions. This is a form of confirmation bias.
Studies have shown that gamblers have faulty assumptions about the probability of certain outcomes. For example, believing that five spins that hit black in roulette mean that red is bound to hit next. This is the “gambler’s fallacy.”
In online blackjack for real money, seeing high cards each time you need a low one (and vice versa) is a great example of this. Losing the last few hands makes zero difference to the probability of winning next time. Every hand is an independent event, regardless of the mental patterns we project onto the game.
Diving deeper: The technical challenges of rigging online blackjack
When you examine what a casino would need to do to rig blackjack games, the chances of this being the case go from improbable to virtually impossible.
RNG software generates the entire deck of cards each time you hit the deal button. At this point, you have yet to act. The outcome of the hand will depend on whether you (or other players in a multiplayer blackjack game) hit, split or stand. The software has no way of knowing whether a dealer will get the third card out of the deck or the eighth.
Audited RNG software has no way of knowing how much you are betting, or the outcome of previous hands. Doubling your bet as you are “due a win” after a losing streak makes zero difference to the randomness of the shuffle.
Even if it were easier than it is, there are significant reasons why regulated online casinos like BetMGM, DraftKings, and Caesars Casino online would not rig blackjack games. Risking their operating license, reputation and ability to pass third-party audits would be a crazy strategy. Online blackjack makes enough profit for them with its built-in house edge.
Gambling commissions: Policing the fairness of regulated online casinos
If the safety of your money is not a big enough reason to stick with regulated online casinos, then the policing of game fairness should be.
US casinos receive their licensing at the state level. State gambling commissions require protection for problem gamblers, security of your deposits and provable game fairness before issuing a license. Online casinos must prove that their games are fair by providing certification from auditing companies.
Auditors run millions of blackjack hands, testing the random shuffle more times than would be possible in the lifetime of an individual player. They then compare these results to the published house edge for each game.
Blackjack rules that affect the house edge
The house edge in blackjack is among the lowest of any casino game. However, variations in blackjack rules can make a huge difference to the long-term edge. These include whether the dealer hits on a soft 17, whether you can double down after a split and how many splits the game allows.
An ideal blackjack game from a player’s perspective would use the following rules:
- Dealer stands on a soft 17
- Late surrender permitted
- Double after split permitted
- Re-splitting permitted
- Blackjack pays 3:2
Depending on the number of decks in play, this game could have a house edge as low as 0.5%. Removing late surrender, blackjack paying 6:5, dealers hitting on soft 17s, and restrictions on splitting and doubling all increase the casino house edge.
A bad blackjack variation for players can have an edge of 5% or more. These house edge scores assume you are using perfect strategy. If you vary, even slightly, from this, then the house edge will skyrocket.
Side bets like Blazing 7s and Perfect Pairs also have a huge house edge. Each time you make those wagers, you are relinquishing an additional 7% to 12% of an edge to the house. You should always check the house edge for blackjack variations like Spanish 21, Blackjack Switch, 21 + 3, or Free Bet Blackjack. These games will also have a higher house edge than the basic game.
Is live dealer online blackjack legit?
If you have read the above and still can’t shake your concerns about casino software, then live dealer online blackjack is an alternative. These games feature real dealers, streamed in real-time. You bet using a software overlay and can interact with the dealers and players using text chat.
In live dealer blackjack games, the cards receive a manual shuffle and cut. As you will quickly see, the actions of players over multiple hands make rigging a deck impossible. Live dealer blackjack, baccarat, roulette, casino poker, and gameshow-inspired options are all available at leading regulated online casinos.