Blackjack is the second most popular game at both online casinos and brick-and-mortar casinos after slots. So it makes sense that so many players are wondering if they’re better off playing live dealer blackjack or digital blackjack – especially when Michigan just joined New Jersey and Pennsylvania to offer live dealer games.
What Is Live Dealer Blackjack?
Live dealer blackjack features a real-life dealer at a physical table available to online casino players via live-stream. You’re dealt physical cards for a six- to eight-deck shoe, just like you’re in a brick-and-mortar casino. However, you bet using digital chips, and you click to hit, stand, double down, or split. A chat feature allows players to interact with others at the table as well as the dealer.
What Is Online Blackjack?
Online blackjack utilizes random number generators (RNG) to mimic real-life blackjack to a T. The only real difference is that all decks in a shoe are shuffled between each hand, which makes it more difficult to go on a “hot streak” compared to strategic play at a live dealer table.
Now that we’ve gone over the differences between the two, here’s how live dealer blackjack stacks up against digital blackjack in terms of the following factors:
- Best Odds
- Most Budget-Friendly
- Best For Long-Term Play
- Biggest Variety
- Most Immersive Experience
Accessibility: Online Blackjack
Online blackjack is the most accessible version of online blackjack for a few reasons:
- You set your own place, with no time limit between moves or hands.
- You always have an available seat no matter what time of day.
- It’s available at all US online casinos, including in West Virginia and, soon, Connecticut.
Live dealer blackjack has a limited number of seats (except for Infinite Blackjack, where all players receive the same pair of cards, then play independently). It also sometimes has limited hours, such as 11 AM to 4 AM daily.
Online blackjack is always available, and it’s just you and the house, so you always have access to a table.
If you’re new to blackjack, your best bet is to play the digital version in demo practice mode while using a basic strategy card to determine the best next move. This will give you a feel for the game before risking any money on digital or live dealer blackjack.
Demo practice mode is not available for live dealer blackjack.
Best Odds: Live Dealer Blackjack
The average return to player (RTP) of live dealer blackjack and digital blackjack are often the same or extremely similar. However, live dealer blackjack is dealt from a six- or eight-deck shoe that’s shuffled periodically rather than between each hand.
That means it’s technically possible to count cards when you’re playing live dealer blackjack, but that’s not recommended. If you increase your bets when there are more tens in the deck or decrease your bets when there are fewer tens in the deck, you could be banned from the online casino, just like at a brick-and-mortar casino.
Still, it’s undeniable that the odds of playing live dealer blackjack when the shoe has a lot of tens is better than playing digital blackjack, where the shoe always has the same cards each deal. On the other hand, digital blackjack is better if the live dealer’s shoe is dishing out low-value cards.
But given that knowledge, you can switch between the two versions when it suits you, meaning the very availability of live dealer blackjack equals better odds.
Most Budget-Friendly: Digital Blackjack
You can find digital blackjack that accepts bets as low as $0.10. That’s ten cents per hand, which is outrageously budget-friendly. For example, Zappit Blackjack and Blazing 7s at Golden Nugget as well as BetMGM offer $0.10 blackjack. But the rules aren’t especially player friendly to make up for the special features.
But even $1 blackjack is nearly impossible to find at any brick-and-mortar casinos in the US, and most types of digital blackjack have a $1 table minimum.
Meanwhile, the table minimums at live dealer tables range can be as high as $30, $50, and even $100. It’s difficult to find an option under $20 due to the superior odds.
The better the odds, the higher the table minimum. That’s the reality of playing blackjack.
Best For Long-Term Play: Tie
Because you’re waiting on other players and a real-life dealer, you’re usually playing at a slower pace when with live dealer blackjack. You have a time limit on how long you can take to decide on your move, typically ten seconds, but the other factors make it a generally slower-paced game.
However, the best betting strategy is Responsible Gaming, which includes setting a budget and sticking to it. The higher the table minimum, the faster you’ll burn through your budget, which means digital blackjack is probably better for long-term play for most players.
Biggest Variety: Digital Blackjack
One of the best parts of playing table games at an online casino is having access to games that brick-and-mortar casinos couldn’t offer. For example, Zappit Blackjack allows you to “zap” a card and replace it with a different one. At DraftKings Casino, you can play Blackjack Xchange, where you can pay to replace bad cards or have the house pay you to replace strong cards. While the rules beyond the features aren’t usually in the player’s favor, these alternative blackjack setups offer some nice variety for those looking to spice things up.
Most Immersive Experience: Live Dealer Blackjack
Live dealer blackjack is the closest thing to entering a real-life casino floor without leaving home. No digital casino game could ever compete with the immersiveness of a live dealer stream, and the only way it could get better is with VR. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if VR live dealer blackjack is around the corner. In fact, it is currently available at some European online casinos, so it’s only a matter of time.
Of course, the bigger the screen, the more immersive the live blackjack experience. Playing on your mobile device is still fantastic. But on a large desktop monitor, it’s as close to a casino floor as it gets – until we get the VR option.