If you are curious about options for blackjack in Ohio, you’ve come to the right place. Blackjack is the most popular table game in the United States, and any casinos with table games are going to have blackjack options available. That is certainly true in Ohio ever since legal casinos opened in the state in 2012.
At present, blackjack is available at all four land-based casinos in Ohio. The state’s racinos (gambling venues plus racetracks) cannot legally offer table games, so you won’t find blackjack at any of those. However, there are other blackjack options available to Ohioans through online social and sweepstakes casinos in the state.
Here’s an overview of where and how you can play blackjack in Ohio with further tips about blackjack basics, different variants, the math of blackjack and everything else you need to know about playing blackjack in the Buckeye State.
Is blackjack legal in Ohio?
Yes. All four of Ohio’s land-based casinos offer options for playing blackjack. Casino gambling became legal in the state in 2009 after Ohio voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that allowed each of the four largest cities in Ohio (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo) to place a single casino inside its city limits.
The first casino opened its doors in 2012 as the Horseshoe Cleveland (now JACK Casino Cleveland) with blackjack among the available games. Within a year, the other three casinos opened as well, all also offering legal blackjack.
Can I play blackjack online in Ohio?
No. The law that allowed in-person casinos in Ohio did not legalize online real money casino games. Any information to the contrary is not correct. Online sites that purportedly offer “legal” blackjack to Ohioans are in fact not authorized by state law. These sites also come with a slew of additional problems and risks, not least of which is that they don’t have the same consumer protections as you would with a legal entity in Ohio.
If you wish to play blackjack, the best options are to visit one of Ohio’s casinos in person or to try one of the social and sweepstakes casinos that are legally available.
Social and sweepstakes casinos like Pulsz and Chumba Casino are the best online options for Ohioans to play casino-style games like blackjack. Pulsz has one blackjack title in its library, and Chumba has two standard blackjack games with different looks plus a third option called Back Blackjack.
The sites offer the option to play these games without spending any of your own money, and in some cases, you can redeem your winnings for cash prizes. If you’ve never played blackjack before, these sites can be an excellent place to try out the game.
The basics of blackjack
If you are no stranger to blackjack, this section is likely one you can overlook. However, if it has been a while or you’re new to the game, then it may be a good idea to brush up on the basics.
How to play blackjack
First of all, the goal of any hand of blackjack is for the value of your combination of cards to be higher than the value of the dealer’s cards. The trick, however, is that neither of you can exceed 21. If either you or the dealer has cards that total more than 21, the hand busts and is a loss.
Card values are mostly straightforward. The cards numbered 2 through 9 are worth their printed value. Face cards are each worth 10. Aces are worth either 1 or 11, depending on which is more advantageous.
The game’s namesake hand — blackjack — is any combination of an ace and a face card or 10. A blackjack is an automatic win for the player or dealer in most scenarios, with the worst that can happen being a tie or “push.” On most tables, winning hands pay out at 1-to-1 odds (i.e., “even money”), while winning with blackjack often pays out more at 3-to-2. Some casinos only pay out 6-to-5 for blackjack, so check what the rules are before you start playing.
In a typical hand, you make a wager and receive two face-up cards. Then, the dealer receives one face-down card and one face-up card. If the dealer’s upcard is either a 10 or a face card, the dealer will check to see if the hand is a blackjack. In that case, unless you also have a blackjack, you immediately lose.
If the dealer’s upcard is an ace, however, the dealer will offer you the option of an insurance bet. An insurance wager is equal to half the value of your initial wager. If you make an insurance wager and the dealer does, in fact, have a 10 or face card as the other card, then the insurance bet pays out at 2-to-1 and allows you to break even on the hand. If you have a blackjack yourself, the dealer will offer to pay you at 1-to-1 instead of the typical 3-to-2 payout.
Most of the time, you must act first. You may either request another card (“hit”) or declare that you have drawn all the cards you want (“stand”). As long as your hand never exceeds 21, you are still eligible to win. You may also double down, in which case you receive just one additional card and place a second equivalent bet next to your initial wager.
If your initial two cards are of the same value, you may elect to split them. You will have to make an additional equivalent wager, but you will essentially be playing two hands at once. Both hands are capable of winning or losing against the dealer.
After you have completed your actions, the dealer will act. However, unlike you, the dealer has to follow guidelines that dictate whether to hit or stand. Generally speaking, the dealer will stand with a hand of 17 or greater but will hit if the hand totals 16 or less. Sometimes, dealers will hit with a “soft 17,” which is a hand worth 17 that contains an ace currently counting as 11 (though capable of later counting as just 1). Again, check the rules for the particular game you’re playing.
If the dealer busts (goes over 21), your hand wins, regardless of its value. Otherwise, if both hands remain live, the higher-value combination of cards is the winner. If you doubled down during the hand, the extra wager also receives a payout at 1-to-1.
Blackjack rule quirks
Not every casino follows the same exact rules for blackjack. Although the basic tenets of the game remain the same, the exact options that you and/or the dealer have available may vary. In fact, the rules can even change from one table to another in the same casino and can be a selling point for you to play at a particular table versus the adjacent one.
It’s a good idea to know how your chosen table is applying the rules before you begin to play. Here are some of the rule quirks you may encounter at Ohio casinos, along with strategy advice related to each:
- Dealer hits/stands on a soft 17: It is better for you if the dealer stands on soft 17s because 17 is a relatively low-value hand and a hit (or more) often allows the dealer to improve the hand.
- Players may double down on any two-card combination or only on certain combinations: It is better if you can double down on any two cards, as doubling down is the biggest weapon players have.
- Players may split multiple times or only split once: It is better for you if players can split more often, as the increased flexibility gives more chances to win.
- Players may or may not double down after a split: Obviously, it’s better if you can double down after splitting.
- Surrender: Surrender permits you to accept a loss of half your wager if you don’t want to hit, such as if you have 14, 15 or 16 showing. It is better if you are able to surrender and avoid busting and losing the entire wager.
- Blackjacks pay out at either 3-to-2 or 6-to-5: Obviously, it is better for you if the table pays blackjacks at 3-to-2.
- Sit down any time or no mid-shoe entry: This rule is aimed at card counters, but regardless, it is better if you can sit down and play at any time during the shoe.
Blackjack variants and side bets in Ohio
You will find the blackjack game we described above at all four of Ohio’s casinos. If you want to stick to a meat-and-potatoes classic version, you are more than welcome to do so, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that decision. However, depending on where you play, you might encounter some additional variants or side bets that can spice things up.
For the most part, these options are going to present higher-risk/higher-reward propositions than you typically encounter in traditional blackjack. For that reason, we don’t recommend them to anyone looking to keep their risk profile as low as possible. However, if you want to add some excitement to the rather staid proceedings of a typical blackjack game or simply want to gamble a bit, then here are some of the variants that may be available, depending on the casino:
- Back Blackjack: Features an extra side on either you or the dealer getting blackjack (available at Chumba Casino).
- Bet the Set: Includes a side bet on whether your first two cards will be a pair.
- Blazing 7s Progressive: Has a side bet with varying payouts on whether your two cards plus the dealer’s upcard are all sevens.
- Buster Blackjack: Allows a side bet on whether the dealer will bust.
- EZ Bust: Another variant with a side bet on various ways a dealer might bust.
- Free Bet: A variant in which the table pushes if the dealer ends up with 22 (i.e., the dealer does not bust with 22, but only 23 or higher). The game also allows extra ways to double down and split. Additionally, it includes a special side bet, called Push 22, on whether the dealer will get exactly 22.
- In Bet: Offers a side bet on whether the dealer’s upcard falls between your two cards.
- King’s Bounty: Has a side bet on whether your first two cards total 20. Features higher payouts if your cards are paired, paired kings or two kings of spades.
- Royal Match: Features a side bet on whether your first two cards are suited, with a higher payout if they are a suited king and queen.
- TriLux Bonus: A blackjack game involving poker rules that offers side bets on whether your two cards and the dealer’s upcard form a flush, straight, three of a kind or straight flush.
- Zappit Blackjack: A variant allowing the player to switch out the first two cards if they add up to between 15 and 18. Switching makes blackjack pay out at even money rather than 3-to-2. Like Free Bet blackjack, the game also involves pushing if the dealer gets 22.
The math of Ohio blackjack games
Like most casino games, blackjack is statistically guaranteed to be in the casino’s favor. This guarantee, commonly known as the house advantage or house edge, means that in the long run, the casino (house) will come out on top. That said, a long-term disadvantage does not always translate into losses in the short term. The streaks of variance or luck that players can experience are the reason why casino games like blackjack continue to be popular.
Standard house advantages
The first element of a blackjack game’s baseline house advantage depends upon the number of decks in play at the table. The more decks in play, the more advantage you are surrendering to the house.
The optimal situation in terms of your statistical advantage is a single-deck game. If you play a single-deck game with perfect basic strategy, your disadvantage to the house is 0.19%. On average, every $100 you wager will lose you 19 cents.
Because of this low margin, single-deck games are usually difficult to find and often come with higher table minimums as a sort of privilege for higher rollers. With every additional deck, the house edge escalates as follows:
- One deck: 0.19%
- Two decks: 0.47%
- Four decks: 0.60%
- Six decks: 0.64%
- Eight decks: 0.66%
There are also diminishing returns for the casino in terms of adding decks to the mix. It would be rare to see a table spreading more than eight decks, as the added value is too small to justify the additional time necessary to shuffle and manage the deck.
Card counting in blackjack
Card counting is a strategy that some blackjack players have famously used to win millions of dollars from casinos around the world. There have even been best-selling books and at least one movie about the exploits of card-counting teams.
Card counting involves assigning values and keeping a running tally of the cards. Generally, the dealing of lower-valued cards is a positive event for the player because it increases the likelihood of a face card or high card in subsequent hands. The card counter therefore attempts to predict when big hands (e.g., 20s and 21s) might be more likely than usual. In those situations, card counters increase their wagers, sometimes dramatically, to try to take advantage.
Card counting is not technically illegal in Ohio, although it could result in the loss of both your playing privileges at the casino and the chips that you had in play at the time. The casino may well ban you permanently. Furthermore, it might share your information with other Ohio casinos, which could enact similar bans.
If you are playing blackjack for fun, it’s much safer to accept the slight house edge of the normal game.
Ohio blackjack and the law
Blackjack became a legal activity in Ohio in 2009. Voters approved Amendment 3, the Ohio Casino Approval and Tax Distribution Amendment, as a change to the state constitution by a vote of (roughly) 53% in favor. The amendment allowed for the placement of a single casino in each of Ohio’s four largest cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.
Interestingly, the law does not specify exactly which games are legitimate for the casinos to offer under the statute. Instead, casino games that Ohio law allows are any games that are also legal in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia. As blackjack is legal in all four of those states, it is legal in Ohio casinos.
The first chance for Ohioans to play a legal game of blackjack in the state occurred in May 2012. The then-Horseshoe Casino Cleveland (now JACK Casino Cleveland) opened for business as the first of the four locations. The other three properties soon followed, with the Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati debuting last in March 2013.
Since then, people in the four biggest urban areas in Ohio have had legal access to blackjack.
Where to play blackjack in Ohio
Those four land-based casino locations in the state represent the best places to play blackjack in Ohio:
- Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati
- Hollywood Casino Columbus
- Hollywood Casino Toledo
- JACK Casino Cleveland
Although the state is home to several more racetrack-casino properties (“racinos”), these businesses remain ineligible to offer table games of any kind. The only other options that you have for legal blackjack in Ohio are through social and sweepstakes sites like Pulsz and Chumba Casino.
The exact mixture of blackjack table options at each location is subject to change. Therefore, if you have a particular variant in mind that you want to play, it might be a good idea to call ahead to the casino to make sure it offers the game you want to play.
Otherwise, play within your means, and make sure to have fun.