Microgaming blackjack is one of the best options available for Internet gamblers. Their software is fast, colorful, and pleasant to look at. Their payouts are exceptional, and they're one of the premier software providers on the Internet. It's a rare Microgaming casino that gets a lot of customer complaints.
The company has an interesting history, too. They were the first online casino software provider in the business. The Gaming Club, which was launched in 1994, is considered the first online casino site, and Microgaming was the software provider for that option. A lot has happened in the subsequent 20+ years, but Microgaming remains an industry leader.
Unfortunately, not all Internet gamblers are able to take advantage of their software. In 2008, Microgaming adopted a "no United States" players policy in response to the passage of UIGEA (the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) in the United States. This didn't seem to hurt their business, which continues to thrive.
In fact, Microgaming has a lot of differences from its competitor Realtime Gaming, which is the current leading software provider for casinos who are friendly to United States players. We cover some of these differences later on. The rest of this page takes a look at the blackjack variations available, the house edge for each, and what the best strategy for playing Microgaming blackjack is.
Microgaming has a bewildering array of blackjack games to choose from, with lots of rules variations. Most of the games offer an excellent gamble. Even their mediocre blackjack games offer a lower house edge than some competing software companies.
We're not fans of having lots of blackjack games to choose from, though. We're of the opinion that this is just a move designed to take advantage of unsophisticated gamblers. That being said, if it weren't for unsophisticated gamblers, we might not have any online casinos at which to play.
Here's a list of the blackjack games available via their software:
The best of these, using the lowest house edge as the criterion, are Vegas Single Deck Blackjack, which offers a house edge of only 0.31%. Double Exposure Blackjack is close, with a house edge of only 0.32%. 1/100th of a percent is a negligible difference, so these 2 games are effectively tied as far as we're concerned.
Below we provide an overview of the rules variations in place for each of the games and the house edge. If some of the rules variations sound like they might make the game more fun for you, feel free to give these games a whirl. But if your goal is to just get the best value for your gambling dollar, stick with the 2 games we just mentioned.
Also, please keep in mind that the house edges that we quote below are based on playing with basic strategy. If you're not going to use basic strategy, you're giving up so much of an edge that it doesn't really matter which game you play. Ignoring basic strategy results in the casino getting an additional 1% to 3% on top of their edge. Basic strategy isn't that hard to learn, especially when you consider what a difference it makes to your expected hourly loss.
Atlantic City Blackjack requires that the dealer stand on soft 17. You're allowed to double after splitting, and you're also allowed to double on any 2 cards. You're allowed to re-split up to 3 hands, but you're not allowed to re-split aces. They do allow surrender, and the game uses 8 decks. The house edge is 0.35%, which makes this an excellent option—although not the best one they offer.
In Bonus Blackjack, the dealer hits on a soft 17. You're allowed to double on any 2 cards, and you're allowed to double after splitting. You're not allowed to re-split aces. They also don't allow surrender in this variation. The house edge is 0.38%, which, while excellent, isn't the best they have to offer. Bonus Blackjack is played with only 2 decks.
Classic Blackjack is, as the name implies, as close to real casino conditions as you could hope to find in an online casino, although the rules would be considered quite generous at most land-based casinos these days. The dealer stands on soft 17, and you're not allowed to double after splitting. You're also only allowed to split on 9, 10, or 11. You can only split once (no re-splitting). They also don't offer a surrender option. The game is played with 5 decks and has a house edge of about 0.4%.
Here's how Classic Blackjack looks online.
Double Exposure Blackjack is played with both of the dealer's cards face up. The advantages of this change in the rules are obvious. The game is played with 8 decks, and the dealer hits on a soft 17. But you're only allowed to double down on a 9, 10, or 11. You can double down after splitting, though. You can also re-split 3 times. You're not allowed to draw to split aces, and you're not allowed to split 10s unless they're of the same rank.
The best thing about this game, besides the dealer's face up card, is that a player blackjack is always a winner. The house edge is 0.32%, making this the 2nd best game in Microgaming's blackjack stable.
European Gold and European Blackjack Redeal require the dealer to stand on a soft 17. You're not allowed to double after splitting, and you're only allowed to double on 9, 10, or 11. You're only allowed to split once (no re-splitting). The dealer doesn't peek for blackjack, but surrender isn't allowed either. These games use 2 decks, and the house edge for both versions is 0.4%.
European Blackjack Redeal offers the unusual option of replacing your entire hand at any point. You can also opt to replace the dealer's up card. And if you have 3 or more cards, you can also choose to replace the last card you were dealt. None of these options are available after splitting.
Nothing's free, though—in order to be allowed to take advantage of these replacements, you have to literally pay for the privilege. But the software is programmed to charge you nothing for a re-deal if it doesn't benefit you in any way. These options don't affect the house edge of the game, though. It remains at 0.4%.
Hi-Lo 13 European Blackjack follows the same rules as European Gold and European Blackjack Redeal.
Premier High Streak Blackjack has the same rules as the European blackjack variations already mentioned, with one difference—you're allowed to draw to split aces. The house edge on this variation is 0.53%.
Spanish Blackjack is Microgaming's name for Spanish 21, which has enough rules differences that it almost doesn't count as a blackjack game anymore. For example, a "Spanish" deck has all the 10s removed, changing the nature of the game dramatically. (When we say the 10s, we mean just the 10s, not the face cards, which are still in the deck and are still valued at 10.) Microgaming's version uses 8 decks and requires the dealer to hit a soft 17.
You're allowed to surrender, and you're allowed to double after splitting. You're even allowed to re-split aces. Any 21 you get is an automatic winner, regardless of the dealer's cards. You also get bonus payouts for various hands—a 5 card hand totaling 21 pays 3 to 2. A 6 card hand totaling 21 pays 2 to 1, and a 7+ card hand pays 3 to 1.
The 678 or 777 of mixed suits also pays out at 3 to 2, but if they're of the same suit, they pay out at 2 to 1. If they're of spades, they pay out at 3 to 1. A suited 777 when the dealer has a 7 showing is worth 50 to 1. The house edge is around 0.42%, but basic strategy shifts significantly based on all the rules changes.
This game has the dealer hitting on a soft 17. You're allowed to double after splitting, and you can double down on any 2 cards. You can split up to 3 times, but you can't re-split aces. Surrender isn't an option, and 2 decks are used. The house edge is 0.38%.
This is similar to Vegas Downtown Blackjack. The dealer hits on soft 17 in both games, but the double down rules are different—you're not allowed to double down after splitting, and you're only allowed to double down on 9, 10, or 11. Only one deck is used in this variation, and the house edge is 0.31%, making this the best blackjack game available at Microgaming casinos.
Vegas Strip Blackjack requires the dealer to stand on a soft 17, but you're allowed to double down after splitting, and you can double down on any total. You can re-split up to 3 times. The house edge on this variation, which uses 4 decks, is 0.35%.
We mentioned it before, but it bears repeating—if you're a real money player from the United States, you can't get any action from Microgaming powered casinos. We suggest thinking about Realtime Gaming casinos instead. On the other hand, if you live in more enlightened parts of the world, you have a host of great casino options. Here are a couple of our top picks:Betway
Betway Casino has been taking blackjack action from players in the UK and elsewhere since 2006. They're one of the few Microgaming powered casinos to also offer sports betting, bingo, and poker to their clients. Their deposit bonuses vary based on which product you're depositing for—if you're a casino player, you're eligible for a $1000 welcome bonus, which is exceptionally high for a Microgaming powered casino.Bet365
Bet365 is another Microgaming option, and like Betway, they offer sports betting, poker, and bingo. They use multiple software providers including Microgaming to power their games, so you have a wider variety of casino games to choose from at their casino than you would at many other Microgaming properties. They, like Betway, offer different bonuses based on your activity—the casino bonus is $100, which is low, but it's not unusually low for a Microgaming casino.
Strategy & Tips for Microgaming Blackjack
We discuss the difference between strategy and tactics often when we get to these sections of our pages. We'll do so again here. A strategy is an approach to an activity that takes into account multiple tactical decisions. A tactic is what you do in one very specific situation.
A strategy for playing Microgaming blackjack might be to stick with their version of Vegas Single Deck Blackjack, which has the lowest house edge, and to never deviate from basic strategy.
A tactic might be to double down any time you have a total of 11.
"Basic strategy" refers to the mathematically optimal method of playing every possible hand. That sounds like a tall order to memorize, but it's actually probably quite a bit easier to accomplish than you might think.
We suggest the following strategy. Set a win goal and a stop loss limit. Don't make the mistake of thinking that these bankroll management tactics will do anything to improve your chances of winning, though. They're just a convenient way to make sure you don't lose all your money on your next visit to the casino. Other writers more talented than us have explained why such bankroll management strategies don't change the house edge on the games, but we feel like they might be missing at least part of the point.
We also suggest sticking with the game that offers the best odds to the player and playing it with perfect basic strategy. The best game at Microgaming casinos, mathematically speaking, is Vegas Single Deck Blackjack. We outline the correct basic strategy for that variation below.
These are the easiest hands to play.
- If you have a hard total of 8 or less, always hit. If you have a hard total of 17 or more, always stand.
- If you have a hard total of 9, 10, or 11, you have to decide whether to hit or to double down. This varies based on your total and the dealer's total.
- If your total is 9, you should double down if the dealer has a 6 or less. Otherwise, hit.
- If your total is 10, you should double down unless the dealer has a 10 or an ace. In those 2 cases, hit.
- If your total is 11, you should double down unless the dealer has an ace.
- A hard 12 should be hit if the dealer has a 2 or 3 showing, or if the dealer has a 7+ showing. The only time you'll stand on a hard 12 is if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6.
- A hard 13, 14, 15, or 16 is played the same way. If the dealer has a 6 or less, stand and hope she busts. If the dealer has a 7 or more, cross your fingers and take a hit.
Soft hands are even easier to play.
- On any soft 17 or less, take a hit.
- If you have a soft 18, stand if the dealer has an 8 or less showing. Otherise, hit.
- If you have a soft 19+, stand.
Deciding whether or not to split pairs trips a lot of blackjack player up, but it doesn't have to. Here are the correct ways to play all the pairs.
- Always split aces or 8s.
- Never split 4s, 5s, or 10s. Play them according to their totals as hard hands.
- Split 2s if the dealer has a 3-7 showing. Otherwise hit.
- Play a pair of 3s just like a pair of 2s, only hit against a 3 instead of splitting.
- Split a pair of 6s if the dealer has a 6 or less showing.
- Split a pair of 7s if the dealer has a 7 or less showing. Stand against a dealer 10, otherwise, hit.
- Stand with a pair of 9s if the dealer has a 7, a 10, or an ace showing. Otherwise, split the 9s.
Microgaming vs Realtime Gaming
One of the biggest differences between these two providers is that it's significantly more expensive for a casino site to lease the Microgaming software. This means that the operations who do use the software are better funded, which leads to fewer customer complaints regarding cashouts.
Another major difference is that Realtime Gaming has no licensed games at all, while Microgaming is making enough money that they can afford to license properties like Battlestar Galactica, Bridesmaids, and Game of Thrones for their slot machines. We know some blackjack players who never play slots, but we know plenty who do, too. And for those that do, Microgaming offers some of the best games available online.
One of the nice things about Microgaming software, too, is that the rules for their games remain the same from casino to casino. We'll draw another contrast with RTG here. Some RTG casinos offer blackjack played with 4 decks, while others have their configuration set for 8 decks. Microgaming casinos don't have the option of"configuring" their game rules in that way.
We like this because we believe that transparency in the gambling niche is a good thing. We don't expect casinos to publish their slot machine return percentages, although we think companies that do so are praiseworthy. But for games where gamblers expect to be able to calculate the house edge, we believe that the rules should be obvious, clear, and consistent. That way smart gamblers can make educated decisions about what games they want to play.
The signup bonuses at Microgaming casinos tend to be more conservative than what you'll find at RTG casinos. This might sound like a bad thing at first, but we actually like it. What really matters to the educated gambler is the expected value of a bonus.
The wagering requirements at most online casinos are so outlandishly high that the odds of walking away with any winnings at all after playing through your bonus are almost nil. It almost makes more sense to eschew the bonus altogether. We'd rather see a 100% signup bonus worth up to $300 with a wagering requirement of 15X than a signup bonus of 200% up to $3000 with a 45x playthrough requirement. You stand a better chance of having a winning session that way.
Most of the blackjack games at most Microgaming casinos have a minimum bet of $1 per hand and a maximum bet of $500 per hand, although this can vary from casino to casino.
Microgaming offers some of the best casino software on the Internet, and the house edge on their best blackjack game is exceptional at 0.31%. To get that house edge, you do have to use basic strategy, but it's not as hard to memorize as you might think.
If you're a player from the United States, you'll have to find your blackjack action elsewhere. Microgaming has a blanket ban on real money players from the USA.
Several dozen Microgaming casinos are available. Most of them offer modest bonuses but reasonable wagering requirements. We're particularly fond of a couple of Micogaming casinos that also offer sports betting, bingo, and poker—bet365 and Betway. Both properties offer excellent customer service and more variety, gambling activity-wise, than most other Microgaming powered properties.
Finally, we want to reiterate our earlier advice about setting win goals and stop loss limits. Having an arbitrary method for deciding when to quit, either when you're ahead by a certain amount or down by a certain amount, enables you to avoid gambling away the rent money.