Blackjack is a popular casino card game all over the world, including at Missouri casinos, where it is one of the top table games. While real money online blackjack is not legal in the state, you can play it at social and sweepstakes online casinos.
Here’s an overview of the main points regarding how and where to play blackjack in Missouri.
Is blackjack legal in Missouri?
Yes, blackjack is among the legal games that Missouri casinos can offer. Missouri first legalized riverboat gambling in 1994 with the passage of Amendment 6, allowing gambling boats on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to offer “lotteries, gift enterprises and games of chance.”
The Missouri Gaming Commission lists blackjack as one of the many table games that licensed riverboat casinos can offer. Indeed, the list of approved table games includes about three dozen blackjack variants.
Can I play blackjack online in Missouri?
Online gambling is not legal in Missouri, which means you won’t find any casino sites legally offering blackjack games for real money to people in the state.
It’s possible you may run across offshore gambling sites that purport to be legal in Missouri, but such sites are not operating under US or Missouri law and thus do not abide by any of the guidelines Missouri regulators impose on all legal gambling in the state. We strongly recommend you avoid such sites, as you would have no legal recourse should you encounter any problems with game integrity, the security of your funds or personal information, or anything else.
Social and sweepstakes casinos with blackjack in Missouri
There is one legal option for those in Missouri wishing to play online blackjack. Social and sweepstakes casinos allow you to legally play blackjack and other casino games online using virtual currencies. In some cases, these sites provide the chance to redeem winnings for cash prizes.
Most of these social and sweepstakes online casinos focus primarily on slots, but a few have table games, as well. Two such popular sites that include blackjack among their available table games are Chumba Casino and Pulsz.
Chumba Casino features several online blackjack games, including traditional blackjack and a variant called Back Blackjack, which adds an additional side bet on whether you or the dealer make blackjack. Pulsz, meanwhile, has a single blackjack game to go along with its other table games.
These legal sweepstakes sites offer you the chance to play blackjack games online for free with a chance to win real cash prizes.
Blackjack at Missouri riverboat casinos
Missouri has 13 riverboat casinos, all of which offer blackjack. The blackjack at these casinos is the same as you’ll find in Las Vegas, Atlantic City or other casinos, with both traditional blackjack and games with variants and side bets available.
Here’s an overview of how blackjack works in Missouri and elsewhere, followed by some information about the variants that you may come across.
How to play blackjack
When you play blackjack, you are competing against the house as represented by the game’s dealer. When you sit down at a blackjack table, there might be a number of people playing there as well, but you each are competing against the dealer and not against one another.
The game uses a traditional 52-card deck. Usually there are multiple decks, with all the cards shuffled together and dealt from a “shoe.” The object of the game is to make a better blackjack hand than the dealer.
In traditional blackjack, you win by collecting cards that total more than the dealer’s cards without going over 21. Suits don’t matter, and only the cards’ ranks are significant. Cards 2 to 9 are equal to the number each card shows. Kings, queens, jacks and 10s are each worth 10. Aces are either 11 or 1 (the player gets to decide).
Both you and the dealer start with two cards. Both of yours are face-up, while one of the dealer’s is face-up and the other is face-down. You go first, and can either stand and keep your cards without receiving any more or hit and receive another card. You can keep on hitting as long as you like, unless you go over 21 and bust. The dealer then has a turn and will similarly stand or hit.
When the dealing is over, whoever has the highest total without going over 21 wins the hand. If you and the dealer end with the same total (again, adding up to 21 or under), the hand is a push, and you get your bet back. If your first two cards add up to 21 (say, an ace and a 10), that’s a natural blackjack, and you automatically win unless the dealer also gets a natural blackjack, in which case the hand is a push.
When it comes to standing or hitting, you are free to do whatever you like. That’s where the strategy of the game comes into play. However, the dealer doesn’t have the same freedom. The dealer has to stand or hit according to the house rules for that particular blackjack game.
Usually, dealers must keep hitting if their cards add up to 16 or less, and stand when the hand adds up to 17 or more. Sometimes the house has the dealer hit on a “soft 17” which is a hand that adds up to 17 and one of the cards is an ace. In those games, the dealer still stands on a “hard 17” (a hand adding up to 17 that doesn’t include an ace).
Betting in blackjack
In blackjack, you place your initial bets before the deal. You can decide how much you want to bet, and usually the table has a minimum and a maximum amount. After the dealing starts, there are some additional betting decisions you can make. Here are the most common:
- Double down — After receiving your first two cards, you can double your initial bet and take just one additional card.
- Split — If your first two cards are a pair, you can “split” your hand into two hands (adding a second bet), and the dealer will give you an additional card for each hand.
- Surrender — If your initial two cards aren’t great, you can give up the hand right away and only lose half your bet.
There are other choices you can sometimes make, as well, including taking insurance. If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, you can take insurance by betting half your initial bet that the dealer’s face-down card has a value of 10 for a natural blackjack. Some games also have other kinds of side bets, some of which we go over below.
By the way, we’ve been discussing American blackjack as that’s the game you’re likely to find in Missouri casinos. In American blackjack, the dealer will peek at the down card, and if it makes a natural blackjack, the dealer will show it right away and the hand ends right there. In European blackjack, the dealer only gets one card initially, then a second card after the players finish their hands. Thus players don’t know when they play their hands if the dealer is going to have a natural blackjack.
Payout odds for blackjack games
Winning at blackjack generally means doubling your wager if you win. In such cases, winning blackjack hands pay out at even money or 1-to-1. Thus if you’ve bet $20, you win $20 plus you get your bet back, meaning you collect $40 total. If you lose the hand, you lose your entire bet to the house.
When you win a hand with a natural blackjack (your first two cards totaling 21), you earn a larger payout. Missouri casinos typically pay out 3-to-2. In this case, if you’ve bet $20 you’d win $30 on top of that, getting $50 back. Sometimes you’ll encounter games where a natural blackjack pays out at 6-to-5, which is a bit less than 3-to-2. Some blackjack casino games feature side bets that pay out at various odds, as well.
Whenever you sit down at a blackjack table, be sure to take note of what the table pays for blackjacks and what the table stakes are (minimum and maximum).
Blackjack variants in Missouri
While all Missouri casinos feature blackjack, some stick with the traditional game while others offer variants. These variants usually don’t alter the game too greatly, but simply add additional side bets to give you other ways to bet as you play.
Here are some of the blackjack variants you’ll see in Missouri casinos that add an additional twist to the primary game.
Blackjack 21+3 plays similar to regular blackjack, though it adds an option for you to make an additional side bet that your two initial cards and the dealer’s one face-up card will form a winning three-card poker hand. To do so, those three cards will need to make a flush, a straight, three of a kind or a straight flush.
The payout for winning might vary, although typically it is 8-to-1 or 9-to-1 if the three cards make any of these poker hands.
Argosy Casino Riverside, Hollywood Casino St. Louis and Isle of Capri in Boonville all feature Blackjack 21+3. Bally’s Kansas City and Century Casino Caruthersville both offer the same game, but they call it Trilux with Super 3. Note that Hollywood Casino St. Louis also offers Blackjack 21+3 Double Deck (with just two decks) in its high limit room.
Other Missouri casinos might have this variant, as well, so keep an eye out for it.
Blackjack 21+3 with Top 3
You might also see a further variation on the same game called Blackjack 21+3 with Top 3. The game features the same side bet, though it pays out differently for different winning three-card poker hands.
For instance, Argosy Casino Riverside offers Blackjack 21+3 with Top 3, with payouts as follows:
- Three of a kind suited: 270-to-1
- Straight flush: 180-to-1
- Three of a kind: 90-to-1
Note that “three of a kind suited” means essentially getting three of the same card. This game is usually only available in blackjack games that feature four, six or eight decks.
Isle of Capri offers Blackjack 21+3 with Top 3 along with Blackjack 21+3 Xtreme Side Bet (another variation).
Double Deck Blackjack
Some casinos offer Double Deck Blackjack, which, as the name implies, is blackjack that only uses two decks (rather than four, six or eight).
One mathematical truth about blackjack worth knowing is that the fewer the decks, the higher the frequency of players getting 21. Since players get bigger payouts when they make a natural blackjack (and dealers don’t), that can make the blackjack game using fewer decks preferable to play.
Note, though, if the payouts for blackjack are different (6-to-5 instead of 3-to-2) in a double deck blackjack game.
Most Missouri casinos also offer electronic blackjack games alongside the live ones. One popular brand of “e-blackjack” is Diamond Blackjack at Harrah’s Kansas City and elsewhere.
Electronic blackjack plays similar to live blackjack, although with the electronic version the game uses a random number generator when dealing the cards rather than shuffling and dealing from a shoe. Some electronic blackjack games also offer a greater number of variations than are available in the live games.
Missouri blackjack FAQ
Is blackjack all luck?
That depends. If you play blackjack with no understanding of basic strategy, then yes, you are essentially just hoping to get lucky. However, unlike roulette games or slots or other games purely based on chance, blackjack is an example of a casino game in which skill can matter. If you take some time to learn basic blackjack strategy, you can increase your chances of winning.
Basic strategy involves knowing when to stand or hit based on both your cards and the dealer’s face-up card. It also involves knowing when to split, double down, surrender or take insurance.
Is it illegal to count cards when playing blackjack in Missouri?
“Card counting” in blackjack refers to the practice of mentally keeping track of what cards have been dealt, then using that knowledge to anticipate what cards are more or less likely to appear. Having such knowledge can give a player an edge when deciding whether to stand or hit, or even when deciding how to bet (whether to double down, for instance).
The Missouri Code of State Regulations explicitly states that it is not illegal to count cards when playing blackjack at Missouri riverboat casinos. According to CSR 45-5.051 (Minimum Standards for Blackjack), Section 2, “A person who, without the assistance of another person or without the use of a physical aid or device of any kind, uses the ability to keep track of the value of cards played in Blackjack and uses predictions formed as a result of the tracking information in his/her playing and betting strategy shall not be considered to be cheating.”
The answer, then, is no, it is not illegal to count cards when playing blackjack in Missouri. Additionally, the casinos are not allowed to prevent players from doing so. Nor can they prevent card counters from playing, which is different from what you’ll find in other states where casinos can ban card counters if they wish. The casinos can, however, impose betting restrictions or use continuous shuffling machines if they wish.
If I win money at blackjack in Missouri, do I have to pay taxes on my winnings?
Gambling winnings are taxable income in Missouri, which means you do need to pay income tax on those winnings. You’ll want to include gambling winnings when reporting income on both your state return and federal return. Click here for an overview of taxes and gambling winnings in Missouri.