Online blackjack is virtually identical to casino blackjack, only with one major bonus: convenience. The same basic rules apply--score the highest total you can without "going bust" (over 21), beat the dealer's score, and you win. It sounds so easy, especially when you factor in the dealer's obligation to obey a strict set of rules that remove the chance factor from his or her side of the equation.
As in Vegas or Atlantic City casinos (or any other casino, for that matter), the dealer is required to draw a new card until he or she reaches 17. In some rare cases, the "house" (that is, the casino) allows the dealer to hit (take another card) on what's called "soft 17." Any soft total refers to the inclusion of an ace in the hand. Since an ace may represent the value of one or 11, an ace and a six is called soft 17. The value is deemed "soft" since it may just as easily be treated as a total of seven. A 10 and an eight, by contrast, represents a fixed or "hard" total of 18, no matter how you cut it.
Check the House Rules in Online Blackjack
Whenever you enter a new casino, your first responsibility is to learn the house rules. These can differ widely from casino to casino, even if you're playing the exact same game. The permission of soft-17 hitting is only one example of a house rule you may encounter in one casino and not another. The number of decks in a "shoe" (collection of several decks), the style of dealing ("face up" versus "face down"), and minimum wagers are also included in house rules.
Needless to say, online casinos also have house rules. Before you sit down to play your first hand of online blackjack, it's your job to learn these rules for yourself. Most internet gambling sites list their own rules right up front so there's no confusion once the game is underway.