Of the various casino games out there, blackjack is one of the most popular for players of all kinds. Probably the principal reason for this is its sheer simplicity, as its most basic level at least.
With the sole objective of taking on the dealer in order to score closer to 21 than them or, ideally, 21 exactly, it couldn’t be more straightforward. There are even pre-determined charts to memorise that will tell you the best move to make in any given situation – and more about this later.
Plus, there’s even the chance to tip your odds in your favour through the practice of card-counting, something that casinos frown upon but is not illegal in any way. It just involves keeping a mental tally of the cards dealt already to provide a guesstimate of which ones are still in the deck.
And, as with all games, the more you play, the better you get and this article should set you on your way.
The history of the game
It’s a game with a very long history. Back in 1601 the writer of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes, produced a short story that included two men playing a game called ventiuna. A couple of centuries later, it became very popular in the rest of Europe under various different names.
In France it was known as “vingt-et-un” and in Britain as pontoon.
It wasn’t until the early 19th century that the game reached America, where it was given yet another name – the one that is in use today.
There are a couple of theories about how the name was devised. The first is that a number of gaming houses of the time set a new rule that any winning hand consisting of the ace of spades and either the jack of spades or of clubs would pay out at 10:1 instead of the more normal 3:2.
The other theory stems that the game was very popular among prospectors in the Klondike where the presence of the mineral zincblende, also known as blackjack, indicated that gold was nearby.
Today, blackjack remains as popular as ever thanks, in no small part, to its online resurgence. Avid players can now play exciting genres of the classic Blackjack games on popular sites like 888 casino, where you can find American Blackjack, Low stakes, 4 decks super stakes, multi hand as well as live online blackjack with real authentic dealers and a Pit boss.
The essential rules
Blackjack has a list of rules that must be followed to see you through the game
The game itself is played in a number of ways, but in all the objectives remain the same.
In most variations it begins with the player, or players, being dealt two cards either face up or face down, depending on the casino rules. The dealer then receives two cards, generally one face up and one concealed from the players.
The players then place their bets and the game commences. In turn they say whether they want to hit (receive another card) or stand (complete their hand). When a player eventually stands, it’s the dealer’s turn to play. They reveal their hidden card and try to get nearer to 21 than the player(s). If they do, the player(s) lose their bets but if any player beats them, they win the value of their initial stake or, in the case of a blackjack, one and a half times its value. Aces are worth either one or eleven and picture cards are worth ten.
If players and dealer tie it’s called a push and stake money is returned.
There are also other rules governing the way the dealer plays. For example, in some casinos if their initial two cards add up to 17 they have to stand, in others they are allowed to draw more cards.
Mastering the basic strategy
One of the very first things any player serious about blackjack must do is to seek out a guide to something called the basic strategy. This is a method that was originally developed by four US Army engineers, Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott, in the 1950s who used one on the earliest computers to calculate the statistically most-advantageous way to play in any given situation.
Their achievement wasn’t fully acknowledged until 2008 when the men we inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame. But anyone who today devotes the time needed to memorise the basic strategy owe them a great debt of thanks.
Other features of the game
There are a number of other aspects of the game that can make playing even more rewarding. The first of these is called doubling down. If a player feels especially confident, they can choose to double their bet on the provision that they must stand after receiving just one more card.
Splitting a hand
The next is splitting a hand. This happens when a player has two cards of the same value. In this situation, they are allowed to use each card as a basis for a different hand to be played simultaneously. To do this they also have to put in the equivalent of their original stake.
There is also a safety feature called insurance that can kick in when the dealer’s revealed card is an ace. By placing an insurance bet of half the original stake, this pays out at 2:1 if the dealer has a blackjack, essentially protecting the player against a certain loss.
As such a popular game in both land-based venues and online casinos, most new players will likely come across blackjack at some point. It’s certainly a fun hand to get involved with, so it helps to be prepared for when you do. By using the aforementioned techniques, you’ll be a blackjack expert in no time.