Have you ever played blackjack? Even if you haven’t, you will find it seemingly a very easy game, but one adored by geniuses. Blackjack and all of its variations are one of the most exciting games you will ever come across in casinos. It’s the perfect mix of luck and skill. It’s the golden game for card counters and mathematicians.
The ‘Golden Age’ of blackjack was somewhere between 1960s and 1980s. For whole three decades this game was the staple across casinos in Las Vegas, and still is. But why was that period called the ‘Golden Age’? Because the playing rules were extremely friendly, blackjack paid better and players could come by casino comps much easier than today.
And there weren’t multi-deck games like today. Mostly there were single-deck games, perfect for strategic playing and card counting. Nevertheless, keep reading this article if you want to gain some basic knowledge of the game so that next time you are playing, words like ‘surrender’, ‘split’ or ‘stand’ are more familiar to you.
The first traces of blackjack come from France and Spain in the middle ages. Both countries had a game similar to blackjack, but the most popular was the one called Vingt-et-un, which translates to ‘21’. There are even games that predated Vingt-et-un like Sette e Mezzo (‘Seven and a half’) from Italy, Quinze (‘Fifteen’) from France and Trent-un (‘Thirty one’) from Spain, which is said to be the oldest reference to blackjack from 1440.
The goal in all of these games was to form a hand as closest as possible to a particular value (21, 7.5, 31, and 15 depending on the game) without busting. The same for all games was that they all required a good deal of skill and mere luck, which gave the players certain feeling of control.
With the migration of people towards America including the wars, the game was spread across North America by soldiers and settlers, and it grew to be what we know today as ‘blackjack’, a staple game of every casino in the USA and the world today.
The unbeatable number in blackjack is 21. The point is to draw a hand that is bigger than the dealer’s hand, and if you score 21, you get a ‘blackjack’, and you automatically win if it’s made out of an ace and a ten-valued card.
The rank of the cards is determined according to their face values. Cards from 2 to 9 are ranked accordingly, while 10, jacks, queens and kings have the value of ten. Aces can have the value of 11 or 1 depending on your hand.
As mentioned, in the past blackjack was mostly played with a single deck. But, as people started cracking on the possible outcomes by using mathematics, casinos increased the decks and now you can find blackjack games with up to 6 decks like in online casinos.
The game starts when the player and the dealer get a two-card hand each. One of the dealer’s cards is faced up, while the other is faced down. Based on your cards and dealers face-up card, you have to decide if you need additional cards to hit 21 or as closest to 21. Here is where you can apply some basic strategy using various means like blackjack charts or systems.
The most basic logic is not to hit if your hand is 16 or higher or you risk the chance for a ‘bust’. Anything higher than 21 means you lose your bet. This is why some might stand even on 15, but with time you get to develop your own playing senses.
So, if your hand consists of a 2 and a 9, which equals to 11, naturally you will want to ‘hit’ so that you can receive a third card. In such cases a 10 would be the perfect card, but anything higher than a 6 can help you get a winning hand. Once you have determined that you have had enough cards, you get to ‘stand’ and then it’s the dealer’s turn.
Depending on the blackjack variation, the dealer’s play is guided by different rules. If the dealer hits a higher hand than yours, you lose. Otherwise, you win, except when you both have hands of an equal value. That is called a ‘push’, and you get your bet back.
Blackjack strategies are based on the possible combinations of your initial two cards. Therefore you will find many blackjack strategy charts, which tell players when it’s best to hit, stand, surrender, split or double.
Blackjack strategy charts are not illegal, so you have every right to even bring one with yourself in the casino and consult it before every move. Make sure to find the appropriate chart for the appropriate blackjack game based on the rules such as if the dealer hits or stands on soft hands etc.
When you’ve found the perfect chart for your preferred blackjack game, you get to cut the house edge down to 0.5%, which makes an entire difference and offers you bigger possibilities for a payout. It’s like a boost for your rocket to get you deep in the game enough to influence a positive outcome.
The biggest problems in blackjack are situations when you don’t know whether to split, double or surrender. Luckily, we will tell you a couple of secrets regarding such dilemmas.
Here are some basic moves:
Even with charts and advanced strategies, there is a lot of work to be invested in playing blackjack. You might win some good cash by blindly following the chart, but on the longer term you need to learn everything backwards and forwards.
Today you can find dozens and dozens of books, articles, and even theses by mathematicians on the variability of outcomes. This is a fascinating game that everyone should try at least once in his lifetime. And if you decide to get into a deeper level, help is all around you.