Blackjack is one of those casino games that players either love or hate. A game for intellectuals — and part-time mathematicians — blackjack is a table game that offers decent chances at beating the house (depending on where it is played). Throughout history, the popularity of blackjack has waxed and waned, but especially in today’s online casino world, it’s a game that deserves more playing.
Of French Origin
Like most of the popular table games still played in casinos to this day, blackjack originated in France — during the middle of the 18th century. Interestingly, however, it was the influence of American players that lent the game its current form.
Compared to other card games like poker, the object of blackjack is relatively simple: players need to draw cards that when totaled beat the dealer without busting (going over 21). Players start with two cards, as do dealers, but only one of them is visible to the table. Players can then decide to draw another card (get hit), stand, split (when dealt two identical cards) or double down (doubling the initial wager by only receiving one new card).
A “natural blackjack” — a ten card and an ace — pays out three to two on the original wager, but all others pay even money (the amount wagered). In a traditional game, players can win, go bust before the dealer or tie with the dealer (also known as a push).
Casino goers have had a complicated relationship with blackjack over the centuries. For almost 200 years, it was only played by a select few gamblers — even as recently as the 1950s, it still played second-fiddle to the more social craps (another Las Vegas’ favorite game during the same period). However, as that decade concluded, a quartet of U.S. mathematicians published a seminal article that defined a mathematically correct strategy for the game.
The Baldwin Group, as they would later become known throughout the industry, were the first intellectuals to show players how to cut down the house edge in a game of blackjack to almost zero. This strategy was taken a step further in 1962 by , who published the paperback “Beat the Dealer.” In it, Thorp meticulously described a way for players to develop a statistical advantage over the house — card counting. This method of keeping track of all the cards in play revolutionized blackjack.
Although the game itself had not changed, blackjack increased in popularity, mainly because casino players figured out a way to win or at least they did sometimes.
Throughout the remaining decades of the 20th century, blackjack firmly held onto the crown of king of the tables despite the efforts of casino managers across the board to make the game less welcoming. In the new millennium, it even experienced a Hollywood revival of its own as the subject of the 2008 movie “21.” Following the infamous, real-life exploits of the MIT Blackjack Team — a group of students from prestigious American universities who used card counting to beat casinos across the globe — the movie was instrumental in introducing the game to a new generation of players.
But no good fortune lasts forever, especially in the casino, and soon blackjack would once again play second fiddle, this time to that new favorite with Asian high rollers, baccarat.
Blackjack in the 21st Century
Far from being consigned to the annals of casino history, 21st-century blackjack deserves to have its day once more. However, instead of flocking to the casino floor, savvy blackjack players can now log in to online platforms and mobile casino apps to reap the benefits of playing this subtle yet rewarding game.
There are several advantages when playing blackjack online compared to a brick-and-mortar casino, and the top online casino brands all include blackjack in their lists of available games in regulated markets. Although the specifics of these online variations will differ from platform to platform, the rules of blackjack generally remain the same: beat the house without busting.
One of the ways in which playing blackjack online differs from playing in a casino, is that there’s a lot more on offer to players in a typical online casino. Players can use welcome bonuses, promotions and special offers to play blackjack games (depending on the individual T’s & C’s of each casino), and when you win, it’s a lot easier to cash out in an online casino than it is a physical one.
Another one of the benefits of playing blackjack online is that you will always go head-to-head with a dealer, a rare occurrence on an average night at the casino.
Add in things like progressive jackpots (where a jackpot accumulates with the more hands played), interesting variations, including Chinese Blackjack and Triple 7’s, and online tournament freerolls, and playing blackjack online becomes an engaging and authentically entertaining way to experience this vintage card game.