The game Blackjack
Online Blackjack is a bit unique among casino games as there’s actually a good bit of strategy as far as how to play the game. While there are various betting strategies for nearly every casino game, online blackjack strategy is different, as there are proven, optimal ways of playing various combinations of cards, based on what the dealer has.
Because of the nature of how online blackjack is played (with the players cards displayed and one of the dealer’s cards dealt face up) determining whether a player should take another card or stand pat can be calculated mathematically, as far as what’s best for the player according to the odds. These calculations are called “blackjack basic strategy”, so if a player plays “perfect basic strategy”, it means they’re making all of the best decisions, based on the odds, instead of hitting when they feel lucky, etc.
Hitting the odds
For charts that summarize basic blackjack strategy for every hand (and for different games), WizardofOdds is a great resource. Players can simply print out the strategy charts for the game they’re playing and use them to guide them when making decisions. This is not only legal to do online, but in brick and mortar casinos as well.
Taking on the house
Remember, playing perfect basic strategy reduced the house advantage greatly, but the odds are still slightly in favor of the casino, which is why they allow you to use strategy cards at the table, if you want to. It may seem like it’s “cheating” but it’s actually far from it, as the house still has an edge.
The history of Blackjack
Online Blackjack is one of the most popular online casino games with a long, rich history. Blackjack’s precursor was vingt-et-un (“twenty-one”), which first appeared in French casinos around 1700.
Blackjack got its current name due to a bonus payout that was added in an attempt to make the game more popular with players. If a player was dealt an ace of spades and a black Jack (either spades or clubs), the player received a special bonus payout of 10-1.
The name Blackjack or Black Jack
The bonus payout hand was called a “blackjack” (due to the requirement that the Jack be spades or clubs) and the name stuck to the game, despite the fact that casinos quickly stopped paying out the 10-1 bonus. Today any hand with an A and a 10 value card is called a blackjack, regardless of suit.
Online Blackjack’s popularity is also due to the fact that it’s one of the few casino games where skill can actually turn the tables on the house, due to card counting and playing perfect basic strategy. Skilled blackjack card counters can actually play with an advantage over the house, unlike other games such as roulette or slots where the player is always at a disadvantage. If playing as part of a card counting team (such as the MIT card counting team that has been the subject of many books and documentaries), profits can be very large, in the millions of dollars.
Card counting at Blackjack
While card counting isn’t illegal, casinos obviously don’t like handing over money to players if they can help it, so nearly all casinos monitor the behavior of blackjack players and ban anyone they suspect is a successful card counter.
Although card counting teams have created many headaches for casinos, it’s also served to increase the popularity of the game, drawing new players to the game who believe (rightly or wrongly) they can beat the house consistently.
While the odds of blackjack can vary greatly depending on the variation you’re playing, typically the house has an edge of something in the range of 0.5%-1% over the player, assuming the player follows perfect basic blackjack strategy.
How to calculate the odds
Blackjack odds change based on the rules variations that casinos use, though, so don’t simply assume that you can always sit down and play and be faced with a house advantage of 0.5%-1%. The more decks a casino uses in its blackjack games, the worse the odds are for the player. More and more casinos are also lowering their payouts for blackjacks, which dramatically increases the house advantage.
Low house advantage
The relative low house advantage makes blackjack one of the best bets you can make in a casino, and it’s a prime reason that blackjack is one of the most popular casino games, both online and in traditional brick and mortar casinos. In casino games with good odds for the players, your money will typically last longer, so you get a lot more enjoyment and play.