Blackjack is the most legendary casino game of them all. Not only does it have the highest pay-out percentage of any casino game (up to astonishing 99.83%). Over the years, multiple players have also succeeded in beating the game and making themselves fortunes!
Let’s start with the basics: Blackjack is a casino card counting game where one or more persons play up against a dealer. The goal is either:
A: To get as close as possible to a card hand value of 21.
B: To beat the hand of the dealer by getting a higher hand than his,
C: To make the dealer ‘go bust’ by letting him draw cards until his hand exceeds 21.
The player succeeding in beating the hand of the dealer receives double his wager (1:1), except should he get a blackjack (an ace and a card valued 10), which will pay 3:2.
During a round of blackjack, the player will start with two cards. Player then has the following choices:
Stand: You are satisfied with your cards and wishes to draw no further cards
Hit: Player chooses to draw an additional card. Player can draw cards until they go bust (their cards exceed the value of 21).
Double: Player doubles his bet. Hereafter he can only draw one more card.
Split: If a player has a pair or any two cards worth 10 points, he may choose to either double his bet or split the cards, thus ending up with two hands. Dealer will automatically give each hand a card more. Player may then hit, stand, or double. In some games, doubling after splitting is not allowed.
You would be surprised how many different versions of blackjack there actually exists. What seems as microscopic changes to the game can cause great variations in the pay-out percentage. Here are some of the most important variations:
Dealer Hits on 17
Dealer must draw card till he reaches 17 or higher. In some versions, dealer stands on 17, while on others, they must hit. If dealer hits, this increases house edge with around 0.2%.
Dealer Stands on 17
This is where the dealer stands on 17, which is statistically more preferable for the player, as the dealer has a bigger chance of going bust.
Some tables allow the player to surrender before dealer checks for blackjack. This is quite rare, but very favorable to the player. Late surrender is more ordinary, and though not as advantageous as early surrender, it still decreases house edge.
The option to split a hand that has already been split is offered at most blackjack tables, but not all. Games that allows for multiple resplits of hands is better for the player.
Blackjack Card Values
Regardless of rule variations, the value of the cards is always the same and is as below:
- Cards 2-10 are scored according to their face value
- Picture cards count as 10
- An Ace can count either as a 1 or an 11 – hence the expression ‘a soft 11’.
No casino game is as likely to earn you winnings as blackjack, but only if you use proper strategy. Below you can see the optimal strategy for two kinds of games: Where dealer stands on 17, and where dealer hits on 17.
If you do not use optimal strategy and make faulty moves such as accepting insurance during the game, pay out percentage could drop as low as 95%, which kind of takes the magic away from the game. Therefore, always follow proper strategy and play smart!
Strategy sheet: Dealer Stands on Soft 17
This strategy sheet is valid for blackjack where dealer stands on soft 17, played with 4-8 deck of cards, Dealer after Split. Blackjack where dealer stands on soft 17 is in general most advantageous to the player.
Strategy sheet: Dealer Hits Soft 17
This strategy is valid for blackjack where dealer hits soft 17. Though not the most advantageous form of blackjack, it is found at many tables, both online and at brick and mortar casinos.
The History of Blackjack
Card counting games similar to blackjack has been around for ages, and one 16th century novel by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (who also wrote Don Quixote) mentions a card game with the objective of reaching 21.
Later, a form of 21 came to America, where it became a gambler’s favorite due to a handsome 10:1 bonus given for a hand of 21. This bonus was known as a “blackjack” since it consisted of an ace of spades, and a jack of clubs or jack of spades. The 10:1 pay out disappeared after a while (apparently it didn’t pay for the casinos), but the name blackjack stuck!
The Era of Card Counters
It was in the 1960s that blackjack really gained popularity and became the target of advantage players and card counters from across the globe. This was after a mathematical study had proven that the game could in fact be beaten through so-called advantage play.
Inspired by the discovery of fellow mathematicians, in 1963, a man called Edward O. Thorpe released a book providing optimal strategy for the game. Thus, he opened the door for a great many daring high rollers to try their luck.
One of the people to pick up Thorpe’s book was Ken Uston, who started running with a card counting team in the 70’ies, and later managed to learn the art of card counting on his own. In fact, Uston was winning so much money from the casinos, that he often had to disguise with fake beard and fake glasses in order to be able to play!
The party didn’t last long though. Soon, the casinos found out about the card counter’s scheme, and simply changed the game procedures so that card counting was no longer possible.
Cool side story: After Uston and his card counting team had had a very successful playing streak and made over 350.000 USD, him and the team moved into an expensive California mansion and bought a Space Invaders arcade machine. Living the dream, huh?
How Does Card Counting Work?
In the good old days, blackjack was played with either a single card deck or a collection of several decks of cards known as a shoe. The fact that there was a finite number of cards in the game made it possible to ‘count cards’, that is, to track which cards are played over several rounds.
As the rounds go on and the cards get less, the probability of certain cards occurring also get bigger. That is, if one can keep track of which cards have been played in the preceding rounds. Several gamblers with acute memories have proven their ability to do exactly that.
However, the days of card counters are numbered. Casinos have long since taken counter measures against them, and though card counters still operate, they have a much more difficult time practicing their art than they used to. In online blackjack, card counting is simply impossible.
Why Is Card Counting In Online Blackjack Impossible?
The reason that card counting in online blackjack is not possible is that the simulator shuffles an endless deck for every round of play. In live dealer versions of blackjack, too, card counting is not possible. The reason is this:
- The online live dealer tables use a shoe with eight deck of cards.
- However, the dealer never let the cards in the shoe finish.
- Rather, the shoe is changed halfway through the game.
- This makes it impossible to count cards and gain advantage.
- However, at least the game still has the same low house advantage that made it famous.
Online vs Real Blackjack
What’s the difference between playing blackjack at a brick and mortar casino and playing online? Well, in a brick and mortar casino you can’t play from your own couch! Ah, sorry, I couldn’t help it – bad joke. However, I have to say that comfort is definitely an argument for playing blackjack online!
Now, let me tell you something: I don’t like blackjack simulators. They have the same winning chances as real-life blackjack, but the feeling of the game is totally different. Why, you ask? – Because the simulator shuffles the deck for every round. Thus, in principle, you could end up with the same cards several rounds in a row!
With live dealer blackjack, the situation is different: This is much closer to the real thing. In fact, sometimes it’s better for the player!
Live dealer games are fair and safe, and because it is a real dealer and real cards, you can rest assured that the game will feel exactly the same as in real life.
Ask any old gambler; he will tell you that the live dealer games are the same as the real deal!
Is it Possible to Play Online Blackjack Free?
Blackjack is not difficult once you learn it, but it’s definitely a game you want to try a few times before you go for making the big wagers! You have to learn the basic strategy and develop a feeling for the game, otherwise you will likely end up losing.
Luckily, there are plenty of simulators out there that allows you to practice the game from the comfort of your home. I wouldn’t recommend using a simulators for anything else than practicing or playing for fun. For practicing, however, a simulator is indispensable!
You can try playing for fun at LeoVegas. It’s absolutely free, and you won’t even have to sign up or anything. Get your strategy card, get set, and try your luck!
Best Online Blackjack?
The best place to play online? Well, in my view, it’s the live dealer tables at (casino name). This variant has an excellent pay out percentage, stunning usability, and usually the live dealers are friendly.
Another reason why I prefer this specific variant is that the minimum wager is comparatively modest. You can play for as little as 0,20 EUR cents per round, making it very economically manageable to have a round of 21 every now and then.
Can You Make a Living From Blackjack?
You sometimes hear stories about people who have made a living from gambling, but I must warn you, my friend, this is really not the way to go. Gambling should never be seen as a sustainable form of income. Sometimes, you can get lucky and win good money, but you shouldn’t let this blind you: On the long run, the house will always win.
Those who have lived off blackjack in past times, have been able to do so because they counted cards or used other forms of advantage play (or because they cheated!), but advantage play and card counting is just not a viable option anymore – and cheating was never a viable option in the first place.
If you want to live off gambling, maybe you should consider poker instead??
I hope you’ve learned a little bit about blackjack and that you will want to try out this marvelous game!
It’s really quite easy to get started – just keep in mind the correct strategy that I have posted above. Then go to the casino list and find a good casino bonus!