Do you enjoy games which are quick and easy to learn, but that are also difficult to master? Well, Blackjack could be just the game for you.
Whilst the rules are quite straightforward and can be learned extremely quickly; there are a multitude of nuances to the game that take time to be mastered if you are to achieve any level of proficiency at this classic card game.
There is an aid to learning the game, however. Real Time Gaming uses software that closely replicates the way the game is played in real life; and the real strategies you would use in a casino work equally well with the software. This is key, to get the practice you need before actually playing with your own cash in an online casino.
The main thing that you should understand about Blackjack is that the odds always favor the House. For instance, if both the dealer and the player draw over ‘21’ (go ‘bust’), the House wins, and you lose your money.
Another common misunderstanding is that of the ‘insurance’ bet, which is a side wager you can make outside the normal bet. This bet can come into play when one of the two cards initially dealt to the dealer is showing as an ace card. At this point an insurance bet can be made whereby if the dealer’s second card happens to be a ‘10’ (and the dealer has a ‘Blackjack’), the player will lose their original wager, but will win the insurance bet. Insurance bets generally payout odds of 2:1, so the player will break even with an insurance bet.
At first reckoning, this might sound like a good idea. However, players thinking of laying an insurance bet should first consider the likelihood of the dealer having a Blackjack with their first two cards; pretty unlikely. Also, it is generally considered to be a bet that is only placed by novices and many experts recommend that it is never used unless you are counting the cards. Card-counting, if you were unaware, is regarded as cheating by many casinos and players should always avoid unethical gaming practices such as this.
Another strategy you may have heard about or witnessed is that of ‘doubling-down’. This is a viable strategy and you must understand it before playing Blackjack for real. You may choose to ‘double-down’ on two cards and double your initial wager. For instance, if you are initially dealt a ‘5’ and a ‘6’, you can choose to ‘double-down’. The dealer will take your additional wager and then deal you another card. If you’re dealt a ‘10’, your luck is truly in!
These are just a few of the basic strategies that you should be aware of before playing Blackjack. Do not let its simplicity fool you, Blackjack is not an easy game to master; something many people have discovered at great expense.
The History of Blackjack
The card game we know of as Blackjack has a long and interesting history. It has featured in movies, books and even been the core theme of some shows. In fact, credit should be given to Blackjack for being the inspiration behind many gambling systems and books on the subject. The first version of Blackjack dates back to 18th century France, where it was, and still is, called ‘Vingt-et-un’ which translates to ‘21’.
During the 19th century in America, gambling was very much frowned upon and became an underground activity. In the early 20th century, though, opinions eased a bit and gambling became legalized in the state of Nevada in 1931.
It was not until the 1950s, however, that gambling as a recreational pastime really started and Blackjack became one of the most popular games in this new environment. The man credited with kicking off the Blackjack phenomenon was Roger Baldwin through the release of his 1956 book ‘The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack’. People who read this book almost instantly gained the confidence of being able to beat the Blackjack system.
Six years further on and Edward O Thorp released another gambling best-selling book. ‘Beat the Dealer’ soon became an incredible hit with many Blackjack players.
Armed with the strategies they had learned from these popular publications; players flocked to the casinos with dreams of getting rich. One man who capitalized on this level of popularity was Lawrence Revere whose book ‘Playing Blackjack as a Business’ seemed to imply that a simple business acumen could be the key to riches in the casino.
The 1970s saw a step-change as far as Blackjack strategies were concerned. Blackjack enthusiasts started using computers to simulate playing Blackjack; and test strategies to find a winning formula. This seemed to be a turning point and it appeared to have the casinos worried.
It was fine for a few enthusiasts to test out their theories on the casinos’ tables with their own money. It was another thing altogether to have it practiced widely with the aid of technology. This new ‘computer age’ of Blackjack coincided with people starting to develop a thirst for knowledge about the game.
The casino operators were starting to do some research of their own and they soon realized that the single deck of cards used for Blackjack was vulnerable to player-systems. This is when the ‘shoe’, which could hold multiple decks of cards, was developed. The more decks of cards in the shoe, they more the odds were stacked in the casinos’ favor. Also, it was much more easy to protect the game from card-counters.
Despite the invention of the shoe and the decreasing odds of success at the game, one man made a very good living from playing Blackjack. Ken Uston was so successful that he ended up being banned for life from 7 Las Vegas casinos.
Uston decided to launch a legal challenge against the casinos that had banned him and was awaiting final judgement in 1987. Before he could appear in court, Uston was found dead in a Parisian apartment. The cause of death was recorded as heart failure; he was 52 when he died. Suspicious circumstances? Maybe. What can be said for certain is that he died a relatively young man.
Blackjack remains as popular today as it has ever been and there are still books, movies, documentaries and even software programs being written and developed about the game.
Everyday someone, somewhere splits or doubles on a hand that they believe will be the start of their journey towards Blackjack riches.
Basic Blackjack Strategy Explained
The basic Blackjack strategy explained here is whereby a player can limit the advantage that the casino has in the game. This is what sets Blackjack apart from other casino games such as roulette, which are mere chance. With Blackjack, the player has an element of choice through which they can limit the advantage of the House.
Basic Blackjack strategy helps the player to decide when to split or double-down, and when to avoid either of these. The strategy is based upon the player’s total points and the visible card of the dealer.
Slight variations of the basic Blackjack strategy exist and these come down to the individual House rules and the number of card decks in play. Downtown Las Vegas single-deck Blackjack rules are the most favorable for playing. Under these conditions, the advantage the House has over the player can be reduced to a paltry 0.16%.
Even better is when casinos offer special rules such as ‘surrender’ or ‘double-after-split’. With these, there is often a positive expectation among players operating a basic Blackjack strategy. When casinos offer these type of conditions, they are generally relying on making their money from players’ mistakes.
The following House rules are player beneficial:
- For any 2-card hand, except Blackjack, doubles are allowed.
- After splitting, doubles are allowed.
- Early surrender of half a player’s wager on the dealer’s first card showing as an ‘ace or face’.
- Late or Normal surrender allowed.
- Aces can be re-split.
- Drawing multiple cards against a split ace.
- A ‘Charlie’ (5 or more cards with total score of 21 or less).
The following House rules have a player disadvantage:
- Payouts below 3:2. This is the case for single-deck Blackjack on the Las Vegas Strip, which has a payout of 6:5.
- Dealer will hit on a ‘soft’ 17 (ace & 6).
- Splitting is restricted to once every two hands.
- Double-down is restricted to designated totals e.g 9 to 11; or 10 & 11.
- No re-splitting of aces.
- ‘No-Peek’ Blackjack (European Blackjack) where a player forfeits the right to split or double-down.
- Player loses in the event of a tie.
There is an opportunity for an eagle-eyed player to lever some advantage at Blackjack. That is by looking for something called a ‘warp’.
A warp in casino parlance is called a ‘dealer tell’, which means that a dealer is unwittingly giving away information that the players should not have. When dealers check hole cards under aces or tens, they put a slight bend in those cards, causing the aces and tens to have a different shape.
Keen eyed players can use this to their advantage, by having a better chance of correctly guessing the dealers hole card if it is a little warped. This is known as ‘playing-the-warps’ in Blackjack.
Novice Blackjack Error
Possibly the worst action a player can take in Blackjack, is standing on a pair of 8s rather than splitting, when faced with a dealer’s upturned 7. Any player who makes this basic strategic error will lose seven times out of ten.