Among the most sought-after table games in any modern casino is blackjack. This applies to both real casino tables, as well as the increasingly popular online blackjack games you can play. And this is no overnight success, either, because getting the magic number of 21 in your hand and beating the dealer has been the goal of all players of blackjack for centuries.
Read on to find out how to play the table game, what blackjack tips and tricks might help you win, the role of the game in popular culture, in films such as 21, and the game’s history. Once you have read the article, you will probably feel much more savvy about blackjack than you did before. If so, then why not register to play it? In the meantime, let’s look at what makes blackjack such a distinctive game.
Where Did Blackjack Originate From?
Let’s go back to the start. The game was once called ‘black jack’ (two words) and has been around for several hundred years. The table game as we know it today developed from a popular 18th-century French card game known a vingt-et-un, or 21. French sailors are said to have played it as far back as 1700 and even Napoléon Bonaparte is said to have tried his luck with it. In the 20th century, the game started to appear in American casinos for the first time. To market the game more effectively, vingt-et-un was adapted to add a bonus whenever a player received the ace of spades or either of the two black jacks. Hence the nickname which subsequently took hold and became popularised the world over: blackjack.
How Does Blackjack Work?
Blackjack is a very simple and exciting card game but you need to get the basic rules learned before throwing yourself into it. Blackjack rules state that the aim is to beat the dealer with a higher total in your hand but you may not exceed 21 points. Each player initially receives two cards in their hand. Numerical value cards – two through to ten – score their face value. All of the picture cards – jacks, queens and kings – score ten points. Aces are different. Players can nominate each of them to score either one or eleven, depending on which is most advantageous. This counts for the player and the dealer.
A bet is made before the first card is dealt. After that, each player receives two cards but the dealer only awards himself one, face up. If you want another card to up your score, you say ‘hit’ or ‘twist’. If you are prepared to go no further, then say ‘stick’ or ‘stand’. If your score exceeds 21 then you have lost and must declare it. Only after all the players no longer want any more cards does the dealer receive his or her second card and reveal it. Players with higher scores than the dealer win their bet. If their score is equal to or lower than the dealer they lose. The game then resumes, if players wish to continue, with a new hand.
Understanding the Blackjack Split Rule
Many blackjack players often use the opportunity to ‘split’ their hand. This is not necessarily something you need to do but some players like to. Splitting allows players to effectively double their bet by playing two hands in the same round. If your first two cards have the same value – for example, two tens or two queens – then you can separate them and twist for further cards on each of them independently. This means there is a double chance of beating the dealer in just one round. Another rule allows players to split if their first two cards add up to 16. This is worth considering as 16 is an awkward hand to play since it rarely wins but can often result in you going bust (aka, scoring over 21).
How Do You Win at Blackjack?
You cannot win a hand at blackjack if you have already bust. You will win, however, if you have not bust and the dealer scores more than 21. Other than that, scores which exceed the dealer’s one are deemed to be winning hands. Blackjack pays out at an even money rate. This means you win back the same sum as you have wagered on each hand. Remember that there might be four or five players at the same table as you. However, in blackjack rules, you are playing against the dealer only, not the other players. This is the same for online blackjack as well as the casino table game.
How Does Card Counting Work in Blackjack?
Card counting means keeping a numerical mental note of when it is best to bet high and when it is best to bet low. It does not increase your chances of winning against the dealer. However, it does mean that when you do win, you are statistically more likely to win greater sums than you would if you didn’t card count. A team of gamblers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proved that this strategic investment method could work.
Essentially, the system relies on working out how likely – or otherwise – it is that the next card to be dealt to you from the shoe (the large deck of cards used in casinos) will be high or low. This is done by keeping a mental note of all the low cards and all the high cards which have been previously dealt and betting accordingly. Casinos usually look out for people employing the card counting method by tracking their bets which will commonly swing between high and low values quite wildly.
Is Card Counting Allowed in Blackjack?
Generally speaking, it is not illegal to count cards in blackjack. However, using technology to help you keep count can be. Either way, casinos try to make it as difficult as possible for people to count cards. Sometimes they use very large shoes, sometimes they cut the deck mid-game and sometimes they simply ask people to leave when they suspect them of using the technique.
Popular Blackjack Movies and What We Can Learn From Them
As mentioned, a team of MIT students were among the first to successfully show that casinos could be taken on using card counting techniques. The Hollywood film 21, released by Sony Pictures in 2008, is based on their story. It starred Kevin Spacey and Jim Sturgess, focussing on how hard-up students used their mathematical prowess to make money to pay for their studies. As the students have to learn what card counting is all about, the movie offers a useful explanation of the theories involved.
In the late 1980s, the drama Rain Man was released, starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffmann. It went on to receive eight Oscar nominations. Hoffman plays a character with autism who has magnificent mathematical abilities. When he is reunited with his brother, played by Cruise, the pair go on a road trip which involves a visit to Las Vegas. Cruise’s character exploits his brother to win big at the city’s blackjack tables, helping him to pay off his debts. Although the screenplay is more a journey of discovery between siblings, it has some memorable moments involving the game.
What is the Best Blackjack Strategy?
Some people take the so-called cautious approach when playing blackjack. This means only upping your stake after every win. The Martingale system is another popular strategy which involves doubling your stake each time you lose. Both have their pros and cons. However you like to bet, it is worth looking at the dealer’s face-up card carefully before proceeding. Picture cards and aces indicate the dealer is likely to have a strong hand in the end so you should bet accordingly.