Blackjack is one of the most famous card games in the world, second only to poker. And that wasn’t always the case. For a long time, blackjack (or Twenty-One) was the number one casino game in all land-based casinos. There were even specialty blackjack casinos which offered only this game. The decision to televise poker tournaments is what propelled poker to the top and helped it leapfrog blackjack.
Among table games (and other gambling games in general), blackjack players can enjoy one of the best house edges in a casino. With a house advantage of just 1,5%, only Baccarat can rival its payout percentages. House edge represents how much money the casino will take from the players in the long run.
What this basically means is that, statistically, every time you wager $100, you’ll lose $1,5 (again, this is measured in the long run — it doesn’t mean you have to lose money every time). That’s not a bad deal, considering other popular games like slots (3%–15%) and Roulette (2,70%–5,26%) have worse odds.
But a house edge can’t be the only reason behind its popularity. Why else do people play it so much?
Why It’s Popular
Blackjack is a perfect mixture of a game of chance and a game of skill. There’s an element of luck to it, as you can’t influence which cards you’ll receive and which cards your opponent (i.e., the dealer) will have. As a result, it still incorporates that suspense and excitement that come with games like slots and craps, where you can hit a huge jackpot or get a winning streak. As Fast Eddie Felson put it, money won is twice as sweet as money earned.
But it’s also a game of skill, so you’re not completely reliant on hoping for a good hand. When you play for real money, you can implement strategies which will allow you to win more consistently and minimize your losses. Even with a basic strategy, if carefully thought out, you can reduce the house edge to 0,5%. As is the case with poker, this takes practice and experience. And if you learn some advanced strategies, such as the art of card counting, you can create even beat the house if you play perfectly. You’ll be able to predict (not all the time, but frequently enough to make a significant difference) the probability of ending up with a better hand, and act accordingly, bet low when you’re about to lose and bet high when the odds are in your favor.
As you improve, your blackjack skills will rely on rational decision-making more and more, rather than hunches and blind shots in the dark. Consequently, winning will feel more rewarding, as you will find it to be a result of your hard work and training, rather than just being lucky at cards (and unlucky in love, eh?).
To combat a low house edge, casinos have introduced side bets to both physical and online blackjack tables. For example, some of the popular side bets are perfect pairs (which means you would receive two pairs of the same suit), 21+3 (your two cards and the dealer’s up card form a flush, a straight, or a three of a kind), or over/under 13 (betting on the sum of your first two cards). However, these bets have higher house advantages and are purely lucky guesses.
Playing Blackjack Online
Should you go on the Internet and start playing online blackjack for real money? The answer is yes, and there are several reasons for it.
The first reason would be the convenience of it and the time you’d need to invest. You don’t have to go to a casino to enjoy a quick game of blackjack, as you can do it from your couch or wherever else you find yourself. You can also do it whenever and for as long as you want. If you’re up for just a few rounds, you can do that when playing online. Let’s face it; nobody’s going to bother going to a casino to stay there for just 15 minutes.
Online casinos are open 24/7, 365 days a year, and there’s no crowd. You never have to wait for someone to vacate their seat at a packed table. On top of that, you always play head-to-head with the dealer (with the exception of live dealer tournament games). This will make you and you alone in charge of how the game pans out. There won’t be anyone sitting by your side, splitting Tens (and your brain cells) against a dealer’s Six, which takes the dealer’s bust card out and makes everybody lose.
Finally, since there’s nobody watching what you’re doing, you can use your strategy charts and any other helpful materials during your game. This is especially handy for players who’re learning a new strategy and still don’t fully understand it.
Bonuses and Games
Another two reasons to consider playing online are online casino bonuses and their game libraries. The sheer volume of games on offer is incomparably greater. Operating costs of an online casino are significantly lower compared to brick-and-mortar ones, and there are no physical constraints of playing at as many blackjack tables as you want. As a result, when you join an online casino, you’ll be able to play numerous variants of the game — European Blackjack, Atlantic City Blackjack, Double Blackjack, Spanish 21, just to name a few. The minimum betting limits are lower as well. They almost always start at around $1 (as opposed to live casinos’ usual $5 limit), which is particularly helpful for newcomers to the game.
Additionally, online casinos offer bonuses which their land-based counterparts simply cannot match. Since there are literally thousands of online casinos, they needed to think of a way to differentiate themselves from their competition and attract more players. Consequently, promotions now form a standard section at all casinos.
As a blackjack player, you can take advantage of this, with casinos offering to match your deposit, sometimes even threefold. With this in mind, you can play with more money than you’ve put in, offering you an opportunity to play more rounds and have more shots at winning. Just make sure you read the terms and conditions that come with various bonuses, as they all have wagering requirements you need to fulfill before you can make a withdrawal request.
A disadvantage of going online is being unable to implement card counting. To successfully use this strategy, you need to play with the same deck for several consecutive rounds so you could have an idea which cards have passed and which are still left in the deck. With online blackjack games, the software shuffles the deck after each hand automatically, making card counting impossible.
Women in Blackjack
It would be a mistake on our part not to mention some of the successful women who made their mark in the history of this game. For example, did you know that the first ever professional blackjack player was female? That’s right; it was Eleanore Dumont. She moved from France to the United States in the 19th century and opened up a blackjack casino “Vingt-et-Un” (French for Twenty-One) in Nevada. Her gambling house was popular, and she had customers she would regularly win against.
Another famous female blackjack player is Alice Walker. In 2007, she entered the preliminary tournament for World Series of Blackjack. After progressing through all phases, she found herself in the final tournament, going up against 40 other pros. She won the first prize. The year before, she won the first prize in the National 3-Card Poker Championship as well, making her the only player to have ever been the holder of a back-to-back Double Crown.
Why You Should Do It
To be honest, the only reason why you should play blackjack is that you find it fun. If you enjoy it, you don’t worry about house edges, strategies, and other things that come with playing table games. Having said that, it’s not the only reason why blackjack is so popular.
With a low house edge (which gets even lower if you correctly implement a strategy), blackjack is a simple yet addictive game which pays out fairly frequently. Since there’s luck involved, it maintains the excitement of the unexpected. But it’s mainly a skill game, which allows you to be in control and influence the outcome. So the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be good at it. Good luck!