Blackjack is the world’s favorite casino game. Its origins aren’t entirely clear, but it is likely to have originated in French casinos around 1700, being known then as vingt-et-un, French for twenty-one. Around this time another version popped up in Spain, called ventiuna, which is Spanish for twenty-one.
So the game of twenty-one grew in popularity over the years, and while the rules have changed a bit since, the basics of the game remain the same. French Colonists brought the game to the Americas, and it eventually spread throughout the New World, although the game wasn’t considered by anyone to be blackjack just yet.
That didn’t happen until the 1930s, in Nevada, who had just legalized gambling, and their casinos were looking for ways to promote it. So it became typical for casinos to offer a 10-1 payout to players hitting “blackjack,” which was the ace of spades together with a black jack.
While 10-1 payouts for “blackjack” are long gone, and the meaning of hitting a blackjack hand has changed to any two cards totaling 21, the name did stick, and although some people still call it twenty-one, it is widely known today as simply blackjack. Not the hand, the game itself.
While gambling itself is a lot of fun, what is particularly noteworthy about blackjack is that it does combine luck with a certain amount of strategy, and using basic skills can reduce the house odds to near zero. Card counting, which is still a skill but a little too much for a casino’s appetite, can actually sway the odds in the player’s favor, which is why casinos consider this cheating and seek to prevent it.
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How To Play Blackjack
Blackjack is a very easy game to learn and not difficult at all to even master, which adds to its appeal. The primary object of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over, which results in an immediate loss.
Hands are played against the dealer, and players win when they have a hand closer to 21 than the dealer, or they don’t go over (bust) but the dealer does.
Cards are worth their numerical value, with the jack, queen, and king all worth 10 points, and the ace either 1 or 11 points, at the option of the player. A hand that is using the ace as 11 points is said to be soft, as in a soft 17 with an ace and a 6. If the player takes another card and it is an 8, it’s now 15 or 25, so obviously the ace will be counted as 1 point to stay in the hand.
Players are initially dealt two cards, one face up and one face down, and then given the choice to hit, take another card, or stand. A dealer card is also visible at this time, which also factors into the decision, as certain cards that the dealer may have make it more likely that they will have a good hand or more likely they will bust.
The reason the house has an edge in blackjack is simply because players get the opportunity to bust first. Again, when you bust, your hand is over, regardless of whether the dealer busts or not. If everyone busts, the dealer doesn’t even have to play their hand.
So there are cases where you bust and the dealer busts, or would bust if he or she had to play the hand, and that’s the house edge right there. To counter this though, players can use strategy, where the dealer’s play is determined, they must hit up to 16 and stand on 17, although rules differ by casino on whether or not they must stand on a soft 17.
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Other Tools For Blackjack Players
Players have other tools that they can use to improve their odds, such as doubling down and splitting. Doubling down involves doubling your bet and taking just one more card, with a hand such as 9, 10, or 11. Splitting involves getting two cards of the same value and playing two separate hands with them, for instance if you got dealt two aces.
Some casinos also allow players to surrender half of their bet if the hand is a bad one. Early surrender is when the dealer has checked his or her hand for blackjack, if a second card is even dealt, as some variations only have the dealer start with one card. Late surrender occurs when no dealer blackjack is present, and requires a weaker hand to make sense of the surrender.
If the dealer has an ace showing, players may also make an insurance bet, and if the dealer has blackjack, it pays 2 to 1. This isn’t a good bet odds wise, but some players use it to reduce variance.
The strategy involved in blackjack is by no means very deep, and again can be mastered by anyone quite easily, so this game is completely accessible by all. There are a few things to learn though which will improve the odds for you, like for instance using a simple matrix of what to hit and stand on based upon the dealer’s card, but this is easily obtainable and easily remembered in a little time.
A great many people really enjoy this game and once you’ve tried it then it’s quite clear why this is an all time favorite.