- Blackjack is one of the most popular card games in the world.
Much of blackjack’s popularity is due to the mix of chance with elements of skill, and the publicity that surrounds card counting (keeping track of which cards have been played since the last shuffle). Blackjack’s precursor was vingt-et-un (”twenty-one”), which originated in French casinos around 1700, and did not offer the 3:2 bonus for a two-card 21.
When blackjack was first introduced in the United States it was not very popular, so online gambling houses tried offering various bonus payouts to get the players to the tables. One such bonus was a 10-to-1 payout if the player’s hand consisted of the ace of spades and a black Jack (either the Jack of clubs or the Jack of spades). This strategy was called a “blackjack” and the name stuck to the game even though the bonus payout was soon abolished. As the game is currently played, a “blackjack” may not necessarily contain a jack or any black cards at all.
- Rules and Strategy
Each player is dealt two cards and is then offered the opportunity to take more. The hand with the highest total wins as long as it doesn’t exceed 21; a hand with a higher total than 21 is said to bust or have too many. Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, and face cards (jack, queen, king) are also worth 10. An ace’s value is 11 unless this would cause the player to bust, in which case it is worth 1. A hand in which an ace’s value is counted as 11 is called a soft hand, because it cannot be busted if the player draws another card.
The goal of each player is to beat the dealer by having the higher, unbusted hand. Note that if the player busts he loses, even if the dealer also busts (therefore Blackjack favors the dealer). If both the player and the dealer have the same point value, it is called a “push”, and neither player nor dealer wins the hand. Each player has an independent game with the dealer, so it is possible for the dealer to lose to one player, but still beat the other players in the same round.
The minimum bet is printed on a sign on the table and varies from casino to casino and even table to table. After initial bets are placed, the dealer deals the cards, either from one or two hand-held decks of cards, known as a “pitch” game, or more commonly from a shoe containing four or more decks. The dealer gives two cards to each player, including himself. One of the dealer’s two cards is face-up so all the players can see it, and the other is face down. (The face-down card is known as the “hole card”. In European blackjack, the hole card is not actually dealt until the players all play their hands.) The cards are dealt face up from a shoe, or face down if it is a pitch game.
A two-card hand of 21 (an ace plus a ten-value card) is called a “blackjack” or a “natural”, and is an automatic winner. A player with a natural is usually paid 3:2 on his bet. Some casinos pay only 6:5 on blackjacks; although this reduced payout has generally been restricted to single-deck games where card counting would otherwise be a viable strategy. The move was decried by longtime blackjack players.
- The player’s options for playing his or her hand are:
1. Hit: Take another card.
2. Stand: Take no more cards.
3. Double down: Double the wager, take exactly one more card, and then stand.
4. Split: Double the wager and have each card be the first card in a new hand. This option is available only when both cards have the same value.
5. Surrender: Forfeit half the bet and give up the hand. Surrender was common during the early- and mid-20th century, but is no longer offered at most casinos.
The player’s turn is over after deciding to stand, doubling down to take a single card, or busting. If the player busts, he or she loses the bet even if the dealer goes on to bust.
After all the players have finished making their decisions, the dealer then reveals his or her hidden hole card and plays the hand. House rules say that the dealer must hit until he or she has at least 17, regardless of what the players have. In some casinos a dealer must also hit a soft 17 (a combination of cards adding up to either 7 or 17, such as an ace and a 6).
If the dealer busts then all remaining players win. Bets are normally paid out at the odds of 1:1.
- Some common rules variations include: 1. Only one card for split Aces: a single new card is added to each Ace and the turn ends. They are thus regarded as 11-point cards. No other denomination is subject to this process.
Multiple splits: If a player splits 2 cards and receives a third card of identical value, the hand can be split again, resulting in 3 hands. However, some casinos only allow a single split of the first 2 cards.
2. Early surrender: Player has the option to surrender before dealer checks for Blackjack.
3. Late surrender: Player has the option to surrender after dealer checks for Blackjack.
4. Double-down restrictions: Double-down may only be allowed on certain combinations of cards (usually totaling 9, 10 or 11).
5. Double-down after split: Double-down may not be allowed after splitting cards. The split hands are played normally otherwise.
6. Split any tens: Players may split any 2 cards which are both worth 10 points, such as a Jack and Queen. This rule is rarely used, since 20 is a very strong hand which is unlikely to be split.
7. European No-Hole-Card Rule: the dealer receives only one card, dealt face-up, and does not receive a second card (and thus does not check for blackjack) until players have acted. This means players lose not only their original bet, but also any additional money invested from splitting and doubling down. A game that has no-hole-card doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose additional bets as well as original bets. In Australia for example, a player beaten by a dealer blackjack may keep all split and double bets and lose only the original bet, thus the game plays the same as it would if there were a hole card.
There are more than a few blackjack variations which can be found in the casinos, each has its own set of rules, strategies and odds. It is advised to take a look at the rules of the specific variation before playing. Many countries have legal acts and laws, which determine how a casino game of Internet Blackjack must be played.The push: When you and the dealer get the same numbers, you can either stay in the game and take a chance at winning double your money or take your money back and start a new hand.
If the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, the player is offered the option of taking Insurance before the dealer checks his ‘hole card’.
The player who wishes to take Insurance can bet an amount up to half his original bet. The Insurance bet is placed separately on a special portion of the table, which usually carries the words “Insurance Pays 2:1″. The player who is taking Insurance is betting that the dealer was dealt a natural, i.e. a two-card 21 (a blackjack), and this bet by the player pays off 2:1 if it wins. It is called insurance since if the dealer has a blackjack, the bet wins the same amount of the players Blackjack wager, such that if insurance is taken and the player doesn’t have blackjack but dealer does, no money is lost. Of course the dealer can end up not having blackjack and the player can still win or lose the blackjack bet.
Insurance is a bad bet for the player who has no knowledge of the hole card because it has a house edge of approximately 7%. Even for the player who has been dealt a natural (a two-card 21) it is unwise to take Insurance. In such a case, the dealer usually asks the player “Even money?” This means that instead of 3:2, the player with the natural accepts to be paid off at 1:1. Thus it is exactly the same thing as buying Insurance, losing the Insurance bet and getting paid 3:2 on the natural.
In casinos where a hole card is dealt, a dealer who is showing a card with a value of Ace or 10 may slide the corner of his or her facedown card over a small mirror or electronic sensor on the tabletop in order to check whether he has a natural. This practice minimizes the risk of inadvertently revealing the hole card, which would give the sharp-eyed player a considerable advantage. In some countries, such as Australia, no face down card is dealt to the dealer until it is his turn to play his hand. This makes the game more complicated since the dealer must keep track of busted split bets since if the dealer ends up drawing a BlackJack the players lose only their original bets and do not lose double or busted split bets.
- Hall of Fame
The greatest blackjack players have been honored with admission into the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
In the winter of 2002 a diverse selection of 21 blackjack experts, authors, and professional players were nominated by the top professional gamblers in the world to the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Voting for the Blackjack Hall of Fame was open to the public for about one month on the Internet, and the final voting was completed at the 2003 Blackjack Ball in January, an event open only to the top professional players and hosted by blackjack author Max Rubin. The primary voting for the Blackjack Hall of Fame is done by professional players.
The founders of the Hall of Fame structured the selection process in this manner because they felt that only professional players know the full accomplishments, at and away from the tables, of fellow professional players because many of these achievements must be hidden from the public in order to protect sensitive information from reaching the casinos. The founders also felt that it is professional players, whose survival depends on such knowledge, who best know which authors and theories have truly been original and truly had an impact on the strategy game.
Currently there are 11 members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame. The first seven members were elected to the Hall of Fame in the winter of 2002. The members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame are:
Al Francesco ” 2002
Arnold Snyder ” 2002
Edward O. Thorp ” 2002
Ken Uston ” 2002
Stanford Wong ” 2002
Tommy Hyland ” 2002
Ken Taft ” 2004
Max Rubin ” 2004
Lawrence Revere ” 2005
James Grosjean ” 2006
Bill Raudabaugh ” 2007