If you’ve ever watched a Hollywood film set in a casino, chances are you’re familiar with the game of blackjack. After all, from the James Bond series to the critically acclaimed Rain Man, along with the comedic hit The Hangover, has featured exciting scenes involving huge runs at the blackjack table. These modern incarnations aside, blackjack has been played for four centuries running, with the game’s roots stretching back to a Spanish game called ventiuna (or “twenty-one”).
Over time the rules and mechanics of blackjack have remained relatively unchanged, and today the game ranks as one of the most popular gambling pursuits on the planet. You can learn more on our history of blackjack page.
The rules of blackjack are set up so that anybody who can count (no pun intended) can play. Players place their wager and take two cards, while competing against the dealer’s hand in an effort to get closest to 21 without going over of standing while the dealer goes over 21.
The dealer’s cards come one up and one down though, making blackjack a classic “partial information” game. It’s up to you to decide between hitting, standing, splitting, or doubling down, and once you’ve made the best decision possible, the cards decide the rest. A more thorough primer on the rules of blackjack is located on our blackjack rules page.
Blackjack is truly a player’s game, allowing for skill and strategy unlike any other venue on the casino floor. By mastering the tenets of basic strategy – or a set of mathematically-based rules encompassing every possible situation – players can reduce the house edge on blackjack to under 1 percent.
Even when making plays according to their “gut feeling,” players still face a favorable house edge of a little over 1.5 percent. This makes blackjack the best value when it comes to casino gaming, because by simply making the correct plays, players are afforded an essentially even money proposition.
Basic blackjack strategy requires a significant amount of rote memorization, but once you have the rules down pat, the game can be both entertaining and profitable at the same time. More information on blackjack strategy can be found on our blackjack strategy page.
The thrill of blackjack comes when players ride the rush, and the game can often produce exciting streaks of good cards known as a “hot shoe.” Every blackjack player hopes to experience one of these winning streaks, as an initial buy-in of $100 or so can easily multiply into the thousands after a short series of hands.
Knowing the ins and outs of the game is crucial though, because making suboptimal decisions can severely increase the house edge. Blackjack is by definition a “player vs. dealer” game, but the interconnected nature of each decision creates a cooperative element as well. Check out more about the intricacies of actual blackjack gameplay on our how to play blackjack page.
By studying the rules of basic strategy and trying your best to make the correct decision on every hand, you can enjoy the lowest house edge offered by any casino game. That alone makes the game worth playing, but as every blackjack player can attest, the wild swings and unpredictable nature keep them coming back for more.
Nothing beats the feeling of applying your own knowledge, skills, and hard work to overcome the casino’s notorious built-in advantages. Blackjack presents the perfect opportunity for gamblers to get their money in play, because by making the right plays at the right times, the odds are occasionally in their favor. And even if you’re suffering through the occasional downswing on the tables, the never-ending train of complimentary drinks should be enough to drown your sorrows.