Bblackjack is unique among casino games. Not only is it the most popular casino game in the world, but it’s a game where the casino (or the house) has a notoriously low edge over the player. This low house edge, coupled with the fact that you can become very skilled at Blackjack if you know what you’re doing, has helped people routinely win millions on The Strip. If you’re looking to get better at Blackjack and take to the casinos with the maximum chances of winning, we need to go back to square one and look at how the game got started.
In the beginning
Since nobody knows how the game got started, let’s look as far back as we possibly can. Scholars, historians and Blackjack enthusiasts around the world have been arguing over who started the game for decades now, you can check out this piece from Ladbrokes that sheds a bit more light on the history of Blackjack. By and large, most people reckon that it was the French who got the ball rolling, though some people will tell you that it was the Spanish or the ancient Romans. Either way, the first recorded reference to the game was in the short story Rinconete y Cortadillo by Miguel de Cervantes, the chap who wrote Don Quixote, and that was as far back as 1613.
Back then, the whole point of Vingt-et-un or Veintiuna, as the game was known (in French and Spanish respectively), was to get to 21. This was slightly easier than it is these days, as it was played with a Baraja deck, which means that there were no 8s, 9s or 10s. This is how the game was played for hundreds of years, right up to and including Napoleon’s exile on the island of Elba. As it happens, Napoleon was a massive fan of Vingt-et-Un, and played it often. He had the right idea – if you’re going to be stuck on an island which is only four times bigger than Montpellier, you may as well break out the cards.
Blackjack: the rules
These days the rules have changed a fair amount – you no longer have to get to 21, you just have to beat the dealer’s hand. After the game spread to America with the French colonists in the early 1900s, the game made its way to Nevada. The casinos setting up shop in Nevada in 1931 decided that in order to give the game a whole new level of appeal they would add a new rule – anyone who can get a black Jack and an Ace of Spades would win an epic 10:1. It worked and Blackjack, as the game became known, rocketed in popularity.
Because of the new Blackjack rule, most people think that the Ace is the most powerful card in the deck. This is actually not true – a group of statisticians took to Vegas in the 50’s so that they could work out “the basic Blackjack strategy”. They discovered that the most powerful card in the deck is actually the 5 – take that the 5s and your chances of winning increase by 0.64 per cent more than any other card. Professor Edward O. Thorp took this one step further in 1962 with a book called Beat the Dealer, proving that his new tactic “card counting” can predict the probability of winning a given round.
Believe it or not, card counting isn’t illegal and nor is it particularly hard to do. Films like 21 have made it look like only mathematical geniuses have the processing power to pull off this fancy trick – that’s not true either. As long as you can count and you have the right level of patience, you can learn to count cards. Casinos obviously frown on this as it’s not in the spirit of the game, and will ask you to leave if they think that you’re counting. In an effort to make counting harder, casinos now use up to eight decks at once, meaning that instead of four 5’s that you have to look out for, there are now 32.
Fortunately card counting isn’t actually the best way of maximising your odds. Online Blackjack is often the best way to go – rather than using the eight decks and letting you count, online casinos use a random number generator to choose which cards are used in each round. This means that the basic Blackjack strategy is available to you at all times, helping you make a much cleaner decision with every hand. If you’re looking to maximise your chances of winning, sit down at an online casino with the basic Blackjack strategy open in front of you, and use that to inform your decisions.