So what is it exactly? And why the name Blackjack? Well, Blackjack, also know outside casinos as twenty-one (21) or Pontoon, gained its world-wide popularity in the US. Before this, it was more popular in countries such as France and Spain. It was not until US casinos added a rule where if you have a black jack card in your winning hand, you get 10x times the odds. While this rule didn’t remain in practice for very long, it was enough to popularise the game in the masses of US casinos. It remains the most widely played casino game in the world.
What makes blackjack so popular is the very low house edge, plus it is relatively easy to play and understand. It not only relies on the chance of certain cards being dealt, but also the skill of the player in knowing how to bet and if to draw more cards. If you have basic strategy, the house edge can be less than 1%. The game can also be played with low limits so looks attractive to all kinds of casino gambler.
Although there are variations of Blackjack, there are basic rules that are followed. A player or number of players (up to 7), play against a dealer. Players don’t play each other. To win the game, a player must get cards valuing as close to 21 as possible without going over that value, but still beating the value of the dealer’s cards. If a player receives cards over the value of 21, they are considered bust and lose that particular hand. If they hit 21 on their first 2 cards drawn, it is called blackjack and they will automatically win that hand.
The dealer has slightly different rules to follow. On top of the same rules as the player, the dealer also has rules surrounding a card value of 17. If they have a value less than 17, then they must hit. If they have a value above 17, then they must stick. An exception is included in this. At some casinos, they have a rule that if the 17 is a “soft 17”, then the dealer must hit again. A soft 17 is considered when cards are dealt that equal 17 with an Ace valued as 11. For example: Ace and 6 =17 or Ace, 2, 4 =17. If a casino follows this rule, then hitting a soft 17 forces the dealer to hit (draw) again. This is actually a disadvantage to the player as it raises the house edge by 0.2%
As already mentioned, Aces can be counted as either 11 or 1. Because of this, it is a very important card in the deck. The cards 2 to 9 count as their numbered value and jack, queen, and king all count as 10.
When the game starts each player playing the dealer places a bet and is dealt two cards face up and the dealer is dealt two cards with only one facing up. If the player is dealt doubles, i.e. a pair of 2s, then they can split them if they like and play 2 separate hands.
Once the game starts each player gets to go in turn. They can stick on their initial two cards, or request more cards from the dealer in order to try and reach a total of 21. This continues through all the players at the table. Then the dealer turns over his face-down card and plays against all the people left who are not bust. The players who have higher than the dealer will win their bets, and the players who have lower than the dealer will lose their bets. If no one wins, then the bets are returned. If the dealer gets blackjack (21), then all the other players lose unless they too have blackjack. In this case, then it is a draw and their money is returned.