Casinos offer a variety of games to entice everyone from those dreaming of a jackpot to people simply enjoying a night out. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran, it is important to know helpful tricks to make your time at a casino more profitable and fun.
Blackjack is firmly lodged in our popular culture, a big part of the modern casino zeitgeist. The MIT blackjack team’s card-counting exploits, woven into books and even a feature film, put blackjack back in the national spotlight, a spot it originally earned because blackjack is just plain cool. The word blackjack calls to mind smoky casino floors, men in exquisitely tailored suits, stacks of chips, and intrigue.
This page looks at blackjack past, present, and future, why people love this simple European game, and how the game’s rules have changed over time. Our blackjack guide covers some of the most popular card counting systems including the KO and A-5 in addition to variations of the game, how to play online and blackjack strategy.
You will also find pages comparing the best sites to play blackjack online. This includes casinos with real money games, compatibility for Macs and mobile devices as well as bonus offers.
Last but not least, if you have any questions about online blackjack or blackjack in general, we offer an extensive FAQ guide with answers to over 100 blackjack questions
Those are just the most basic rules for blackjack, but it’s easy to see where blackjack’s rules leave wiggle room for strategy. The most obvious advantage players have over the house is that they know exactly how the House is going to react to different point totals. If the House draws a total of 15, the House has to take another card. Players are the only ones at the blackjack table with true free will. This freedom to choose creates opportunities for strategic thinking and play.
Blackjack, because of the rules of the game, offers some of the best odds in the casino. Since the middle of the 20th century, blackjack strategy has been perfected by mathematicians and professional gamblers. Blackjack strategy cards lay out in plain English what moves are optimal for every possible blackjack hand. If you follow those basic blackjack strategy tips every hand, the House edge on an average blackjack game is approximately 0.5%. (Rules variants in some casinos can affect this house edge. For example, if a casino only pays out 6 to 5 on a blackjack instead of 3 to 2, the house edge goes up dramatically.)
Further attempts to apply strategy to blackjack led directly to the idea of keeping a mental count of which cards have been played. This is now called “card counting” or “counting cards.” Because card counting isn’t cheating, requiring only a great memory and a head for numbers, it’s a legitimate and legal strategy. But casinos retain the right to refuse service to suspected card counters, which makes it a risky strategy.
Blackjack has long occupied a starring role in casinos. Online casino gambling has brought the portside gamble once known as ventiuna into our living rooms. Card counters and professional gamblers, not to mention gambling cheats, have used the game’s rules to their advantage, winning millions of dollars and securing blackjack’s place in people’s minds as the go-to game for big bucks. As long as blackjack tables offer the most advantageous odds of any table game, expect to see crowds gathered around blackjack tables, pressing their luck for a piece of the casino’s coffers.
The History of Blackjack
The first known written reference to blackjack comes to us from a Spanish literary giant. Most famous for the farcical novel Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes was the first to describe the game ventiuna. All we know from Cervantes is that the object of the game was to score as close to 21 without going over, and that Ace cards could be worth either 1 or 11 points. Sound familiar?
Cervantes wrote the reference to blackjack in the early 17th century, meaning blackjack has been with us for at least 400 years. Since ventiuna was a game played among workers in port cities, it’s no surprise that the game, or versions of it, made its way around the world.
When ventiuna made its way to the UK, the British called it “pontoon,” a phonetic bastardization of the Spanish ventiuna. Pontoon and other versions of ventiuna around the world added a new wrinkle to the game, a reward for a hand made up of the Ace of Spades and the Jack of Clubs or Jack of Spades. Both of those Jacks are black, so it’s easy to see where the name blackjack comes from.
Like other casino and card games, blackjack became popular across America during the 1800s, as the frontier was settled and America’s borders spread to the west. Blackjack became a standard casino game; it would be difficult to find a casino in America or in most parts of the world that doesn’t offer at least one blackjack table.
Modern Blackjack Rules
The object of a game of blackjack today is the same as it was in the time of Cervantes: build a hand whose card point values are as close to 21 as possible without going over. In modern blackjack, face cards (Jacks, Queens and Kings) are worth 10 points, Aces are worth 1 or 11, and all other cards are worth their number.
There are three potential outcomes: the player wins, the House wins, or the player and the House tie, which is called a push. Any pair of cards made up of one Ace and one 10 is called a blackjack, and when it is dealt in the first two cards, the player automatically wins at 1.5 to 1 odds.
Winning blackjack just means beating the dealer’s point total without going over 21. The winner of a game of blackjack is a player closest to a total of 21 who hasn’t gone over.
Blackjack also has multiple variations to the game. Below is a list of links that will take you to our blackjack variations pages. Each game provides easy to understand instructions on how to play, tips for playing a particular game as well as strategies to beat the house edge. Most of the blackjack variations you see listed on this page are available at online blackjack casinos.