Blackjack has long been the card game for intellectuals, mathematicians and anyone who likes a real chance at beating the house. For a time it was even the top table game on the Las Vegas Strip, but lately the game has fallen from favor as casinos struggle to attract high rollers and compete with Asian-style games like baccarat. But blackjack is not dead yet. In fact, it’s thriving in some places, where players use strategy and skill to beat the house.
Blackjack is a card game played between the dealer and one to seven players. Each player places a bet in the betting areas marked on the table. After each player has placed their bet the dealer deals each hand two cards. If the first two cards are an ace and a card valued at 10 that is a blackjack or “natural” as it is commonly called. The player then has the option to take ‘insurance’ which is a bet that the dealer will have a blackjack. The player will pay half of their original bet and will win if the dealer does have a blackjack.
Most blackjack players play their hands conservatively, not taking advantage of the best opportunities to improve their chances of winning. This often results in a lot of money going to the house. For example, many players hesitate to hit 16 against a dealer’s 7 or fail to double down when the odds strongly favor doing so. Expert players, on the other hand, maximize their wins by hitting more frequently and doubling and splitting more often when the odds are favorable.
Another factor that has hurt blackjack is the proliferation of casino-style games. These games can be very profitable to the casinos and, as a result, have cut into the profits of traditional blackjack tables. This has made many casino managers uneasy about the game and, in some cases, they have whittled down the 3 to 2 payout on blackjacks.
In addition, many casinos have removed the option for players to split pairs and have also changed the rules on how the game is dealt. These changes have increased the house edge and make it much harder to beat the dealer.
Nevertheless, some casinos still offer excellent odds on blackjack and players should always try to play these tables. The key is to understand the basic rules of the game, stick to a sound strategy and be willing to work hard at improving your skills. With a little effort, blackjack can be the most profitable of all gambling games. But remember, the odds of winning are never guaranteed and you should only gamble with money you can afford to lose. Good luck! This article was originally published in the March issue of Passport. To get the full issue, subscribe today!