Blackjack or 21 is the most popular casino game in the world. Blackjack’s popularity can be attributed to a combination of the ease of play with the element of skill. There are many strategies and techniques for playing blackjack that make the odds of winning better for the player and an experienced blackjack player can do quite well playing blackjack.
Although the actual historical origins of blackjack are unknown, the first written reference is found in a short story by Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, written in 1601 or 1602. In this story the game is called “veintiuna” (Spanish for twenty-one), and the object of the game was to reach 21 points without going bust, and that the Ace was worth 1 or 11. As with many other popular casino games, 21 later found its was to France and eventually to the United States where it became known as blackjack for a winning hand that originally consisted of the ace of spades and the jack of clubs or spades. In the modern version of the game, to win a hand with a “Blackjack”, no longer requires any black cards at all.
How Blackjack is Played
In a casino, blackjack is played at a traditional kidney shaped table with the dealer on the inside of the curve and the players on the outside. The dealer faces the players and deals the cards from the ‘shoe”, which may contain 1 to 8 shuffled decks depending on the casino. Some casinos are now using a mechanized shoe that shuffles the cards internally, thus removing as much of the human handling of the cards as possible. Bets are placed before any cards are dealt and several other bets are available after each player and the dealer have all received 2 cards each.
The object of the game is to achieve a higher card total than the dealer, without going over 21 and going “Bust”. Number cards 2 to 9 count as their face value, the 10, jack, queen and king count as 10 and the ace counts as 1 or 11, at the players discretion.
The cards are dealt face up, 2 to each player, going from the dealers left to right and then 2 cards to the dealer, one face up and one face down. The face down card is known as the “Hole” card. It is important to mention that each player is playing only against the dealer and not against the other players.
The players have the option of taking as many cards as they wish to try to get as close as possible to 21 as long as they don’t go bust (or over 21). If a player does go bust , they lose the hand and their bet. Each player’s hand is played until the player stands (or stops taking any more cards), hits a total of 21 or goes bust. Some casinos pay a special bonus to a player making a winning hand with 5 cards. This hand is called a “5-card charlie”. Casinos have also offered 6 and 7 card charlies.
After all of the players have played their hands, the dealer plays his or her hand, after turning up the hole card. If the dealer has blackjack and no player does, he or she wins all the hands on the table. Prior to dealing anymore cards to themselves, the dealer must follow some basic rules. If the dealer’s hand is less than 17, the dealer must take another card or cards until they either surpass 17, hit 21 or go bust. If the dealer’s hand is 17 or higher, the dealer must stand. If the dealer’s hand is 17 but includes an ace, this is known as a soft-17 and each casino will have pre-listed rules on whether or not the dealer must hit or stand on a soft-17.
The best winning hand is called a “blackjack” and consists of an ace and a card worth 10. This hand is made from the initial 2 cards dealt and is an automatic winning hand for the player unless the dealer also gets a “blackjack”. This is known as a “Push” and results in a tie. The standard payout on most bets is 1:1 and a “blackjack” pays the player at 3:2 in most casinos.