Blackjack: Introduction to the World’s Most Popular Casino Game

Played in hundreds of casinos around the world and online, blackjack is a widely known gambling game that fascinates with its obvious simplicity and the mystery surrounding the practice of card counting. This game is fast, a spectacle to watch, and it involves an element of skill so it is no wonder it attracts professional gamblers and casual casino-goers alike.

Often compared to poker for the skill factor in both of them, blackjack is much simpler and is played against a dealer rather than against other casino patrons who are likely to be more experienced than you. As with most gambling games and most things in life, blackjack is easy to learn but difficult to master. In fact, perfecting one’s skills often takes years, hard work and a lot of dedication. But this should not stop gambling enthusiasts from trying to improve in blackjack.

On the contrary, with the right sources of information, most people manage to easily learn the game and how to win consistently. Knowing the fundamental rules and principles is key to improving one’s skills but it is also fascinating to get a glimpse into the origins of blackjack and how it changed through time.

History of Blackjack

1Origins of Blackjack

The origin of blackjack is the subject of a lot of debate and there would probably be no consensus on how, when and where exactly the game started. What we do know is that it was not created by any single person at any particular point in time. Most researchers believe that the precursor to modern-day blackjack is a game, known as Vingt-et-Un. This translates as Twenty-One from French and this game was played in gambling houses in France in the 17th century.

But similar gambling games existed even before that and one of the examples that we know of today is Ventuina. The game was described in a series of the Spanish novellas Novelas Ejemplares, which were written between 1590 and 1612 by Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. An earlier form of this game in Spain was Trente-un, or Thirty-One, a game with very different rules, yet clearly related to blackjack. We can find examples of similar games across Europe such as the French Quinze (which translates as Fifteen) and the Italian Sette e Mezzo or Seven and a Half.

In the 18th century, French colonists brought Vingt-et-Un to the Americas and eventually, the game spread in gambling establishments. It was later popularized by the licensed gambling halls in New Orleans although its rules varied and cheating was widely practiced by both players and dealers. The game was offered all across North America in the 19th century but the name blackjack would not arrive until decades later.

2Development of the Game

In the 19th century, gambling was illegal in France so the game of Twenty-One did not evolve there. It changed and transformed into the modern game in the United States after Nevada legalized gambling in 1931.

3Las Vegas and House-Banked Blackjack

Until the legalization of gambling, Las Vegas was a small settlement but in 1931, the construction of the Hoover Dam brought thousands of young male workers and gambling was legalized by local authorities who saw the potential for revenue. The newly licensed casinos and the authorities then realized that they needed game standards, as well as regulation.

At this point, the game of 21 was extremely popular and to attract customers, casinos offered various bonus payouts. One of these extra rewards was a payout of 10 times the bet when the player held an Ace of spades and a black Jack. This hand was called blackjack and although casinos stopped giving the 10:1 payout, the name remained.

4Edward O. Thorpe and the Beginning of Card Counting

Blackjack easily became gamblers’ favorite game and many claimed they could track the cards and gain an advantage over the casino. In the 1940s and 1950s, many legendary players were known to use various systems that seemed more mysterious and magical than practical. Soon, mathematicians also became fascinated with the game of blackjack and the theory behind it.

One of them, Edward O.Thorpe, started analyzing the game using IBM 704, one of the earliest computers that could process complex mathematical equations. Thorpe developed a game theory and managed to prove mathematically that the house edge in blackjack could be eliminated by card counting. In 1962, he described the Ten-Count system in his book Beat the Dealer, which marked the start of card counting. Of course, the probability theory that he used also became fundamental in the development of blackjack strategies.

What Is Blackjack Today?

Today, blackjack is a gambling game that uses one or more standard decks of 52 cards where the Jokers are removed. Standard, American blackjack is played with 6 or 8 decks but there are also games with 1, 2, or 4 decks, as well. While the four suits are irrelevant (except for bonus payouts in some variations of blackjack), the value of the cards is what matters as this is a comparing game. In other words, players compare their hands to the hands of dealers to try and beat them.

Typically, a game of blackjack is played on a special, semicircular table where the dealer sits opposite of five to seven player seats. Each player has a betting position displayed on the table layout with additional boxes for side bets in some blackjack variations. As this is a banking game, casino patrons play against the dealer – in comparison, poker players compete against each other.

Basics of the Game

Basics of the Game

The objective of the game is to beat the dealer by having a hand with a value that is as close to 21 as possible. If the hand exceeds 21, this is called “busting” and the player immediately loses. The strongest hand is called blackjack and it comprises of a Jack and an Ace of any suit.

The cards have different point values – cards from 2 to 9 are counted at their face values, whereas cards from 10 to King count as 10. The Ace, on the other hand, can be 1 or 11. The blackjack hand – an Ace and a 10-value card, has totals 21. Of course, not all 21 hands are blackjack.


Once players make their bets, the dealer deals 2 cards face-up to each of the players and himself. In American blackjack, only the first card of the dealer is exposed – the second one is dealt face-down so that players cannot see it. The dealer, however, is allowed to peek if his first card is an Ace or a 10-value card, i.e. if the dealer has a chance for blackjack.

Each player then has several options – to draw one more card, which is called “hitting”, to refuse any more cards, which is referred to as “standing”, or to double his or her bet. Those who choose to double receive one more, final card and their turn ends, while their bet is doubled. Players who receive 2 cards of the same value can also choose to “split” the pair into two hands – an additional card is then dealt to each of the new hands. Of course, this second hand also requires a second bet to be placed and it will be equal to the size of the original stake.

Some games also allow players to buy Insurance and bet that the dealer will have a blackjack, while others have the option to surrender half of your bet and end your turn.

Once casino patrons play out their hands, the dealer also has the option to hit or stand – these moves are determined by the rules of the specific game. However, the dealer cannot double down, surrender or buy Insurance. Usually, the rules specify whether the dealer is required to stand or hit on 17 and the type of 17-value hands.


Most variations of blackjack pay the same amount of money for winning. Typically, players who get blackjack in the beginning win immediately and receive a winning that is 1.5 times the amount they have wagered. This is usually expressed as 3:2 in the paytable of the game. When the player gets a hand that is stronger than the dealer’s but without going over 21, this is a regular win and even money is paid.

Blackjack tables tend to display the payouts for two possible outcomes of each round. One of these is the 3:2 blackjack payout and the other is the payout for Insurance, which is 2:1. If there are any side bets in the game or bonus payouts for having some specific hands, they will also be displayed on the table itself.

Blackjack vs Other Casino Games

The best casino game

Chance-Based Games

Skill-Based Games

Since blackjack is a form of gambling, it will always be compared to games such as roulette and slot machines. While it has its fans, many people actually prefer slot machines because they are extremely easy to play – there is no skill element involved so you simply rely on chance to hit a winning combination. So, which is the best casino game?

The answer to this question lies in casino patrons’ individual tastes and preferences. Some casino patrons love the simplicity of slots, others are fascinated by the elegance of roulette, and there are people who prefer the challenging nature of table poker.

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Blackjack Games

Online Blackjack
RNG Games
Live Dealer Blackjack

Online Blackjack

Online blackjack is played much like traditional table blackjack – it follows the same rules and offers the same payouts. Online blackjack is available in hundreds of online casinos and often, it can be played without even betting real money. Due to the popularity of the game and the rise of gambling sites in the past couple of decades, software development companies have created more variations of blackjack than you could find in any land-based casino.

RNG Games

In its virtual form, blackjack is much more accessible than the traditional game offered only in licensed gambling establishments. It was designed to simulate the real-life game so players are presented with the familiar blackjack table, virtual chips, and cards that are dealt from a 6 or 8-deck shoe. When played online against a computer, the game is completely fair and players are free to use any strategies or betting systems they prefer.

Each deal of the cards is random, which is guaranteed by the use of complex computer software known as Random Number Generator or RNG. In fact, RNG is the basis of a huge number of computer games but in gambling, it is used to recreate the randomness of a shuffled deck of cards, for example. RNG-based blackjack lacks any patterns and sequences of cards, which is why it eliminates the usefulness of card counting, card tracking and any other type of advantage play that is still possible in brick-and-mortar casinos.

Live Dealer Blackjack

Online blackjack players are also given the option to play against an actual dealer. Live casino lobbies combine the best of the two worlds – the thrill of real-life gambling with the convenience and ease of online games. Here, high-rollers can bet hundreds and thousands of dollars as the table limits are much more liberal.

Live games are usually streamed from professional studios but sometimes, they are hosted by land-based casinos with dedicated live tables. Multiple camera angles, live chat options, and elegant casino settings create the atmosphere of being in an actual casino. The cards are dealt by professional dealers and the tables have 7 seats – just like in Las Vegas casinos.

The games are not as fast-paced as RNG blackjack and players can enjoy the betting experience in full. Usually, they can choose tables with different betting limits and languages other than English. Unlike virtual blackjack, however, live tables are not always available 24/7.

Blackjack Glossary


Advantage Player


Balanced Count

Basic Strategy

Betting Limits


Burn Card


Card Counting

Cut Card



Deck Penetration

Double Down

Early Surrender

Even Money

Face Card

Five Card Charlie

Flat Betting

Hard Hand

High Roller


Hole Card

House Edge


Late Surrender


Pat Hand

Perfect Pairs

Progressive System




Soft Hands

Spanish Deck



Stiff Hand






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