Odds are the first casino table game you ever played was blackjack. The concept of the game is very easy to understand, making a bet and learning the rules of the table are simple, and the game has a very social element since generally all the players win or lose as a group.
Blackjack has enjoyed equal success at the virtual tables, especially now that many online casinos have begun to offer live-dealer games.
As is the case with all long-running casino games, blackjack is full of fascinating facts, fun trivia, and of course math.
The first written description of blackjack is found in a short story written around 1601 by Miquel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote.
The name “blackjack” came from a French game known a Vingt-et-Un (21). Originally if the player made a 2-card 21 holding a black jack they were paid 10-to-1.
The 10-to-1 payout is long gone, being replaced by the long-standing standard of 3-to-2 for a blackjack. However, that tradition is on the verge of changing. Many of the casinos on the Las Vegas strip now pay 6-to-5 for a blackjack. This change increases the house edge; if possible, avoid playing at a 6-to-5 table.
Blackjack is typically dealt with a single deck, two decks, four decks, or six decks. Although rare, some casinos use 8 decks. Each increase in the number of decks provides a slight increase in the house edge.
The odds of hitting a natural 21 in a single deck game are roughly 4.8%
The odds of 4 consecutive wins are 4.62%.
The house edge in blackjack when a player uses basic strategy is 1.5%, one of the lowest on the casino floor.
It is common to hear players say that the “odds are the dealer’s hole card is a ten.” Actually the odds of the dealer holding a hole ten is only about 33%.
The world record for dealing blackjack stands at 51 hours 33 minutes set by a dealer at Malta’s Oracle Casino in Malta.
There are many professional blackjack players. Eleanore Dumont is credited as being America’s first professional blackjack player.
In 2002 the Barona Casino just outside of San Diego became home to the Blackjack Hall of Fame. The hall includes the greatest players and experts as well as well-respected authors. Hall of Fame members are given free rooms and other perks on the condition they never play blackjack at the casino.
Edward Thorp is the man responsible for blackjack’s “basic strategy”. Thorp is the author of Beat the Dealer the book that detailed the math of the game. The man known as the Father of Card Counting was not a blackjack player.
Card counting is not illegal. However, casinos have the right to bar players from playing for any reason.
When the dealers face up card is valued at 10, the dealer checks the hole card for a blackjack. Many land based blackjack tables have a small mirror called a “peeper” or “peeker” to allow the dealer to check for a blackjack without lifting the cards.
A “four” is called a “dealer ace” due to the fact that at tables which do not have a “peeker” the dealer will often have to lift the cards a bit higher when checking for a blackjack in order to make sure the card is not an ace.
The card dispenser is called a “shoe.” Legend is that the name derived from its resemblance to a woman’s high-heeled shoe.
A face card is called a “monkey.”
The playing cards that are located between the two cut cards in the shoe are called “the plug.”
The seat to the dealer’s left is “first base”.
The seat to the dealer’s right is “third base”.
A “soft” hand is a hand containing an ace. A “soft” 17 is Ace-6, a “hard” 17 is ten-7.
The rules covering what a dealer does when holding a soft 17 (Ace-6) changes the odds of a dealer bust. When dealers hit stands she will bust about 29.1% of the time. When the dealer hits the that percentage increases to 29.6%
A high stakes player is known as a “whale”.
The game is also a favorite of a number of whales. Perhaps the most famous was Australian Kerry Packer, known as the “king of the whales.” His wins and losses are legendary. He once lost $20 million at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. During on session at the MGM Grand he won between $24 and $33 million. According to associates his proudest moment at the tables was the night that Crockford’s in London asked that he not play there anymore due to the amount he won. He was also a legendary tipper and once tipped a casino employee $150,000, the amount she needed to pay off her mortgage.
Blackjack has been the favourite game of many famous people including Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles Barkley, and Ben Affleck.