You see it in sport, with the global phenomenon that is football, or in literature, with classics by the likes of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen that still resonate today. And you even see it in the fast-moving world of gaming, where the simple game of blackjack is played in homes, casinos and even online, all over the world.
A brief history
Historians love to argue about when games were invented, but most agree that blackjack as we know it was first played in France in around 1700. They called the game vingt et un and it became a favourite among the card-loving aristocracy in the years before the French Revolution.
But while most of the games played back then have been largely forgotten, this one spread to North America via the French colonies. It acquired the name blackjack through a special bet that the Nevada casinos offered in the 1930s, whereby a hand featuring the ace of spades and the jack of either spades or clubs would be rewarded with a 10/1 return. The “blackjack” bet was soon discontinued, but the name stuck.
Blackjack’s popularity today
As children, most of us learned to play blackjack. The rules are simple to pick up and a single game takes a matter of seconds, so it is great for short attention spans. But don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity. Today, blackjack can be played in an online casino and it is a game that offers superior returns to any other for those who are willing to dig deeper into its strategy.
Blackjack strategy is entirely based in probability and statistics, using a mathematical analysis of the cards dealt and those still in the shoe to dictate the best course of action. Basic strategy tells the player whether to hit or stand, and whether or not to split a pair. But once this first level is clearly understood, there are additional levels of analysis that look at, for example, the composition of the hand in order to make further strategic refinements and improve the odds still further.
Beating the house
Every casino game has a “house edge” – this is the difference between the odds of winning and the amount paid out if you do so. For example, a typical slot machine has a house edge of around five percent, meaning for every hundred coins fed in, it will pay out 95.
In blackjack, the house edge is around two percent, but that assumes the player makes errors and does not always make the optimum decisions. Just by following three or four basic strategy rules, a novice can slash the house edge to one percent, while experts can easily reduce it to 0.5 percent or even lower. With numbers like that, it is unsurprising that blackjack is as popular in cyberspace today as it was in France 300 years ago.