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The exact origin of the game of blackjack is rather murky; it was not invented by a single person, but apparently evolved from related card games sometime in the past century and gained currency during World War I. The basic rules are simple. A certain number of gamblers play simultaneously, and the goal of the game is to accumulate cards that make up a better total than the dealer, without going over 21. Gamblers automatically win against the dealer if they obtain 21 in only two cards.

The name “blackjack” stems from the practice of paying 3 to 2 for a total of “21” achieved with two cards, plus a special bonus if the two cards comprise the Ace of Spades and the Jack of Spades or Clubs. It is a game played with an ordinary deck of playing cards, a dealer, and from one to seven players. Although certain casinos employ two or more packs, shuffled together. Each card is assigned a numerical value corresponding to its rank, except for the court (or picture) cards, which have a value of 10, and the Aces, which are evaluated as 1 or 11, at the discretion of the player. A dealer representing the “house” and players (usually 1 to 6) participate in the game. All wagers are placed by the players prior to the deal; minimum and maximum bets are established by the “house” – a $1.00 minimum and a $500 maximum are customary in the “strip” casinos.

Each player and the dealer receive two cards initially. A player may continue to ask for additional cards (“hits”) until he or she wants to stop (“stand”) because he/she does not want the total number of points to exceed 21 (“bust”). The dealer must hit when his or her total hand is 16 or fewer points and stand when his or her total hand is 17 or more points. The player’s object is to accumulate more points than the dealer, without busting. After all hands have been played, the dealer pays the amount bet to those players whose totals do not exceed 21 but are higher than his or her hand and collects the amount bet from those players who have busted or whose total is lower than his or her own. When a player’s hand equals the dealer’s, that bet is not paid.

Blackjack used to be the most popular game at the casinos until the mid 1980s. In fact the casino floors then would be dominated by green-felt tables. While slot machines are now the most popular casino game, blackjack continues to remain a favorite because it offers the player a range of strategy options. The rules aren’t quite identical at every casino. In fact, in some cases they’re not even the same from table to table within the same casino! If you’re just a casual player, you may not be concerned about “fine points” in the rules. But if you’re a die-hard blackjack buff, it pays to be aware of who has what “sub-rules” and how they affect your percentages.

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