Black Jack (also known as blackjack) is a card game played against the dealer, not against other players. Unlike many other games in the casino, blackjack will allow you to make choices that will have an actual effect on the outcome of the game. Therefore, blackjack is not a pure game of chance – it does have an element of skill.
In order to win something when you play blackjack, your hand must be closer to 21 points than the dealer’s hand. So, if your hand is worth 18 points and the dealer’s hand is worth 17 points, you win.
Any player hand that exceeds 21 points is immediately removed from the table and the wager is lost. If the dealer’s hand exceeds 21 points, all remaining player hands on the table are paid.
Hand value in blackjack
Blackjack has its own system for assigning points. The cards 2-10 are worth their numerical value, i.e. a five is worth 5 points, a six is worth 6 points, and so on. All face cards (jack, queen and king) are worth 10 points each. An ace is worth 1 point or 11 points, depending on what’s best for the hand.
The best possible hand in blackjack is a ten point card (ten, jack, queen or king) + an ace. This is called a blackjack and will, on most blackjack tables, pay 3:2 instead of the 1:1 payed to other winning hands.
Blackjack can trace its origins to a card game known as 21. In the famous author Miguel de Cervantes story Rinconete y Cortadillo in the book Novelas Ejemplares, a card game known as is ventiuna played. (Ventiuna is the Spanish word för 21.) Novelas Ejemplares was written in 1601-1602, so the game of 21 has been played in Europe for at least 400 years now, and is probably even older than that.
Just as in blackjack, the goal of ventiuna was to get closer to 21 points, hands over 21 points were worthless, and an ace could count as 1 or 11 depending on what was best for the hand. As you can see, the basic rules have changed very little over four centuries.
So, why was the special bonus payout for ace + ten points added? To find an answer to this, we need to take a look at the early gambling houses in the United States. Competition between the various gambling establishment could be fierce, and to increase interest in their 21 games, gambling saloons started to add various bonus payouts for specific card combinations. You could for instance get a bonus payout for 7-7-7 or any hand that contained at least five cards without going over 21 points. Giving a bonus payout for hands consisting of ace of spades + a black jack became especially popular and since these hands were so rare gambling saloons could promise a really big payout, such as 1:10. These black hands were called Blackjacks and eventually the entire game became known under this name.
Today, most casinos will regard any hand consisting of an ace + a 10 point card a blackjack. It doesn’t matter if its ace of spades + jack of clubs or ace of diamonds + queen of hearts or any other combination of an ace + a 10 point card. The standard payout for a blackjack is 2:3.
Different types of blackjack
There are many different types of blackjack and 21 games available today, especially online were it is comparatively cheap for casinos to offer a wide game selection.
Here are just a few examples of popular games in this category:
- Single Deck Blackjack
- Six Deck Blackjack
- Blackjack Switch
- Double Exposure Blackjack
- Double Attack Blackjack
- Multiple Action Blackjack
- Super Fun 21
- American Blackjack
- European Blackjack
- French 21 / Ving-et-un
- Spanish 21 / Pontoon
- British Pontoon
- Siebzehn und Vier
- 21st-Century Blackjack / Vegas Style Blackjack