9 Reasons Why Blackjack Isn’t the Same Game Today
On the surface, blackjack appears to be the same game today as it was decades ago. It still requires players to beat the dealer’s score without going over 21 and features the same basic rules, including hitting, standing, doubling down, and splitting.
But while this game may look and play the same, it’s changed greatly over the years. Everything from the typical rules to the format is much different today than they were decades ago.
What all has changed so much about blackjack? What can you expect from this game in the future?
I’m going to answer these questions by discussing nine ways that blackjack has transformed and what these differences mean for the future.
1 – Land-Based Blackjack Rules Have Changed
Land-based blackjack tables used to have excellent rules. In the early 1960s, these games typically featured a single deck and 3-to-2 natural blackjack payouts.
However, Ed Thorp started a card counting revolution that would change the game forever. His 1962 book, Beat the Dealer, filled the public in on how they could successfully count cards and earn profits.
Unfortunately, these changes have since had a negative effect on recreational players too.
Multiple decks, 6-to-5 natural blackjack payouts, and forcing dealers to hit on a soft 17 are just some of the casino-friendly rules that have been added. This mix of rules has pushed the casino’s house edge up to 2% in many cases.
You can still find good blackjack tables in certain areas, such as downtown Las Vegas. But by and large, the unfavorable rules have given brick-and-mortar casinos a bigger advantage.
2 – Card Counting Is More Difficult Than Ever
Card counting is the most famous advantage play technique in the gambling world. It involves tracking card values in an effort to figure out when the deck has lots of aces and 10s remaining.
This is the point when you have a greater chance of getting a natural blackjack. You can use this information to make bigger bets and capitalize when you do get a 3-to-2 natural payout.
Of course, casinos have been well aware of card counting for more than five decades. Again, Ed Thorp blew the top off this technique with Beat the Dealer.
Gamblers can still make money through card counting if they’re good enough. However, casinos have become experts at catching advantage gamblers.
The easiest way for casinos to spot card counters is when they spread their wagers too large. For example, somebody who starts at a $10 table minimum and bets up to $1,000 during a favorable count (100-to-1 spread) will be quickly spotted.
But even those who are more practical with their bet spreads can get caught. You really have to research which casinos are more lenient with counters and play at those establishments.
Some of the most successful gamblers have moved on to other advantage-play methods, such as ace sequencing and hole carding. These techniques aren’t easy to pull off, but casinos aren’t expecting them as much as card counting.
3 – Online Blackjack Is Easily Accessible
The World Wide Web didn’t become available for public consumption until 1991. It wouldn’t be used by the masses until the mid-1990s.
This is the point when the earliest online casinos began launching. Microgaming opened the very first online casino in 1994.
Many people were hesitant to trust remote gambling sites with their credit card information and personal details. However, players would gradually gain more confidence in online casinos.
The internet gaming industry has continued growing since those early days. Now, one can literally choose from hundreds of sites when looking for a place to play blackjack.
Online blackjack is great from the perspective that you can play it anywhere. This convenience advantage means that you no longer have to visit a land-based establishment just to enjoy a few blackjack hands.
4 – Live Dealer Blackjack Is Popular
As just mentioned, internet blackjack offers a huge convenience perk. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have quite the same atmosphere as a land-based casino.
This is where live dealer blackjack comes into play. Live dealer gaming features a real table and dealer streamed directly from a casino or studio.
You can actually have conversations with the dealer via the chat box. You can also look forward to seeing real cards dealt on a real table — all while sitting in the comfort of your own home.
Live dealer blackjack essentially brings the land-based gaming experience to your smartphone, tablet, or PC. Many people envisioned this type of gambling setup when online blackjack first got rolling. Now, the live dealer version is more commonplace than ever.
5 – Online Blackjack Bonuses Are Available
One great byproduct to online blackjack is deposit bonuses. These offers allow you to earn an amount equal to a match percentage of your first deposit.
Here’s an example:
- A casino is offering a 100% match bonus up to $200
- You deposit $100
- You’re now eligible to earn a $100 bonus
Of course, internet casinos don’t just give you the bonus money right away. If they did, you’d simply be able to deposit and withdraw everything after you got your bonus.
Wagering requirements (a.k.a. playthrough) is an especially important term because this determines how much you must bet to unlock your bonus.
Given that blackjack usually has a very low house edge in comparison to slots, it doesn’t offer as much towards satisfying wagering requirements. For example, blackjack bets might only count 20% towards playthrough in comparison to slots.
Here’s the math on what it would take for you to earn your bonus in such a case:
- You qualify for a $100 bonus
- Wagering requirements are 40x the bonus with slots
- 100 x 40 = $4,000 must be wagered to release the bonus with slots
- But blackjack only counts 20% towards playthrough
- 40 / 0.2 = 200
- 100 x 200 = $20,000 must be wagered to release the bonus with blackjack
Even though blackjack requires far more betting action to get the bonus, it’s still worth going for these offers whenever they’re available. After all, they can help you recoup previous losses or even earn a big profit if you’re on a hot streak.
6 – Novelty Blackjack Games Are Available
Blackjack has been offered at casinos for a long time. Amazingly enough, it still remains one of the most popular games.
But those who play blackjack often get tired of the same drill of playing at a standard table or through their phone. Novelty blackjack games are an excellent way to freshen up the action.
Some casinos offer party pit and/or poolside blackjack games. Party pits include vibrant music, scantily clad dealers, and (clothed) pole dancers.
A poolside blackjack table is located on the side of a pool. The table is above water so that the cards don’t get soaked, but the seats are slightly submerged. These games allow you to swim up and play a few hands of 21.
Both types of novelty blackjack games are really entertaining if you’re looking for something new. Just be aware, though, that they often feature the worst-available rules.
6-to-5 natural blackjack payouts and eight decks are a given. You may also have to deal with other bad rules, such as the dealer standing on a soft 17 and double-down restrictions.
You’re essentially paying for the pleasure of a new type of blackjack. As long as you’re okay with this, then you should definitely give party pits or poolside blackjack a try.
7 – Fewer Comps Are Given Out
Casinos used to be known for showering all types of gamblers with comps. Some people still believe the stereotype that free drinks and buffet passes are handed out like candy to blackjack players.
The truth, though, is that comps aren’t what they used to be with blackjack or any other game. Gambling establishments have reduced rewards in order to focus on other areas of their resorts, such as nightclubs, shopping, and restaurants.
While blackjack players can still get rewarded, they’re not going to get as many comps as they would’ve in the 1990s or before.
A 0.1% comp rate was common in blackjack years ago. Today, you’re lucky to find a 0.05% rate.
Here’s a look at how you’d be rewarded in this scenario:
- You bet $5,000 in blackjack
- The casino’s comp rate is 0.05%
- 5,000 x 0.0005 = $2.50 in rewards
- The game’s house edge is 1.5%.
- 5,000 x 0.015 = $75 in theoretical losses
Even with a higher house edge these days, land-based casinos don’t offer many rewards to the average blackjack player. You should temper your expectations when it comes to comps.
8 – Stakes Are Higher
Las Vegas and Atlantic City commonly offered $2 and $3 blackjack tables decades ago. These days, $10 is considered a low minimum bet for blackjack.
The problem for these gambling destinations and others is casino saturation. Nearly every state these days features legal casinos, which creates more competition and leads to more empty blackjack tables.
A Vegas casino used to make money off $2 and $3 blackjack when considering the numerous gamblers that poured into Sin City years ago. While Vegas is still a major attraction, it must now deal with people no longer having to fly there just to gamble.
Of course, online blackjack gives players another option. This version also offers cheaper stakes, with $1 minimum bets being the norm.
After all, they have to at least pay minimum wage to dealers.
Visit the Vegas Strip, and you’ll have a tough time finding a table that costs less than $25 per hand. Even some of the off-Strip casinos and those located outside of Nevada require $25 minimums.
9 – More Automated Blackjack Machines in Land-Based Casinos
Machine-based gambling used to be reserved for slots and video poker. However, more games have gone the way of automation in recent years.
Blackjack is one of them because you can find a growing number of automated blackjack machines in casinos worldwide.
A blackjack machine offers one inherent advantage over regular tables in that casinos don’t need a dealer to run them. Instead, a player inserts their cash/ticket and bets just like they would with a slot.
Casinos can also blend the live and machine experience through stadium blackjack. This version features a dealer in the center of machines, while players use buttons to select their bets and hand actions.
Machines and stadium blackjack give players a simple way to enjoy the game while still reveling in the land-based casino atmosphere. As long as people keep choosing these games, casinos will gladly supply them and save money on dealer salaries.
How Will Blackjack Be Different in the Future?
You can see that blackjack has undergone plenty of changes over the last half-century. You can also count on seeing more things change within the next few decades.
Technology is increasing at a rapid pace, and casinos will look to take advantage of this new tech with blackjack and other games. Here are a few things to expect from blackjack in the future.
Virtual Reality Blackjack
Virtual reality has been nothing but a novelty concept ever since it was conceived in the 1950s. Companies made a serious push to establish VR in the 1990s, but the technology wasn’t quite up to par.
Fast-forward to now, though, and virtual reality is better than ever.
As covered by Variety, sales of virtual reality headsets could reach $75 billion by 2021. While this is still a long way from smartphone sales, it shows that VR could actually become a viable option.
The growing adoption of virtual reality means that it will eventually become more and more common in gambling. Companies like PokerStars (Stars Group) and NetEnt are already taking advantage by releasing VR products.
This trend creates multiple possibilities for blackjack, from online to land-based casinos. Internet casinos will obviously take advantage of VR tech by allowing players to get closer to the virtual game than ever before.
Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar venues can use this technology to allow players to experience blackjack in an entirely new manner. Just imagine a casino offering a high-tech VR setup, which lets blackjack players travel to a Caribbean island or the Himalayas.
Live Dealer and VR Blackjack Will Become One
Expanding on the last point, live dealer blackjack should get a huge upgrade from the virtual reality industry. While live dealer casinos have definitely created a more realistic experience for online players, it still has limitations.
Most notably, gamblers are forced to look at a smartphone or PC screen while playing. Many players don’t mind this now, but they may change their tune when VR tech eliminates the screen buffer.
Virtual reality isn’t good enough right now to make a gambler feel like they’re truly sitting at a land-based blackjack table. However, it could reach this level in 15 or 20 years. Assuming VR blackjack becomes good enough, land-based tables may become a novelty.
More Automated Blackjack
Earlier, I covered how the land-based casino world is featuring more automated blackjack machines each year. These machines and the stadium version allow casinos to save serious money on dealers.
A stadium set lets casinos put dozens of “tables” surrounding the dealer in the center.
Therefore, gambling establishments can cut down on the number of dealers and tables they must supply.
Of course, some gamblers will always prefer the interactivity of a regular blackjack table, which seats seven players. But these tables may gradually be phased out over time.
Robots are taking many physical jobs from humans. Everything from factories to transportation companies is bringing artificial intelligence into the fold.
Dealing a blackjack game requires a fairly high amount of motor skills. Nevertheless, dealing a casino game is also something that can be replaced by robots.
Depending upon the technology curve, these robots may even feature a human-like appearance and be able to chat with players. Obviously, these bots will never take the place of a human dealer, but they can get closer to doing so as AI advances.
Fewer Land-Based Tables
Brick-and-mortar blackjack is already a game in decline. As reported by the UNLV Center for Gaming Research, blackjack tables went from taking up 77% of gambling floors in 1985 to occupying just 51% by 2016.
Part of this decrease is attributed to how casino visitors look for a more diverse array of entertainment options. They no longer head straight to the gambling tables, but also spread their money around to restaurants, shopping malls, clubs, and shows.
But the steep decline also has something to do with more forms of gambling being available. A blackjack player no longer has to travel to Vegas or Atlantic City. They can now simply pick up their smartphone and begin playing.
More and more gamblers are choosing the online version when considering that brick-and-mortar games offer worse rules than ever before. That said, you can expect the number of land-based tables to continue declining.
Blackjack used to be the most favorable table game in casinos. Land-based tables commonly featured a single deck and 3-to-2 natural payouts, which are two rules that dramatically lower the house edge.
But Ed Thorp changed the game when he released Beat the Dealer and filled casinos and other players in on card counting. Since then, blackjack has undergone a slow evolution.
The game now features worse rules and a higher house edge in land-based casinos. Luckily, though, online blackjack has become a viable alternative.
The online version, which became available in the mid-1990s, has been a godsend in terms of convenience, cheaper stakes, and better rules.
Live dealer blackjack has added a more realistic atmosphere to online casinos. You can now get the land-based casino feeling through your smartphone or tablet.
I emphasize the word “feeling,” though, because live blackjack still doesn’t completely replace the brick-and-mortar atmosphere. Those who want the social aspect will still choose the land-based version.
But virtual reality could change this and make online/live dealer blackjack more realistic than ever. VR tech is improving to the point where it may eventually make you feel like you’re actually sitting at a blackjack table.
Other potential changes in blackjack’s future include more automated machines, stadium setups, and robot dealers. These features allow casinos to save money on dealer salaries.
Blackjack has come a long way in terms of rules, online play, and electronic gaming. But with virtual reality and robot dealers on the horizon, blackjack is far from done changing.