Back in 2018, Forbes posted an article titled “Blackjack’s Rise and Fall Shows What Drives Customers Away”. It was a compelling piece, although it probably barely made a ripple among Forbes’ continuous output of business articles.
The article, by David Schwartz, detailed the history of blackjack, demonstrating how it became the game loved by strategists. Most importantly, it showed how blackjack’s popularity was tied in with the perception that players – skilled players – could beat the house. Many decades after the game was popularised, that point is still contested. Is it a game of chance or one of skill? You can make an argument for both.
And yet, the most interesting aspect out of the article was the thesis on blackjack’s decline, especially in Las Vegas. Fewer tables and lower revenue from the vast casino resorts (these things tend to go up and down). The main culprits cited? Lower payout rates and automatic card shufflers.
The lower payout rates refer to the changing (in some, but not all casinos) of the award for a winning blackjack hand, i.e. making 21 with two cards. In the past, the reward was 3:2, so a $20 bet would pay $50, but some casinos have changed that to 6:5, meaning you would receive $44. In a game with the finest of margins in terms of the house edge, that counts for a lot.
Players don’t like automatic shufflers
As for the automatic shufflers, these interfere with strategy. The most basic card-counting methods depend on estimating the value of cards remaining in a deck. If those cards are being constantly shuffled with discarded cards added to the mix, it gets more difficult to build that strategy.
This brings us to blackjack at online casinos. The two sectors of the industry have always been complementary rather than competitors. We can break it down like this: Online blackjack was for causal play, practice even, whereas the real action would be held back for a pilgrimage to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. That’s probably a little facile, and it’s a generalisation certainly, but you get the picture.
Why was that the case? Well, as you can see with online games such as American blackjack at www.casino.com, software is used to reflect the house-edge in the real world. But it is, after all, software, and that means the house edge is built in. That does not mean players can’t win over a session – far from it. But it means that the house is guaranteed to win over time. However, what about when we factor in the changes made in Vegas casinos mentioned above? The American blackjack online, for example, still retains the 3:2 blackjack payout for a winning hand.
Live casino has added a new dimension to online play
Perhaps more importantly, though. You can now play live blackjack at online casinos. These games stream the action from studios, using real decks, dealers, and so on. The software here only acts to facilitate the placement of bets, and it does not impact the card game. For all intents and purposes, it’s the same as a blackjack game in Las Vegas. Except for the fact that online casinos don’t usually implement those payout cuts we mentioned earlier.
Look, we aren’t advocating blackjack as a way to make money. In online casinos and casino resorts, the house has the advantage. However, if you do decide to play, it’s worth remembering that there are other options than visiting a swanky casino resort. Research each game before you play, then pick the variant that has the best value and that suits your strategy. Whether you win or lose, at least you will be giving yourself the best chance for success.