Is online blackjack the saviour of the game?
It has long been known by casinos that the majority of blackjack players do not know what they are doing. Paradoxically, the popularity of blackjack as a table game is based entirely on the premise that the game is beatable and that it is the only game in the casino where a player can gain an edge over the house. This idea that the game is beatable (and it is) dates from the publication of "beat the dealer" by Edward Thorpe. This publication also rely on the wartime work of four clerks in the US military who worked out the optimum strategy (now known as basic strategy) using simple mechanical calculators. From this time on it became permanently lodged in the public mind that blackjack was the game to play casino regardless of skill level or knowledge.
Starting at this time, casinos also started to realise that they could lose money on the game. Thus began the campaign against the card counters with tactics ranging from roughing up mathematicians in back rooms to the development of automated shuffling machines. The management of the casinos well know that if every blackjack player plays to their full potential they would not make any money. This situation is driven by the fact that the punters will not tolerate rule changes which obviously disadvantage the players and when this has been tried the players drift away to other games with more attractive rules. And so there remains a situation where casinos rely entirely on bad blackjack players for their profits on the game and spend their time trying to identify and ban cars counters. The casinos are also faced with the problem that punters really do like live dealers with real decks of cards as they feel that this keeps the game honest. But there is no doubt that shuffle master machines and rule changes such as the payouts on naturals are driving blackjack players away from land-based casinos blackjack tables.
The situation online is very different. For a start it is impossible to card count at an online casino for the simple reason that the entire deck can be shuffled instantaneously after every hand. Therefore online casinos have never had to deal with the negative PR of a campaign against advantage players. Online casinos also have much lower operating costs because they do not have to pay individual dealers (who have to be quite skilled) to stand at tables dealing the cards and they do not have to pay for expensive real estate in order to accommodate these tables. Therefore online casinos can tolerate a much lower margin that their land-based equivalents and are therefore not too fussed whether players are playing to basic strategy or not.
At blackjack.com we have a long history of offering realistic multiplayer games which allow us to see what the average player does and you would be amazed to hear that only 88% of all blackjack hands are played correctly. That may sound like a high percentage to some people but the majority of hands are fairly obvious and it would take a real moron, for instance, to hit on 20 against a dealer six. The total set of hands that are incorrectly played increases the house edge dramatically from about 1.5% up to closer to 10%.
Whilst there are plenty of sites which offer a really good advice on how to play blackjack and which give basic strategy tables or every conceivable set of rules (blackjack.com amongst them) and there are also sites which offer training tools, there is clearly something missing. In the last few days we have launched the latest gaming platform "blackjack world". What we had noticed in the past was that our visitors really loved to play the fun multiplayer blackjack games which involved either tournaments or sort of role-playing games with items dropping and levels to work through. The training tools which taught blackjack basic strategy and card counting techniques were largely ignored, mainly because they were not perceived as fun. The latest incarnation of our multiplayer blackjack therefore incorporates the training tools directly into the gameplay. Players can now enter a realistic game lobby where they can see a multitude of tables and how many players are seen at them and there are even cocktail waitresses, cigarette girls and pit bosses wandering around. It is possible to play with up to 4 other players simultaneously and engaged in all of the banter (and unwelcome play advice) whilst learning the best practices of blackjack. There are so many options that it is impossible to go through them all but the main thing is that players who correctly play basic strategy are rewarded in the game. It is therefore worth the players while to understand and implement basic strategy.
For those players who want to take it a stage further it is also possible to learn card counting within the game and before you ask the decks do not shuffle after every hand.
Whilst these playing techniques have been learnt they will stand the blackjack players in good stead whether they are playing online blackjack or land-based blackjack.