Classic blackjack is the name given by live and online casinos for the most traditional version of twenty-one played. Some people call this version of 21 either “traditional blackjack” or simply “blackjack”. This is the most popular of the 21 variations and the version most people grew up playing. The many casino rules offered for players mean the classic game has quite different odds from one table to the next, so this article will focus on those rules, along with how they affect the odds.
Like so many forms of gambling, the Devil is in the details. It pays to know how the rules affect probability, so I’ll try to include those statistics when it doesn’t bog down the discussion.
Rules of Classic Blackjack
The basic game is played with a standard poker deck. In most cases, classic blackjack is played with a multi-deck, but the range is anywhere from a single deck up to 8. Common variants include 2-deck, 4-deck, 5-deck, and 6-deck games. If all other rules are the same, then increasing the number of decks in the shoe increases the house edge, since players won’t be able to make decisions based on the cards already seen. Remember that all other rules often aren’t the same, so a single-deck version of blackjack might not necessarily be better than a six-deck or eight-deck version.
In a live setting, the blackjack table will have between 1 and 7 players playing at any given time. In an online setting, you can choose multi-player games or play at your own private table.
In classic 21, two cards are dealt to the player and two cards are dealt to the dealer. One of the dealer’s cards is face down, while the other is face up. The hand which matches or gets closest to 21 without going over is the winner. After the initial deal, the player can ask for additional cards, which is called “hitting”. If the player opts to have no more cards dealt, this is called “standing”. Knowing when to hit or stand is where most of basic strategy lies, though other rules complicate matters a bit.
Peter A. Griffin (1937–1998) was a mathematician, author and blackjack expert and is one of the original seven members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame. He authored The Theory of Blackjack, considered a classic analysis of the mathematics behind the game of casino 21.
Griffin was a native of New Jersey, one of three children, with a brother, poet...
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