By Greg Melikov
October 5th, 2006
It's likely blackjack was born after paper was invented around the 10th Century in China or Korea. Around the 14th Century, playing cards gradually spread across Europe, modifications being made as they passed through each country. Most likely "vingt-et-un" (French for 21) was inspired from earlier games and originated in French casinos in the early 1700s.
Blackjack came to the United States in the mid-1860s when gambling was legal in the western U.S. In 1910, Nevada outlawed casinos, but had a change of heart in '31 and imposed regulations to protect players. Over the years blackjack has spread throughout the world and is probably the No. 1 casino game on the Internet.
There's a basic set of rules applying to all versions of blackjack. Generally, always stand on 17 or better, hit on 12 through 16 when the dealer shows 7 or higher and hit on 8 or less.
You should always double down on 11, on 10 when the dealer shows 9 or lower and on 9 when the dealer shows 6 or lower. Always split aces and 8's, and split 3's and 2's when the dealer shows a 4, 5, 6 or 7.
There are many tactics that increase your odds of winning. For example, if your cards total 12 to 16, that's the danger zone, and whether you draw or not depends on what the dealer is showing.
No matter what the dealer is showing, always assume there's a 10 hidden. When you have a soft 17 or 18, it's a good idea to draw another card if the dealer shows anything from a 9 to an ace.
If your first two cards are equal to 11 or less, always draw another card. If the dealer has a card showing between 2 and 6, you should not draw another card except when you have 12 and the dealer is showing a 2 or 3.
Since the dealer's up card is so important, assume a 10-value card is underneath before deciding what to do. In a multiple deck game, always spilt aces and 8's, but don't split 4's, 5's or 10's.
Always stand on a soft 19 and 20, but double down on a soft 13 through 18 when the dealer shows 4, 5 or 6.
There's no need to buy insurance because it's nothing more than a side bet that the dealer with an ace showing has a 10 in the hole. With normal card distribution, the 2-1 payoff is 8 percent against you -- not a good bet.
You are wagering the dealer will have 21. Remember, you're playing to beat the dealer, not that he will beat you.
The only time the odds lean toward you is if you're a keen observer and have a good idea there are fewer than twice as many non-10's than 10's.