Much like everything in the world, blackjack has changed over the years. The most popular game in casinos doesn’t always offer the same experience or value as it used to. That doesn’t mean it’s no longer a popular or fun game.
Rules changes, payouts, side bets, and other adjustments have altered how blackjack players enjoy the game at their favorite casinos. Thankfully, there are still casinos around the country that offer fair games where players can withstand cool streaks because the game rules and payouts are still close to what they used to be everywhere.
Blackjack was the second or third game I played the first time visiting a casino. My first bet and first win were on the Big Six Wheel in an Atlantic City casino. I won a couple of hundred dollars and haven’t played the wheel since.
I used the winnings from the Big Six Wheel to play blackjack. The entire legal gambling experience was fascinating. It still is. Casinos and gambling became a lifelong hobby that is now a fun work-life experience.
This might sound shocking but blackjack has never been my favorite casino game. Craps was my favorite game when I was younger. There’s still no casino game that has the same kind of energy at the table.
Today, I probably play more Pai Gow Poker than any game. It’s almost the opposite of craps on the excitement scale but that’s where my life is.
Having said that, blackjack has always been my number two table game. The pace of the game, use of skill, and camaraderie when playing with friends makes blackjack an everlasting favorite.
After getting hooked on casino gambling, I tried to learn the ins and outs of every game. Blackjack was a game where my skill would often allow me to have more fun than when playing other games.
Learning basic strategy to minimize the house edge made me feel like I almost had a leg up on the casino. If nothing else, learning basic stategy helped me play better than my friends.
Attempting to learn card counting didn’t make the experience more fun or profitable so I stopped. My focus since has always been honing basic strategy skills to keep the house edge as low as possible.
Through all the changes, I still enjoy blackjack as much as ever. It’s still the table game I play most when gambling with friends.
The experience of playing blackjack is different but so is the world. Like other things in life, I choose to make the best of a situation that used to be better.
Here are some ways blackjack games have changed since I turned 21 and played for the first time.
5 Ways Blackjack has Changed
The biggest complaint anyone has about blackjack is the change in how a natural blackjack is paid. In larger casino markets like Las Vegas, finding a traditional 3:2 blackjack with a minimum bet under $25 is rare. The Vegas Strip, specifically, is full of 6:5 blackjack games.
The lower payout for a natural blackjack gives the casino a larger house edge. This can translate to shorter blackjack sessions. Recreational gamblers want to maximize time gambling as much as they want to walk away from the game as a winner.
This often ties in with the lower payouts as casinos look to increase the house edge. Dealers standing on 17, not being able to double after splitting, and not being able to double on any two cards are just some rule changes that increase the house edge for the casino.
Again, the higher the house edge, the quicker the bankroll of a player goes away.
More Side Bets
Side bets were rare when I first started playing blackjack. Today, almost every blackjack game has multiple side bets including large progressive jackpots.
These side bets increase the house edge for the casino. Side bets are optional, unlike the different rules and payouts. They exist because players are spending money playing the side bets.
If I remember correctly, the only blackjack variant in casinos when I started playing was Spanish 21. New variations of blackjack are in and out of casinos as soon almost as quickly as we learn they exist.
Today, Free Bet Blackjack is the variant I see most often in Las Vegas casinos. The game can be fun if the rules and payouts allow it to be. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case.
There are more ways than ever to play blackjack in a casino today. The Covid-19 pandemic helped accelerate the growth of electronic table game versions of blackjack. There are even individual electronic blackjack tables in casinos today.
Stadium gaming installations with 20 or more seats were expanding rapidly prior to the pandemic. Like the smaller electronic tables, Covid-19 helped speed up the installation of these large-format gaming spaces.