It wasn’t all that long ago that land-based casinos were teeming with skilled blackjack players. These gamblers were consistently beating the house, but operators weren’t too worried because unskilled players and slot machine enthusiasts easily made up for it. But now, thanks to the extensive growth of online gambling, some say the future of blackjack is at risk.
One might naturally assume that bringing Las Vegas style gambling to the internet would further increase the number of skilled blackjack players around the globe. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, it’s breeding a whole new generation of gamblers who aren’t able to take advantage of the high payout potential intelligent blackjack players of old incorporated.
The way internet gaming software is programmed, some of the most advantageous strategies afforded a blackjack player have been omitted. Number one on that list is card counting.
Counting cards in blackjack has been the most widespread strategy taught in books on the subject, dating back to Dr. Edward O. Thorp’s Beat the Dealer (1962). Thorp is widely regarded as the ‘father of card counting’, but he wasn’t the first to outline blackjack strategies and counting systems. Known as The Four Horsemen, Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott published the first rudimentary card counting system in Playing Blackjack to Win (1957).
Now days, online gambling sites design their software with what’s known as a continuous shuffling machine (CSM), reshuffling the entire deck/shoe of cards after every single hand of blackjack. Without the ability to count cards, a significant margin of house edge can no longer be eradicated by skilled blackjack players, ensuring that the house always has an advantage, no matter how slim.
Further complicating things, iGaming websites have introduced a multitude of blackjack variations that seem appealing to the untrained eye, but are often structured to give the house an even higher edge. One of the worst rapidly spreading disadvantages is the presence of a 6:5 payout for blackjack, as opposed to the traditional 3:2.
One of the worst examples is found in Double Exposure Blackjack (aka Face Up 21), which allows the player to see both of the dealer’s cards. That’s an excellent advantage in theory, but other rules have been severely altered. Most variants of Double Exposure Blackjack state the dealer wins on a tie, and only pay even money for a natural blackjack. That, combined with other unfavorable rules, gives the house a minimum edge of about 1.5%, and that’s only if a perfect strategy is invoked.
The Trade Off: Skill Games to replace Blackjack
Why would any intelligent gambler bother visiting an online casino if beating the house is becoming a statistical impossibility? Operators thought the same thing, and have since developed new skill-based games. But again, only a select few will be able to exploit them.
One of the first such games was Pong, a spin-off of the original 1972 Atari video game introduced by Bally Technologies in 2004. It’s a slot machine, meaning that most short-term players will pump in money without making a profit anyway, but it contains a bonus round that any expert Pong player can easily profit from because the bonus payout directly relates to the player’s performance. Anyone who’s not proficient in Pong, however, will become just another catalyst for the casino’s heightened revenue generation.