UNDERSTANDING VIDEO BLACKJACK

As with every other game in the casino the explosive growth of technology is on the verge of transforming the most quintessential of all table games, blackjack. In reality, it may have surfaced at the blackjack table before any other game in the casino. Automatic card shufflers have been commonplace for years. Other minor technological perks also appeared on the blackjack table though none really altered the nature of the game play.

At the same time, there were ‘Video Blackjack’ games appearing in the slots area in the style of–and made by the same companies as–video poker. You can still find these games in most well stocked casinos. That suggests that they make enough money to justify keeping them but they never really became popular. Not only did the ‘heads up’ play against the computer dealer become monotonous after awhile there was a perception that the card dealing in the game wasn’t really random. That’s almost certainly not the case–they use the same random number generators as other casino games. Besides, no gaming machine manufacturer and particularly no casino in a well regulated jurisdiction is going to put themselves at considerable regulatory and legal risk to squeeze a few extra coins out of players. They already have the mathematical edge and the ‘downside risk’ of cheating players at the corporate level is just too great. In Nevada, for example, there is a state law that mandates that all representations of cards or dice must be based on ‘fair odds’. Based on my experience playing these games I can see where an uneducated ‘recreational’ player could get this impression–it never feels like you can get into the ‘rhythm’ that you can when you’re winning at live blackjack.

A NEW ERA OF VIDEO BLACKJACK

There has been a resurgence in video blackjack over the past decade due in large part to the expansion of casino gaming all across the country. It was originally intended as a way to get around restrictive state gaming regulations that prohibited anything but ‘electronic games’ meaning that live dealers were not permitted. Even though states like North Carolina who once prohibited live dealers have since reversed course the ‘virtual dealer’ games became surprisingly popular–even when offered side by side with ‘live’ dealt games.

Another factor was the growth of online gaming. Blackjack is the most popular table game at North American casinos and as such it became a priority for online casinos to offer a good experience in the game. This began something of a technological ‘arms race’ to come up with the best blackjack software package. At some point, it morphed into offering video games dealt by a live dealer in a remote location.

VIDEO BLACKJACK TODAY

The technological evolution of blackjack at online casinos continues but the biggest growth area is now video blackjack in land based casinos. There’s a move toward automation in many phases of casino operation and while video craps and roulette have initially been more warmly received by players than video blackjack it’s finally gaining traction. The latest games do things the smart way–they use the tools afforded them by technology to replicate the ‘live’ blackjack experience as much as possible. They also provide players with the necessary information to make traditional blackjack strategy ‘work’ from showing other players’ up cards to indicating when the deck is being ‘shuffled’.

In the next two articles we’ll talk in greater detail about the state of the art in video blackjack. We’ll also compare live blackjack and video blackjack to determine which is better for the player’s ‘bottom line’.