Blackjack has been the most popular casino table game since the early 1960s, when it became known that card counting could beat the game. Edward O. Thorp’s publication Beat the Dealer first posed a difficult but successful card-counting system, and from that point, the blackjack explosion commenced. The game soon eclipsed craps as the No. 1 table game in the casino, a position it still holds today.
Of the tens of millions of blackjack players since that publication, only a small percentage ever got good enough to beat the casinos at the game using traditional count systems such as Hi-Lo—but that didn’t stop the casinos from panicking in the first blush of the card-counting revolution.
The first step the casinos took was to change the game drastically. Not only were more games implemented that used more than one deck, but the rules were changed to make the game far less attractive.
So what happened? Players started to reduce their time at the tables, and many gave up the game completely. The casinos soon realized that a game that made them a lot of money was about to go down the drain. So they brought back the good rules and even continued offering excellent single- and double-deck games. The crowds returned, and blackjack sailed off into the sunset with tons of the players’ gold.
True, some excellent blackjack players did win money over the years, and a small fraction of those excellent players won a lot of money, but no one player and no one team won even a tiny Nano percentage of the heaping mountains of money the casinos were harvesting daily from the game. Blackjack profits soared, year after year after year…and then something happened.
Logically this sounded right. Today’s casinos need to always make more and more money each and every year. To do so, they either have to get people to play more or get more people to play or reduce the returns of their games so they take ever more money from the same people for the same amount of play. The hat trick would be to do all three. That’s the way to be crowned Casino Executive of the Year. of it, and then it will work!” Remember Einstein’s dictum that it is the sign of insanity to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.
The true irony of this situation is that the casinos have as many misconceptions about blackjack as the players do. The players think they can win more money at blackjack by becoming either positive- or negative progression players or clumping proponents or trend seekers. The casinos think they can make good money by offering bad games. Perhaps what has blinded the casinos’ thinking is slot machines. There doesn’t seem to be any end to the number of players willing to spend their money on the one-armed bandits. Slot players face very large house edges ranging from 2 percent to a monstrous 17 percent on some mega moola progressives.
Blackjack players are not like slot players. They expect to have a close contest with the house—win some, lose slightly more. Yes, the typical traditional blackjack player is a loser, but the pattern of his losses is radically different from the pattern of the slot players’ losses. To try to make blackjack win the kind of money the slot machines do— in the way the slot machines do it—is to change the nature of the game and make it the type of game that will put off a lot of players.
Slot machines and blackjack are indeed moneymaking animals for the casinos, but they are animals from different species. Trying to force one to become like the other will ultimately kill the one.
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Blackjack players love the game, and many play it exclusively. They wish to get the type of game that gives them that “blackjack feel,” and they don’t want to play a game that is closer to slots in its house edges. That’s the nature of blackjack and blackjack players. Casinos should learn from the lines of that old Chiffon Margarine commercial: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” Come on, casinos. Go back to the best blackjack games.