Blackjack, or 21 as it is endearingly known, is an exciting skill-based casino card game which pits players against dealers in a battle royale for the highest-ranking hand. The objective is to simply beat the dealer's hand total without busting. 

The best possible hand you can form is Blackjack, comprised of an Ace and a 10-value card (10, Jack, Queen, and King). This betting game differs from games like poker where players are competing against one another for the highest-value hand, with real money on the table.

In Blackjack, players are only interested in the strength of their hand relative to the dealer’s hand. It's entirely possible to play free Blackjack with friends online if you’re learning Blackjack rules, or to host home-based Blackjack games. When played this way, Blackjack is a thoroughly engaging social game.

Many players have taken to Blackjack in recent years, owing to its incredibly low house edge (as low as 0.5% when perfect Blackjack strategy is employed), and the fact that players’ actions have a direct bearing on the outcomes of the game.

This degree of control separates Blackjack from many other casino games like slots games, scratch card games, and the like. Were it not for Edward Thorp's bestselling Blackjack book in 1962 (Beat the Dealer), it is questionable whether this game would have enjoyed such spectacular success over the years. 

Evidence of the popularity of Blackjack is not lost on players around the world. In 1985, there were some 3049 Blackjack units in Nevada, comprising 80.7% of all units, and 56.3% of all revenue. By the year 2000, there were 3682 Blackjack units in Nevada, making up 64.4% of all units, and 38.6% of all revenue.

By 2013, the popularity of other casino games like Baccarat, Caribbean Stud Poker, and Three Card Poker started eating into Blackjack’s share. In 2013, the State of Nevada reported 2704 units of Blackjack, making up 55% of all units in casinos, and accounting for 27.5% of all revenue.

Despite this, Blackjack still generated $1.09 billion for Nevada casinos in 2013 – a sizeable chunk of change by anyone's admission. As millennials enter the gambling scene in the US, they are inherently drawn to social games with a skill-based element – that's where Blackjack shines brightest!

IS BLACKJACK A SOCIAL CARD GAME?

Of all the games in the casino, Blackjack stands out because it offers players an opportunity to put their smarts to the test. Whether you play Blackjack online, or at a bricks and mortar casino, the experience is equally enticing. 

Players with a penchant for strategy-based games naturally gravitate towards Blackjack as their preferred social card game. Similar to poker, Blackjack requires players to make calculated decisions based on a host of factors. 

These include the ever-changing odds with every card that is dealt, the options to hit, stand, split, double, or even take insurance, and where available multi-player Blackjack functionality. The skill-based element of Blackjack is its saving grace – it creates the impression that players have a degree of control over the outcomes of every hand.

A caveat is in order: no amount of Blackjack strategy can override the effect of luck and variance on the outcomes of games.

Players who enjoy crunching the numbers, calculating odds and statistical probabilities, High – Low card counting techniques, and other Blackjack strategies are naturally drawn to this casino card game. When good friends gather to enjoy a game of Blackjack, a world of possibilities opens up. 

Players can dabble in home-based Blackjack games or online Blackjack games for fun, with or without real money involved. In a home-based setting, a group of friends gathers with one player being designated the casino dealer, and others competing against the dealer for the highest-ranking hand. 

While players can certainly bet against one another, this is not common practice in Blackjack. The objective is to simply compile a higher hand total than the dealer without busting. In-home games, the dealer rotates from one player to the next, adding to the social element of the game.

While players may not compete against one another per se, there is lots of chatter taking place at Blackjack tables. In online Blackjack, chat functionality may be available allowing players to engage in conversation with one another. 

When Blackjack is played at casinos, the tables are a hive of activity, with lots of friendly banter going back and forth. It's even more exciting when a group of friends joins a Blackjack table in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

ONLINE BLACKJACK WITH FRIENDS

When you play online blackjack with friends with live blackjack dealer, you get the most social experience. Live dealer Blackjack games utilize live streaming technology from secure locations with uninterrupted video feeds in real-time. Players can see dealers, but dealers can’t see players. The on-screen chat box allows players to chat with the dealer and other players in real-time – adding to the social milieu of the game.

Online Blackjack offers a one-on-one session with the dealer. It's less social than land-based Blackjack, but certainly an engaging prospect for players. Many Blackjack players tend to flit between online casino Blackjack, live dealer Blackjack, and land-based Blackjack games. It's one of the few games players can enjoy regardless of their mood. 

For the social butterflies among us, live Blackjack and land-based Blackjack are best, and those who prefer the relative exclusivity of one-on-one interactions tend to thrive with online Blackjack games. 

The same can hardly be said for slot machine games and video poker games since these games are played pretty much the same way at online casinos or at land-based casinos. Many other casino games are equally social in nature, with RouletteBaccarat, Caribbean Stud Poker, Three Card Poker, and Texas Hold'em Poker readily available to players. 

HOW TO PLAY BLACKJACK WITH FRIENDS?

Once you've made the decision to host a Blackjack game at home, you'll need to do a quick inventory of what's required to make the evening a success. 

With your guest list sorted, your table prepped, your cards shuffled and ready, and an ample supply of snacks and beverages, you're pretty much ready to get started.

A quick checklist is necessary to ensure that the evening run smoothly:

• Confirm the guest list of Blackjack players.

• Provide a ‘Dealer Button’ for your home Blackjack games.

• Prepare the card table and ensure that it can comfortably accommodate at least 5 or 6 players. Don't use your dining room table since it may get scuffed up with the raucous activity during the evening.

• Be sure to provide plastic chips for betting – these can be purchased online, or at the local CVS, Rite Aid, or Walgreens.

• Blackjack games are typically played with between 6 and 8 decks of cards. Your choice of cards is important; pick plastic-coated cards. While Blackjack card counters

prefer the classic Blackjack variant with 1 deck of cards, it's better to use more cards to prevent any unfair advantage. If possible, invest in a Blackjack shoe for card dealing purposes. Automatic shuffling machines or continuous shuffling machines are best, but may be a little pricey for a home-based Blackjack game.

Recall that the objective in Blackjack is to beat the dealer's hand total. That's where it differs from card games like poker. Since only one player acts as the designated dealer in Blackjack at a time, the dealer's cards are the focus. 

Only 1 of the dealer’s cards is visible to players at the table (upcard), and the other card is face down. All players will have a turn to act (hit, stand, double, split, take insurance), and the dealer button will rotate around the table.

Since the dealer has a statistical edge over the other players, it's only fair that everybody gets to act as the dealer at home-based games. This ensures fairness and transparency in Blackjack games.

The dealer is randomly chosen by any number of methods such as rock, paper, scissors, or simply picking a card from a deck. The highest card wins. Once the dealer has dealt his/her allotted share of hands (5, 10, 15 et cetera), the dealer button moves around the table in a clockwise or anticlockwise fashion. 

The button typically moves to the left of the dealer, but there is flexibility in this regard. If you decide not to use 6 or 8 decks of cards in a Blackjack game, and prefer a single deck, the deck must be shuffled after every hand. As for betting, each player needs to buy a set value of plastic chips. Players who are looking to host an elegant Blackjack evening with friends can even get customized chips made.

Some Blackjack pros recommend color-coded chips to represent higher denomination bets. Yellow chips may represent $5 bets, green chips $10 bets, and burgundy chips $20 bets for example. Naturally, the host of the Blackjack game is also the cashier. 

All money collected by players for home-based games must be safely stored during the evening, so that payouts can be made at the end of the evening. It's important to point out that the dealer (a rotating position at the table) must be able to cover the bets of all players at all times. 

Since the dealer has a statistical advantage over the player, it pays to be the dealer for a designated number of Blackjack hands. Naturally, all players in a Blackjack game must buy in with a set amount to ensure coverage for the entire session.

GUARANTEEING THE INTEGRITY OF YOUR HOME BLACKJACK GAMES

Assuming the minimum bet is $1 per hand, it is recommended that players buy in for at least 100 x the minimum bet of $1 = $100. Whatever the agreed-upon minimum bet amount is, this must be followed by all players. 

Every player who acts as the dealer must be able to cover all the bets at the table – that's why the minimum bet requirement is sacrosanct. Since all the players at the table are known to you, or at least known to invitees, you are assured of a personal experience. 

Lock the cash up in a safety deposit box for the duration of the Blackjack session, and when it comes time to cash out all the chips, there will be no shortage of funds. Since players can only win what is on the table, and all the chips on the table have been paid for, everything should add up.

Perhaps the most important tip of all is the following: Never reveal the types of chips that will be used during your Blackjack home game. It is preferable to customize all the chips (and never to use them again) to prevent any fraudulent activity from taking place. If players bring chips to the game and then expect to cash them out, things could get ugly.

Of course, there's also the issue of the type of Blackjack game you are going to play.

There are so many different variants of this casino card game, including:

• High Streak Blackjack

• 21 Burn Blackjack

• Atlantic City Blackjack

• Classic Blackjack

• European Blackjack

• American Blackjack

• Single Deck Blackjack

• Bonus Blackjack

• Super 7 Blackjack

• Vegas Downtown Blackjack

• Vegas Blackjack

• Spanish 21

Since each game has a unique set of Blackjack rules, players can change things around to ramp up the excitement from week to week. Sometimes, Blackjack pays 6:5, or 3:2, and sometimes the dealer draws to 16 and stands on all 17s (hard and soft). It's up to the host and the players to determine the rules of play before setting up a home Blackjack game.

About the Author
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With digital marketing strategies in his blood, Louis Wheeler has traveled around the world, exploring gambling cultures and gaining experience in casino games from 2003. If you are in a casino anywhere around the planet, you may find him right next to you, playing blackjack, roulette or texas hold'em.