There has been a debate for many years among both professional and recreational blackjack players. Is blackjack a skill? It depends on who you ask. The casinos don’t want to call blackjack a game of skill because that would change many things about how the game is managed. Serious blackjack players believe that the game is a skill, and is therefore something that goes beyond mere gambling and a game of chance.
We’re going to take a brief look at the issue and try to find an answer. This information may help you decide how to approach things like basic blackjack strategy and card counting. Is blackjack a skill? Read on to see what Counting Edge and others think.
The Argument for Blackjack as a Game of Skill
There is no question that blackjack is a gambling game. It is played with a deck of cards. Most of the results for individual hands are random. Players compete against the house. There is a built-in advantage for the house, too. On the surface, at least, blackjack doesn’t require a lot of skill.
The key word there is require. True enough, one can play blackjack without the slightest consideration of skill. All you need is to understand the basic actions of the game. You can execute those actions without the least bit of skill. Many players do exactly that. Many players also lose.
The answer here rests in whether or not skill at making decisions at blackjack improves one’s chances to win. There is ample evidence to suggest that this is precisely the case. Card counting is just one type of skill when it comes to blackjack. Proper card counting has been shown to lower the house edge in blackjack. In some cases, when combined with basic blackjack strategy, card counting may even swing the edge in favor of the player!
There is no other casino game where this is case. At least not on the level of blackjack. In roulette the only skill you can apply at the table is money management. In baccarat you have three options for betting on each hand. No amount of skill is going to change that. What we must all agree on is that blackjack is at least unique among casino games with its player decisions. Those decisions are what introduce the element of skill.
The Argument Against Blackjack as a Game of Skill
Now, let’s play devil’s advocate. Is it possible for someone to win playing online blackjack or live blackjack with sheer luck? The answer is yes. It happens all the time. Because blackjack is a gambling game with an automatic house edge, winning or losing in the short term is possible.
It would also be correct to say that playing blackjack without using any type of strategy or card counting will always result in a long-term loss. How long is long-term? Well, if the games were carried out to infinity the end result would always be a loss for the player.
But, we don’t play to infinity do we? No. Believe it or not this is also an argument that blackjack is purely a game of chance. It is a game that can include streaks. Long streaks. There can be winning streaks or losing streaks in the short term. No amount of skill is really going to change that fact.
Are you beginning to see the complexity of this issue? It has been debated for years, and the subject will continue to be debated. As we will see, both players and casinos have a vested interest in the debate. The courts have even been involved from time to time.
Why Players and Casinos Care About Blackjack Being a Skill
Is blackjack a skill? Let’s look at the subject from the perspective of casinos and from players. First though, let’s address what is really at the heart of the blackjack skill argument – card counting.
In the 1960s mathematicians began to advance the theory that blackjack was a beatable game. Led by a scholar named Edward O. Thorp, the theorists claimed that it was possible to determine the ratio of “good” cards to “bad” cards in the deck used to deal the game in casinos. Good cards would be those of benefit to the player. Bad cards would be those which help the dealer.
This movement led to the development of various card counting strategies. As a result, players began to beat the casinos with regularity. The casinos were soon on high alert and began to accuse the card counters of cheating. Many successful blackjack players were banned from live casinos after being accused of card counting.
The problem is that card counting was not strictly defined as illegal, no matter what the casinos said. The issue ultimately ended up in courts where players claimed that card counting proved blackjack was a game of skill, not unlike poker. Players won a few of these crucial battles. In some states it was no longer permitted for casinos to ban players on suspicion of card counting.
Casinos would find other ways to deter card counters, and they still do that today. They also continue to resist the notion that blackjack is a skill because that could have lasting impact on how the game is treated by the courts.
Here at Counting Edge we believe that blackjack players can improve their chances to win with proper strategy, card counting, good money management, and the practice of all three. In our way of thinking, that is the very definition of a skill. What do you think? Be sure to leave us your comments.
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