Although there are thousands of games that can be played with an ordinary deck of playing cards, a few games account for most of the enormous traffic in cards all across the country. There’s a bridge, which is seldom played in casinos, though often played in very expensive private games among the well-to-do and the experts.
There are all the lesser variants of bridge and poker that are played around kitchen tables every Friday night, in every town in the country, for a few coins, a few beers, or just for fun. Baccarat is played in casinos; Gin Rummy and Pinochle are popular as private games at low stakes, but you won’t find them too often in Las Vegas, any more than you’re likely to find a hot bridge game. When it comes to serious gambling, however, there are really only two card games: blackjack and poker.
Blackjack is the most popular casino card game, bar none, and for two basic reasons. First, blackjack looks very simple, in contrast to poker, which seems totally unfathomable to the beginner. Second, blackjack offers the best odds of any casino game, making it attractive to experts, as well as to novices. In each case, as in all gambling activities, there’s a catch.
Furthermore, if the house catches you counting cards, they’re likely to reshuffle or mix several decks in a ‘shoe’, the latter move making counting the cards virtually impossible. Not only must a player be sober, highly concentrated, and a whiz at calculation, but he or she must not appear to be any of those things. If you are as intent on beating the online casino games as the average channel swimmer is intent on making a complete crossing, you might do it – for a while. But the training, the planning, the homework, and the concentration involved, rule out all but the most obsessive players.
A truly successful blackjack system is so hard to pull off that, for most of us, even winning wouldn’t make it worthwhile. But in blackjack, like in baccarat or roulette, all you have to do is avoid the really outrageous sucker bets, and hope for the best. Since the player’s judgment is a factor, casinos in England actually post a little card by the blackjack table, spelling out an elementary strategy. American casinos are not so kind. If a player believes that blackjack is childishly simple, nobody from the casino will relieve them of that notion, at least not until they have also been relieved of their bankroll.