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Online Blackjack - 21 takes to the 1's and 0's

The digital revolution has brought about many changes, including the way we entertain ourselves. No matter how 'classic' we once considered the game, Blackjack has not only coming along for the ride, it was one of the forerunners. Computer technology as you may well know is often pushed forward by the latest, most demanding video games being created. In a similar way, games that translate well to a digital environment (ie. ones that follow strict mathematically/programmable rules that can be played by a single person) quickly became a major reason to be online.

As with each step of evolution, this generation of online blackjack games has adapted itself even more discreetly to the expanding universe. With the advent of secure online transactions and some solid advancements in programming and security, blackjack has been transformed by this new technology and hasn't looked back since. The Internet is now flooded with an array of free online blackjack games. Sitting right beside them are real online blackjack games, quite capable of taking your money, or coughing some up.

What's interesting about this new development is that as real betting became a reality online many other factors were not given the consideration they would normally get from the casino industry. If I were to walk into a land based casino (just to differentiate from the online form) and ask the croupier, "I'd like to play blackjack with no interruptions or distractions of any kind, record everything with infallible memory, and the ability to calculate intricate equations before I make any decision" and you'd probably receive a nice swift kick in the behind. This is because the variables mentioned have the ability to give you an advantage in blackjack, as they would in a game like poker.

But thinking about it, isn't this just what online casinos are letting you do each time you log in from home? It sure is, and I think this deserves some attention. We already know that land based casinos monitor every second of every game, in large part to guard against casual card counters. Card counting in Vegas these days is just a rudimentary method to figure out when the cards remaining in the shoe have an excess or shortage of nines, tens, and aces. This info is used to size the player's bets prior to each round and reduce the edge of the run of the shoe. Using proper basic strategy for each hand, accounting for shifts in probabilities as the game moves along, can give the player a small but positive long term advantage over the house. That of course is unacceptable to the house, hence the millions spent to prevent it from happening.

The advantage of control over variables is also invaluable to stud poker players who continually adjust strategy according to exposed cards. In a method similar to those used in blackjack, they determine the chances of achieving a final result, including the likelihood of other players making other hands, weighing it all to determine 'pot odds' for decision making on their bets. Even though its obvious that poker involves boatloads of plain old psychology, if an individual could sit down with all of the variables I mentioned above, it's hard to argue that they wouldn't be at an advantage. The ability to bring these skills along with you was exploited to some degree a few years ago in Nevada, with blackjack counting computers being strapped to the body of gamers. Casinos have now stepped things up another notch and can track down any electronic device in the casino emitting a signal.

Now, I know what you're thinking. If the online casinos odds are fair, you can be pretty certain they aren't bugging your house to find electronic cheating devices. So does this leave you with the potential for advantage? You're not the first to think about it, trust me. A few years ago, as e-commerce online was starting to boom, a young programmer let loose a piece of software on the Internet that was designed to sift through large amounts of data, determining the lowest prices available for certain pieces of merchandise. This 'barginfinder' idea was really just an Internet 'agent', or a piece of software capable of surfing the Internet much the same way a human does, but reacting with a preprogrammed purpose and direction.

It wasn't long before some smart folk put two and two together and started to apply the same style of technology to online betting sites. It was actually researchers at the university of Florida who designed an intelligent agent for online blackjack. The software was designed to appear to the online casino as any other human, with human looking mouse clicks and keyboard strokes sent along as commands. Since online casinos can employ back-end software that picks up on things like unnatural mouse movements, clicking patterns, lack of movement and a host of other 'behaviors', the researchers needed to take this into account. Once they got it up and running it played online blackjack without a human touching it. Running through a hand every 11 seconds or so, it took in all pertinent information from the screen, set the best bet size, and played the optimal strategy. Initially the agent started to make money but soon after the researches realized the shoe had begun to be reshuffled after every hand and the agent soon lost all of its counting power.

So the current state of things is this. With all of the online casinos popping up around the world, if you want to design or can some how come across an intelligent agent, all you have to do is find one casino that lets the shoe run down. Out of all the online casinos out there, there must be one left that lets the shoe run down a bit... maybe.

Regardless of this possible advantage to online blackjack, there are a number of softer reasons worth considering. For instance, what's the one place in the world where you have complete control over your environment? When playing online blackjack you can take an hour between bets if you'd like to look up a table for a basic strategy reference, or find out what your friend's 'system' says to do. Heck you can make a phone call to your brother in Ecuador if he happens to be an expert. You might find yourself needing to visit an informative blackjack site (*cough*cough*) to seek the advice of some wise sages (who have books open in front of them). Seriously, what is a casino in Vegas going to say when you ask if you can just pop out for a sec to make a phone call for advice on the hand… laugh in your face?

In practical terms playing at home is the latest way to lower the house edge against you. Why? How? Because it lets you actually play with perfect basic strategy! While you couldn't say the home play itself is responsible for a dip in house edge, you could easily say its not possible to play with perfect basic strategy in the casino unless you are an expert. Therefore, this simple act of playing from home has the advantage of raising you to the level of blackjack expert! If you were to go right now and spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a professional blackjack training course, you would be presented with flash cards and study material that force you to learn what basic strategy suggests to do in any given situation. This is necessary for land based casino play where you can't make a phone call to decide on your next move and have little more than a second or two to make your decision.

For these reasons and more, many a blackjack fan has come to enjoy the online version of the game. I myself play occasionally, but as most, still prefer the clock-less, pure oxygen soaked atmosphere of the casinos in Vegas.


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