Blackjack is a game of minor variations. Sometimes the dealer hits a soft 17 while other times they stand. Some tables let you double again after splitting while others don’t. Some allow you to resplit while others don’t. There are variations in just about every phase of the game, just to make sure you never think you know everything about blackjack.
One of the variations that is most noticeable is how the cards are dealt. Sometimes, the dealer holds the decks in his hands and shuffles by hand, while at other times a shoe is used. Virtual blackjack and online blackjack games use a random number generator to determine what cards you receive instead of having a dealer.
In hand-held blackjack, the dealer holds and shuffles the cards by hand. These games usually only use one or two decks. The fewer decks there are, the more it favors the players, especially any players who count cards. Therefore, Las Vegas casinos usually don’t have hand-held games.
In shoe games, the dealer uses a rectangular holder called a shoe. The shoe sits on the table and automatically gives the next card to the dealer when the dealer presses a button. Some shoes automatically shuffle the cards, while at other times the dealer uses a separate shuffling machine and then places the pre-shuffled cards in the shoe. Shoe games use 4 to 8 decks, usually an even number. Because of the larger number of decks, shoe games are more difficult for card counting.
Some casinos and pari-mutuels offer virtual blackjack, which is a game where the players sit in front of a video screen and are “dealt” cards electronically by a dealer. Instead of being shuffled, these cards are selected by a computer program called a random number generator. The same process is used for online blackjack. With both virtual blackjack and online blackjack, it is impossible for you to count cards, because the random number generator has the same effect as shuffling the deck after each card is dealt.