In most places around the world, Blackjack, or 21, has the same set of rules: beat the dealer to 21 without going over, and you win. Here in California, however, an obscure gaming law makes the game a little different.
The law dates back to 1873, when the California legislature outlawed the game of 21 throughout the state. Though this law does not apply to Native-American casinos, other casinos and card rooms simply can’t play the traditional game.
To circumvent the statutes, game inventors have devised a variety of blackjack variants that play to 22. In perhaps the most popular alternative, dubbed “California Blackjack,” a “natural” is two aces instead of an ace and a ten-card. In another variation, dubbed “21st Century Blackjack,” a player bust does not always result in an automatic loss; there are a handful of situations where the player can still push if the dealer busts as well, provided that the dealer busts with a higher total.
Many non-Native card rooms and casinos will refer to their blackjack games as “Vegas-style,” but this, too, is a bit of a marketing ploy. The truth is that in California, house-banked games are illegal, so players actually are playing against each other. Many casinos hire “chip-sitters” to bank the games—these people represent companies but play as individuals, and fork over a percentage to the casinos themselves. Guess there’s a way around every law.