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Box artwork for Blackjack.
Box artwork for Blackjack.
Year released1977
System(s)Atari 2600
Genre(s)Board game
ModesSingle player, Multiplayer
LinksBlackjack ChannelSearchSearch

Blackjack was one of the nine Atari 2600 titles that launched with the system in 1977. Blackjack is obviously a video version of the real-world card game with the same name. One to three players compete against a computer dealer in an attempt to get the closest to 21 without busting. Each player starts with 200 dollars and strives to break the bank by reaching 1,000.

While playing Blackjack at home wasn't a novel idea, playing against a computer was. Even though Atari was marketing to the younger generation who enjoyed playing action-intense games at the arcade, it was also trying to appeal to adults who had never been formally introduced to a computer before by providing familiar, and easy to understand games.

Blackjack used the paddle controller to allow up to three players to play simultaneously. Players could also use the right difficulty switch to choose between two different set of rules, known as Casino rules and Private rules. A more unusual feature of the game was the ability to let a player temporarily remove themselves from the game, allowing the game to continue without them, and then being able to come back in at any time and pick up where they left off.

Controls[edit | edit source]

  • : Switch between color display and black & white display. (This feature made the game look better on black & white TVs that were still prominent at the time of the game's release.)
  • : When the left difficulty switch is set to , the computer dealer will shuffle the deck at the end of every hand. Set the switch to , and the dealer will wait until two thirds of the deck (34 cards) have been dealt before shuffling the deck.
  • : Use the right difficulty switch to choose between two different sets of rules.
    • Set the right difficulty switch to for Casino Black Jack Rules, which includes:
      • The computer dealer must hit on a soft (ace showing) 17 or less.
      • The computer dealer must stay on a hard 17.
      • Your score is unaffected by a tie game between you and the dealer.
      • You may only double your bet if you are showing 10 or 11 before the first hit.
      • A player is allowed no more than four hits.
    • Set the right difficulty switch to for Private Black Jack Rules, which includes:
      • The computer dealer must stay on 17 or higher, regardless of combination.
      • Tie games are won by the dealer.
      • You may double your bet on any combination of cards before the first hit.
      • A player automatically wins if he or she hits four times without busting.
  • : Use the select button to cycle through every permutation of player setups. By pressing or holding the select button, each player is taken in or out of the game. When a player is removed from the game, their current dollar amount is remembered in case they return. If a player runs out of money, or breaks the bank, the select button must be pressed to cycle them back into the game with a new bank roll of $200. Pressing the select button in the middle of the game will not disturb the current totals of any player remaining in the game.
  • : Starts a new game entirely. The deck is shuffled and all existing players are given $200.
  • : The paddle controller is used at two particular moments; when placing a bet, and when choosing an action. Twist the knob or when placing a bet to choose from between a 1 and 25 dollar bet. Twist the knob when it's your turn to choose between Stay, Hit, and if it's available at the time, Double your bet.
  • : Press the controller button when you are satisfied with you selection and would like to lock it in.

Rules[edit | edit source]

Issuing commands

Blackjack is a fairly straightforward game, enjoyed by many casino patrons. All players play against the dealer, never each other, using one single deck of cards. The goal is to get as close to 21 points without going over 21. Each card is worth a different number of points.

Number cards

All number cards are worth the number of points printed on the card.

Face cards

All face cards are worth exactly 10 points.


The Ace card is special. It can be worth either 1 point or 11 points.

Therefore, a Jack and an Ace would be considered 21 points. But since the goal is to remain under 21, a Jack, a 5, and an Ace would be considered 16 points, not 26 points. Any time a player is dealt 21 points with the first two cards (a Blackjack), the player automatically wins 1.5 times the bet that he or she placed.

21 points
16 points

How to play[edit | edit source]

Play begins by placing your bets. You must choose to bet between 1 and 25 dollars. You are doing so blindly, because you must bet before you see any of the cards in your hand or the dealer's. So bet as much as you are willing to lose. Once every player locks in their bets, the dealer begins to deal the cards, two cards for every player (face up) and two cards for himself, one face up and the other face down. At this point, each player must choose one of three commands:

  1. STAY: If a player is satisfied with their hand, are afraid that drawing one more card will give them a score above 21, or it likely the dealer will bust given his showing card, they will choose Stay, and their turn will end.
  2. HIT: If a player feels that his or her score is particularly low, and would like to draw more card to bring their score closer to 21, they may Hit. If a player Hits and their score becomes higher than 21, they bust and lose the round. In either set of rules, a player may only Hit four times. However, in Private Blackjack rules, if a player Hits four times without busting, they automatically win the round.
  3. The final results
    DBLE: The last command is Double, and may only be used before the first Hit. If a player choose Double, they will draw one and only one card, and their turn is over. If they win the hand, they win double the amount of their initial bet. If they lose the hand, they will likewise lose double the amount of their initial bet.

The ability to use Double depends on which rules are being used. In Private Blackjack rules, a player is allowed to Double his or her bet after the first two cards are dealt, regardless of which two cards are showing. In Casino Blackjack rules, a player may only double his or her bet if the two cards dealt give the player 10 or 11 points.

Once all players are done issuing commands, the dealer flips over his face down card. What the dealer does next depends on the rules in play. If the deal has not reached the score he needs in order to stop Hitting, he will continue to draw cards until he reaches that score, or he busts. If the dealer busts, every remaining player wins. If the dealer does not bust and Stays, then the dealer's score is compared to the player's score (provided at least one player has not busted). If the player is closer to 21 than the dealer, the player wins. If the dealer is closer to 21, the player loses. If the player and the dealer tie, the rules state what happens. In Private Blackjack rules, a tie means the dealer wins. In Casino Blackjack rules, a tie is a draw; the player neither wins, nor loses money.

Play continues for each player until they either lose all of their money, or break the bank (reach $1,000). If either event occurs, a player may start over at any time with a new bank roll of $200.