When it comes to popular casino games, it’s probably no surprise that slot machines are king. And they are, by a mile. Ditto for online slots, which are easily the most popular Internet-based gambling games.
We could talk about the psychology of why, but that’s a much longer discussion. The logistics of why are easier. At least, the logistics of why online slots are just as popular as in-person slots.
The reason there is actually really simple.
Ever since the first electronic slots hit the market way back in the 1970s, these machines have slowly replaced the mechanical “reel” slots of old. Today, there are almost no mechanical slots in the wild. And those that do still exist are viewed as relics and curiosities that primarily get action on the strength of that “kitsch” factor.
So, because real in-person slots are already basically “video games” that use randomization (aka random number generation, or RNG) software, the leap to virtual slots online wasn’t — and isn’t — much of a leap. The games are virtually identical in-person vs. online, and user interaction is similarly…similar.
If you can play slots in person, you can play them — and play them the same way — online. In other words, the translation from “real” to “virtual” is one-to-one.
And this same thing is true for blackjack.
Now, if you’re wondering whether blackjack or poker is the most popular casino card game overall, it’s blackjack. That’s the case in-person and online.
Sure, poker is the more glamorous game and the one that gets more press, but that’s because it’s a multiplayer amusement. Poker sims (aka video poker games) are fundamentally different from proper poker games, and even when online casinos have live online poker — with proper tables peopled by real people — there are still elements that get lost in translation.
For example, there’s no such thing as an online poker face. Bluffing in online poker is totally different than bluffing at real poker tables, and there’s no real intimidation factor. Half the strategy of poker — the psychological aspect which makes up a non-trivial part of the game and is what separates the pros from the almost-pros — is nonexistent in the virtual space.
And RNG/electronic poker removes the personal and competitive aspects entirely. Don’t get us wrong, we love video poker. But it’s not poker. And in many ways, neither is online poker.
That’s the same.
A couple reasons.
First, in-person blackjack is never player-versus-player, it’s player-versus-dealer. And because the dealer has a specific set of house rules by which they must play, they’re practically an RNG simulation already. The blackjack dealer has no competitive choice. Typically, they’re mandated to hit on 16 and stand on 17.
As such, the gameplay itself is identical to what you’ll experience playing blackjack against a computer. As long as the software is legitimate and uses real RNG technology on the draw, you’re getting exactly the same experience playing on your smartphone or tablet as you are when you play in person (minus the social aspect and tableside drink service, which for most players is secondary to the thrill of the gamble itself).
Secondly, most casino blackjack players already play digitally.
Blackjack tables are popular, but the majority of casual gamblers don’t actually want the attention that playing at a table brings about. They’d rather sit at a machine in a bank of the latter and have fun, slots-style.
In other words, virtual blackjack or electronic blackjack is already a familiar thing for most players. And just as with online slots, online blackjack is functionally identical to electronic blackjack.
Again, online blackjack is a one-to-one translation to the real game. (It also helps that most top-rated online casinos also host live dealer blackjack, which makes things compelling even for gamblers who usually prefer to play in person.)
Interestingly, outside of slots and blackjack, there aren’t many other classic casino games that enjoy this one-to-one in-person vs. online paradigm.
Online roulette is a lot different than in-person roulette, and online craps strips out all the performative aspects of the retail game.
While baccarat is an exception — the online game is exactly like the in-person game in terms of the actual gambling — the entire premise of baccarat is that it requires an audience. Baccarat is the ultimate high roller amusement, and being hot stuff in the baccarat pit is rather the whole point.
At the same time, video poker is the same in person as online, but it’s such a niche game compared to blackjack that it’s not in the same ballpark.
That’s not to say the online versions of these games aren’t fun. They are. It’s merely to suggest that online slots will always be the biggest game in town, while online blackjack will always be the number-one card game at the virtual tables.
That’s true in 2023, and it’ll be true in 2024, 2025, and beyond.