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In order to access and play Blackjack at most online casinos before 2000, software had to be downloaded onto the player’s computer. The programming created a secure connection between the web site’s host computer and the player’s terminal. The graphics, which took up most of the memory that was needed, could be displayed much faster and at a higher resolution if they did not require a lot of bandwidth for repetitive transfers.
The installed Blackjack applications were contained in what were known as “Download Casinos.” Even today, the downloads are still available at almost all online gambling web sites, and many online casinos will recommend installing the software to get the full variety and range of benefits out of the games provided.
Players quickly recognized, however, that some major drawbacks accompanied the Download Casinos. Apart from taking up a lot of memory space on a computer’s hard drive, these applications only permitted access from the machines on which they had been installed. Although players who used laptops might be able to carry the casino software along with them, anyone who played on a desktop computer was stuck at a single location. The only alternative would be to install the application on every machine the player used, included those located in Internet cafés.
For the convenience of customers, around the turn of the new millennium most gaming web sites began offering “flash versions” of their Blackjack games. Instead of installing an entire software suite, players could select and play one game at a time, right in their browser’s window. Bandwidth increased. Data transfer speeds grew faster. It soon became possible to play instantly from anywhere without downloads.
Of course, these new “Instant Play” or “Flash Casino” Blackjack games were not without their own problems. For one thing, play was not really “instant.” Playing the games still required the installation of the latest version of Adobe Flash software. What’s more, the code for each game still had to be transferred from the host to the player’s machine. That takes a little time. For players who switch games frequently, delays slowed down play.
There were also compatibility problems initially. Designed for PC operating systems and browsers, the flash versions did not run Macintosh or Linux machines. Today, flash applets and Ubuntu-OS flash versions have resolved most the compatibility issues, but it is not always as simple as promotions suggest: “click, play and win.”
Today, download casinos tend to have far more games and playing options available than their “instant play” counterparts. InterCasino.com, for example, bases all of its games on Cryptologic software, offering over 280 games in the download mode, but just over 80 for the Instant Play Casino.
The good news for Blackjack players is that almost all of the “lost” games are for slots. Atlantic City Blackjack, Blackjack Perfect Pairs, Euro Double Deck, Single Deck Blackjack, Vegas Blackjack and Video Blackjack are available in both modes. The versions that can be played only in the Download Casinos are Pontoon, Progressive Blackjack and Super Fun 21.
This situation is true for almost all of the major software developers. Microgaming, Playtech and Realtime Gaming each produce flash versions for their online casino clients. Fewer slot options are the most obvious difference between instant and download play, and the Blackjack versions that are not available instantly are often the ones with the least advantage for players.
Bodog, for instance, is an RTG-powered, U.S.-facing casino that offers two flash Blackjack variations—European Blackjack and a standard single-hand Blackjack game. The download version offers Face-Up 21, Match Play 21, Super 21 and Pontoon, each with a greater House Edge.
Another quick option for Blackjack players who want to jump right into games without software installation is “Live Dealer.” At the Playtech-powered Bet365 Casino, for example, Online Blackjack allows any registered player to take on one of the web site’s live Blackjack dealers via streaming video in real time. What’s more, there are no compatibility issues for Linux or Mac users.
Again, the limitation of Live Dealer games is in the variety available—only one at Bet365. Their Download Casino has five other variations—Blackjack Pro, Multi-hand Blackjack, Blackjack Surrender, Progressive Blackjack and Blackjack Switch.