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April 1, 2020, 3:42 am

A Brief Introduction to Blackjack

A Brief Introduction to Blackjack

The cast of characters in casino blackjack includes a houseman, who is a permanent dealer, one to six players seated around a semicircular layout, and a pit boss, whose on-the-spot arbitration settles all arguments.

The game's objective is deceptively simple. The player tries to obtain a higher card-count than the dealer without going over 21 (hence, the alternate name of the game, "twenty-one"). If the player goes over 21 he "busts," or loses, and automatically surrenders his bet regardless of the cards held by the dealer. If his cards total more than the dealer's but less than or exactly 21 he wins and receives a payoff.

All bets in blackjack are made against the dealer, never against other players. Bets are always made before the deal, and are placed in an individual betting box located on the layout directly in front of each player. In blackjack it would appear that the player is afforded many advantages. He has a number of betting options that are closed to the dealer; one of the dealer's cards is always on display; and the dealer is bound by the house rules to stand pat at a count of 17 and draw at a count of 16. All these features are seductively appealing to the prospective player, as the first-glance allurements of any casino game are designed to be. But here is the inevitable kicker: when a player busts, the dealer, who always plays last, wins regardless of the cards he holds. This means that if every player at the table busts, the dealer does not even have to finish out his hand.

In blackjack the card suits are disregarded. Only the numbers have significance. The 2s through 9s are counted at face value; the 10s, jacks, queens, and kings are each worth 10, and the ace can be counted either as 1 or 11, depending on how the gambler wishes to play it. In general, a gambler always values an ace as 11 until his count goes over 21, in which case it counts as 1. A hand in which there are no aces or in which an ace is counted as 1 is known as a "hard hand." A hand containing an ace counted as 11 is "soft." A "blackjack," the object of the game, comes when an ace and a 10-count card are received in the opening deal. This equals 21, giving the player a blackjack, and, except in the case of a tie with the dealer, an automatic win. However, if in a tie the dealer gets 21 with three or more cards, the player still collects. That is, the dealer can only tie a natural with a natural of his own.

In some casinos, blackjack is played with a single deck, though so many successful counting systems have been launched of late that many houses now employ four (sometimes two, seven, or eight) decks dealt from a card box called a "shoe." When a single deck is used, the cards are shuffled by the dealer and cut by a player. The dealer then "burns" the first card by putting it face-up on the bottom of the deck. When four decks are used, the cards are shuffled and an indicator card is placed somewhere near the end of the deck, face-up, to mark the spot where the cards must be reshuffled.

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