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Blackjack - An Introduction

The game of 21 or blackjack, is one of the most popular casino games. The smart player has an excellent chance of coming close to breaking even with a good strategy, and he can break into some good winning runs. The card counter can actually make good money. This challenge to the intelligence of the players draws quite a following. Unfortunately, 95 percent of the players do not use good strategies and 99 percent of them are incapable of card counting at the speed of the game.

Owing to the publicity given to many books and incidents of big winners, the clubs are alerted to card counters and have many anti-counter measures. Some casinos use multiple decks dealt out of a box; some use multiple decks dealt face up; some casinos shuffle too frequently; and some casinos use the down grab,which does not permit the player to see many cards other than his own and the dealer's. Casinos using multiple decks figure this lessens the value of card counting, and even those places shuffle before the decks are run through.

How to Play
The players sit on stools and put their bet amount on the little square marks nearest them. One player can play more than one hand unless the table is crowded. The bet must be made before the deal. After the player gets his first two cards, he decides if he has a satisfactory score or wants additional cards. If he has 21 on the first two cards, he turns his cards face up immediately and gets paid off at 3-2 odds. If he wants to draw more cards, he gets his chance when his turn comes in rotation. The dealer draws last. If the player goes over 21, he cannot draw more cards and he tosses in his cards. If he does not go over 21, general procedure is to slip the cards under the bet money, which indicates the player will stand on the cards he has. After all the players have gone broke or made their stand, the dealer turns his cards up and completes his drawing according to the stated rules: Stand on 17 (or more), draw to 16 (or less). At this point, the dealer either pays or collects.

The majority of 21 players lose for reasons other than strategy. They have insufficient capital to weather bad streaks, or they follow hunches, or they do a poor job of card counting. Some players actually think card counting amounts to watching the last few cards and, if a lot of big ones just went by, the next one should be small, or vice versa.

Too many players think blackjack is a very simple game and the player has almost as good a chance as the dealer. If you go by the same rules as the dealer (hit 16, stand on 17), or if you go by a rule like never hit a breaking hand, this is a very poor strategy; you will lose several percentage points on the dollar. A flat play loss of several percentage points will grind you down very swiftly in spite of temporary lucky runs.

The house edge in 21 comes mainly from the fact that the dealer goes broke last and takes all ties when you both go broke. Edges of lesser importance are things like players constantly having to make decisions, and the players not being able to bet on the dealer when he is in a good run. (In dice, for example, or you can bet either way the hot run is going.) Another factor in the house's favour is the table limit. Any limitation placed on your wagering hampers your recovery from slumps. By all means check table limits, especially in small places, before you start to play.


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