Blackjack

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A blackjack table
Blackjack game example

Blackjack (Twenty-one, pontoon or Vingt-et-un) is a kind of card game which usually involves gambling. It is often played in casinos. There is a dealer, who deals cards from a special device called a 'dealer's shoe' or a 'shuffling machine'.

It is a 'dealer versus players game'. Each player has their own game against the dealer. Cards are dealt in succession, and bets placed at each stage. Players win if their card numbers add up to more than the dealer's to a limit of 21. Hands which add up to more than 21 lose. Face cards count as 10.

'Blackjack', an ace and a face card, is the top scorer. Five cards adding to 21 or fewer is the next ranking hand. Apart from that, unbusted hands rank by total add-up. All hands below the dealer's lose; hands equal to the dealer's keep their chips.

Players have a choice whether or not to get extra cards. To mean 'no more cards' players may say 'stick' or knock the table or put their chips on top of the cards. The dealer has set rules as to when he takes extra cards for himself (or herself). In the UK, the bank must stand on 16.[1] These rules never vary, and it would be illegal to do so. The rules are usually built into the gambling regulations of the state or country.[2][3]

Blackjack has an element of skill, because the odds change as the cards are dealt. The critical information is the numbers of tens (including face cards) which have been dealt. This is because they are the common cause of 'busting', or breaking 21.[4] This is called 'card counting', and though it is legal (if done mentally, without aid), casinos have been known to bar players they think are doing it.

Blackjack example[change | change source]

This is an example of a Blackjack game. Players are named by gambling chip colour: white, brown, blue and black.

The dealer has given two cards each to the four players who are betting. One of the dealer's two cards is face-up so all the players can see it (an Ace), and the other is face down.

  • Black gets an Ace and 2 which is worth either 13 or 3, and asks for a hit and gets a King (worth 10) which takes black to 13; black hits again, gets 16 and decides to stand.
  • Blue gets a King and Jack which are worth 20 together and of course chooses to stand. (Splitting a K and J may be possible in some games although it is unusual to split a 20 because it is such a high hand)
  • Brown gets a 10 and 4, and asks for a hit, gets 2 which takes brown to 16. Another hit and they get a 10, which means they are bust at 26 and the dealer takes the chips. Normally the cards would be taken away immediately with the bet.
  • White gets two 5s, so they double the bet and split the cards, the dealer gives them a 5 and a 7 for each. They ask for hits in both cases and get a 9 and 6, taking them to 21 and 16 respectively.

The dealer turns their card over and gets a 6, together with the Ace takes them to 17, and stands because the dealer must stand on 17. (In this case the dealer must stand on a "soft" 17). Results:

  • Black loses their chips because the dealer's 17 beats black's 16
  • Blue is paid the same amount of chips they bet because blue's 20 beats the dealer's 17
  • Brown has already lost their chips when they went bust
  • White's 21 is paid at 2:1, which means that white receives double and a half the amount of chips white bet for one of the splits, however white loses the other half of chips bet on the 16 which is beaten by the dealer's 17. Most games do not pay 2:1 for a hand of 21 however.

References[change | change source]

  1. UK regulations
  2. Rose, Nelson I. and Robert A. Loeb 1998. Blackjack and the law. ISBN 0-910575-08-8
  3. Humble, Lance and Carl Cooper 1980. The world's greatest Blackjack book. ISBN 978-0385153829
  4. Thorp, Edward O. 1966. Beat the dealer: a winning strategy for the game of Twenty-One. Vintage. ISBN 978-0-394-70310-7