Williams plays blackjack
with the late Kerry
Packer at Melbourne's Crown Casino
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(also known as Twenty-one, Vingt-et-un (French for
Twenty-one), or Pontoon) is one of the most popular
casino card games in the world. Much of blackjack's
popularity is due to the mix of chance with elements
of skill, and the publicity that surrounds card counting
(calculating the probability of advantages based on
the ratio of high cards to low cards). The casino
version of the game should not be confused with the
British card game Black Jack (a variant of Crazy Eights).
strategy provides the player with the optimal play
for any blackjack situation based on millions of hands
played in the long run. However in the short run,
as the cards are dealt from the deck, the remaining
deck is no longer complete. By keeping track of the
cards that have already been played, it is possible
to know when the cards remaining in the deck are advantageous
for the player.
counting creates two opportunities:
* The player can make larger bets when he or she has
the advantage. For example, the player can increase
the starting bet if there are many aces and tens left
in the deck, in the hope of hitting a blackjack.
* The player can use information about the remaining
cards to improve upon the basic strategy rules for
specific hands played. For example, with many tens
left in the deck, the player may double down in more
situations since there is a better chance of making
a strong hand.
all card counting systems do not require the player
to remember which cards have been played. Rather,
a point system is established for the cards, and the
player keeps track of a simple point count as the
cards are played out from the dealer.
on the particular blackjack rules in a given casino,
basic strategy reduces the house advantage to near
0 with some single-deck games, and less than one percent
in a multi-deck game. Card counting, if done correctly,
can give the player an advantage, typically ranging
from 0 to 2% over the house. To counter card counting,
many casinos switched from a single deck to multiple
decks, with the cards dealt out of a container known
as a "shoe".
most US jurisdictions, card counting is legal and
is not considered cheating. However, most casinos
have the right to ban players, with or without cause,
and card counting is frequently used as a justification
to ban a player. Usually, the casino host will simply
inform the player that he is no longer welcome to
play at that casino. Players must be careful not to
signal the fact that they are counting. The use of
electronic or other counting devices is usually illegal.
Martingale (betting system)
strategy is based on a player's point total and the
dealer's visible card. A player's ideal decision may
depend on the composition of his hand, not just the
information considered in the basic strategy. For
example, a player should ordinarily stand when holding
12 against a dealer 4. However, in a single deck game,
the player should hit if his 12 consists of a 10 and
a 2; this is because the player wants to receive any
card other than a 10 if hitting, and the 10 in the
player's hand is one less card available to cause
a bust for the player or the dealer.
in situations where basic and composition-dependent
strategy lead to different actions, the difference
in expected value between the two decisions will be
small. Additionally, as the number of decks used in
a blackjack game rises, both the number of situations
where composition determines the correct strategy
and the house edge improvement from using a composition-dependent
strategy will fall. Using a composition-dependent
strategy only reduces house edge by 0.0031% in a six-deck
game, less than one tenth the improvement in a single-deck
other than card counting can swing the advantage of
casino blackjack towards the player. All such techniques
are based on the value of the cards to the player
and the casino, as originally conceived by Edward
O. Thorp. One technique, mainly applicable in multi-deck
games, involves tracking groups of cards (aka slugs,
clumps, packs) during the play of the shoe, following
them through the shuffle and then playing and betting
accordingly when those cards come into play from the
new shoe. This technique, which is admittedly much
more difficult than straight card counting and requires
excellent eyesight and powers of visual estimation,
has the additional benefit of fooling the casino people
who are monitoring the player's actions and the count,
since the shuffle tracker could be, at times, betting
and/or playing opposite to how a straightforward card
Snyder's articles in Blackjack Forum magazine brought
shuffle tracking to the general public. His book,
The Shuffle Tracker's Cookbook, mathematically analyzed
the player edge available from shuffle tracking based
on the actual size of the tracked slug. Jerry L. Patterson
also developed and published a shuffle-tracking method
for tracking favorable clumps of cards and cutting
them into play and tracking unfavorable clumps of
cards and cutting them out of play. Other legal methods
of gaining a player advantage at blackjack include
a wide variety of techniques for hole carding or gaining
information about the next card to be dealt.
is an English variation of blackjack with significant
rule and strategy differences. However, in Australia
and Malaysia, Pontoon is an unlicensed version of
the American game Spanish 21 played without a hole
card; despite the name, it bears no relation to English
21 provides players with many liberal blackjack rules,
such as doubling down any number of cards (with the
option to 'rescue', or surrender only one wager to
the house), payout bonuses for five or more card 21s,
6-7-8 21s, 7-7-7 21s, late surrender, and player blackjacks
always winning and player 21s always winning, at the
cost of having no 10 cards in the deck (though there
are jacks, queens, and kings).
Century Blackjack (also known as "Vegas Style"
Blackjack) is commonly found in many California card
rooms. In this form of the game, a player bust does
not always result in an automatic loss; there are
a handful of situations where the player can still
push if the dealer busts as well, provided that the
dealer busts with a higher total.
rules changes are employed to create new variant games.
These changes, while attracting the novice player,
actually increase the house edge in these games. Double
Exposure Blackjack is a variant in which the dealer's
cards are both face-up. This game increases house
edge by paying even money on blackjacks and players
losing ties. Double Attack Blackjack has very liberal
blackjack rules and the option of increasing one's
wager after seeing the dealer's up card. This game
is dealt from a Spanish shoe, and blackjacks only
pay even money.
French and German variant "Vingt-et-un"
(Twenty-one) and "Siebzehn und Vier" (Seventeen
and Four) don't include splitting. An ace can only
count as eleven, but two aces count as a Blackjack.
This variant is seldom found in casinos, but is more
common in private circles and barracks.
Blackjack is played by many in Asia, having no splitting
of cards, but with other card combination regulations.
variant is Blackjack Switch, a version of blackjack
in which a player is dealt two hands and is allowed
to switch cards. For example, if the player is dealt
10-6 and 10-5, then the player can switch two cards
to make hands of 10-10 and 6-5. Natural blackjacks
are paid 1:1 instead of the standard 3:2, and a dealer
22 is a push.
Multiple Action Blackjack the player places between
2 or 3 bets on a single hand. The dealer then gets
a hand for each bet the player places on a hand. This
essentially doubles the number of hands a single dealer
can play per hour. Splitting and Doubling are still
thanks to the popularity of poker, Elimination Blackjack
has begun to gain a following. Elimination Blackjack
is a tournament format of blackjack.
casinos offer optional side bets at standard blackjack
tables. For example, one common side-bet is "Royal
Match", in which the player is paid if his first
two cards are in the same suit, and receives a higher
payout if they are a suited queen and king (and a
jackpot payout if both the player and the dealer have
a suited queen-king hand). Another increasingly common
variant is "21+3," in which the player's
two cards and the dealer's up card form a three-card
poker hand; players are paid 9 to 1 on a straight,
flush or three of a kind. These side bets invariably
offer worse odds than well-played blackjack.
April of 2007 a new version of Blackjack, called Three
Card Blackjack™ was approved for play in the
State of Washington. Three Card Blackjack ™
is played with one deck of 52 cards. In Three Card
Blackjack the players place an ante bet. The players
and dealer are then dealt 3 cards each. The players
make the best blackjack (21) hand they can using 2
or all 3 cards. If the player likes their hand they
make a play bet that is equivalent to their ante bet.
The dealer must qualify with an 18 or better. If the
dealer qualifies and the player beats the dealer,
the player is paid 1-1 on both the Ante and Play bets.
If the dealer does not qualify, the player is paid
1-1 on their Ante bet and their Play bet pushes. There
is no hitting and no busting. At the same time that
the player makes the Ante bet, they have the option
of making an Ace Plus bet. If the player has 1 Ace
in their hand of 3 cards, they get paid 1-1. An Ace
and any 10 or Face Card pays them 3-1. An Ace and
any two 10's or Face cards is paid 5-1. Two Aces pays
15-1 and Three Aces pays 100-1.
Blackjack Hall of Fame
2002, professional gamblers around the world were
invited to nominate great blackjack players for admission
into the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Seven members were
inducted in 2002, with new inductees every year afterwards.
The physical hall of fame is located at the Barona
Casino in San Diego, California. Members include Edward
O. Thorp, author of the 1960s book Beat the Dealer
which proved that the game could be beaten with a
combination of basic strategy and card counting; Ken
Uston, who popularized the concept of team play; Arnold
Snyder, author and editor of the Blackjack Forum trade
journal; Stanford Wong, author and popularizer of
the "Wonging" technique of only playing
at a positive count, and several others. (Credit: