BLACKJACK Blackjack, also called 21, is a staple
of any casino. Easy to learn but difficult to master,
it can be played in a highly casual manner or scientifically,
using a regimented strategy. Players at a table can
socialize while gambling and unite as one against
their common enemy: the dealer.
object of blackjack is to draw cards that add up to
21 or as close to 21 as possible, without going over
the magic number. The dealer gives each player two
cards and deals two cards for the house—usually
one card face down and the other face up. After each
player has asked for as many additional cards as he
or she wants to try to reach 21, the dealer turns
up the hidden card. The dealer must "hit"
or draw additional cards if the first two cards total
16 or under. If the house's first two cards are 17
or over, the dealer must stand and cannot draw additional
cards. In blackjack, queens, jacks, kings and 10s
count as 10. Aces count either as 1 or 11, whichever
the player chooses. A king and an ace, for example,
would total 21 and would be a blackjack. When the
dealer and a player tie, it is a standoff, or a push,
and nobody wins. If the player's cards total a higher
number than the dealer's but are 21 or under, the
player wins. If the situation is reversed, the house
Professional gamblers who specialize in blackjack
often are known as “card counters.”
They’ll seek out games where only one or two
decks of cards are used, and almost all of them are
dealt face up. This allows a counter to make a fairly
accurate guess as to when it’s advisable to
put a large bet on the table. Although it’s
not illegal to be a card counter, casinos have the
right to ban them from their tables.
Amateurs can improve their odds slightly by investing
in a laminated cribsheet—available at most casino
newsstands—that explains in a glance when to
hit, stay, split pairs, double down and take insurance.
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