THE HISTORY OF BLACKJACK
Through the centuries, playing cards and card games were slowly introduced to the Middle East, Europe, and lastly North America. The first reference to card playing in Europe goes back to the 13th and 14th centuries, and the first recognized card samples were normally hand painted illustrations on paper. Consequently, the price of a single-deck was exorbitant and restricted to nobility.
However, in 1937, a ruling was announced in Paris prohibiting card playing by the working class on workdays. It is assumed that cards were accessible to the working people, and was probably mass-produced by a wood-blocking printing method, prior to the invention of the printing press. Through the 15th century, cards designed in Germany, called wood-block cards, were exported in huge numbers. With the progress of printing, playing cards rose in popularity.
The precise history of Blackjack itself is obscured; it is still somewhat a mystery. In spite of this, many agree it most likely originated in French casinos about 1700 under the name “Vingt-et-Un” which is French for “twenty-one.” The card games French Ferme and Chemin de Fer, which were very popular at the time, were probably the derivative of the game “Vingt-et-Un.”
During the 1800s the game was introduced to the US and has been played in the region ever since. In the beginning, the modern 52 card-deck used in England was known as the “French Pack,” and later embraced by the US and other places under the name “Blackjack.”
BLACKJACK BECOMES REVOLUTIONIZED IN THE UNITED STATES
America, being such an innovative country, takes everything and puts its own special twist on it. For example, what is called football in the US actually has practically nothing to do with feet, and what is called “Blackjack” today has little relevance to black-cards or jack. The game Blackjack or “21” began appearing on American shores whether it was lawful or merely put up with. Somewhere along the line, perhaps around WWI, an enticing payout was offered for players who received an ace-of-spades and a black jack. The term “Blackjack” ultimately became more popular and replaced “Vingt-et-un,” or “21.”
America revolutionized Blackjack by creating new game rules, which made it easier for players to win. European versions did not allow players to see the dealer’s “upcard” prior to making any playing moves. Moreover, while dealers before made their own assessment on whether to “hit or stand,” suddenly they began to abide by a compulsory pattern fashioned by the house or casino of hitting on 16 and standing on 17. Legal and house-banked games emerged in New Orleans in 1820. Shady and player-banked games were widespread in the beginning. Shysters and cheaters thrived, as there was no oversight for a game that was not clearly lawful.
HOW THE GAME OF BLACKJACK IS PLAYED TODAY
In order to win at Blackjack, players must accumulate a total of twenty-one with their cards, or as close to that number as possible without going over twenty-one, or going “bust.” The start of the game begins with a dealer passing out cards to each player at the gaming table. The number of players at the gaming tables is of no importance to each person, because the games are actually played between each player and the dealer individually.
There are two ways a dealer delivers cards:
-Pitch is where the dealer uses two-decks that are held in the dealer’s hands -Shoe is where the dealer is depending on a gadget that can hold up to six-decks of cards
The dealer deals themselves and every player two cards. If the game is a “pitch” game, cards are positioned face-down in front of the player, if it is a “shoe” game, cards are placed face-up. The dealer only has one card face-down and one card face-up. The face-down card in the dealer’s hand is known as the “hole” card. The “hole” card is not viewed by the dealer unless their other card is at least a ten in value. This will decide if the dealer has already hit twenty-one, which means the game has ended with all players losing their wager.
Blackjack card values are as follows:
-Ace: is valued at eleven; however, it will “bust” a player at which point its value is changed to one. -Face cards: are Kings, Jacks, and Queens and are worth ten points. -Other cards: two to ten are worth their face value, for example, nine is worth nine and four is worth four.
After a player receives their cards and observes the dealer’s single-face-up card, they are then challenged and must make several decisions. They can “stand,” “hit”, “split” or “surrender.” Every decision is coordinated with a set hand gesture. Until the player makes the proper signals with their hand, the dealer will not act.
-To “stand” a player normally gestures with their hand horizontally or slips their card underneath their bet. This indicates that no more cards are needed for this particular hand of the game.
-To “hit” the player signals with a tap on the table with one finger or grazes their cards against the table. This indicates that they want an additional card to get nearer to or to make twenty-one. On the other hand, a “hit” can also “bust” a player making them lose their bet. For example, if a player’s cards add up to 15, they may take a “hit” or ask for an additional card. If the additional card is “six” they have twenty-one. If the additional card is over six they go bust because the amount will total more than twenty-one. If they receive a card under six like three, this will equal 18, the player must decide if it is worth it to take another hit.
-To “double down” means the player doubles their original wager and receives an additional single-card. This is gestured by positioning the extra bet next to the first bet and making a “one” gesture with a finger.
-To “split” the player will double their wager by positioning new-chips next to their first bet, and form a “two” signal with their fingers. Their two-cards are then separated and the player is given two fresh cards on each original.
-Lastly, a player can “surrender” by gesturing with a swinging-motion above their bet. This indicates that they are giving up their hand and forfeiting half of their initial wager.
WHY HAND GESTURES IN BLACK JACK?
Many casinos train a video-camera on each activity taking place at gaming tables. If there is any type of confusion or disagreement concerning a player’s choices, the video-tape will be a witness to all happenings including hand gestures they used to communicate their choices to the dealer during the game.
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- Multihand Blackjack
- MultiPlayer Blackjack
In multihand Blackjack you are allowed to play with more than one hand during a round. This makes the game play faster and more challenging. In multiplayer Blackjack you get the chance to play with other players in real time which makes the game much more realistic and interesting.
BASIC BLACKJACK RULES
The value of Blackjack cards are still the same from the earliest days of the game, and not only that, the game is essentially played identical to its beginning nearly three-hundred years ago. Moreover, a trip to just about any casino or gaming-house will show that Blackjack is still the most admired and highly played card-game worldwide.
To play, a player must make the first best against the casino or “house.” If the dealer wins the round, the player will lose their entire wager. A player wins by having the highest-hand that does not go over twenty-one. If the player’s cards totals more than twenty-one they go “bust.” Alternatively, if they take cards and get nearer than the dealer to twenty-one, without going bust, the player has won the hand.
If the player and the dealer both go “bust”, the player will still lose the hand and their bet. If the player and the dealer both hit the same amount this is called a “push” and it indicates that neither has won the hand and all wagers are given back to the player who has “pushed” with the dealer.
It is crucial for a player not to forget that the game is actually between them and the dealer and nobody else. A Blackjack table may have six players playing hands against the dealer; however, each player is playing the dealer individually and can win or lose not with other players, but only against the dealer’s hand.
To place a wager on their hands, a player must adhere to the minimum and maximum bets allowed by the casino. Many casino Blackjack tables will place a minimum of five-dollars per bet, but some casinos have tables with much larger minimums. These are frequently referred to as “high-stakes” games and are for the more experienced and skilled players.
A BIT ABOUT ONLINE BLACKJACK
Internet or online Blackjack rules are the same as land casino rules. However, there is no way to enact all the hand gestures because the player is playing from behind a computer screen. In spite of this, casino online software is amazing. Blackjack players can place their bets, stand, hit, double-down, and do all the moves that are involved in playing a “real” Blackjack game including playing with “real” money. The only software deals cards and plays by the same rules as a “live” dealer. In fact, some online casinos have an actual person dealing Blackjack cards via a webcam; however, the “live dealer” cannot see the player. They are known as “live dealers.” Live dealers give players a more “realistic” gaming experience.
BLACKJACK WIZ CHEATS
Every casino game has its tale of scheming and cheating, and Blackjack is no different. There is a true story about a Las Vegas private detective by the name of Robert Griffin. Griffin realized an opportunity and the casinos were eager to get involved. He assembled a book with pictures of and information about recognized or alleged card-counters, and sold his book in consistent updated subscription form to every casino in Las Vegas, and they loved it! This helped casinos to evaluate each alleged counter individually. The idea was to work together to overcome card-counters; however, it was not as easy as they had hoped for.
In 1971, card-counter Al Francesco was at the card table betting on Blackjack and checking for ways to defraud the game. His brother, also a card-counter, was in the casino as well. Francesco’s brother sat while he stood next to the table in a discussion. Whenever his brother made a wager, Francesco threw a $100 bet with the understanding that he had an advantage regardless of not having assessed the positive-count himself. The Pit Boss continuously flattered Francesco. After that, Francesco became the first “big stakes game player” in the history of card-counting. He taught others how to keep count and gesture him in.
A player Francesco schooled to act as a big-spender was Ken Uston, president of Pacific Stock Exchange. To Francesco’s disappointment, Uston wrote a book about his playing style titled, “The Big Player,” back in 1977. The book influenced many players and caused the near immediate rapid increase of what was known as “team play,” including the MIT-team and the Tommy Hyland team, each team starting one year following the book’s publication. The MIT group story was discovered by a bigger audience within the last ten years and bestselling books were published like “Bringing Down the House, and blockbusters such as “21” in Hollywood.
Another swindler named Standord Wong helped form the appearance of an efficient, though subtle, card-counter scheme. In 1975, Wong who earned a PhD in economics, published “Professional Blackjack,” and proposed his own strategy, but Wong’s strategy was created for the single player. He recommended table-hopping and back-counting tables. By introducing a “shoe” strictly on positive-counts, a Blackjack player could evade playing through negative-counts and also avoid the usual card-counter give away of wild bet fluctuation.
Keep in mind, during the early days of gambling it was not prohibited to use computers. Players created complex technical devices that they concealed under their clothing. They entered data by toe-taps and the computer responded with vibrations.
THE WAY IT LOOKS TODAY
Blackjack is just as beatable as it has ever been. Perhaps a bit differently, but beatable. In spite of all the card-game security measures that casinos have taken, the large number of casinos only means that skilled people in the pit and observation room have decreased. In this economy, budgets are tight. With high-turnover and the need for up-to-date technology, casino just don’t have the funds to spend on surveillance experts anymore. Today, casinos are more inclined not to demand as much from those who are responsible for catching card-counters. The game can be beaten, particularly by players who are diligent and bent on winning. Basically, it’s no different from before, if a player gets caught cheating, they just move on to the next casino.