Blackjack

Among the gambling card games in casinos, Blackjack (sometimes called pontoon) is perhaps the most popular. Perhaps because of the ease of gameplay, the low complexity of rules, and supposedly interesting strategies to win, the game attracts most of the card game gamblers all around the world.

The objective of the game is to beat the dealer by reaching a "hand" (set of cards on hand) as close to 21 as possible without going over. As such, it is not surprising that the game is also sometimes known as twenty-one. In fact, its predecessor was the French game vingt-et-un which also means twenty-one. Each card from 2 to 10 retains its value as is. The face cards, Jack, Queen and King are assigned a value of 10 while the Aces can have a value of either 1 or 11. As it wasn't that popular in earlier casinos, the owners used to introduce special stakes for certain card combinations. The combination that usually gave the highest payout was if one had the Ace of Spades and either the Jack of Clubs or the Jack of Spades - hence the more popular name Blackjack.

Although the game could be played anywhere and using one deck, casinos usually use what is called a "shoe" that contains more than 1 shuffled deck of cards (typically between 6 to 8 decks). A Blackjack table has a dealer, of course, and room for several players. Each player puts a bet and each one is dealt two cards apiece. In some casinos, the cards are dealt face up (meaning, the players can see each other's cards) or face down. The dealer's hand has one card face down and the other face up. Some casinos have all cards dealt face up. All players are playing to beat the dealer with their respective "hands" and not playing against each other.

Given the values of the cards mentioned above, each player is given the option to ask for more cards as needed. The player typically calls out the familiar phrase "hit me" or gestures with his fingers (the gestures vary depending on where you play) when he wants an additional card. The card asked for is again dealt face up as well. If the hand's total exceeds 21, the player "busts" and automatically loses even if the dealer hasn't finished his turn yet. Of course, getting an Ace and a Ten (or any of the face cards) is a 21 and he automatically wins. If the player stops asking for cards and his hand does not exceed 21 or if he didn't ask for one in the first place, he "stands". Obviously, if the player's hand is higher than the dealer's, the player wins.

The dealer is given a set of restrictions as far as the choice of standing or hitting is concerned. Once all players have played their hands, it is the dealer's turn to draw additional cards or not. The dealer actually has no choice in this decision. The dealer has to draw additional cards until he gets a hand totaling at least 17. Once the dealer has a hand of 17 (whether from the beginning or not), he has to stand.

Sometimes, casinos have variations. For instance, there is the matter of having "soft" hands. These are hands that have Aces in them and their values can still take on a value of either 1 or 11. An Ace and a four is called a soft 15 (mean, it can be interpreted to be a 5). Some casinos have a rule that they need to draw an additional card if they have a soft 17.

There are also special situations where the player can bet more. Doubling down allows a player to double his bet before he draws any card at all. A player might think that he has a good chance of beating the dealer if he sees the cards that the dealer has. A split allows the player to get an extra hand if his first hand is a matching pair (ex. Two 2's or Two Jacks, etc.). Just like doubling down, the player announces the split only while he has 2 cards. He then puts an identical bet for the other hand and he gets one additional card for each one to make a pair of hands. He then plays them one at a time. Some casinos allow another split if the second card forms another matching pair.

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