To begin a new round of play, the dealer will shuffle the cards and, after the shuffle, will ask a player to cut the deck by placing a plastic cut card in the deck.
The dealer finishes the cut and places the cut card in a position usually two-thirds to three-fourths from the top card. The depth of the placement is known as the penetration. This means that from two-thirds to three-fourths of the cards will be put into play before the dealer reshuffles.
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After the shuffle, the dealer will take the top card and place it in the discard tray. This card is called the burn card and the procedure is called burning a card.
Each player who wants to wager must place a bet in the circle in front of him on the table. The dealer will deal cards starting from his left to right. Each player, as well as the dealer, will receive a card in turn until each person has two cards.
The first card dealt the dealer is placed face down so that it is not visible to the players. This is called the dealer’s hole card. The second card dealt the dealer is dealt face up and is called the dealer’s up-card.
When casinos deal either single or double deck games, the cards are usually dealt face down. In these games, the player is permitted to pick up his cards. In games using multiple decks dealt from a box called a shoe, the player’s cards are dealt face up. In these games, players are not permitted to touch the cards.
After all the players and the dealers have received two cards, the dealer will ask each player, starting from his left and moving clockwise to the right, if he or she wants additional cards. A player may decide to just keep the two original cards and stand.
He may ask for as many additional cards as he wants, called taking a hit. He also has other options such as surrendering, doubling down, splitting pairs, or in some instances, taking insurance.
If a player’s hand exceeds 21, it is an automatic loss and his wager loses. After all the players have played out the hands, the dealer will complete his hand. Players who bust in drawing to their hands will have lost their wagers prior to the dealer completes his hand. Those players who did not bust, or exceed a total of 21, will win or lose depending on whether their card totals exceed the dealer’s hand. Ties are pushes with neither the dealer nor player winning.
Casino blackjack is played at a rapid pace with very little conversation between the dealer and the player. Hand signals are used by players to communicate with the dealer. The only player option which is signaled verbally by the player is surrender.
In games where the cards are dealt face up and no touching or handling of the cards is permitted, the player will signal taking a hit (drawing more cards) by making a beckoning or scratching motion with his finger on the table. If he wants to stand, he will signal the dealer by waving his hand over the cards.
To split a pair in a face up game, the player will simply place the same value wager next to (not on top of) the original wager. The dealer will separate the cards, indicating a split.
To Double down, the player will place an equivalent bet or less behind his original bet.
Usually when a player splits or doubles, he will wager an amount equal to the original bet. However, if he chooses, a player may wager less than his original bet.
For example, if a player has bet $25 and receives a pair of 7s, he may decide to split the pair into two different hands. He can wager any amount up to $25 on his second bet. If he wanted to wager only $10 on the second hand created by splitting, this is permissible.
In games where players hold the cards, they will signal for a hit by scratching the table with their cards. To stand, a player will place his cards under his wager.
To split a pair in a hand held game, the player places the cards face up on the table above his wager and makes his second wager by placing the chips next to the original wager.
To double down in the hand held game, the player will toss his cards face up on the table and make a wager equal to or less than his original bet by placing the chips next to the first bet.
If the dealer’s up-card is a 10-valued card or an Ace, in order to save time which would be lost by playing out all hands and then having to return additional player bets made because of the players’ decisions to double down or split pairs before the dealer checked to see if he had a blackjack, most casinos require the dealer to “peek” at his hole card immediately, being careful not to allow any of the players to see the card.
If the hole card provides the dealer with a Blackjack, the dealer exposes it at once and quickly collects all of the losing bets around the table. If you or any of the other players also have a blackjack, it is a push.
If after peeking the dealer finds that he has no blackjack, the round continues with players exercising their normal options, including making additional wagers of splitting or doubling down.
Many casinos do not allow a dealer to peek at his hole card whenever he has a 10-valued card or an Ace showing. Instead, an electronic device is used which scans the hole card and signals the dealer. The dealer simply slides the card into this device.
If the dealer has a blackjack, a tiny red light comes on signaling the hand is over. If a green light shows, there is no blackjack and the hand proceeds.
The gadget is simply a safeguard designed to protect the dealer from dealer-player collusion. Since the dealer does not see the hole card, it also protects the house from dealers who inadvertently give subconscious signals called tells to players and also protects the house against players who get a look at the hole card when the dealer exposes it enough for the player to see the card.
Obviously, any player who knows the value of the dealer’s hole card gains an edge over the casino, and the use of the no-peek device prevents this.
In most European casinos, the dealer will not take a hole card until after all players have completed their hands. In a game played this way, if you split pairs or double down against the dealer’s Ace or 10-valued card, and the dealer ends up with a blackjack, you will lose all of your wagers. This is a major disadvantage for the players.
If your hand signal to hit or stand is misunderstood by the dealer and you are either passed over when you wanted another card or given a card when you signaled no cards, you may have a dispute. If the dealer does not resolve it to your satisfaction, a floor person or pit boss will be called over to mediate a resolution.
If there is genuine doubt and the wager is small, the pit bosses tend to side with the player. In a rare case, the videotape recorded by the “eye in the sky” may be consulted. I have only seen this done once, and it was for a very large wager made by a very insistent player.
Decisions made by the casino bosses are final regarding the settlement of various playing controversies.
Normally entering a game of blackjack is as simple as finding an open spot at a table and making a wager in the appropriate betting box. After finishing a hand in process, the dealer will accept the newcomer into the game for the next hand.
Some casinos, especially in Atlantic City, are requiring that players enter a game only after a shuffle. Similarly, if a seated player does not play a hand, he may not be allowed to reenter the game until after the next shuffle is finished.
These procedures are implemented to thwart card counters, who may observe a game and enter it only when the count is favorable. This technique is also known as Wonging after Stanford Wong who first wrote about it.
In the mid-1990s, the Tropicana casino in Atlantic City introduced a twist to the blackjack game by allowing a player to make up to three separate wagers on an upcoming hand. In this game, the dealer starts with an up-card against three consecutive player bets.
The player keeps the same cards versus all three dealer’s hands. The hands are played like regular blackjack hands. If a player goes bust, all three bets are lost. Splitting, doubling and insurance are available although surrender is not. This game is not recommended for players using the Nine-Count Blackjack Strategy.
You can find a version of blackjack in Las Vegas casinos called Spanish 21. Upon the first encounter, it sounds terrific. A player’s blackjack beats a dealer’s blackjack. A player 21 beats a dealer’s total of 21.
You can surrender half of a doubled down the bet after you double if you don’t like the card dealt. You can take extra hits on split Aces. There are even bonuses for special hands like 7-7-7 and five-card hands totaling 21.
This sounds like a wonderful version of blackjack. The only obviously disadvantageous rules for the player are that the dealer is required to hit all soft 17s and that six decks are used. So what’s not to like?
They have removed all of the 10-spots from the deck! The Jacks, Queens, and Kings remain, but the deck has been depleted of 25% of its 10-valued cards. And this is enough to turn the game into one with very negative expectations for the player. Don’t play Spanish 21. It can be deadly for your bankroll!
Bob Stupak’s Vegas World introduced a blackjack version known as double exposure. Although Vegas World is gone, replaced by the Stratosphere Tower, double exposure still appears from time to time. In this version of the game, the dealer’s cards are dealt face up with the hole card exposed.
In exchange for knowing exactly what the dealer’s first two cards total, the player loses a lot. No soft doubling is allowed. Pairs may only be split once. Players win blackjack ties but lose all other ties.
Blackjacks comprised of a Jack and the Ace of Spades pay double as does a total of 21 consisting of a 6, 7 and 8 of the same suit. However, normal blackjacks only pay even money. Like Spanish 21, this is an insidious version of blackjack and should be avoided.
Incidentally, I have had some of the best craps games in my career at Stupak’s version of craps called Crapless Craps.
In this version of the game, all of the craps numbers of 2, 3, and 12 were turned into point numbers along with the 11. I can still vividly recall a lovely lady shooter establishing such points as 2, 3, 11 and 12 and then rolling number after number without any sevens appearing before hitting her points.
Although, like Double Exposure Blackjack, Crapless Craps was a sucker game, it was an enjoyable one and for a shooter who could avoid rolling sevens except on come out rolls, a true delight.
The landmark casino which replaced the old Vegas World, the Stratosphere Tower, is, at 135 stories, the tallest structure in the United States west of the Mississippi.
Unfortunately, Bob Stupak is no longer a fixture of this establishment, and I for one will miss his creative and often innovative variations of casino games as well as his unending and often outlandish self-promotion.
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