Blackjack background

Blackjack - also known by the names of Twenty-one, Vingt-et-un (French for Twenty-one), or Pontoon) has over the years become one of the most popular casino card games in the world. Blackjack’s popularity has come about due to a variable mix of chance together with elements of skill. The casino version of Blackjack should however not be confused with the British card game Black Jack- a variant of Crazy Eights. Crazy Eights is a game for two or more players, in which the object is to get rid of the cards in your hand onto a discard pile by matching the number or suit of the previous discard.

Blackjack’s is believed to have originated from vingt-et-un (”twenty-one”), which was played in French casinos around 1700. When 21 was first introduced in the United States it was not well patronised, so gambling houses offered various bonus payouts to get the players to the tables. If the player’s hand consisted of the ace of spades and a black Jack (either the Jack of clubs or the Jack of spades) the player was rewarded. This hand was called a “blackjack” and the name stuck to the game even though the bonus payout was soon abolished. As the game is currently played, a “blackjack” may not necessarily contain a jack or any black cards at all.

As Blackjack is played today, the hand with the highest total wins as long as it doesn’t exceed 21. Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, and face cards (jack, queen, king) are also worth 10. An ace’s value can be called as either 11, unless this would cause the player to bust, in which case it is then worth 1. A hand in which an ace’s value is counted as 11 is called a soft hand, because it cannot be busted if the player draws another card.

Each player’s goal is to beat the dealer by having a hand higher than the dealers, but no more than 21. Note that if the player goes bust he loses, irrespective of the dealers hand. If both the player and the dealer have the same point value, it is called a “push”, and neither player nor dealer wins the hand. Each player has an independent game with the dealer, so it is possible for the dealer to lose to some players but still beat the other players in the same round.

In American blackjack, if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace or a ten-value, the dealer checks his hole card to see if he has blackjack. This check occurs before any of the players play, but after they have been offered insurance - if the face-up card is an ace. If the dealer has blackjack, all players lose their initial bets, except players who also have blackjack, which is then a push. In some American casinos, the dealer does not actually check the hole card until after the players have all played. At that time, if the dealer turns out to have blackjack, all players who did not have blackjack lose their bets, and players who increased their bets by doubling or splitting lose only the original bet, and have the additional bets returned to them; thus, the end result is precisely as if the dealer had checked the hole card before playing.

A two-card hand of 21 - an ace plus a ten-value card is called a “blackjack” or a “natural”, and is an automatic winner - unless the dealer has blackjack as well, in which case the hand is a push.

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