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The casino game Twenty-One is better known as Blackjack. For the French, they call it Vingt et un which literally means 21. To others, it is known as Pontoon. The names may differ but the fact remains that blackjack is a well-loved gambling card game all over the world. It makes use of standard playing deck with 52 cards. Each player gets two cards each. The face values of the cards are added up with an ideal goal of getting a sum of 21. If no one gets a 21, the player who gets a sum nearest 21 wins. If two cards are summed less than 21, one has could be dealt another card. However, if after adding the third card the sum goes over 21, the hand busts and he loses.

Rules may slightly vary per casino. It may also vary per table in a casino. No one knows for sure why this game is so popular. It could probably be because it is a mix of chance and skill. It is unlike other card games wherein winning relies absolutely on luck. In blackjack, it is possible to come up with strategies to increase winning chances.

Card counting is a common technique in blackjack. It deals with learning how to memorize the cards that have been dealt and the cards yet to be dealt.


Blackjack’s origin can be traced from an old game called Twenty-One. The first hint of this game was seen in one of the books of Miguel de Cervantes, the author famous for his work Don Quixote. Cervantes himself was fond of gambling in his days. In his book, he concocted a story about a couple of cheaters in a game called ventiuna (meaning “21” in Spanish). The objective of ventunia is for players to reach 21 points without busting. The ace card could be 1 or 11. Back then, the 8s, 9, and 10s were removed from the deck before playing. Such cards were the Spanish baraja. The short story was written in 1601 to 1602. Ventiuna was often played in Castilia. Later on, the game spread to France (Vingt et un) and Spain.

Soon after, Twenty-One also spread to the United States although it was not an instant hit to the Americans. Gambling houses had to promote the game by offering bigger bonus payouts just to make Americans sit and try the game on the tables. Some casinos offered as high as 10 to 1 payout for a two-card combination of ace of spades and a black jack (either jack of spades or jack of clubs). This ideal hand was later coined the “blackjack” and the name stuck since then. Even if the bonus payout was not being offered anymore, the game became known as blackjack. Today, a blackjack combination can be any ace and any card with a value of 10.


The players gather around an arc-shaped table with a dealer at the center. A maximum of seven players can be seated at a table. Each player plays independently against the dealer and not against other players. Thus, unlike in poker when players try to hide their hands from being seen by co-players, in blackjack it does not matter if other players get to peep. 

A player must place a bet at the beginning of a round to signify his intention to join that round. Without a bet, he will not be dealt a card. There is a designated betting box or area on a table where betting chips should be placed. Chips not placed in the appropriate area will not be counted. 

Since players are playing against the dealer, their main and simple objective is to get a hand higher than the dealer’s but also without going over 21. Going over 21 is called busting or breaking, and in such case, the player loses the round.

Once all bets are in, a dealer motions to start dealing the cards. He hands out a card each starting from his left. He does this for another round so that each player gets two cards. After dealing, players can begin to check their hands to figure out their next move. The dealer will expose one of his cards to give players an idea of whether to get another card or stop. If one thinks that he could go for another card to get higher points on his hand, he could do so. With this move, he could improve his hand or he could bust. He calculates his own risks based on his hand.

A dealer then plays his hand. If he busts, all players with a hand of 21 or less immediately win. If a dealer does not bust, he compares his hand versus each player’s hand. If his hand is higher than a player’s, he wins and collects a player’s bet. If his hand is lower than a player’s, he loses and pays the player. If the hand of both dealer and player are equal, it is called a standoff and neither wins. The bet is returned to the player. Thus, in any given round, it is possible for a dealer to lose to some players and win against others.

The deck of cards is often contained in a box called a shoe. A shoe could hold just one deck or more. Cards dealt could come from only one or several decks of cards. In most games, cards are handed out to players face down but a dealer exposes one of his cards. The exposed card of the dealer is called an up card while his face down card is called a hole. If dealt cards came from a shoe, cards are already facing up. Face up cards bear nothing to the game because a dealer has to abide by predetermined rules. This means that if a dealer’s hand is less than 17, he should hit (get another card). If he gets 17 or up, he should stand.

An exception to the rule is when a soft 17 comes up on the dealer’s hand. A soft hand is a combination of an ace plus any card. It is called soft because the ace could be played as 1 or 11. In this case, a dealer is presented with two options. He could hit soft 17 or stand on all 17s.

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