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Playing the Casino Game

We’re now ready to see how the game is played in a casino. For purposes of this illustration, we’re going to assume we enter the casino to play some 21. The first thing we do is head for the blackjack pit, and look for a table that will accommodate our wagers. If we wish to bet only $2 a hand, we must find a table with a $1 or $2 minimum, and avoid the tables with a $5 or higher minimum.

We find several tables like that, and at one table only two other players are seated, one in the first baseman’s spot at the extreme left of the dealer. The other player is in the center spot, so we move to the anchorman’s seat and take out some cash, place it on the table, and wait for the dealer to change this into casino chips.

The dealer is about to shuffle up the cards, and so he puts he puts them down and takes our cash. Our involvement with casino blackjack is about to begin.

Changing Cash into Chips

We are already seated at the last chair when the dealer takes our cash and counts it. We had put down $40, in assorted $10s and $20s, and the dealer will turn the money over after counting it, to verify that it is not funny money with one denomination printed on the front and a different one printed on the back.

In most casinos, he’ll not only verify the amount with us by announcing “forty dollars”, but also will try and catch the attention of a casino executive, a floor man, who will be in the interior of the pit, supervising the games. After the floor man acknowledges that this cash amount is being exchanged for chips, the dealer will drop the cash into a slot and it will disappear from view.

Then he’ll give us $40 worth of chips. Since it’s a $2 table, he might give us $20 worth of $1 chips and four $5 chips. We count the chips after he gives them to us. Anyone can make a mistake, and this is perfectly acceptable behavior.

While we’re doing this, the dealer is shuffling the cards.

Shuffling, Cutting, and Burning a Card

In the casino we’re playing at, there are both one-deck and multiple-deck games, but we’ve sat a table with a one-deck game. The dealer is shuffling up the cards, doing a thorough job. When he’s finished, the cards are placed on the table in front of one of the players to be cut. Some players, out of superstition, refuse to cut the cards, which is also acceptable. But the player sitting in the first base cuts them by taking up a portion of the cards and placing them next to the original stack of cards. In some casinos, a plastic card is handed to the player to be inserted somewhere in the deck, then the cards on top of the card are placed below it. Either cut is legitimate.

After the cards are cut, the dealer places them all together, and then removes the top card, and either places it on the bottom of the deck, face up but in such a manner that the players cannot see its value) or takes the top card and places it in a small plastic case to his right, face down. If he does the latter, then all future discards-that is, cards already played out-will be placed atop that card. If he turns the card face up at the bottom of the deck, then all future discards will be placed face up below that burned card.

The above paragraph describes what is meant by burning a card. This is a ritual carried out in practically all casinos, and hearkens back to the days when the casino was worried that someone would cut to a precise part of the deck, and thus take advantage of knowledge of the top card. Which still might be dome, for all we know.

Making a Bet

As the dealer holds the cards, getting ready to deal, the players make their bets. We will see a rectangular printed box right in front of our seat, and this is where our chips go.
The bet must be made prior to the deal of the cards. It must be at least the minimum allowed at the table, and cannot be more than the maximum permitted at the table.

But we're not thinking of $500 bets (usually the maximum at most casinos) as we put out two $1 chips. We’re going to get our feet wet and test the waters that Lady Luck swims in so cunningly. Our chips are now in our betting bow, and since the other two players have also made their bets, the dealer is ready to deal out the cards.

The Deal

The first baseman gets the top card, face down, and then the second player gets his card, and we then get ours. The last of the first cards to be dealt goes to the dealer, also face down. Now a second card goes out in the same order, but the dealer turns over this card, his upcard.

We now all have original hands of two cards, and can exercise our various options, or act upon our hands. For purposes of this illustration, we’re simply going to make a decision as to whether to hit or stand.

Hitting or Standing – How To

To refresh our recollection, hitting means drawing a card to our original hand. We can hit our hand as often as we care to, so long as the total of the cards doesn’t exceed 21.
To hit-that is, ask for another card-we pick up our original cards and scrape the edges on the felt surface towards us. This is the universal signal for a hit in all casinos that deal cards face down. The dealer will give you another card from the top of the stock he’s holding in his hand.

If we want another card after our original hit, we scrape again. Simple as that. If we’re satisfied with our hand, we slide the cards under our bet chips, and don’t touch either the cards or the chips again.

As you may have noticed, no verbal commands are given to the dealer. The whole game can be played silently with these signals.

Hitting and Standing in Multiple Deck Games

When all the players’ cards are dealt face up, which is the usual case in multiple deck games involving four or more decks, there are different signals used by players when they wish to hit or stand.

If a player wants to draw another card, his signal for a hit is to point his index finger at the cards. Another card will be given to him by the dealer. Or the player may scratch the felt surface of the table behind his cards with his index finger, and this also a signal for a hit. Either signal is universally accepted in American casinos.

If that same player wants to stand with his total, he simply waves his hand over the cards, with the palm face down, and the dealer will respect this signal and pass him by.

Blackjacks

If a player is fortunate enough to be dealt a blackjack, which is an ace and 10-value card dealt to him as an original hand, he also turns these over immediately. But now for the good news. If the dealer doesn’t have an ace in the hole, he continues dealing the game.
If the dealer has an ace as an upcard, then he will ask the players if they want insurance.

Playing the Hand

Lets assume, in our theoretical game at the table with the other two players, that the dealer’s upcard is a 9. He doesn’t have to peek at his hole card, for there’s no way he can have a blackjack with a 9 showing.

The first baseman is the first to act on his hand. Remember, the players act first – that is, hit or stand – and then the dealer acts last, after all the players have made their decisions.

The first baseman scrapes his cards for a hit. He is dealt a queen. He scrapes the cards again for another hit, and gets a 7. Disgustingly, he turns over the cards he’s been holding. He had a 3 and a 2, making his original hand a 5; with the queen and 7 he now holds 22, and has busted. The dealer takes away the first baseman’s chips and cards and now turns his attention to the next player.

This player scrapes for a hit, gets a 4, and then happily slides his cards under his chips, a signal that he is now standing on his total. The dealer now turns to us. We look at our cards and find we hold a jack and a 9. Our 19 is a strong total, so we stand by – sliding the cards under our chips. Now it’s the dealer’s turn. He turns over his hole cars.

His hole card was a3, giving him a total of 12. Under the rules of the game, he must hit his hand, since its totals less than 17. He takes a card for himself by putting the top card of the stock face up next to his two original cards. It is a 4, giving him a 16. He must hit again. He has no options. His next card is a king. The dealer has gone over 21 and has busted.

At this point, he takes the second player’s original cards from under the chips and turns them over. This player had a 10 and a 6 for a 16, and drew the 4, giving him a 20. He is paid off at even-money. We are also paid off at even-money. It really didn’t matter what totals either we or the second baseman had at this point, since the dealer busted and automatically lost.

After all the discards are put away, another round of play begins. Again, we all get two cards, and the dealer’s upcard this time is a jack. Therefore, he peeks at his hole card, and when he finds he doesn’t have blackjack, he now turns toward the first baseman and the game goes on as before.

After a few rounds of play, even though are cards left in the stock the dealer is holding, he’ll shuffle up the cards. This is done to prevent card counters, experts who keep track of played out cards, from having an advantage over the house by knowing just what cards are left in the stock and betting accordingly.

Multiple Deck Games

By multiple deck games, we are referring to all games which use more than on e deck.
When 4 or more decks are used, they’re dealt from a shoe, a rectangular bow that permits the cards to be slid out one at a time.

Double Deck Games

When two decks are used, these are still hand-held and all signals used by players are the same as in a single deck game. There are relatively few double deck games in comparison with either single or four and six deck games.

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