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BLACKJACK

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Blackjack is one of the most popular casino card games in the world. Much of blackjack’s popularity is due to the mix of chance with elements of skill, and the publicity that surrounds card counting. The hand with the highest total wins as long as it doesn’t exceed 21; a hand with a higher total than 21 is said to bust or too many. Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, and face cards (jack, queen, king) are all worth 10. An ace’s value is 11 unless this would cause the player to bust, in which case it is 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 the higher, unbusted hand. Note that if the player busts he loses, even if the dealer also busts. 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.

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). A player with a natural is usually paid 3:2 on his bet. Some casinos pay only 6:5 on blackjacks; although this reduced payout has generally been restricted to single-deck games. This reduced payout for a natural increases the house advantage over a player by as much as 1000 percent. The move was decried by longtime blackjack players.

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