Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Blackjack... a relatively simple game.  I've spent the last month playing about 4 hours a day, 5 days a week in training to be a dealer at a local casino.  I've always wanted to be a better blackjack player--it feels a bit "James Bond" even if his game was baccarat.  You know the basics.  You start with 2 cards and total the pips of each card to get as close to 21 as you can without going over.  All suited cards count as 10 except the Ace which can be either 1 or 11.  Simple enough with a few extra bits to remember.

You're playing against the dealer and only the dealer.  There may be 7 people at your table, but the only hand you have to beat is the dealer (me).  In this regard I am entirely a machine, the dealer can make no decisions about his/her hand.  My casino must hit on all hands "soft 17" or lower and must NOT hit on any hand of "hard 17" or higher.  Thus if I have an Ace and a 6, then I have a a soft 17 and must take another card.  If I have an Ace and a 7, then I have a soft 18 and must NOT take a card.  The dealer has only one card visible when you (the player) must decide if you want additional cards or not.  The hidden card (or hole card) is what you're betting against.  If your hand totals higher than mine or if I bust (go over 21) then you win and I match your bet.  If I beat your hand or you bust, then I take your bet. If you get a true "blackjack" hand (one 10 card of any sort and one Ace on your first two cards), then I pay 3:2 or 1.5 times your bet.

That's the basics of it.  Most of the class was more about handling the cheques(chips) than anything else.  You see casinos rarely lose money from players, but apparently employees cost them money all the time. Everything on a blackjack table is watch by multiple cameras.  They can count the cheques on the table--probably better than I can standing at the table.  So everything I do as a dealer must be very transparent to the cameras.

Now a public service announcement.  DEALERS ARE PAID ON TIPS!  The hourly rate of an American casino dealer is making less than minimum wage like any waitress or bartender.  There are a variety of ways to tip a dealer.  A popular route is to place a dealer bet next to your own on the table.  If you win, then the dealer wins that portion of your bet.  Certainly this is fun, but don't feel shy about just giving the tip (a cheque/chip) straight to the dealer.  You see if your hand loses, then the tip is lost as well.  The casino doesn't give the lost tip bet to the dealers...  Every dealer needs to make about $15 per hour in tips to make a good wage.  That's not very hard to do at a table of even 3 players.  Consider giving $5 per hour to the dealer as a general rule.  However, if you did just score big on a $500 bet, tipping a $25 is just fine!  This reflects only my opinion of tipping dealers.  You stick to whatever mechanism feels right for you.  My opinion is not a reflection of any organization or casino.

There is no "trick" to blackjack.  There is no magic formula to win consistently even if you are a master player.  It is a casino game of chance which has to take in more than it pays out in order to work.  That said, you can definitely hedge the odds a bit.  Generally, one hand in three is going to win.  Each hand has one of 3 outcomes, win, lose, or draw (called a push).  If you win, you get double your money. If you lose, you lose your bet.  If you push, then you neither win nor lose any money.  As with all things based on chance, you can get a string of 10 losses or 10 wins.  The odds just say what is likely to happen, not what will happen.  Again, no system can turn blackjack in to a consistently winning game, but it's fun to play and get lucky.  If you have the means to spend the money, enjoy yourself in a casino, and like to smoke and drink inside... then blackjack is a pretty enjoyable hobby.  Most people won't walk away "winners"... but a few will.

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