Class 35: Blackjack

Today is blackjack day. At the end of the handout, we have included the rules and basic strategy for blackjack as played in Atlantic City.

About the Chance Fair

The fair will be in the lounge on the third floor of Fine Hall from 10:00 to 12:00 Tuesday May 14.

Please bring your final project to the fair. Remember to prepare a poster, the more colorful the better, that shows the highlights of the project. If you need equipment, such as a computer or VCR, and can't bring your own, we need to know as soon as possible. We will provide masking tape and thumbtacks for sticking posters to walls. We would like you to leave your posters with us, but you can pick them up outside Linda's office (1206 Fine Hall) after May 16th.

At the Chance Fair, besides being able to admire your fellow students posters, you will get a chance to play roulette and blackjack. You will have $50 of Chance Money and modest prizes will be awarded the two people who end up with the largest amount of Chance Money.

Laurie and Linda will both be reading email throughout reading period. Laurie will also be around the department this afternoon and from Wednesday on. Linda will away this weekend so she will not have regular office hours on Sunday May 5th, but she will be back around from Tuesday on.

The rules of blackjack

How the game is played from "Blackjack in Atlantic City and Around the World" by Thomas Gaffney, Cidadel Press 1990

The player in order to win must come closer to a point value of 21 than the dealer. Each playing card between 2 and 10 has it's numerical value assigned to it while all face cards count 10. With aces you have a choice. Count an ace either 1 or 11, whichever makes you happy. If the player exceeds the magic number of 21, he immediately loses even though the dealer may do the same. The player has the option of drawing (a hit) as many cards as he wishes to arrive at a total approaching 21. Or he may stand pat and not draw any cards if he thinks his two cards will beat the dealer. The dealer doesn't have this option. At Atlantic City, the dealer must draw to 16 and stand on 17 or above.

In addition to hitting and standing, there are two other options that a player may exercise. One is doubling-down in which the player elects to draw one more card and at the same time double his bet. An example: you are dealt a 7 and a 4 for a total of 11. The dealer's up card is a 5, a weak card since he must take a hit to reach a total of at least 17. Since you believe your chance to beat the dealer is good, you double your bet.

The other option may be exercised when you receive a pair, any pair. You are permitted to split these two cards so you are, in effect, playing two separate hands. (You add a bet for the second hand equal to your original bet.) If you have a pair of 9's, for example, and the dealer shows a lowly 6, you may split your pair and very likely come up with two excellent hands. A king, queen, and jack are 10-valued cards and considered a pair.

You are permitted to combine splitting and doubling-down. For example, you are deal a pair of 7's. You split the 7's and draw a 4 on the first 7 for a total of 11. You are allowed to double-down on the 11. However, you may not re-split. If you split a pair of 7's and receive a third 7, you cannot split this 7.

When all bets are placed, the game begins. The cards are dealt from the dealer's left to right, two cards face-up to each player. The dealer takes one card face-up, the other face-down. If the player receives a blackjack (Ace with any 10 valued card), he is paid $3 for each $2 wagered, unless the dealer also has a blackjack. In this case the hand results in a tie (a push) and no money is exchanged. If the dealer has a blackjack hand with the value 10 card showing, he shows the whole hand and any player who does not have a blackjack loses and the round is over. Otherwise the dealer asks the players one at a time to make their choices, hitting until they are happy (stand) or until they go over 21 (bust and lose). After all players have made their choices the dealer completes his hand. If he busts he pays off all players who did themselves not but. If he does not bust he pays off those who have a total closer to 21 than his, signals a tie for those with the same total and takes the money from those for which his total is closer to 21.

If the dealer has an Ace showing, he offers insurance: the player may bet one-half of his original bet that the dealer has blackjack. If the dealer does have blackjack, the player is paid 2 to 1 for the insurance bet (and, of course, loses his original bet); if not. the player loses the insurance bet.

The basic strategy tells you your best way to play if you don't want to try to take advantage of knowledge of which cards have been played (employ a counting strategy). The basic strategy depends upon the house rules so that in Vegas there are many different basic strategies. In Atlantic City the basic strategy is universal. Here is what Gaffney says it is for Atlantic City.

PLAYER'S                            PLAYER'S DECISION 
HAND                                ON DEALER'S UP-CARD 

9 Double on 3 to 6. Otherwise hit 10 Double on 2 to 9. Hit on 10,A 11 Double on 2 to 10. Hit on A 12 Stand on 4 to 6. Otherwise hit 13 to 16 Stand on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit 17 to 21 Always stand


A,2 & A,3 Double on 5 and 6. Otherwise hit A,4 & A,5 Double on 4 through 6. Otherwise hit A,6 Double on 3 through 6. Otherwise hit A,7 Double on 3 through 6. Stand on 2,7 and 8. Hit on 9,10,A A,8 to A,10 Always stand A,A Always split PLAYER'S PAIRS 2,2 & 3,3 Split on 2 through 7. Otherwise hit 4,4 Split on 5 and 6. Otherwise hit 5,5 Never split. Treat as a 10 6,6 Split on 2 through 6. Otherwise hit 7,7 Split on 2 through 7. Otherwise hit 8,8 Always split 9,9 Split on 2 through 9 except 7. Stand on 7,10 and A 10,10 Always stand
All the above decisions assume that the player holds two cards. If the player holds 3,4, or 5 cards (a multi-card hand), then

2 or 3 13 4,5, or 6 12 7 or higher 17(hard)
A hand with an ace is called a "soft hand" if the ace could be counted either as a 1 or 11 and the total still be at most 21. If the ace can only be counted as a 1 to keep the total at most 21 it is called a "hard hand"