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Glen Wiggy

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Blackjack: The Great Uniter

Posted: 11/12/2012 4:15 pm

In the months and weeks leading up to the November 6th election, nobody asked for my opinion on the bipartisan stranglehold that brought out the best and worst qualities of most Americans. Nobody hired me as a political pundit or member of a three-person panel of guests on a television talk show. Nobody asked me the best way to bring harmony back to people who volleyed countless insults at each other across strong party lines. If they had, I could've shared my simple solution for achieving nationalistic bliss -- sit everyone down at the same blackjack table.

Blackjack, also known as "twenty-one," is one of the most popular casino table games. The objective of the game is to get a better hand than the dealer without going over twenty-one. Unlike Texas Hold'em, bridge, gin, spades, crazy eights, or even Old Maid, the objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer, not the other players at the table. That rule brings out a special dynamic in blackjack players -- a sense of cooperation instead of competition. Red state or blue state, white face or black face or purple face, upper 1% or lower 99%, bible or no bible, it doesn't matter. Blackjack players set aside their differences in pursuit of fun and profits. Where else in America can you see an investment banker, tattooed biker, undergraduate fine arts major, Latin King's gang member, Iraqi war veteran, kindergarten teacher, and elderly nun, all sitting at the same table? When the cards are right, these people will even high-five each other. That's what our country needs now. Togetherness.

Besides the normal fun associated with playing blackjack, there is also a way to beat the game by counting cards. Since multiple hands are usually dealt from the deck(s) without shuffling, an observant and skilled player can adjust bets based on the proportion of high cards and aces remaining in the deck. The practice is frowned upon by casinos, but not illegal, as most people think. And, card-counting is not as difficult as it seems in movies. Any golfer who can tally "-1" for birdies and "+1" for bogeys on the scorecard has the basic toolset needed for tallying cards as they come off the deck at a blackjack table. The most difficult part of counting involves adjusting the bet to match a high card count and managing your money to weather normal win/loss fluctuations associated with the game.

While a diverse group of players sitting at a blackjack table has the same goal of beating the dealer, not everyone has the same chance of doing so. A rudimentary knowledge of the game is essential. Many players make decisions in blackjack according to "basic strategy," a set of probabilistic rules that determine exactly when to hit, stay, split or double-down, depending on the card that the dealer is showing. Other players make uneducated decisions or play by hunches and superstitions. I call these folks, "blackjackally challenged." Playing by basic strategy is a must to minimize the overall edge the casino has over blackjack players.

Depending on the rules of the game, a card-counter at blackjack enjoys a 1-2% advantage over the house. That is a mathematical fact proven by laws of probability, not a subjective opinion generated by numerous professional pollsters interpreting voter surveys to the liking of their political party. The choice is yours, America. Do you want to play nice together at the blackjack table or not? Do you want to play blackjack correctly? Do you want to count cards with me? These are simple questions that should not divide the great citizens of our country. Heck, even if we lose a few bucks, the casino will give us a free buffet.

Glen Wiggy is the author of "1536 Free Waters and Other Blackjack Endeavors--Finding Profit and Humor in Card-Counting." He blogs at www.blackjackstories.com

 
 
 
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