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How Blackjack Works


There are few options for the solitary player who wants to cheat at blackjack. Marking cards is one possibility, but with constant video surveillance it's nearly impossible to avoid getting caught. A player switching his cards with hidden cards is another choice, but the dealer will usually call "Card down" the instant a card moves below the table.

Working with the dealer opens up many more possibilities for cheating. The dealer holds the cards most of the time, and is often incredibly adept at sleight of hand. Skilled dealers can stack the deck, deal whichever cards they want, and decide exactly who will win and who will lose at the table. An agreement with a player to split the winnings could be very profitable for both the dealer and the player.

More common, according to blackjack expert Lance Humble, is the dealer who cheats on behalf of the casino. There are a number of reasons for this. If a dealer has had a bad run and lost a lot of house money, he may be tempted to deal in his own favor to put some money back on the casino's side of the ledger.

In the days when organized crime was more openly involved with casino gambling, many gamblers told stories of players who walked up to a table and instantly started winning on huge bets. Meanwhile, the dealer and pit boss would look on as if nothing was wrong. Humble's suspicion is that these players were criminals known by the dealers, and the dealers were also being paid off by crime lords. The dealer would make sure to deal himself poor hands while the connected player was at the table.

Humble even tells one story in The World's Greatest Blackjack Book of a dealer who manipulated the play just because one of the players annoyed him. The obnoxious player got on everyone's nerves, and after several hands, the dealer started announcing, "good," or "bad," as he dealt each player their cards. The annoying player was always told "bad." For more than a dozen hands, he lost every play, while the "good" players raked in their winnings.

With casinos springing up in every state, blackjack is more popular than ever. While there are professional blackjack players, and there is even a World Series of Blackjack, for the overwhelming majority of players the game is a much better way to lose large amounts of money than to make any.

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