Blackjack Unveiled!

Chance plays a large part in blackjack, but the skillful player still enjoys a big advantage over the novice one. Certain players have been banned from blackjack in casinos, which is proof that they have, however momentarily, been able to transfer the hypothetical house edge from the bank to themselves.

Blackjack has been for a time the most popular card game in Las Vegas casinos (poker has superseded it) and has become popular elsewhere like Canada, UK and Australia (see for more info). The name “Blackjack” arose when an American casino, in an effort to popularize the game, paid a bonus to any player holding the ace of spades and either the jack of clubs or jack of spades. The hand, and later the game, took the name Blackjack. Only comparatively recently have rules become standardized, and even now conventions differ in various casinos.

Four packs are used which are shuffled by the dealer and cut by a player. All cards have their face value, with court cards counting as ten except the ace, which when held by the player has a value of one or 11 at his discretion. When the dealer holds an ace, it might also have a value of one or 11, but its value is governed by the casino rules.

The object of the game from the player’s point of view is to obtain a total card count, with two or more cards, higher than that of the dealer, but without exceeding a maximum of 21. Should the player’s count exceed 21 he is said to have busted, and loses his stake. Before the deal, each player puts up a stake in the betting space before him. A player may play at more than one space, but must play the hands independently from his right to left. The first card dealt is discarded. The dealer then deals a card to each player face down and one to himself all face up. He then deals a second card face-up to each player, and a second card, face down, to himself.

If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace or a ten count, he must look at his other card (if it is an ace he must first ask players if they wish to insure, as is explained later). If he has a total of 21, he faces it and announces twenty-one or blackjack. A two-card total of 21 is known as a natural or blackjack. A natural 21 is the highest hand, and the dealer wins all stakes, unless a player also has a natural, in which case his bet is a stand-off. When the dealer does not have a natural, he deals with each player in turn. If the player has a natural, he wins, and is paid at odds of 3-2, as the table stakes. All other bets are paid at 1-1. Otherwise he may stand or draw a further card or cards. He will stand if he is satisfied with his count, or if he judges a further card night bust him. If he wishes to draw he will beckon for another card, or, as is common in America, say ‘hit me’, when the dealer will give him another card face up. The player may continue to draw cards until he is satisfied with his count. If in drawing he busts, he must announce it, and the dealer collects the stake and burns the cards into the discard pile.

Some History of the Ubiquitous Slots Machine

Sometimes they are called fruit machines, because of the symbols which determine wins, sometimes as one-armed bandits (because of the single handle to rob gamblers), either way, they are forms of mechanical/electronic lotteries and we know them by their proper name which is “slots machines”. They were invented by Charles Fey, an American mechanic, in the late nineteenth century.

The first machine was called Liberty Bell and it used playing card suits, bells, stars and horseshoes as its symbols. The basic slot machine, until refinements appeared after the Second World War, consisted of three reels each containing 20 symbols (not all different). When a coin is inserted in the machine, and a handle pulled, the reels spin, and when they stop a line of three symbols is shown through a window. Depending on the composition of the line of three symbols, the machine either pays out an amount of coins according to a schedule stated on the Machine, or it does not pay at all.

The payout is unfair, as it is less than it should be according to the laws of probability. The machine pays out on average once every 4-37 spins, and makes a profit of just under 20 per cent. Machines can be set to pay whatever percentage the operator requires. Many machines since the 1920s have incorporated a jackpot mechanism. The machine is geared to feed coins into the jackpot which opens when a certain combination shows and adds its coins to the normal payout.

In the 1950s, various innovations speeded up the slot machine action. Machines were made with four reels, with very large payouts for the jackpot lines. Then came the hold button, which allows a player to hold any symbols for a second spin of the reels. Later still came the three-line-pay machine. In most

slot machines three lines are visible – the winning line and those immediately above and below it. The player could put two coins in the slot, in which case the line above the winning line also became a winning line. Three coins would qualify all three lines as a possible winner. Machines in Nevada during the 1970s and 80s were multiple coin machines, in which gamblers can bet up to eight coins at a time. The extra coins increase the jackpot payoffs. A refinement of these are progressive jackpot machines which indicate the top jackpot payoff. This increases with the number of coins fed into the machine. The progressive jackpot can only be won by feeding the machine a stated number of coins.

Ingenious ways have been found to cheat slot machines in the past, with wire, spoons and even drills, and there was a much advertised rhythm method. Slot machine manufacturers now seem to have cheats beaten, and for the honest player, the more the slot machines are played, the more certain it is that the large house edge will reduce his capital.

Australia the Gambling Capital of the Southern Pacific

Formal legally recognized gambling has witnessed substantial expansion in recent years in the South Pacific region. Take a look at the recent move by the People’s Republic of Vietnam to “carefully” move towards legalizing casino gambling in an effort to build more state revenues.

Nevertheless, the gambling phenomenon has been around for quite a long time in the area and in particular in Australia. From the time of the first European colony in Australia in 1788, gambling has been part of the fabric of life on the world’s largest island. New settlers from the British Isles, many of whom were convicts sentenced with deportation orders, had participated in games in the Mother Country. Their new society demonstrated a great tolerance for the activity, and it grew throughout the 19th century. However, it was also an activity subject to the reform movements led by church groups at the end of the century and the beginning of the 20th century.

The groups succeeded in having the Gaming and Betting Act of 1906 ban all gaming except that involving horse racing. However, gambling could not be kept down for long. Within a decade, lotteries returned, as did charity games. As a practical matter, many other games persisted even in the face of the law.

Legalized machine gaming (slot machines are called “pokies” in Australia) appeared in the largest state (New South Wales) in the 1950s, and the first legal casino was established in Tasmania in the 1970s.

Australia now offers a multitude of forms of legalized gambling. Collectively, gaming revenues produced revenues (equated with player losses) in excess of $9 billion (in US dollars) in 2006. This amounted to wagering losses of about $650 for each adult. Now, Australia’s overall population is about 23 million, with an adult population of roughly 15 million. These losses are almost twice those for average Americans in legal gambling facilities in the United States.

The Interactive Gambling Act (2001) was passed by the Australian parliament and received assent in July of 2001. Now this gets a little confusing, but the act is targeted at online gambling operators making it an illegal for them to offer “real-money” online interactive gambling to residents of Australia, but accessing and using the services is ok. And it’s ok to provide their services to gamblers located outside Australia.

So for us outside of Australia, it is the online casino jewel of the south pacific.

South Africa to Repeal the National Gambling Act

A country that doesn’t really pop up in the industry news of online gambling very much is South Africa. When we think of South Africa we tend to think of apartheid and the racism that tore through the country years ago. And of course of the name of Nelson Mandela. But they are in the news now as their parliament is set to consider legislation to legalize online gambling.

The new legislation would basically repeal the old National Gambling Act that was put into effect back in 2008 and dealt with online wagers for sporting events.

The new bill was proposed by one of their members of parliament Geordin Hill-Lewis and it would still cover the online betting on sports events, but would also include wording on the operating of online casinos and such within the borders of South Africa as well as the use of them by South African nationals as well as foreigners. It would be similar in structure and layout to similar bills that are in place in other countries like Australia or various European nations that oversee licensing via federal or provincial government bodies.

This move comes from pressure being exerted by the commercial sector who are upset at the pandemic of unregulated gambling sites and the loss of potential taxation revenues. They see this as a travesty to the South African economy. So, applicants for licensing would contact their local branch of the government in which ever province they operated in and existing licensees would have to renew their licenses and a series of categories would also be established to further clarify things. Taxation issues would be covered by each province.

All of this will take a bit of time to set up of course. Estimates indicate that once they are past the introduction, the setting up of standards would take about 6 months and licensing would be another 18 months.

A Few Basics for the Beginner to Online Casinos

Gambling online is much like gambling in the Wild, Wild West. If you can imagine hundreds of casinos, horse racing tracks, bingo halls, sports betting parlors and poker rooms stuffed into a box small enough to carry in a briefcase then you have an idea of gambling on the web.

If online gambling is new for you, you are probably among the majority of today’s Internet users. You’ve probably got a lot of questions, like are the games fair? What about your credit card information? Is it legal to gamble online?

Software is the driving force behind the online casinos. Most of the online casinos rely on software developed by a relative handful of large software companies, so their reputation is very valuable to them and they tend to act as online policemen with their licensing practices. They do extensive background checking of license applicants. One thing they are particularly sensitive to is using an online casino for money laundering, but when you say to a possible client they’ve got to clear an FBI or Interpol background check the scam artists never come back.

The reputable, online casinos are audited too and generally, provide odds as good or better than Vegas. And realistically, cheating is relatively easy to detect if an online casino tries it. Payouts of the common, popular table games like blackjack, baccarat, craps and roulette are well known. So are the odds of video poker for that matter. If a casino cheated by tampering with the odds, it would show up in the payouts and be checked by one of the watchdog firms or auditors.

Because information moves fast over the Internet, any rumors of cheating would become widely known and the casino would find itself in deep trouble.

This goes for credit card scams too. Handing your credit card to a waiter in your favorite restaurant is much riskier than using your card with an Internet casino. Online casinos don’t even get your credit card number. It goes to a third party processor who processes the transaction and forwards the money and information about the customer, but without the number, to the casino.

The biggest obstacle online casinos face is credibility. The industry craves regulation and the legitimacy that government regulation brings and has been working actively to develop an international regulatory code. Soon it will be out there and will give everyone a greater peace of mind.

If you stay with well established online casinos and avoid the fly-by-night operators, you will have little danger of being cheated by the odds offered by the games or the process of transmitting and receiving monies from the online establishments.