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21 BLACKJACK QUESTIONS TO STUMP YOUR FRIENDS

by Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is editor of the Blackjack Insider and author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide.

The next time you belly up to the bar with a friend or co-worker who thinks he knows everything about the game of blackjack, ask Mr. Know-It-All a few of these questions. (Answers at the end of the article.)

  1. How did the game of blackjack get its name?
  2. In a single-deck game, what is the maximum number of cards that could comprise a dealer's hand of 18?
  3. Who were "The Four Horsemen of Aberdeen," and what important contribution did they make to the game of blackjack?
  4. Who invented and published the first card counting system for blackjack?
  5. What was the name of Thorp's classic book on card counting?
  6. What does a new 52-card deck of Bee playing cards weigh?
  7. How frequently does a player get dealt a blackjack hand?
  8. What is the chance that you could lose three consecutive hands at blackjack, if pushes are excluded?
  9. For every 100 hands that you play, using proper basic strategy, how many will you bust?
  10. What is the more profitable hand for a blackjack player, a two-card hand that totals 11 or a pair of Aces?
  11. What was the name of the famous flamboyant professional blackjack card counter who was interviewed by Harry Reasoner on the TV show "60 Minutes"?
  12. If the dealer has an Ace upcard, what is the chance she will have a 10 in the hole for a blackjack?
  13. You can overcome the casino's edge in blackjack by using a progressive betting system. True or false?
  14. Who invented the first personal blackjack computer, and what were the names of his famous computers?
  15. Who invented blackjack team play?
  16. You will win 50 percent of your blackjack hands. True or False?
  17. Blackjack card counting is illegal. True or false?
  18. If the dealer hits soft 17 in a 6-deck game, you have a better chance of winning with a two-card total of hard twelve versus a dealer's upcard of two, than you do with a two-card hard total of twelve versus a dealer's upcard of three. True or false?  
  19. The exploits of a famous blackjack card counting team were recently made into a movie ("21"). What was the name of this team?
  20. Where is the Blackjack Ball held every year, and who hosts it?
  21. Which casino houses the Blackjack Hall of Fame?

Answers

  1. When "21" was initially introduced in the United States in gambling houses, it wasn't very popular. So casino operators offered a 10-1 bonus payout if a player received an ace of spades and a black-colored jack (i.e., either a jack of spades or jack of clubs). This hand was called a "blackjack" and the name stuck to the game even though the bonus payout was eventually abolished and subsequently replaced with the traditional 3-2 bonus payout.
  2. Ten cards. The dealer would have to receive the cards in this order: 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, A, A, A, A, 3.
  3. The Four Horsemen were Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, James McDermott, and Herbert Maisel. In 1956, using nothing more than desk calculators, they developed and published the first reasonably accurate basic playing strategy for blackjack. (They were all inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame.)
  4. Dr. Edward Thorp is universally regarded as the "father of blackjack card counting." (Dr. Thorp was recently honored at 2017 Blackjack Ball.)
  5. The name of the book is "Beat the Dealer." The book was published in 1962 and it quickly made the New York Times list of best-selling books. It still is one of the all-time best-selling blackjack books.
  6. It weighs 3.4 ounces.
  7. About once in every 21 hands, or roughly 4.8 percent of the time for single-deck (for six-decks it's 4.7 percent).
  8. You have a 14 percent chance of losing three hands in a row, excluding pushes.
  9. You will bust about 16 hands on average out of every 100 hands played, using proper basic strategy.
  10. The 11 is more profitable. It has an average net expectation of +0.176, whereas the pair of aces is +0.160.
  11. In 1961 Kenny Uston appeared on "60 minutes," and he was the first player to demonstrate on national TV how card counting works.
  12. The dealer will have the 10 roughly 31 percent of the time (that's about four times out of 13).
  13. False. Progressive betting systems will not alter your long-term expectation in blackjack.
  14. Keith Taft invented the blackjack computer. His second-generation computer was named "George." (It was smaller and it had more memory than his original brass computer.) George also used a vibrating signal, like a buzzer, rather than the LED lights housed in the player's eyeglasses to transmit the strategy information to the player. Taft's third-generation blackjack computer, which contained updated software, was named "David," and it was sold to other blackjack players for $1,000.
  15. Al Francesco (aka Frank Schipani, Frank Salerno) invented the concept of blackjack team play. With his ingenious ideas, Al and his teams were able to use card-counting strategies to win millions of dollars at blackjack without being detected by the casinos.
  16. False. If you ignore the 9 percent of the hands that tie, you can expect to win about 48 percent of the hands dealt to you.
  17. False. There is nothing illegal about using your brain when you play blackjack.
  18. False. Against a two your expected value is -0.25, and against a three it's -0.23.
  19. MIT Team. The team was made up of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT.
  20. The Blackjack Ball is a gathering of blackjack experts, authors, and professional players who meet every year at a secret location in Las Vegas. The host is Max Rubin.
  21. Barona Casino in San Diego. (They also sponsor the annual Blackjack Ball.).

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