Virtually all the card games that are played in a casino can be played at home, though sometimes it is necessary to vary the rules slightly. The main equipment needed for home play is a large table that can seat at least six players, ample packs of playing cards, a plentiful supply of chips of different colors, and a table cloth so that cards and chips can be handled easily.
This new and fascinating game has taken the world by storm. Technically, Pai-Gow is a variation of Poker, but everything about it is stamped “gambling casino game.” Indeed, since 1986, Pai-Gow Poker has made its way into Poker parlors in California, as well as many of the big casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and elsewhere. Pai-Gow Poker is even displacing tables previously used for Black Jack and Baccarat.
The game is derived from the Asian game of Pai-Gow, which is widely played in Southeast Asia, including Macao and the Philippines.
The actual game of Pai-Gow is played with domino-like black tiles. Each player receives four tiles and has to decide how to arrange them to make up two “hands” of two tiles each. Should the player go all out and try to win on both hands? Or should he play it safe and win on one hand for sure, and likely lose on the other so as to break even and avoid losing on both hands? This type of decision-making is at the heart of Pai-Gow Poker. The difference in Pai-Gow Poker is that cards are used instead of tiles, and instead of exotic Pai-Gow arrangements, Poker-hand combinations are featured.
Number of Players. Up to seven people can play: one dealer against up to six players, who play for themselves. In casino play, the dealer remains standing and the players are seated. In a home game, everyone is seated.
The Pack. The standard 52-card pack is used, plus a joker, which serves as a “bug.” It can be used as an ace, or a fifth card needed to fill a straight, flush, or straight flush. (In Philippine casinos, the joker not only stands for an ace, but is also any J, Q, or K, too.)
In addition to the playing cards, three standard dice are required.
Object of the Game. The goal is to to form two winning Poker hands from the seven cards that are dealt: a hand of five cards, called the “back” hand, and a hand of two cards, called the “front” hand. To win the bet, both of a player’s hands must beat both of the dealer’s hands. If both hands lose to the dealer, the player loses the bet. If one hand wins and one hand loses, it is a standoff, and no chips are paid out or collected.
Poker Rankings. A basic knowledge of Poker is required to play Pai-Gow Poker. The hands rank as in regular Poker, from five aces down to no pair. One exception is that while A, K, Q, J, 10 is the highest straight, A, 2, 3, 4, 5 is the next highest straight, beating K, Q, J, 10, 9. This straight is often made with the joker, which is why it ranks so high. For the two-card hand, straights and flushes do not count. Thus, the highest “front” hand is a pair of aces, and the lowest is three-high (3,2); a pair of deuces ranks just ahead of A, K.
Betting. The players buy chips for cash, and each makes a bet by placing one or more chips in a designated area in front of him. At the casino table, this area is a circle about the size of a coaster. The minimum and maximum bets are established by the casino, or in a home game, by all the players.
The Shuffle and Cut. The dealer shuffles the cards thoroughly and selects one player for the cut. That player separates the pack into two parts, and the dealer completes the cut.
The Deal. The dealer deals seven hands in a line in front of himself, one card at a time, face down, until seven hands of seven cards each are dealt. (In some casinos, an electronic device shuffles the cards thoroughly and deals the hands in groups of seven cards at a time until seven hands are dealt.) The remaining four cards left in the pack are counted by the dealer and then stacked face down against a clear, L-shaped plastic shield in the discard area near the dealer’s racks of chips.
Positioning of the Hands. The dealer selects one of the players to throw the three dice, which are used to randomly choose which player gets which hand of seven cards. The total of the numbers on the dice determines who will get the first hand. If these numbers add up to 1, 8, or 15, the dealer gets the hand, and the player to his right gets the second, and so forth around the table, counterclockwise. If the numbers are 2, 9, or 16, the first player to the right gets the first hand, the next player gets the second hand, and so forth. If the numbers are 3, 10, or 17, the second player to the right gets the first hand, and so forth. The dealer simply counts his position as “one,” the player to his right as “two,” the next player as “three” and so on, to determine how the hands are distributed. If there are fewer than six players against the dealer, the absent positions still get hands, just as if players were sitting in the vacant seats, but after all the hands are distributed, any absent hands are taken away (still face down) and placed in the discards.
Sometimes a shaker is used to mix the three dice, and the dealer removes the lid on top of the shaker to reveal the three dice. (The electronic card shuffler/dealer also incorporates a random-number generator with the same odds as three dice thrown manually, and
the digital number displayed on the device similarly indicates which player will get the first hand, with the remaining hands distributed counterclockwise around the table.)
Setting the Hands. Each player picks up his hand and arranges it to make two poker hands, keeping in mind that the hand of five cards must outrank the hand of two cards. When a player is satisfied with his arrangement, he places the “back” hand (five-card hand) face down, farthest from the dealer in the vertical rectangle provided on the table’s layout. The “front” hand (two-card hand) is placed face down horizontally in the horizontal rectangle, which is in front of the vertically-placed hand.
Each player at the table is responsible for setting his hands, and no one, except the dealer may touch the cards of that player. If requested by the player, the dealer may assist the player in setting his hands. Also, each player must keep the seven cards in full view of the dealer at all times. Once the player has placed his back and front hands accordingly in the vertical and horizontal rectangles, he is not permitted to touch the cards again.
Dealer’s Setting. The dealer takes his cards, and spreads them face up on the table, and proceeds to make a hand of five cards and a hand of two cards. The procedure for the dealer is according to a prescribed set of rules known as “The House Ways.” Often the dealer, by the rules of play, must separate two pairs, so that instead of having the “back” hand be two pairs, this hand would instead be one pair, with the lower pair being used for the “front” hand.
Settlement. With the dealer’s five- and two-card hands in view of all the players, the dealer, beginning with the player to the right, exposes the front and back hands of each player and pays out or collects on each. For standoffs (“pushes”), the dealer usually knocks on the table or otherwise signals that there is no payout or collection. In that case, a player may either remove the bet he made or keep it there for the next round of play. Once all bets are settled, the dealer gathers in the cards and prepares them for the next round.
Decision-Making. Often, it is a player’s strategy to split pairs, or if he is able to make a full house, to use three-of-a-kind for the back hand and the pair for the front hand. When a player has three pairs in the seven cards dealt, the correct strategy is to use the two smallest pairs to make the back hand, and the largest pair to make the front hand. For example, with two kings, two jacks, and two 7s, and a 5, most experienced players would make up the back hand of two jacks, two 7s and a 5; and the front hand of two kings. In this situation the two-pair hand is likely to be a winner no matter what it is headed by, and the little hand of two kings is virtually unbeatable.
The skill and the fun of Pai-Gow is in deciding whether to make two fairly good hands to go for a win on both, or whether to try to just make a winner out of one hand, with the second one a likely loser, so as to give the maximum chance of not losing on both hands. It is important to note, though, that the back hand must be better than the front hand. If this rule is violated, the player’s hands are fouled, and the bet is automatically lost.
The Joker. The “bug” is obviously a very valuable card, as it will often help to make a straight or a flush, or a second ace for two aces, or even a third ace for three aces. Many times, having the joker will make a hand of just ace high for the front hand, which is the difference between winning and losing. Example: With a holding such as joker, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7, 7, a player could use the bug to make a straight (joker, 7, 6, 5, 4), but the little hand, comprised of 7, 5, would be a sure loser. A better arrangement would be to make two pairs for the big hand (7, 7, 5, 5, 4) and ace-high for the little hand (joker, 6). Now there is a good chance to win with both sets of cards.
Dealer’s Edge. When a player wins, the amount paid out is the bet made, less a commission. No commission is paid to the dealer when the player loses or when there is a standoff.
The commission is one of only two advantages the dealer has. The other is that if the dealer’s back or front hand exactly matches the corresponding hand of a player, the dealer wins. Thus, if both the dealer and a player have K, 8 for their little hands, the dealer’s little hand prevails, just as if he had K, 9 or A, 8 or better.
Rotating Dealer. In some games, a player is allowed to “deal”-that is, he banks the game. The casino dealer still handles the cards and chips, but the player acts as the bank. He plays against the other players as well as the dealer, who acts as a player, betting the last amount that the player-banker bet on the previous hand. In some games, the chance to be dealer can occur only every other hand, and then only if one of the players is interested in banking the hand. If two or more players wish to bank, the casino dealer chooses one of them; and the other players, in turn, get the chance to bank the game later. The player as banker must have enough chips in front of him to cover all of the wagers made by the other players.
In the home game, each player can be the banker, deal the cards, and handle payouts and collections for an agreed-upon number of deals, say, twice around the table. The next player to the dealer’s right would then get the opportunity. In home play, the dealer does not get a commission when a player wins, but he does win when his back or front hand is identical with another player’s.
A relative of Pai-Gow Poker, this game is played in private gambling casinos in the Philippines and in one or two public casinos in Manila. Pusoy (pronounced “poo-soy”) is also played in home games in both the Philippines and Hawaii. It is loaded with action and requires more skill than Pai-Gow. In fact, it is such a good game that it really deserves worldwide attention. Unlike Pai-Gow, where tied hands are frequent, in Pusoy no result between a player and dealer can end in a standoff – there is always a payoff.
Number of Players. An unusual feature of this gambling game is that it is inflexible as to the number of players – exactly four are required for casino play. Two or three persons, however, can play in a home game.
Object of the Game. A player’s goal is to form two or three winning Poker hands from the 13 cards that are dealt. There is a hand of five cards, called the “back” hand, another hand of five cards, called the “middle” hand, and a hand of three cards, called the “front” hand. To win the bet, two out of three of a player’s hands must beat the three hands of the dealer. If all three hands beat the dealer’s three hands, the player wins double the bet. If only one hand wins, the player loses the bet. If all three hands lose to the dealer, the player loses double the bet. A loss or win of double the bet is called a “pusoy,” which in the main language of the Philippines means “zero,” since one side wins none of the three hands played.
Poker Rankings. A basic knowledge of Poker is needed to play Pusoy. The hands rank as in Poker, from a royal straight flush down to no pair. While A, 2, 3, 4, 5 is the second highest straight in Pai-Gow, it has no special standing in Pusoy because no joker is used. Thus, it is the lowest ranking straight. For the three-card hand, straights and flushes do not count. Thus, the highest “front” hand is three aces, and the lowest is four-high (4, 3, 2).
Betting. The players buy chips for cash, and each player bets by placing one or more chips in a designated area in front of him. The minimum and maximum bets are established by the casino, or in a home game, by all the players.
The Shuffle and Cut. In the home game, each player picks a card from a shuffled pack spread face down. The highest card deals first (Ace is highest). Thereafter, the turn to deal passes to the left. The dealer shuffles the cards thoroughly and selects one player for the cut. That player separates the deck into two packets, and the dealer completes the cut.
The Deal. The dealer deals out the entire deck out one card at a time, face down, clockwise, beginning with the player to his left. The players will have 13 cards each.
Setting the Hands. Each player picks up his hand and arranges it to make three poker hands: the “back” hand of five cards must outrank the “middle” hand of five cards, which must outrank the “front” hand of three cards. When a player is satisfied with his arrangement, he places the “back” (five-card) hand face down farthest from the center of the table. The “middle” (second five-card) hand is placed next face down, and the “front” (three-card) hand is placed closest to the table’s center.
All players at the table, including the dealer, are responsible for setting their hands, and no other player may assist. Once any player has placed all three hands, he is not permitted to touch the cards again.
Settlement. When all four participants have finished setting up and placing their hands as detailed above, the dealer turns up his three hands, and the players do likewise. Beginning with the player to the left, the dealer compares that player’s three hands to his own by mentioning the poker hands for each and indicating who has won two out of the three hands, or three out of three. The dealer then collects or pays off single or double accordingly. The dealer does this for the next player to the left and then for the last player. If one of the player’s hands and the dealer’s corresponding hand are exactly tied, the dealer wins. For example, if both the “middle” hands are A, A, 10, 9, 6, the dealer wins that hand.
Once all bets are settled, the cards are gathered by the dealer and prepared for the next round. If the deal rotates, as in the home game, the cards are collected, and handed over to the next dealer for preparation.
Decision-Making. Often it is a good strategy to split two pairs. If there is a chance to make a full house, a player should use three-of-a-kind for a five-card hand and the pair for the other five-card hand or for the three-card hand.
The skill and the fun of Pusoy is similar to Pai-Gow: Should the player make two fairly good hands and one relatively poor one? Or, should he make one outstanding hand and two fair ones to try and eke out a second winner? Or, should the player make three reasonably good hands and hope to win on two somehow, or at least not lose on all three? It is important to note, though, that the back hand must be better than the middle hand, which must be better than the front hand. If this rule is violated, the participant’s hands are fouled (called “totyo” in the Philippines), and the player at fault automatically loses double the bet.
Variations. Two popular variations of Pusoy are often played, and participants should decide before the session begins whether eitheror both options will be used:
Surrender. In this variation, a player or dealer who thinks he has poor cards may concede and pay the single bet. This avoids the possibility of a “pusoy”- paying double the amount bet for losing on all three hands. If the dealer is considering surrender, he should make no sign of it until the players have indicated their intentions. Once a player has placed his three hands, it is too late to surrender. When a player does surrender, the dealer immediately collects that player’s bet, and the player’s cards are left unseen. When the dealer surrenders, he pays only those players who have not surrendered-that is, only those participants still in the game.
Royalties. In this delightful variation, a player who is dealt an unusually good combination may expose it before the settlement period begins and immediately win “royalties” or single the bet. The combinations that fit into this category are: a straight flush, four-of-a-kind, or six pairs. Note that the player does not have to declare royalties. Instead, he may continue to play by setting up the three poker hands and possibly earning double the bet by winning on all three.
Based on Poker, the game of Caribbean Stud is a comparatively new casino gambling game that has been growing in popularity. It was invented by David Sklansky, a Poker expert from Las Vegas.
Number of Players. The basic game is played by up to seven players, plus the dealer, and participants are seated at a table similar to the one used for Black Jack
The Pack. The standard 52- card pack is used.
The Play. After each player makes a bet (antes), the dealer gives five cards face down, one at a time, to each player and to himself. The dealer’s last card is turned face up. Each player examines his hand and has the option of either deciding to fold, forfeiting his ante, or to play, whereby he places a bet equal to the ante. No player may show his hand to another player or communicate about his hand in any other way.
The dealer can play only with a hand of ace, king or any pair, or better. If the dealer does not qualify, each player still in the game wins his ante, and the hand is over. If the dealer does have A, K, x, x, x or better, the game continues and each player, in turn, reveals his hand of five cards. A player wins the additional bet made if his hand is better than the dealer’s. He is paid a higher amount for a hand of two-pair and higher, (see chart.)
Let It Ride Stud
This game is based on Poker, and is played in some casinos.
Number of Players. The game can be played by up to seven players, plus the dealer, at a table similar to the one used for Black Jack. The layout has three circled areas for each player, who places three equal bets.
The Pack. The standard 52-card pack is used.
The Play. The dealer gives three cards to each player, face down, one at a time. Two cards are then placed face down in front of the dealer, who does not receive a hand of three cards. The players do not play against the dealer. Their objective is merely to get a good poker hand by using their three cards plus the dealer’s two face-down cards. At no time may a player show his hand to any of the other players.
After looking at the three face-down cards, the player may ask for his first bet back or may elect to “let it ride.” One of the dealer’s face-down cards is then turned up. The player may then ask for his bet back or, again, may “let it ride.” The dealer’s second face-down card is now turned up, and the players expose their cards. The dealer then pays out all winning hands according to the chart above.
With the exception of Poker, Blackjack is the most popular gambling card game. Equally well known as Twenty-One, the rules are simple, the play is thrilling, and there is opportunity for high strategy. In fact, for the expert player who mathematically plays a perfect game and is able to count cards, the odds are sometimes in that player’s favor to win. But even for the casual participant who plays a reasonably good game, the casino odds are less, making Blackjack one of the most attractive casino games for the player.
While the popularity of Blackjack dates from World War I, its roots go back to the 1760s in France, where it is called Vingt-et-Un (French for 21). Today, Blackjack is the one card game that can be found in every American gambling casino. As a popular home game, it is played with slightly different rules. In the casino version, the house is the dealer (a “permanent bank”). In the home game, all of the players have the opportunity to be the dealer (a “changing bank”).
Blackjack with a Permanent Bank
Number of Players. Up to eight people can play. The dealer plays against up to seven players who play for themselves. In casino play, the dealer remains standing, and the players are seated. The dealer is in charge of running all aspects of the game, from shuffling and dealing the cards to handling all bets.
The Pack. The standard 52-card pack is used, but in most casinos several decks of cards are shuffled together. The six-deck game (312 cards) is the most popular. In addition, the dealer uses a blank plastic card, which is never dealt, but is placed toward the bottom of the pack to indicate when it will be time for the cards to be reshuffled. When four or more decks are used, they are dealt from a shoe (a wooden box that allows the dealer to remove cards one at a time, face down, without actually holding one or more packs).
The Layout. The casino Blackjack table is semicircular. There is ample space for each player to keep his chips. On the green felt surface of the table each player has a circular area about the size of a coaster for placing a bet. There is another rectangular area for each player, where the dealer places the cards as they are dealt.
Object of the Game. Counting any ace as 1 or 11, as a player wishes, any face card as 10, and any other card at its pip value, each participant attempts to beat the dealer by getting a count as close to 21 as possible, without going over 21.
The Shuffle and Cut. The dealer thoroughly shuffles portions of the pack until all the cards have been mixed and combined. He designates one of the players to cut, and the plastic insert card is placed so that the last 60 to 75 cards or so will not be used. (Not dealing to the bottom of all the cards makes it more difficult for professional card counters to operate effectively.)
Betting. Before the deal begins, each player places a bet, in chips, in front of him in the designated area. Minimum and maximum limits are established on the betting, and the general limits are from $2 to $500.
The Deal. When all the players have placed their bets, the dealer gives one card face up to each player in rotation clockwise, and then one card face up to himself. Another round of cards is then dealt face up to each player, but the dealer takes his second card face down. Thus, each player except the dealer receives two cards face up, and the dealer receives one card face up and one card face down. (In some games, played with only one deck, the players’ cards are dealt face down and they get to hold them. Today, however, virtually all Blackjack games feature the players’ cards dealt face up on the condition that no player may touch any cards.)
Naturals. If a player’s first two cards are an ace and a “ten-card” (a picture card or 10), giving him a count of 21 in two cards, this is a natural or “blackjack.” If any player has a natural and the dealer does not, the dealer immediately pays that player one and a half times the amount of his bet. If the dealer has a natural, he immediately collects the bets of all players who do not have naturals, (but no additional amount). If the dealer and another player both have naturals, the bet of that player is a stand-off (a tie), and the player takes back his chips.
If the dealer’s face-up card is a ten-card or an ace, he looks at his face-down card to see if the two cards make a natural. If the face-up card is not a ten-card or an ace, he does not look at the face-down card until it is the dealer’s turn to play.
Drawing. The player to the left goes first and must decide whether to “stand” (not ask for another card) or “hit” (ask for another card in an attempt to get closer to a count of 21, or even hit 21 exactly). Thus, a player may stand on the two cards originally dealt him, or he may ask the dealer for additional cards, one at a time, until he either decides to stand on the total (if it is 21 or under), or goes “bust” (if it is over 21). In the latter case, the player loses and the dealer collects the bet wagered. The dealer then turns to the next player to his left and serves him in the same manner.
The combination of an ace with a card other than a ten-card is known as a “soft hand,” because the player can count the ace as a 1 or 11, and either draw cards or not. For example with a “soft 17” (an ace and a 6), the total is 7 or 17. While a count of 17 is a good hand, the player may wish to draw for a higher total. If the draw creates a bust hand by counting the ace as an 11, the player simply counts the ace as a 1 and continues playing by standing or “hitting” (asking the dealer for additional cards, one at a time).
Dealer’s Play. When the dealer has served every player, his face-down card is turned up. If the total is 17 or more, he must stand. If the total is 16 or under, he must take a card. He must continue to take cards until the total is 17 or more, at which point the dealer must stand. If the dealer has an ace, and counting it as 11 would bring his total to 17 or more (but not over 21), he must count the ace as 11 and stand. The dealer’s decisions, then, are automatic on all plays, whereas the player always has the option of taking one or more cards.
Signaling Intentions. When a player’s turn comes, he can say “Hit” or can signal for a card by scratching the table with a finger or two in a motion toward himself, or he can wave his hand in the same motion that would say to someone “Come here!” When the player decides to stand, he can say “Stand” or “No more,” or can signal this intention by moving his hand sideways, palm down and just above the table.
Settlement. A bet once paid and collected is never returned. Thus, one key advantage to the dealer is that the player goes first. If the player goes bust, he has already lost his wager, even if the dealer goes bust as well. If the dealer goes over 21, he pays each player who has stood the amount of that player’s bet. If the dealer stands at 21 or less, he pays the bet of any player having a higher total (not exceeding 21) and collects the bet of any player having a lower total. If there is a stand-off (a player having the same total as the dealer), no chips are paid out or collected.
Reshuffling. When each player’s bet is settled, the dealer gathers in that player’s cards and places them face up at the side against a clear plastic L-shaped shield. The dealer continues to deal from the shoe until he comes to the plastic insert card, which indicates that it is time to reshuffle. Once that round of play is over, the dealer shuffles all the cards, prepares them for the cut, places the cards in the shoe, and the game continues.
Splitting Pairs. If a player’s first two cards are of the same denomination, such as two jacks or two sixes, he may choose to treat them as two separate hands when his turn comes around. The amount of his original bet then goes on one of the cards, and an equal amount must be placed as a bet on the other card. The player first plays the hand to his left by standing or hitting one or more times; only then is the hand to the right played. The two hands are thus treated separately, and the dealer settles with each on its own merits. With a pair of aces, the player is given one card for each ace and may not draw again. Also, if a ten-card is dealt to one of these aces, the payoff is equal to the bet (not one and one-half to one, as with a blackjack at any other time).
Doubling Down. Another option open to the player is doubling his bet when the original two cards dealt total 9, 10, or 11. When the player’s turn comes, he places a bet equal to the original bet, and the dealer gives him just one card, which is placed face down and is not turned up until the bets are settled at the end of the hand. With two fives, the player may split a pair, double down, or just play the hand in the regular way. Note that the dealer does not have the option of splitting or doubling down.
Insurance. When the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, any of the players may make a side bet of up to half the original bet that the dealer’s face-down card is a ten-card, and thus a black jack for the house. Once all such side bets are placed, the dealer looks at his hole card. If it is a ten-card, it is turned up, and those players who have made the insurance bet win and are paid double the amount of their half-bet – a 2 to 1 payoff. When a blackjack occurs for the dealer, of course, the hand is over, and the players’ main bets are collected – unless a player also has blackjack, in which case it is a stand-off. Insurance is invariably not a good proposition for the player, unless he is quite sure that there are an unusually high number of ten-cards still left undealt.
Many years ago, when dealers did not shuffle the cards until the pack ran out, there is a story – how true it is no one knows for sure – of a brilliant Blackjack player who, counted all the cards perfectly until there were just four left. On this particular hand, only he and the dealer were left, and the player had a king and a queen for a total of 20. The dealer’s upcard was a 10, and the player knew that the remaining four cards plus the dealer’s hole card were comprised of three aces and two ten-cards. Since the dealer, after looking at his hole card, did not reveal that he had a blackjack, the player knew for sure that he must have one of the ten-cards, and thus a total of 20. Throwing all caution to the wind, the card counter asked for a hit, and an ace was turned up. That was enough for the player, who was paid off. The pit boss was then summoned, and the expert player was politely asked to leave. It is not often that a player with 20 on the first two cards takes a hit!
Winning tactics in Blackjack require that the player play each hand in the optimum way, and such strategy always takes into account what the dealer’s upcard is. When the dealer’s upcard is a good one, a 7, 8, 9, 10-card, or ace for example, the player should not stop drawing until a total of 17 or more is reached. When the dealer’s upcard is a poor one, 4, 5, or 6, the player should stop drawing as soon as he gets a total of 12 or higher. The strategy here is never to take a card if there is any chance of going bust. The desire with this poor holding is to let the dealer hit and hopefully go over 21. Finally, when the dealer’s up card is a fair one, 2 or 3, the player should stop with a total of 13 or higher.
With a soft hand, the general strategy is to keep hitting until a total of at least 18 is reached. Thus, with a an ace and a six (7 or 17), the player would not stop at 17, but would hit.
The basic strategy for doubling down is as follows: With a total of 11, the player should always double down. With a total of 10, he should double down unless the dealer shows a ten-card or an ace. With a total of 9, he should double down only if the dealer’s card is fair or poor (2 through 6).
For splitting, the player should always split a pair of aces or 8s; identical ten-cards should not be split, and neither should a pair of 5s, since two 5s are a total of 10, which can be used more effectively in doubling down. A pair of 4s should not be split either, as a total of 8 is a good number to draw to. Generally, 2s, 3s, or 7s can be split unless the dealer has an 8, 9, ten-card, or ace. Finally, 6s should not be split unless the dealer’s card is poor (2 through 6).
Blackjack with a Changing Bank
With a few variations in the rules, Blackjack can be a wonderfully entertaining game to play at home. The objective is the same as in the casino version: to get 21 or as close to it as possible. Depending on the region, there are a number of Pontoon versions, but in all of them, every player gets the opportunity to be the dealer.
Number of Players. While two to 14 people can play, the game is best for up to seven participants.
The Pack. The standard 52-card pack is used. (A single pack is always used.) As in the casino game, an ace is worth 1 or 11 at the holder’s option, and any face card is worth 10. All other cards count their pip value.
Determining First Banker. Any player picks up the pack and deals the cards in rotation, face up, until a jack of spades or jack of clubs falls to one of the players. That player becomes the first dealer.
The Shuffle and Cut. The dealer shuffles the pack, and any other player may cut. The dealer then turns up the top card of the pack, shows it to all players, and places it face up, at the bottom of the pack. This is called “burning a card.” After each hand, the discards are gathered up and placed face up under the burned card. When the burned card is reached during a deal, there is a new shuffle and cut before the game continues.
Betting. Each player places a bet, which may not be less than one chip nor more than the betting limit established for the game, usually no more than five chips.
Dealing. The dealer gives one card face down to each player in rotation, including himself. He then deals a second round of cards face up in the same order.
Naturals. If the dealer has a natural (ace, and face card or ten), every player pays him double the amount of his bet. If the dealer and a player both have naturals, the player pays just the amount of his bet, not double. When a player has a natural and the dealer does not, the dealer pays that player double the amount of his bet.
Drawing Cards. When the dealer does not have a blackjack, he starts with the player to the left and gives each player in turn as many cards as that player requests, one at a time, until that player goes over 21 and pays, or stands. If a player goes bust, he declares so and turns up the hole card. The dealer collects the bet that was made.
When all players have stood or gone bust, the dealer turns up his face-down card and may draw cards until he wishes to stand. The dealer is not bound by the rules to stand on or draw to any total. If the dealer goes over 21, he pays all players who have stood. If the dealer stands on a total of 21 or less, he pays all players who stood with a higher total and collects from all players who stood with a lower total or the same total – “ties pay the dealer.”
As in the casino game, a player against the dealer may split a pair or double down, and the dealer does not have this option.
Bonus Payment. Any player who forms one of the following combinations collects immediately from the dealer, and cannot later lose the bet he made, even if the dealer has a higher total:
A player who has five cards that total 21 or under (often called a “Five-Card Charlie”), collects double the bet made. With six cards totaling 21 or under, he collects four times the bet made, and so on, doubling for each additional card.
A player who makes 21 with three 7s receives triple the amount of the bet made.
A player who makes 21 with an 8, 7, and 6 receives double the amount of the bet made.
The dealer does not collect more than the amount of the players’ bets for making any one of these combinations, nor does he necessarily win with five or more cards that total 21 or under.
Changing the Bank. The player who is the dealer continues in that capacity until another player is dealt a blackjack and the dealer has no natural. When this happens, the player who had the natural becomes the next dealer, after all bets in the current deal have been settled. If two or more players have naturals and the dealer has none, the one nearest the dealer’s left becomes the next dealer. A player entitled to deal may, if he wishes, give or sell the privilege to another player.
A gambling game that depends a lot on luck, Red Dog is not popular in casino play, but is often played at home just for fun – the stakes are meaningless. Note: The game below should not be confused with In-Between or Acey-Deucey, which is often called Red Dog, and which is described in the next section.
Number of Players. From two to 10 people can play.
The Pack. The standard 52-card pack is used.
Rank of Cards. A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
Object of the Game. The goal is to be the player with the most chips at the end of the game.
The Ante. Chips are distributed to the players, and each player places one chip in the center of the table to form a pool or pot.
The Draw. Any player deals the cards one at a time, face up, to the players in turn and the player with the highest card deals first.
The Shuffle, Cut and Deal. Any player may shuffle, the dealer shuffles last, and the player to the dealer’s right cuts the cards. The dealer gives five cards, one at a time, face down, to each player in turn, beginning with the player on his left. (Some deal only four cards to a player. This is necessary if there are more than eight players.)
The Betting. After looking at his cards, the player on the dealer’s left may bet any number of chips up to the number of chips in the pot at the time. A player who does not wish to bet may forfeit one chip to the pot. No bet may exceed the number of chips already in the pot.
When the player has placed his bet, the dealer turns up the top card from the remainder of the pack. If the player who bet has a card of the same suit and of higher rank, he shows the card and takes back the amount of his bet, plus an equivalent amount from the pot. If he has no card that beats the card shown, he must show his entire hand, and the amount of his bet is added to the pot. The next player in turn then places a bet, another card is turned, and the same procedure is followed until all players, including the dealer, have bet.
If at any time the pot has no more chips in it (because a player has “bet the pot” and won), each player again puts in one chip to restore
When every player has had a chance to bet, the turn to deal passes to the player on the dealer’s left.
(Acey-Deucey, Red Dog)
The game of In-Between or Acey-Deucey is often referred to as Red Dog, but its rules are very different from the Red Dog game previously described. In-Between is not very popular at casinos, but is often played in home Poker games as a break from Poker itself. The rules below are for the home game, which is easily adaptable for casino play.
Number of Players. From two to 10 people can play.
The Pack. The standard 52-card pack is used.
Rank of Cards. A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
Object of the Game. The goal is to be the player with the most chips at the end of the game.
The Ante. Chips are distributed to the players, and each players puts one chip in the center of the table to form a pool or pot.
The Draw. Any player deals one card face up, to each player in turn, and the player with the highest card deals first.
The Shuffle, Cut, and Deal. Any player may shuffle, and the dealer shuffles last. The player to the dealer’s right cuts the cards. The dealer turns up two cards and places them in the middle of the table, positioning them so that there is ample room for a third card to fit
The Betting. The player on the dealer’s left may bet up to the entire pot or any portion of the number of chips in the pot, but he must always bet a minimum of one chip. When the player has placed a bet, the dealer turns up the top card from the pack and places it between the two cards already face up. If the card ranks between the two cards already face up, the player wins and takes back the amount of his bet plus an equivalent amount from the pot. If the third card is not between the face-up cards, or is of the same rank as either of them, the player loses his bet, and it is added to the pot. If the two face-up cards up are consecutive, the player automatically loses, and a third card need not be turned up. If the two face-up cards are the same, the player wins two chips and, again, no third card is turned up. (In some games, the player is paid three chips when this occurs.)
“Acey-Deucey” (ace, 2) is the best combination, and a player tends to bet the whole pot, if he can. This is because the only way an ace-deuce combination can lose is if the third card turned up is also an ace or a deuce.
After the first player has finished, the dealer clears away the cards and places them face down in a pile. The next player then places a bet, and the dealer repeats the same procedure until all the players, including the dealer, have had a turn.
If at any time, the pot has no more chips in it (because a player has “bet the pot” and won), each player again puts in one chip to restore
When every player has had a turn to bet, the deal passes to the player on the dealer’s left, and the game continues.
Baccarat was once one of the most often-played games in French casinos. Today, it has almost been replaced by Chemin de Fer which is an offspring.
Perhaps the most glamorous of all casino games, Baccarat’s trappings are what made it so popular. The lure of the game? It requires no skill – it is a game of pure luck! Baccarat is played for very high stakes, and the gaming table for it is placed in a special alcove, blocked off from the masses and the rest of the casino action. Also, in American casinos, Baccarat tends to be played with real cash- lots of $100-bills are spread all around. European casinos use chips, but the high-denomination chips are oblong “plaques,” which make the game look just as exciting as the American version when they are stacked in front of a winning player.
Number of Players. From two to 12 people can play.
The Pack. Eight 52-card packs are shuffled together and dealt by the croupier (dealer) from a dealing box, called a shoe, which releases one card at a time, face down. In some games, six packs are used.
The Layout. The very large Baccarat table has 12 seats, six on either side of the dealer, who only banks the game and does not otherwise participate. Green felt covers the entire table, and the numbers 1 to 12 are marked on it. These numbered areas are where the players keep their money (or chips, as the case may be). A player may bet on the Bank or the Player, and the layout indicates where such bets are placed. Baccarat is known in some areas as Punto Banco. The only difference is that the word “Bank” is replaced by “Banco,” and the word “Player” is replaced by “Punto.”
While in most casino games, the dealer stands, in Baccarat, the dealer is seated between players “1” and “12.”
Object of the Game. The participants attempt to form, in two or three cards, a combination as close to 9 as possible. Face cards and 10s count zero. Aces count 1, and other cards count their pip value. Counts of 10 are disregarded in the total; thus, a 5 and a 6, totaling 11, count merely as 1.
The Deal. The dealer (or croupier) prepares the cards by thoroughly shuffling them and, after they are cut by any player, places them in the shoe. While the dealer does not participate in the game, he assists the players in making and settling their bets, and advises them on proper procedure. The shoe usually starts with the player in seat No. 1, who is the first to act as the Bank.
When all bets are placed, the player acting as the Bank distributes two cards face down, alternately, to the player who made the largest bet and to himself. The procedure for looking at, announcing, and displaying the hands is somewhat elaborate, but this only adds to the mystique of the game. The player making the largest bet faces the two cards and passes them back to the dealer, who announces the total. The hand is placed on the section of the layout marked “Player Hand.” The Banker then faces his hand and passes the cards to the dealer, who announces this total as well and displays the cards on the position marked “Bank Hand.”
Naturals. If either participant has a count of 8 or 9 in his first two cards, it is a natural. If only the player acting as Bank has a natural, all participants who bet on the Bank hand win. If only his opponent has a natural, the player acting as Bank pays all bets that were placed on the Player hand. A natural 9 beats a natural 8. Two naturals of the same number are a stand-off, in which case all bets are withdrawn, and the next deal begins.
Rules of Drawing. If neither the player acting as Bank, nor his opponent has a natural, then either stands or draws one card only, according to the chart below. Note that the rules for standing or drawing are inflexible.
The Player goes first, and if, according to the chart, the Player must draw, the Bank deals a third card face up, which is placed alongside the two other cards that were originally dealt. If the Bank must draw, the third card is placed alongside the Bank’s original two cards. The dealer then announces the result, such as “Bank wins 7 against 3,” and settles all the bets. If the Bank is nearer 9 than the Player, those who bet on the Bank win. If the Player is nearer 9, those who bet on the Player win. If the two hands have the same total, all bets are a stand-off and are withdrawn. (When either player has a natural, the hand is always over, and the other side does not get to draw a card.)
Note that a hand can become much less favorable in the draw. To illustrate: Having a total of 3 and drawing a 7 would give a total of zero, (because counts of 10 are disregarded. This is called a “baccarat,” and is the worst of all hand possibilities.)
House Edge. Winning bets on the Player are paid out at even money, but on winning Bank bets, the house takes a commission of five per cent, which is how the casino makes its profit. The cut for the house is traditionally taken out at the end of the shoe, which can comprise many rounds of play. However, if a player retires from the game, he must settle with the house at that time. Small boxes in the middle of the layout are for tokens that show how much each player owes on winning Bank hands.
The actual edge for betting on the Bank is just slightly above five per cent, so whether the participant bets on the Player or the Bank, the game is still a fairly even one.
CHEMIN DE FER
Chemin de Fer (which literally means “railroad” in French) is a variation of Baccarat. The main difference is that there is some decision-making involved for the participants. The scoring of the cards is the same as in Baccarat, but the chart governing the game is different in that there are three situations (as noted in the chart below) when there is an option of whether to draw or stand.
Number of Players. From two to eight people can play.
The Pack. Eight standard 52-card packs are shuffled together and placed in a dealing box called a “shoe” which releases one card at a time, face down.
In addition to the three options for standing or drawing, the distinctive feature of Chemin de Fer is that the players bet against each other, as opposed to Baccarat, where it makes little difference whether a player backs the Player hand or the Bank hand. Thus, in Chemin de Fer, the player acting as the Bank, in dealing out the cards from the shoe, is actually the banker – that is, the amount he puts up governs how much the other players can wager against him. If one or two players match this amount, the remaining players do not get to bet for that round.
As in Baccarat, the casino makes its profit by taking five per cent from all winning Bank hands. This cut for the house is taken out immediately, rather than at the end of the shoe.
The Layout. Usually up to eight people play, though in some games, the number can go up to nine or even 12. A game is normally not begun until there are five or six players available. In the middle of the French layout is a square marked “Banque,” which is for the banker’s bet, if any. Another square marked “Reliquat” is for that part of the banker’s bet (if any) that is not covered by all the other players.
Banking the Game. The player to the right of the dealer (or croupier) is the first banker and places the number of chips he is prepared to wager in front of him. Any player who wants to bet against this player calls out, “Banco!” and matches the same amount. If there is more than one such challenger, priority is given to the player nearer to the dealer’s right. If no one calls, “Banco!” two or more players may cover parts of the Bank, and the player placing the most money down gets the privilege of playing the hand. (There are other features of betting that are very detailed and which are played primarily in the European game.)
The Deal. As in Baccarat, two cards are dealt face down, one at a time, to the player and the banker. If the player has a natural (a total of 8 or 9), he turns over the cards immediately. If the player must draw a card, or with a total of 5 chooses to do so, he says, “Carte,” but does not turn over the two initial cards. since exposing the cards would be to the dealer’s advantage. The third card, though, is dealt face up for the players or for the dealer, whenever such a card is drawn.
Object of the Game. The goal is to form, in two or three cards, a combination that counts as close to 9 as possible. Face cards and 10s count 10 or zero, aces count 1, and other cards their pip value. Tens are disregarded in the total, thus, a 5 and a 6, totaling 11, counts as 1.
If a player has a count of 8 or 9 in his first two cards, he has a “natural,” and shows his hand immediately. If only the dealer has a natural, the dealer wins all the bets. If only the opponent has a natural, the dealer pays all the bets. A natural 9 beats a natural 8. Two naturals of the same number are a stand-off. When this happens, cards are tossed in, all bets are withdrawn, and players place their bets for the next deal (called a “coup”).
If neither the dealer nor his opponent has a natural, the opponent, according to the chart, may receive a third card, which is dealt face up. The dealer, also according to the chart, may draw a third card face up. (Variation: In some games, the dealer and any player who bancos are allowed to use their own judgment as to whether or not to draw a third card, regardless of mathematical advisability.)
When both players have stood or withdrawn, all cards are shown. If the dealer is nearer 9 than his opponent, he collects all the bets. If his opponent is nearer 9, the dealer pays all the bets. If the dealer and his opponent have the same total, all bets are a stand-off and are withdrawn.
Changing the Bank. Once the house settles all wagers, the next coup (deal) begins. The dealer remains dealer as long as he wins or has a stand-off. When he loses a coup, the player to his left becomes the dealer.
The new dealer announces the amount of his bank, bets are placed, and the deal continues as before. The cards are not removed from the shoe and reshuffled until only a few cards are left in it.
Faro is a very old card game. Introduced in France in the court of King Louis XIV, its name is derived from the picture of an Egyptian Pharaoh on one of the cards in the French deck. It was once the most widely played gambling game in England. Faro was also very popular in America, and during the 19th century, many referred to it as “the national card game.” It is of historical interest to note that during the Civil War era there were more than 150 gambling houses in Washington D.C., and Faro was the principal attraction at every one of them. Today, with the advent of Black Jack and the dice game called Craps, Faro has almost vanished from casinos except in Nevada.
Number of Players. Any number of people can play. All bets are placed against the dealer (banker). The banker is usually selected by auction – that is, the player who agrees to put up the largest stake as the amount of his bank, becomes the banker.
The Pack. The standard 52-card pack is used, plus 13 spades from another pack which are used for the layout.
The Layout. The complete spade suit, either pasted to a board or enameled on felt, is placed on a table. Players indicate their bets by placing chips on any card on the layout. (The spade suit is selected arbitrarily-all suits are equivalent; only the ranks of the cards are relevant.)
The Deal. The cards are shuffled by the dealer and cut by any player. After bets have been placed against the dealer (banker), as described below, the dealer turns up the top card of the pack and places it to his left. This card is called “soda” and has no bearing on bets. The dealer then turns up the next card and places it face up on his right. He then turns up a third card and places it on top of soda, to his left. The dealing of these three cards constitutes a turn.
Betting. The first card turned up in any turn (except soda) always loses. The second card wins. Before the turn begins, the players may place their bets on cards in the layout. Chips placed on any card are a bet that the card will win unless a copper (penny or similar disc) is put on top of the chips. In this case, the player is betting that the card will lose. Any bet is settled the next time that a card of the indicated rank is turned up. For example: A player puts a chip on the 6 in the layout. The dealer turns up two cards, neither of which is a six, so the player’s bet remains on the layout, unsettled. But on the next turn, the first card turned by dealer is the 6; this means that the six loses, and the dealer takes the player’s bet. If the player had bet on the six to lose (by coppering his bet), the dealer would have paid him; or if the 6 had been the second card in that turn, instead of the first, the player would have won.
After each turn, all bets settled at that turn are paid and collected. Other bets remain on the layout or may be withdrawn, and new bets may be placed. In many regions, other types of bets are permitted.
As the deal progresses, all the cards that lose form one pile, and all cards that win form another pile.
Splits. If two cards of the same rank come up on the same turn, so that a bet on that rank both wins and loses, it is called a split, and the dealer takes half of all bets on that rank. This is the dealer’s only advantage in the game.
Calling the Turn. A record of all cards turned is kept on a “casekeeper” which is similar to an abacus. Each spindle has four counters which are moved when each of the four cards of a denomination (ace through king) are played. By using a casekeeper, players always know which cards remain undealt. When only three cards remain, a player may bet on the exact order in which those cards will come up, and the dealer pays off the player’s bet at 4 to 1 if he is correct. This is referred to as “calling the turn.” There are six ways in which the cards may come up, so the actual odds against the player are 5 to 1. If two of the last three cards are a pair, it is called a “cat-hop,” and the dealer pays only 2 to 1.
The rules are the same as for Faro, except there are no elaborate side bets and no soda card. The dealer simply turns up two cards at each turn. Also, when there is a split, the dealer receives the full amount of the bet, rather than half.
Trente et Quarante
This game is popular at the famous casino in Monte Carlo. Trente et Quarante (which means 30 and 40 in French) is also played in Nice, on the French Riviera.
Number of Players. Any number of people can play, though more than 20 participants at the table can get somewhat cumbersome. Usually, a casino will open up another table when there are more than 20 players.
The Pack. Six packs of the standard 52-card pack are used. These are shuffled together.
The Play. The croupier (dealer) always deals. Any one of the players cuts the cards after the croupier has prepared them, and then the croupier places the cards in a shoe (dealing box). Before the deal begins, a player may bet on “rouge” (red), “noir” (black), “couleur” (color) or “inverse” (reverse).
Aces count 1, face cards count 10, and all other cards are equal to their pip value. Once the bets have been made, the croupier lays out a row of cards, announcing the cumulative total as each card is dealt, until the total hits 31 or more. This row of cards represents “noir.” Below the first row, a second row is then dealt in the same way, and represents “rouge.”
Settling. A bet on noir or rouge wins if the row of that designation counts nearer to 31. A bet on “couleur” wins if the first card dealt in a rouge or noir row is of the color designating that row. For example, a diamond is dealt first for the rouge row. If this first card is of the alternative color, the “inverse” bet wins.
When both rows total the same number, it is a “refait” or stand-off, and all bets are called off. However, when the same number for each row is 31, the house takes half of all the bets that have been made; this represents the house advantage, which is only a little more than one per cent because a refait of 31 occurs only about once in 40 coups (deals).